Wednesday, June 30, 2010


One of the most difficult things about prophecies is that many, if not most, carry more than one meaning. There can also be a large time lapse held within one prophecy. For instance, in the Old Testament the prophesies about the Messiah talked about his everlasting kingdom and his death. So the disciples were confused thinking Jesus was going to set up a physical kingdom on earth in their life time. Instead he was crucified.

This next passage is one of those kinds of prophecies. Jesus says “Brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child: and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake, but he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mathew 10:21-22). This has been fulfilled many times, one of which was the holocaust. But it will be fulfilled again during the reign of the Anti-Christ.

Though we do not yet see the Anti-Christ, the principle of persecution holds true. Often the family member who is a follower of Jesus is persecuted by the rest of the family. In America, for now, it only means ridicule and possible isolation. In other countries it means sure death.

As we learn to rely on God now to give us the strength to overcome the persecution we face, we are learning to trust in him. So that when it comes to life threatening persecution, we already know how to trust in him and he will sustain our faith.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Perfect Word

Scripture teaches us that persecution will come to God’s children. Some of us will be brought before rulers, but most of us simply face day to day opposition from people who do not know Christ. Our challenge is to remain at peace and not to fear.

Jesus told us in Mathew 10:18-20 that we do not need to worry about what we will say when we are confronted with difficult questions. “For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

I read the Word of God so that I am prepared. I spend time in his presence so that I get used to hearing his still small voice. I change those things he has pointed out to me. I obey what I read in the Word. I hide God’s word in my heart so that I will not sin against him. Then I rest in him, knowing that he will direct my every step and give me the words to say the moment I need them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Not What They Seem to Be

Jesus gives us another warning about the deceptiveness of men. “But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and beat you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them to the Gentiles” (Mathew 10:17-18).

Time and again the Pharisees approached Jesus with questions that appeared on the surface to be innocent, but they had ulterior motives. (Mk 12:13-17; Jn 8:1-6). Jesus is telling us to count the cost and not trust that men will always be what they appear to be. He wants us to know that being his disciple is not easy.

He also encourages us. “When they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Mathew 10:18-20).

What a wonderful promise. Do not be afraid that you will say the wrong thing, or that you have no idea what to say when it comes time to witness about salvation. Trust God. He will fill your mouth with the exact words at the exact moment you need them.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Snakes and Doves

We like to think of Jesus’ words as comforting, and they are (“Low I am with you always”). But he also does not pull any punches when he talks about life as a Christian. “Behold, I send you as sheep in the middle of wolves” (Mathew 10:16). No one wants to hear they are surrounded by those who wish to eat them alive.

But Jesus tells us how to respond to the wolves, “Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Mathew 10:16). How is a serpent wise? A serpent bides its time. The snake catches a bird by mesmerizing it. The bird sees the snake and begins to squawk loudly, chirping with all its might. The snake does not move. It simply waits and stares at the bird. Eventually the chirping subsides and the battle is essentially over. The snakes moves forward and claims his prize.

Unlike the snake, we offer life. But we are nonetheless to be like the wise snake and wait patiently for all the squawking and positioning to stop. We don’t fight with the unbeliever. We don’t argue over foolish speculations (2 Timothy 2:23). We wait until the Holy Spirit prepares the way to speak a word in the perfect time so that the listener is ready to receive it.

In this way, we are gentle as doves.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cruel Children

Children can be cruel with one another, unfortunately so can adults. I am reminded of the old adage, “Let it roll off you like water off a duck’s back.” In Jesus’ day the adage was, “Shake the dust off your feet.” In other words, don’t let the meanness of another enter your heart.

Jesus told the disciples to go into cities and towns and preach the gospel. He instructed them to stay in homes of people who were known to follow God. As guests, the disciples were to bless the homes. But if the home or the city turned out not to be true followers of God but rejected the message of the Messiah, they were to shake the dust off their feet (Mathew 10:11-14).

Paul advised us, “As much as it depends on you, live at peace with all men.” The point is not everyone will allow you to live at peace with them. In those cases, make sure the turmoil is not being caused by your behavior. Once you know you are choosing according to godly principles, if they still show animosity toward you, “shake the dust off your feet,” and move on.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mint and Cumin

Jesus sent out the twelve disciples without any feasible income or even a change of clothing (Mathew 10:9-10). Why would he send them out completely destitute? Jesus explains the reason in verse 10, “…for a worker is worthy of his food.” In other words, those who were followers of Jesus were meant to support those who taught them.

Paul explains that a soldier does not have to support himself when he goes to war. No one plants fruit trees and does not expect to eat the fruit. A man doesn’t raise dairy cattle and not expect to have plenty of milk to drink. Even the ox in the threshing floor was allowed to eat the grain while it treads the stalks. So a minister of God’s word should be supported by the church (1 Corinthians 9:8).

God set up the system so that the support of ministers is not a burden to anyone person or small group. Every believer is to contribute a 10th of their income (Hebrews 7:1-10). Jesus rebuked the Pharisees about tithe saying, “You tithe mint, dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law; justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” In other words, you should tithe but also be just, merciful and faithful.

Monday, June 21, 2010

God Shouts

Some may wonder why Jesus told his disciples not to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans. Didn’t Jesus go to the Samaritans (John 4:1-26, 28, 39-42)? Prophecy said that Jesus would be rejected by his own people first so he gave his disciples the same instructions. (Psalm 118:22; Mathew 21:42).

God does not present himself halfheartedly. He presents himself full force so that no one has an excuse if they reject him (Mathew 10:6-8). He gives his disciples power to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons. He tells his disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Yet in the end, the Jewish people rejected him though they had seen or experienced all these things (John 1:11).

God also presents himself to the world today. All people can see the beauty of his creation. By day they see the sand dunes, the rolling hills, the blue mountain ranges, the tall trees, the cactus blossoms, the orchids, the daisies, even the flowering weeds, the creeks, the rivers, the lakes, and the oceans. By night they see the sunsets, the massive stars, the planets, the whisper of galaxies, the sound of crickets and bull frogs, fireflies, lightening bugs, and night owls. All of these shout the attributes of God, his eternal power and his Godhead (Romans 1:20-20).

Every man and woman at one time understands the reality of God (John 1:9; Romans 1:18-23, 25). Take some time today to let him speak to you once again through his creation. Let your heart rejoice.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Miracle Workers

Within the text of Mathew 10:1-4 is hidden a most mysterious and fear inspiring warning to all who read it carefully. Look closely at the words. “And when He had called his twelve disciples to him, he gave them the power over unclean spirits, to cast them out and to heal all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve disciples are Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot , who also betrayed him.”

Did you notice Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus, was among them? Scripture says he had power to cast out demons and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Yet in the end he betrayed Christ, then hung himself out of guilt.

This passage reminds me of Mathew 7:22-23 when Jesus says to those who cast out demons and performed miracles, “I never knew you. Get away from me you evil doers.” If miracles, signs and wonders are not an indication that the person is righteous, what is? Jesus tells us only those who obey his word are his people (Mathew 7:21).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mathew 9:35-36).

Do we have that same vision of those who do not know the Truth? Do we understand how weary people can be who have no place to turn too? Are we willing to be one of the workers in the fields?

If so, we can simply ask God to give us opportunities to share his message to those who are hurting.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blinded by the World

Jesus ministered from sunup to sunset. As soon as he raised the girl from the dead, he healed two blind men. As soon as they left people brought him a man who was mute and demon-possessed. Jesus cast out the demon and the man spoke. The multitude marveled at all that Jesus was doing (Mt 9:27-33.”

But the Pharisees were unimpressed. No man had done as many miracles as Jesus did (John 7:30-31). Yet these religious leaders were more concerned about losing their positions than recognizing the Messiah when he came. They accused him saying, “He casts our demons by the ruler of demons.’

If we love the world, we also will not recognize the works that Jesus is doing in our lives.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Go in Peace

The woman who inadvertently interrupted the procession to the dead girl’s house had suffered for twelve years. The Bible calls her problem an issue of blood, or flow of blood. Women were not allowed to go out into public during their ministration cycle. That means this woman had remained in isolation for twelve years. The affects on her confidence are obvious. Not wanting to call attention to herself, her entire focus was on touching his garment (Mark 5:25-28).

Perhaps that is the very reason Jesus stopped the crowd to ask the question, "Who touched me?". He wanted her to understand that more than her physical healing was at stack. He was calling her to be his child.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34).

What is your affliction? Have you been struggling for years with the same issue? Do you feel isolated? Jesus is saying to you today, “Child, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Faith Tested

Yesterday we met a man who pleaded with Jesus to come and raise his daughter from the dead. We can imagine the panic a father would feel hearing the last rattled breath of his child. This father did not hesitate, but left as quickly as possible to find Jesus.

We heard his words, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and she will live.” Jesus turns and starts to follow him to his house. If you were the girl’s father, can you imagine the frustration you would feel when Jesus stops following you to carry on a conversation? Someone has just touched him and he wants to know who it is (Mathew 9:20-22; Mark 5:24-34). But we do not hear the father say a word. He waits patiently.

No sooner had this happened than some of the father’s friends found him. Their lack of faith is obvious when they say to him, “Look, you need to face reality. Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher?” This is the only time we see the father struggle with his faith. We know this because of Jesus' words to him, “Don’t be afraid, just believe” (Mark 5:36).

The father’s faith is immediately restored and follows all of Jesus’ instructions. His faith pays off; Jesus raises the man’s daughter from the dead (Mathew 9:23-25; Mark 5:36-42).

God specializes in the impossible. There may be delays along the road, but keep your faith in God. He will accomplish what he needs to do in your life (Psalm 138:8).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Act of Faith

We were sitting around the living room visiting with my parents when the phone call came that my niece by marriage had just given birth to a still born son. I immediately excused myself and fell on my face before God. I pleaded with him to raise this child from the dead, but to no avail. My heart was broken for the child’s parents.

At another time, my husband and I were watching television in the evening when we received a call that my nephew had been killed in a motorcycle accident. He was wearing a helmet, but when someone forced him off the road he hit a tree and was killed instantaneously. He was just 21 years old.

It is hard to imagine the pain of losing a child unless you have experienced it. My empathy for these parents was nothing compared to their personal pain. There was a man in the Bible who suffered that same heart break. He lived during the time that Jesus was on earth and knew the Christ was his only hope. Quickly he went to him. Listen to his faith.

“My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and she will live.”

Our lives are in the hands of God. He can raise the dead or allow us to die suddenly. Each of our days are preordained by him (Psalm 139:16). We ask, he chooses how to answer (Psalm 5:3; Proverbs 16:9; Philippians 4:6). The important thing is that we ask because the asking shows our faith (Mathew 8:5-10).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Wine Old Wineskins

Jesus was the ultimate wordsmith. He knew how to get his point across without saying something directly. It took a little thinking for his listeners to realize he had just confronted them. The Pharisees and John’s disciples asked why Jesus disciples did not fast.

His answer at first appeared to be off track. “No man uses a piece of new cloth to repair a rip in an old garment. The new cloth would pull on the old material and cause it to rip. Nor do men put new wine in old wine skins that have no more give. The old wine skins would burst and the wine would be lost” (Mathew 9:16-17).

It may have taken the listeners a moment to realize he was talking about them. They did everything the old way, ways which they had added to God’s words, called tradition. Jesus was telling them their old way of doing things was not how God’s forgiveness would be given and they would no longer be the instruments of God’s message. Instead ordinary fishermen, tentmakers and everyday people would carry God’s message.

We also need to remember that our old traditions are not holy in themselves. People may worship God differently than we do. As long as it does not conflict with God’s written word, we need to be gracious to everyone who wants to worship God and his Son Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Health Fast

In health circles fasting is recommended for cleansing the body of toxins. Literature warns that you will experience headaches, sweats and possible problems with odor as the toxins leave your body. However, if you normally eat healthy foods, the uncomfortable side effects from fasting are limited so that your main discomfort is a sensation of hunger for the first three days. Afterward your hunger leaves for a lengthy period of time. When it returns your body is telling you it is time to end the fast and reintroduce foods. It is recommended that you reintroduce foods slowly, starting with juices.

Unfortunately fasting seems to be a lost art for Christians. In Jesus’ time fasting was associated with seeking God. The Pharisees fasted on a regular basis, as did John’s disciples. But Jesus’ disciples did not fast, and that puzzled believers and non-believers alike. Jesus answered thier questions saying, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Jesus made it clear that fasting is to be part of the Christian’s life (Mathew 6:16-17, 9:15; Isaiah 58). There are options for those who have serious physical limitations to fasting. One could determine to eat only vegetables for a period of fasting. Another choice is to fast from television. Whether we do an entire fast (only water) or an adjustment to fasting, fasting is to be a regular part of the Christian's walk with God.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Invitation to a Party

The religious leaders were always getting upset with Jesus for one reason or another. The basic condition of their hearts controlled their ability see (Mathew 13:15). It is as though they were purposely blind to the truth. When Jesus attended a party with many people who had no pretense of religion, the Pharisees became very angry.

They wanted to know why Jesus ate with people who had no profession of faith whatsoever. Jesus responded, “They that are well do not need a doctor, but the sick do. Go learn what it means that I will have mercy and not sacrifice. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mathew 9:12-13).

We do not need to be ashamed of what God has forgiven. We can rejoice in his grace and mercy. When we refuse to rejoice in what God has done, but wallow in grief over past sins, we are taking attention away from the glory of God.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tax Collecters

Tax collectors were among the most notorious cheaters in the political circles of Jesus time. Jesus compared them to someone who refuses to listen to God (Mt 18:17). They were despised people that no one trusted. Yet Jesus called one of them to be his disciple, Mathew, the author of the book we are studying (Mt 9:9).

Jesus himself had a mixed reputation. He was called a prophet (John 6:14), a teacher (John 3:2), a drunk (Lk 7:33), a glutton (Mt 11:19), the Christ (John 7:31), and a friend of tax collectors (Mt 11:19). He hung around people of low reputation (Mathew 9:10) knowing exactly who they were (John 2:25). This shows us when we look on outward appearances we can be dead wrong.

But Jesus looked in the heart for faith in God (Jn 7:24, 8:15). People were changed by their encounter with the Savior (Lk 19:8). Our past does not need to haunt us (1 Corinthians 6:11). Jesus has changed who we were into whom he designed us to be (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ph. D.s Get Angry

Jesus went home to Capernaum. When the news spread that he was back people began to flock to the house where he was staying. They jammed so close together to see what was going on that no one else was able to squeeze through the doors. The crowd included some with Ph. D.s in the Law of Moses, as well as priests and other officials (Luke 5:17).

Four men had a friend that had palsy, and they knew this was their only chance to save their friend from a life of begging in the streets. Without thinking about what they were doing to someone else’s property, they dug a hole in the roof and used ropes to lower their friend down to where Jesus was standing (Mark 2:4). Scripture says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”

The men with the Ph.D.s immediately were angry saying, “Only God has a right to forgive sins.” Jesus asked them a very important question, “Is it easier, to say, your sins are forgiven, or to say, Arise and walk?”

It is far easier to say your sins are forgiven, because no one can see your sins being forgiven, can they? But everyone can see if someone with palsy is healed. Jesus then made his point clear, “The next thing I do is to prove to you that the Son of man has power to forgive sins.’ Then he tells the man on the bed, “Arise, take up your bed and go home.”

Jesus was demonstrating to everyone that he had the power to forgive sins. If only God can forgive sins, what did this healing tell the Pharisees about his divinity?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

God's Calling

The man who had been delivered from his torturous life of self-mutilation and mental torment begged Jesus to allow him to enter the boat and follow him, but Jesus refused his pleading. Instead he said, “Go home to your friends and tell them how great things the Lord has done for you and how he had compassion on you.” (Mark 5:18-19).

Immediately the man did the very thing Jesus had instructed. He became a local evangelist, spreading the good news of the compassion and mercy of God. Everywhere he told his story, people marveled (Mark 5:20).

There are times when our love for God inspires our imagination and we make plans of what we will do for Christ. But emotional responses do not always match up with God’s plan for our lives. Like the man who was delivered, Jesus has other plans for us. If we are true followers of him, we will be grateful for how he decides to use us in his kingdom.

Often our lives do not turn out like we planned. But we can rest assured, that God’s plan for our lives will always be fulfilled (Proverbs 16:19; Job 42:2; Psalm 138:8).