Sept 17-23 How Are You Getting From Here To There?

Sept. 17 – (Ex. 17) The Israelites still have so much of “Egypt” in them. One commentary brought this to light in a way I had not seen before. When the people again quarreled with Moses, he wondered why they continued to test the Lord (vv. 2,7).  They showed a hardness of heart like Pharaoh and the Egyptians, which is how Ps. 95:7-9 describes these events.  Here is the phrase that hit me: “Is the Lord among us or not?”  That really hit home.  When I see things happening that I don’t understand or like in the church, I tend to pretty much ask this very question.  “Lord, forgive me for not trusting you in all things.  I repent. Renew my mind.” 

Sept. 18 – (Ex. 18) It’s interesting to note that God used the names of Moses’ sons to remind him (and Israel) of his time as a sojourner (2:22) in another land and that Yahweh, the God of his father was his help and delivered him from the sword of Pharaoh (3:6-8). I know we don’t usually name our children according to how we are feeling at the moment or what our victories are in the Lord at that time. But we would be wise to do something to remind us of what God has done in our lives.  You might call them memorial stones, but they can take so many shapes. I would love to hear what you plan to do or have done to remind you of God’s work in your life.   

Sept. 19 – (Ex. 19) In verses 4-6, the Lord calls Israel to be faithful to His covenant with them even before He has fully revealed it to them.  God is giving them a choice of trusting or having faith in Him without really knowing what that would look like.  Isn’t that our journey as well?  We have to choose to trust that God will be faithful and work all things for our good and His Glory even when we don’t have the full picture.

                Verse 6 also reminds me that when the Lord calls Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, He is referring to what Israel’s life as a whole is to represent among the nations.  By keeping the covenant (v.5), the people of Israel would continue not only to set themselves apart from the surrounding nations but also to mediate the presence and blessing of the Lord to them (Gen, 12:3; Isa. 61:5-7). When Peter applies these terms to the church (1 Pet. 2:5,9), he is calling believers to faithfulness so that those around them “may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12).  Are we not to do the same as we go “From Here to There”? 

Sept. 20 – (Ex. 20) This chapter includes the 10 Commandments. We could write books just to understand what they mean.  I will only make a few statements that have impacted me lately.

1.       “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”  Pastor Torry reminded us recently that in creation, God “worked” 6 days which included creating Adam on the 6th day. He took the very next day off just to spend time with Adam!

2.       “Honor your father and your mother…  I am reading a book that discusses a man who is working with his mother who has Alzheimer’s. Defining a line that means “honoring” is very difficult and takes God’s wisdom and patience.

3.       …. the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”  This was the wrong kind of fear.  Verse 20-21 explains what this kind of fear is supposed to accomplish.  God wants a healthy relationship with each of us…individually. He wants us to hear His voice alone.  Yes, it might be through a friend’s words or a pastor’s message but ultimately, He wants us to hear Him for ourselves.  Selah!  

Sept. 21 – (Ex. 21) This is a hard chapter to understand and accept. Some of it stems from our culture and past history.  Let’s seek to understand their times a little better which will help us understand what God wants to tell us through these verses. 

                The word translated “slave” can refer to several types of persons.  Debt was the most common reason that people became slaves.  To employ a poor person as a slave could be an act of kindness because it guaranteed him food, shelter, and a small income.  The security provided by a good employer lead some slaves to choose to remain in that status permanently.  People could not be bought and sold at will, as was the case with the awful slavery practices in the United States for many years.  

                Verses 20-21 provide a general rule relating to cases in which a slave has been severely beaten by his master.  The instruction not to avenge a slave who survives such a beating because “the slave is his money”, relates only to the financial circumstance of the one he serves; it is neither a description of how a slave as a person is to be understood, nor a prescription for how a slave is to be treated.  The expectation for how Israelites were to treat one another (and particularly those who were typically oppressed or overlooked) is indicated in the repeated statements at the end of this section of laws: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him”. If a sojourner (resident alien) is to be well treated, how much more an Israelite. I hope this helps with your understanding.  

Sept. 22 – (Ex. 22) WOW! This chapter is full of some hard rules. Some of them(again) are due to American thinking.  I will give only one commentary that brought just a little more understanding. Verses 16-17 discusses rules pertaining to a man seducing a virgin.  ESV commentary explains it this way: Although “seduces” probably implies mutual consent, the man must provide for the woman he has seduced, both by marrying her (unless the father utterly refuses) and by paying the “bride-price”, even if the father forbids the marriage.  Since the bride-price was equivalent to several years’ wages, this amounts to a huge fine for premarital intercourse.  Again, WOW!  Our culture certainly doesn’t agree with the definition of the word “seduce” nor follow that rule! What if every guy had to pay several years’ salary for breaking this rule! 

Sept. 23 – (Ex. 23) “You shall not spread a false report.”  This is the very first sentence of this chapter.  A false report can mean several things. Gossip is one of those things. That is all I will say about this verse.

                I will finish this chapter and this week with verses 30-33. “Little by little I will drive them out from before you…  They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” God will renew our minds “little by little” as we choose to allow Him to drive out “the Egyptian idols we allowed in”. That’s how we go from Here to There!  

Sept. 10-16 If Only You Remembered Now, What You Heard Then!

Sept. 10 – (Ex. 10) As we look at the 8th plague (locusts) and the 9th plague (darkness), I am reminded again, how very awesome God is!  He knows us all so very intimately. He knows what we are thinking and our motivations for all that we do. His purposes are perfect. Let us not fight against what He allows but rather trust that He brings all things to His perfect purpose and glory. 

Sept. 11 – (Ex. 11) God told Moses what He was going to do (harden Pharaoh’s heart for a while) at the very beginning of this process. He gave him the general information that Moses needed to know at the time.  He is now telling Moses even more specifics.  They have one more plague to go and how to prepare for the move after that.  God tells Moses what he needs to know as he needs to know it.  I think we all struggle with this process. The amount of trust in Him will determine how much anxiety we have for each “tribulation”. Selah

                Did You Know? God calls Israel His firstborn son. He wants Pharaoh to know what will happen if he does not let “His firstborn son go.” (Ex. 4:22-23)

Sept. 12 – (Ex. 12) Let’s continue with the reminder that God tells us what we need to know (if we are listening) when we need to know it.  God told Moses at the burning bush (3:22) that when they came out of Egypt, they would come with “silver and gold and clothing”. Let’s go back even farther. As God covenanted with Abraham, He told Abraham that this would happen to his descendants. They would be slaves, but God would bring them out of slavery to the promised land with “great possessions” (Gen. 15:14)!  Let’s remember to listen to the Lord’s direction and remind ourselves that we can trust Him in not only His ways but also in His timing!

                One other thing. When the sons of Jacob and their families arrived in Egypt there were 70 persons (1:5).  The people of Israel who were going out of the land now numbered more than six hundred thousand…besides women and children.  This would suggest a total of about 2 million people.  We can survive…no thrive even in hard times!  That’s how we get From Here to There! Selah

Sept. 13 – (Ex. 13) God wants Israel to remember what He did for them in the final plague that caused Pharaoh to release them.  He saved and redeemed their first born, both animals and children.  It is definitely something they should remember and appreciate.  The way they were to remember was to consecrate their first-born child and donkey to the Lord. A lamb was sacrificed in their stead. All the other first-born animals were to be sacrificed.  Why do you think only the donkeys were consecrated? Could it have to do with Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem to be sacrifice for our sins? Selah

                In keeping with “getting from here to there”, notice verses 17-22.  First of all, God was with them the whole way… evidenced in a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day. Next, He could have led them by way of the Philistines. That was certainly shorter to them.  God knew they were not ready to battle them yet (that time would come much later) so He led them the longer, more difficult way.  What if Moses had disagreed with God’s direction and went the shorter route? What happens when we want to “take a shorter route?  Selah

Sept. 14 – (Ex. 14) Are there times when there is nothing more you can think to do about a situation or maybe even a person? “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today.  For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The fear of man…any man is an idol God wants to tear down. As we live what He says above what any human might say, that idol is being destroyed. 

Sept. 15 – (Ex. 15) Now that the Egyptians are no longer a threat to them, the Israelites are learning how to make God their Master. They will continue this lessen as they journey to Canaan…and even to this day. We see this as they are barely out of the sight of the Red Sea where God powerfully protected them and are already “mumbling”.  They are not trusting that the Lord’s presence is sufficient for their protection and provision. Verses 25b-26 show us one-way God taught them about this.  “There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there He tested them., saying, ‘If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in His eyes and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer’.”  Today, I am trusting that the Lord’s presence is sufficient for my protection and provision! “Lord help me remember this every moment of this day…and forever!”

Sept. 16 – (Ex. 16) Have tried to lead someone somewhere (like disciple someone) and all they did was complain (grumble)? Maybe you were the “grumbler”.  Verse 7 gives us a reality check.  All grumbling is dissatisfaction with something in our lives.  It is blaming someone or thing for something we don’t appreciate.  It is forgetting who “allows all things for our good” as we seek His face and His will for our lives. I am thinking even now of a recurring thing that happens and I admit, I grumble against the Lord (“Lord when will you make it stop?”).  Forgive me Lord. Maybe it keeps coming around because I haven’t learned to stop grumbling when it happens…or I just don’t respond with trust that God is in control and does all things for our good and His glory!  Selah

                One other thing I want to revisit. In 15:25b-26 we found that God’s Presence brings protection and provision.  When God provided bread from heaven (16:4), it met Israel’s physical needs and showed that their whole lives were to be sustained by the Lord and governed by His Word. The people responded to the Lord’s power as if it was disconnected from who He is (v.3). Moses says that they will see the glory of the Lord (v.10), which was a sign of His presence. They saw provision but did not recognize it was through His Presence with them.  SELAH!

Sept. 3-9 Getting From Here To There

Sept. 3 – (Ex. 3) Let’s look at verses 3-5.  Moses noticed something different.  He did not ignore it but “turned aside”. When God saw that he turned aside, God then called out to him. Moses was then instructed to treat this as holy ground. When God directs you do you notice any similarities? When you miss the mark, do you see any differences in what you consider?

Sept. 4 – (Ex. 4) I would like you to do some homework on your own as we look at Moses’ covenantal Call and Dialogue. I will ask Moses’ question and let you find God’s response.  God calls us in similar ways today. Many times, we answer with questions like Moses.  Let’s learn from him!

“Who am I that I should go?” (Ex. 3:11) - God’s response (3:12):

“What is Your name, that I may tell the people who sent me?” (3:13) – God’s response (3:14-15): “How would the people believe that You have sent me?” (4:1) – God’s response (4:2-4,6-7,9):

“I am not eloquent; I am slow of speech.” (4:13) – God’s response (4:11):

“Please send someone else.” (4:13) – God’s response (4:15-16):

    There is so much in this chapter. Verse 7 speaks to Moses of God’s guidance and power.  Did you see that God restored Moses’ arm to his original state? It doesn’t say, He made it absolutely perfect.  I’m sure that arm had cuts and age spots etc. but God only restored it “like the rest of his flesh. How does that impact me? Sometimes God does not choose to heal to the max of His power (so to speak).  Let’s not get offended whatever He does, it is for our good and His glory!

                When Moses asked to send someone else, God directed him to Aaron (vv.13 -14).  He described him as being able to speak well. I then pictured Aaron as a child constantly talking and jabbering on.  (Have you ever had a child who talks incessantly?) What if his mother berated him for always speaking when adults were discussing something (I’m guessing that was a no, no then)?  It reminds me that many gifts and talents God puts in adults to use, are actually those childhood things that drive parents or adults crazy.  Let’s channel them as we are patient with them.  You never know what God’s wants them to “practice” as a child so they can be used as they get older! 

Sept. 5 – (Ex. 5) Have you ever had to make bricks without straw?  I mean, when you think you are doing what God has asked you to do (work, care for children, etc.) and things get twice as hard? Don’t negate the thought that it might be part of God’s plan for your getting “from here to there”!

Sept. 6 – (Ex. 6) God is going to do a new thing in the lives of the Israelites. We see it comes with very hard circumstances during the preparation period. Have you noticed that in your life today?  As we read His Word, He gives us direction as we allow the Holy Spirit to interpret it for us. Even in the genealogy we find purpose in the specific people He mentions…so that we may understand more, later. The genealogy begins as if the sons or heads of the household of Jacob’s sons will be listed in birth order (v.14). First it names the sons of Reuben (v. 14b) and then Simeon (v. 15).  Then it stops to focus on the sons of Levi (v.16) and in particular on Aaron, Moses (v.20)., and Aaron’s sons (vv. 23,25).  The genealogy functions primarily to preserve (1) the family history of Moses and Aaron as the ones through whom the Lord led Israel out of Egypt and (2) the history of Aaron’s sons as those who were called to be priests in Israel (see 28:10).  Other figures in the genealogy are likely included because of their roles in events narrated in the book of Numbers: the sons of Korah (Ex. 6:24; Num. 16:1-50); and Aaron’s grandson Phinehas (Ex. 6:25; Num. 25:1-9).  Like many biblical genealogies, this one does not include every single generation. Doesn’t it help this genealogy to make better sense?

Sept 7 – (Ex. 7) Chapter 7 shows the first of ten plagues that will happen to Egypt. Let’s look at some significant parts: (1) The staff of Moses signifies that God is the one working the signs through Moses and Aaron. (2) All of the plagues effect the gods of the Egyptians that they worshiped. (3) In this 1st plague the magicians of Egypt do the same with their secret arts. “Magicians” refer to men who saw themselves as using their magic arts to serve Egypt’s gods but who also were considered teachers of wisdom. Although the magicians were able to perform each sign, they did not control the situation completely, as when Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. They also could not reverse God’s plagues.

Sept. 8 – (Ex. 8) Did you notice that Pharaoh came to Moses and Aaron to stop the 2nd plague (frogs) even though his magicians could create them as well? Moses then had Pharaoh decide when it would stop so only Moses’ God would get the credit. I also see that God sent Moses to Pharaoh and Moses then created this “time test”. He then went back and “cried to the Lord” about the agreement with Pharaoh. Sometimes I feel “led” to do or say something and I do. Then I go back to the Lord and question whether I did it right and beg God to finish what He “led” me to do. Of course, if I don’t see the response I thought I would get, I question my abilities or having heard well enough.  Through these verses, God is reminding me that He only asks me to do things in His strength and wisdom. Peoples’ response or my fumbling are to be left to Him to “work for good”! Selah

                The 3rd plague (gnats) begins a place where the magicians can’t produce the same thing. The 4th plague (flies) begins the distinction between Egyptian land and Israel’s land (Goshen). So, the Israelites were still making bricks and working in Egyptian land. Did they have to endure “sin’s effect” as they worked? Can you make any correlation to “working in the world” today?  

Sept. 9 – (Ex. 9) The 5th plague (Egyptian livestock die) is further evidence that the God in control over all.  (Yahweh) is favoring the Israelites. No matter where their livestock/flocks etc. they will not die. Forgive me but in my imagination, I would guess the Egyptians would then come and take live Israeli animals.  If that happened, did they die once the Egyptians took possession? I know… wild imagination!

                The 6th plague was boils.  Now it is getting very personal!  The 7th plague was hail. God even warns Pharaoh to bring in livestock into shelter and gives him time to do it.  My question: If all the livestock died in plague 5, how did they now have more livestock?  Does that answer my question about taking Israeli livestock? Or did some of the Egyptians heed the warning to bring in their livestock?  I digress. Point being Yahweh is showing power over every god Egyptians worshiped and yet Pharaoh would not recognize and humble himself to Yahweh’s design.  Are we ever that hard-hearted? Selah

Aug. 27- Sept. 2 Go and Make Disciples!

Aug. 27 - (Matt. 27:45-56) As death begins to engulf Him, Jesus cries out to God (vv. 45-46).  What does His cry and the overshadowing darkness reveal about His relationship to the Father during this torment? 

                As the centurion witnesses the strange events surrounding Jesus’ death, he exclaims, “surely He was the Son of God!” (v. 54).  Let’s look at the word “was” in his statement. Did the centurion think the Son of God was no more? Or did he think this God did not have all power? As I look at God’s Words (the Bible), what misconceptions keep me from the victorious kingdom He gave me? Selah

Aug. 28 – (Matt. 27:57-66) Let’s look at some background information to get a better understanding of these verses. Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin who did not consent to the actions against Jesus (Luke 23:50-51).  His high standing within the Jewish community gave him access to Pilate.  He was also a disciple of Jesus (It reminds me of Christians in places of influence today.). The Jewish custom was that crucified bodies should be taken down before evening, especially before the Sabbath, which began at sundown on Friday. The use of a rich man’s tomb fulfills Isa. 53:9. 

Aug. 29 – (Matt. 28::1-10) As we read about Jesus’ resurrection, let’s think about how it changed many lives forever. What has been the most devastating life change for you?  What has been the most wonderful life change for you?  Did it take time to adjust to these changes? We need to remember what Christ did in our lives has affected our whole lives in so many ways.  We need to remember that He is still changing our lives and thank Him for it.  Selah

Aug. 30 – (Matt. 28:11-15) These verses give us a picture of how the Jewish leaders really felt about Jesus being a false prophet or deceiver. They are making a bad decision worse.  Do we do that as well?

                Did you notice that it says “some of the soldiers” went to the Jewish leaders? What did the rest of the soldiers do? We may have the answer in the last part of verse 15. “And this story has been spread among the Jews’ to this day.”  What do you think?

Aug. 31 – (Matt. 28:16-20) The disciples go to Galilee where they meet with Jesus. How is the experience of the three disciples at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 16-28-17:9) confirmed and expanded on the Mount of Resurrection?

                Jesus gave to the disciples what we now call the Great Commission.  Describe the commission He gives to them and us (vv.16-20).  How would the entire book of Matthew be a helpful tool in fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples by teaching all that He commanded? As you conclude this study of Matthew, how can you be more involved in making disciples and fulfilling the Great Commission? I’d love to hear what you think!

Sept. 1 – (Ex. 1) As we begin a new series at church (Getting from here to there.) I would like to take a tour through Exodus and Joshua for the next 2 months. They speak to me of ways to get from here to there.  God took the Israelites out of Egypt, but it was a much longer process to get Egypt out of the Israelites.  I think that is our journey as well. So why not try to learn some hard-earned lessons from them?

                Why is it when we struggle the most, that is when we seek God the most.  Yet we will always choose easy times.  When we seek God, we are depending on Him and relying on Him. When we are coasting, we think we are doing pretty good and thus can do it on our own…. silly us!      

Sept. 2 – (Ex. 2) Have you ever tried to do something “good” only to realize it was going to get you in trouble? We all make mistakes.  We all sin. I pray it doesn’t cause you to flee your country or even your family, but God knows.  He will never leave you or forsake you in all your doings. And as you repent He will make all things work together for our good!  SELAH!


Aug. 20-26 What Does Jesus' Death Mean To You?

Aug. 20 – (Matt. 26:14-25) Most of the disciples have been with Jesus almost 3 years.  They have seen a lot and heard a lot.  How confident were they of knowing their master? Verse 22 helps us with that answer. They seemed to trust that Jesus knew all things, but they questioned their own motives and actions (“Is it I, Lord?”).  Also note, the disciples called Jesus, Lord while Judas called Him Rabbi meaning teacher.  What is the difference between Jesus being our teacher and Jesus being our Lord? Selah

Aug. 21 – (Matt. 26:26-35) “You will all fall away because of me this night.” Jesus said this to the disciples. Was He saying, they were eternally doomed? No. Jesus was helping them understand (by living this out) that once we accept Christ and ask forgiveness of our sins, God sees us righteous through Jesus’ blood. In the process of renewing our minds, we often sin (fall away) but that sin was already paid for. As we admit our sin and ask forgiveness, it renews our mind just a little more to be like Christ’s.

Aug. 22 – (Matt. 26:36-46) Gethsemane means “oil press” indicating a garden area on the Mount of Olives where olive oil was prepared.   How would you describe Jesus during His dark time in this garden (vv. 36-45)? Jesus exhorts the disciples to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (v.41).  What is the relationship between faith, prayer and fear in their upcoming test? Can you remember a time of stress that was easier because you were in a good place in fellowship with God? It really does make a difference for me whether I am “prayed up” or just living life. Selah

Aug. 23 – (Matt. 26: 47-56) Jesus’ betrayal comes at the hand of one of His own disciples (vv. 47-50).  As you look at the role of Judas in this chapter, why do you think the religious leaders used him?

 I was most impacted by verse 56: “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” As you look at this moment, it was a very dark time, yet God allowed it so that something very glorious would come for the whole world! I am looking at my “dark times” in a very different light.  What is God allowing so that something very “glorious” will come out of it?  SELAH

Aug. 24 – (Matt. 26:57-75) Twice during His arrest and once during His interrogation, Jesus states that the Scriptures are being fulfilled (vv. 54,56,64) What impact might this have for the various groups surrounding Him (disciples, the crowd, the religious leaders)?

                Why do you think Jesus has remained silent during the first part of His trial (vv. 57-63)? It’s hard not to defend yourself when you feel someone is maligning you, isn’t it? As we consider Jesus’ reasons for this silence. We may want to do the same.

                In Jesus’ response, He says, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”   Have you noticed that God is called Power? What does that say to you?

Aug. 25 – (Matt. 27:1-23) Matthew 27 records the judgment and execution of Jesus.  As Pilate and the religious leaders condemn, mock and crucify God’s Son, God himself seems strangely absent.  Yet to those who have eyes to see, His presence and power are unmistakable.

                Jesus is passive through this chapter, yet He is the center of activity. As you read through this chapter look for all the different ways that people respond to Him.  Ask yourself how you are responding initially at each point. There are still some areas in this process that the Lord needs to heal…right?

                The Lordship of Christ means that He’s always in charge.  In what ways can we deceive ourselves, like Pilate, into thinking Christ serves our purposes instead of submitting to Him and His purposes for us?

Aug. 26 – (Matt. 27:24-44) Whenever I read verses 24-26, I remember that we are covered by Jesus’ blood. Of course, Jesus’ accusers didn’t realize the deepest and eternal import of those words.  “Lord, please help me realize even more what being covered by Your blood really means.”

                Why do you think Jesus was mocked on the cross?  I am remembering all the times the scribes and Pharisees try to demean Him and failed. Now they can say whatever they want, and Jesus doesn’t put them in their place.  Do I do that to some who can’t defend themselves at the moment (ex. gossip)?

Aug. 13-19 Are You Ready?

Aug. 13 – (Matt. 24:1-14) As we read in these verses about the destruction of Jerusalem and the coming of Jesus Christ, we are reminded of the end times.  Is there some apprehension as you read this?  How much will apply (or is being applied) to us in our specific lifetime? We want to be safe and secure. Yet many “earthly” things threaten our security – losing a job, an income, health, or loved ones.  Our ability to handle these threats will depend on the source of our security.  The author of Proverbs wrote that the name of the Lord is a strong tower, and the righteous run into it and are safe.  As you think about the challenges you face, envision the Lord surrounding you with His strong, powerful presence.  Spend a few moments in the safety of His presence before continuing. 

Aug. 14 – (24:15-31) Daniel 9:27 tells of the abomination of desolation.  Several times in Jewish history, it was thought that this prophecy was being fulfilled.  But Jesus clarifies that the complete fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy will be found in (1) the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 and (2) the setting up of the image of the Antichrist in the last days (compare 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:14).

                It’s interesting to note that during the Jewish revolt (A.D.67), Jesus’ warning was fulfilled when Christians fled to the mountains of Pella.

                Few of us have ever faced deadly peril for our faith. What pressures do you face for your faith in Christ?  What can you do to lessen the effects of the pressure?

Aug. 15 – (24:32-51) The time of Christ’s coming is discussed in verses 32-41.  What can be known about the timing? What can’t be known?  How does this help us prepare for His coming? How does this effect our telling others of His coming?

                How do the parables of the thief and the wise or wicked servant (vv. 42-51) emphasize the importance of living in the light of Christ’s return?  What has this chapter taught you about perseverance and watchfulness? Reflect further on what the assurance of Christ’s return means for your life, including your choices, goals, priorities and relationships.

Aug.16 – (25:1-13) This is the parable of the ten virgins. That only five of the virgins are admitted to the chamber (vv. 1-13) seems harsh.  What might be the reasons for such a “hard” parable?  What was wrong with the attitude of those who were excluded?  What was right with the attitude of those who were included?  Oil for the lamps is a metaphor for being prepared.  What do you think is the “oil” you need in order to be prepared for Christ’s return?  Is your “lamp” full? Selah

Aug. 17 – (Matt. 25:14-30) As a child, my family was deeply connected to a United Brethren church.  Emphasis was on prayer, doing good works, and enduring till the end (my perception).  Wednesday nights were prayer meeting and of course our whole family went (Mom and 3 kids at this time). Of course, I was not into kneeling for an hour or so as people prayed out loud.  There was one older man who always prayed, and his prayers went on forever (my recollection) but He always ended his prayer with a phrase something like this: Heavenly Father, help thy servant to endure to the end so that thou wouldst say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joys of the Lord forever.”  Of course, I always listened to hear that phrase because that meant the torture was finally over. Now as an adult I think back on that situation every time I hear or read those phrases.  I see a man’s desire to use the talents God gave him, so he knew he had done what God gave him to do.  Of course, I then ask myself if I am using all the gifts and talents God gave me. Selah!

Aug. 18 – (Matt. 25:31-46) Early in Jesus’ ministry He had compassion on the people “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”  In the parable of the sheep and the goats (vv. 31-46) what new insight do we gain about Jesus as a shepherd? The images in this parable shift from personal master and bridegroom to the ruler of the nations.  Identify the King, the sheep, the goats and the “brothers” of the King.  What criteria does the King use to separate the sheep from the goats?   This chapter reminds us yet again that Jesus will return, and we need to be ready. Let’s remember to live each morning with the expectation that we will see Christ before the day is over. Selah

Aug. 19 – (Matt. 26:1-13) in this chapter Matthew narrates the events leading to Jesus’ death.  Jesus reminds the disciples that the Passover will come in 2 days. Keep in mind the Passover was celebrated annually in remembrance of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. What does this specific Passover bring all of us exodus from? Selah


Aug. 6-12 You Are Leading Someone Somewhere!

Aug. 6 – (Matt. 21:33-46) How do you take the leaders’ response to Jesus’ parable? As keepers of Jesus’ “vineyard” today, where do you fit in to this parable? What can we do to change “His vineyard”?

Aug. 7 – (Matt. 22:1-14) As you read these verses, let’s add some understanding of the times and meaning. Verses 1-2: In this case, a wedding feast was a countrywide celebration that would have continued for several days.  This “feast” represents enjoying fellowship with God in His kingdom.  Verse 3: To refuse a direct invitation from the king would be an extreme insult and a challenge to his authority.  Verse 9: The wedding invitation to those not previously invited anticipates the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles.  Verse 11: Everyone was invited but proper wedding clothing was still expected.  This proper clothing could have been either a special garment provided by the king or a clean garment symbolizing evidence of righteous works. Did you get a deeper understanding?

Aug. 8 – (Matt. 22:15-33) The Pharisees tried to get Jesus to disobey the Roman government law.  The Sadducees tried to get Jesus to discredit the Jewish laws or beliefs.  It’s amazing how the enemy can try to discredit us from many avenues.  Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves! 

Aug. 9 – (Matt. 22:34-46) The next attempt to discredit Jesus revolves around the law.  How does His response confront His questioners (vv. 33-40)?  Finally, Jesus poses a dilemma to the Pharisees that silences them (vv. 41-45): “How can the Christ be both the son of David and His Lord?”  Why does this question stop them in their tracks?

                Throughout this section Jesus has been involved in verbal battles.  How have they confirmed or changed your perception of Jesus? Jesus’ power to resist His enemies is the same power that He uses to care for His people.  Think about that.  What benefits to your relationship with Him might come out of this passage?   Thank God for His determination to deliver His people from dominating authorities…wherever they are. 

Aug. 10 – (Matt. 23:1-15) In these verses, Jesus is talking about leaders and their influence.  Influence is a powerful force.  Those who influence others (and we all are leading someone somewhere) are able to change minds and redirect actions.  The religious leaders in Israel possessed the power of influence.  Once they decided to oppose Jesus, they did their best to lead others to do the same.  Make a list of people who have influenced you.  Consider parents, pastors, teachers (include Sunday School), political leaders and authors.  Note how they have contributed to your character and actions.  Consider not only positive influences but negative influences as well and what you have done to overcome their negative impact on your life. Thank the Lord for working good in your life from a negative.   For those who have been a positive influence, why not thank them if possible.           

                Jesus talks about 7 woes to leaders in this chapter. As you consider all of these, remember that all of us are leading someone, somewhere!  First woe: Leaders who have drawn the people away from the kingdom of heaven instead of toward it (v. 13).  Second woe: Leaders who sought to make converts, only to place them under the weight of the many requirements they added to the Bible’s teaching (v. 15).

Aug. 11 – (Matt. 23:16-26) Third woe: Leaders who focus on superficial distinctions and overlook the higher principles of the law (v.v. 16-19). Fourth woe: Leaders that neglect the weighty matters of the law (v. 23). The leaders tithed even to the seasonings they grew in their garden but were not giving to the Lord mercy and faithfulness and such. Fifth woe: Leaders that sought external purity while being blind to the corrupt internal condition of their hearts. Selah

Aug. 12 – (Matt. 23:27-39) If we must…let’s continue with the last 2 woes. Sixth woe: The Pharisees were like tombs, which in Jesus’ day could be outwardly very beautiful but within held nothing but death and decay.  These tombs were whitewashed to identify them clearly, since people would be unclean for seven days through any contact with them (Num. 19:16; Luke 11:44).  Seventh woe: In plotting against Jesus, the religious leaders follow their ancestors, who persecuted and murdered God’s prophets.

                What warnings and hope does this chapter offer us today as we seek to live out our faith?  Ask God to give you a spirit of humility so that no matter who is teaching, (or even you are the one teaching someone something) you will respond to the Lord as Father, Teacher and Master.

                Let’s think again about our motivations in all we do.  Make a list of all the religious activities that you do, such as attending church, reading the Bible, being in a small group, serving on a committee or doing evangelism.  Consider which you are most inclined to do for the approval of others.  Which are easier for you to do just because it pleases the Lord?  Ask God to heal parts of your heart that you honestly are doing only to please man (or self). Selah

July 30-Aug. 5 Perceiving Rightly

July 30 – (Matt. 19:16-30) Wealth was considered a sign of God’s favor and a reward for righteous living.  Jesus challenges this concept (vv. 16-30).  By observing this religious young man struggle between choosing wealth or eternal life, what do we learn about the kingdom? Do we today still even unconsciously use wealth as a standard of God’s blessing? On the other end of the spectrum, if we are wealthy, that does not mean we have no eternal life. 

                Jesus offers a form of wealth to His followers.  How would you describe it (vv. 27-30)? How is it obtained? There is tension between kingdom wealth and worldly wealth.  How does that tension express itself in your life?

July 31 – (Matt. 20:1-16) Picture yourself in each of the groups of workers described in these verses.  How would you feel in these differing situations? Where do you feel you would fit in?  What does the parable of the workers teach us about grace, work and compensation in the kingdom of God?  What parts of Jesus’ teaching can be applied to the church or other forms of Christian service?

Aug. 1 – (Matt. 20:17-28) How does Jesus’ statement about his impending death model the values of the kingdom that he has been teaching (vv. 17-19)? Even the mother of James and John gets in on the disciples’ struggle to obtain a place of honor and status in Jesus’ kingdom (vv. 10-13).  Surprisingly Jesus does not condemn the desire.  How does he transform it (vv. 24-28)? Let’s try to think in these terms as we “disciple” others whose comments are a little off base.

Aug. 2 – (Matt. 20:29-34) Here are some verses when compared to Mark and Luke’s version may seem to discount each other.  Again, knowing more about that time and in this case geography may help us see there is no discrepancy. Jericho (v. 29) was not the ancient OT city (Josh. 5-6), but the new Jericho, about a mile to the south of the older city.  Matthew says the healing of the blind men took place “as they went out” of Jericho (and Mark 10:46 agrees), but Luke 18:35 says it was “as He drew near to Jericho.” It is possible that Matthew and Mark refer to the new Jericho, and Luke to the old Jericho nearby, or vice versa.  Another possibility is that the blind men cried out to Jesus first as He was entering the city (Luke 18:35) but He did not heal them until He was leaving the city.  These observations make we wonder what other scripture I have misinterpreted in some way. The Holy Spirit will instruct us as we listen to Him.

                Here is another discrepancy about the two blind men in verses 30-31. Mark 10:46 and Luke 18:35 mention only one blind man, and Mark gives his name (Bartimaeus).  This does not mean that Matthew’s report of two blind men is inaccurate, only that Mark and Luke focused on one of them.  “Lord, help understand Your Word as You want us to learn about You!”

Aug. 3 – (Matt. 21:1-11) As Jesus enters Jerusalem during Passover; excitement is building and emotions are intense.  Identify words or phrases that communicate something of the electrifying atmosphere. How do you think the disciples felt as they witnessed the excitement of the crowds and saw Jesus riding on a donkey, fulfilling a prophecy about the Messiah?  What different perceptions does the crowd have of Jesus (vv. 9-11)?  Only knowing what they knew (either the disciples or just a person in the crowd) at that time, where would you fit into those perceptions?

Aug. 4 – (Matt. 21:12-22) We read of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Having received the praise of the people, He enters the temple, looks around and then clears it out (vv. 12-13).  Why might this action in the temple be seen as the catalytic event that led to His crucifixion?  How might Jesus’ interaction with the blind and lame, children and religious leaders “in the temple” be seen as a snapshot or even climax of Jesus’ entire ministry (vv. 14-17)?

 Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree for not having fruit was symbolic of the preceding events.  Look back at His entrance into the temple (v.v.12-14).  What fruit was Jesus looking for?  What fruit would He find in us today?

Aug. 5 – (Matt. 21:23-32) Here is something I have never seen before.  Why did Jesus refuse to tell the chief priest and elders by what authority He was teaching and healing?  The leader’s refusal to answer Jesus’ questions shows their dishonesty and traps them. If they do not know whether John was from God, how can they judge whether Jesus is?  

                The parable of the two sons show that the religious leaders failure to respond rightly to John the Baptist’s prophetic ministry.  A person’s actions ultimately prove whether or not he is obedient to God. As a Christian, you said no to Jesus…until you said yes to Him. 😊 But I am pondering those times the Holy Spirit urges me to something and I say yes, but “forget” to do it.  Selah