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Archive for January, 2011

Grace and peace,

today we are going over Matthew 11.

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

After eight chapters, we have come back to read more about John the Baptist.  The last time we read about him in chapter 3, we saw that he was seen as a holy man of Israel, a prophet in the same vein as Elijah.  He was living in the desert eating locusts and honey.  Some time before this point in chapter 11, John, working as a prophet, spoke truth to King Herod by telling him that it is unlawful for him to marry his brother’s wife Herodias (Mark 6).   Herodias wanted to kill John, but King Herod “feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.

This is the state of John the baptist in chapter 11.

I could only imagine what might be going through John’s head.  Here he is doing what he feels called to do and it has landed him in prison.  He had this amazing experience out in the desert where he saw Jesus and knew that He was the Son of God.  It was revealed to John that when he sees the spirit come down and remain on a man he baptizes, that will be the person who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.  John had that experience when he baptized Jesus.  John understood that Jesus was the Messiah and didn’t miss a chance to call it out.

When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” ” – John 1:36

Here we see John the baptist not so sure of his one strong held beliefs.  John from prison sends out his disciples to Jesus to check if Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus gives a great answer in v4-6.

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” ”

Jesus doesn’t tell him yes or no but instead says, look to see what is going on.  The people of the world that are hurting are being helped.  People who had no option outside of reliance on God are being restored by faith.  The people who are cast aside as unclean, are brought back into community and their families, and people who have died are brought back to life.  The message of Jesus is for everyone not just those who can pay for it.

Jesus says to look at what He is doing and decide for yourself if He is the Christ.

Bearing witness to His actions is the best way to see that He truly is the Messiah.

It still is today.

The witness of a changed life because of a relationship with Jesus is a powerful thing.  Someone who once lived for the things of the world but now lives for God is a witness of the actions of Jesus in their everyday life.

Where they once might have sworn and cursed someone, they now bless and wish them well.  When struggles come, and they will come, instead of being burdened by worry, they give that stress to God knowing things will work out for His glory.

Maybe you feel imprisoned in doubt and are becoming unsure about something you once believed, take a moment to expand what you see and bear witness to the power of Jesus Christ the Messiah working in the lives of people around you.

-Zack

What has God put on your heart lately?

I posted this then I started to make dinner and this song came on the radio.  I think it fits perfect

What I’ve Overcome By Fireflight

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Grace and Peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 10,

here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

In 2002, I graduated from R.O.W.V.A. high school in Oneida, Illinois, a school of around 250 students.  My senior year, I decided I would study meteorology and in looking at schools, I saw that SUNY Albany was one of a small selection of schools that offered a 4 year program.  Only after going to school at UAlbany did I notice that a lot of things we were looking at in our classes came from the University of Illinois, but that’s a different story.  After 4 years of college, I graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Atmospheric Science.  Within a month, I came across an opportunity to follow God with my life, to listen to and follow my calling.

In first reading this chapter today, I thought about a few things but in rereading it, the first 2 words of the NIV edition struck me.

“He called…”

Let’s look at verse 1 in it’s entirety,

“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”

The ‘He’ is Jesus and He is calling His disciples to Him in order to send them out.

He called them.

They have the option to not answer the call.  Before, when Peter and Andrew were back on the boat fishing, Jesus called to them and said “Come, Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  They could have ignored him and kept fishing.  The same goes for James son of Zebedee and his brother John.

But in both cases they listened to the call of Jesus and left everything, including family.

They lived and worked in their chosen path until they received a calling from Jesus.

When I felt called, I resisted.  I had plans.  I had just graduated from college.  I was applying for jobs in my chosen field.  I was in a place serving for a few weeks but then back to my life.

Have you seen Evan Almighty? I think this is a great scene, from a great movie.

After spending a week resisting and a night of verbally refusing to follow God with my whole life, I decided that if this is the path He has laid out for me, I should try to follow it.

Are you called?

If so, are you resisting?

If you don’t feel called, are you looking for your calling?

I’ve heard it said that we aren’t told to go and have breakfast in the morning or dinner at night and yet we have those meals anyways, but when it comes to following God, we wait on a call.

(If you are looking for your calling, this could be a good place to start.)

What else does this verse tell us?

He called them and He sent them to do only what they have seen Him do so far, but He prepared them and equipped them for His service before sending them.

Similarly, God will mold you and shape you to be the perfect vessel for what He wants to accomplish through you as long as you are willing to listen and go.

Be aware of God’s calling for your life.  He can change your plans and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be working for God than against Him.

This song is great but it isn’t able to be played here on the site,

it will ask you to click to be redirected to YouTube.

Where are you doing with your life today?

-Zack

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Grace and Peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 9.

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

Earlier this month, Melanie and I visited her grandparents who recently moved to a retirement community in Florida.  When we got there, we had dinner and some socializing and around 9:30pm I was falling asleep in my chair.  It might have been the day of traveling or it might have been the 85 degree apartment.  When we inflated the air mattress from grandma’s closet, we noticed a bunch of scotch tape on one of the circular indents.  It held air without anyone on it…  It had a patch on it, but it wasn’t working and more tape wasn’t going to help, I know because we tried.  The best option would be a new air mattress.

Here is something I haven’t understood in any real way besides the obvious literal saying.  In v15-17 Jesus is talking with the disciples of John the baptist.  They are asking Him why his disciples don’t fast like they and the pharisees do.  Jesus gives this odd response.

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.  No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.

In my time reading about this chapter, I read in the footnotes of my NIV life application bible something I haven’t seen before in this passage.

In verses 16-17, Jesus gives these answers that didn’t make any sense to the situation.  The sentences make sense by themselves but as answers to a fasting question, not really.  A footnote spoke about how both of these ideas go with the thought that Jesus’ way of communing with God is new.

To try to use His teachings as a patch for a problem with the current way of doing things just wouldn’t work.

Jesus was teaching a new way of interaction with God.

This new way had to start with a new beginning.  Not built on laws but on the foundation of living for God in all you do.
Have your motives be God honoring and not self-righteous.
-Zack

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Grace and peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 8

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

 

It can be interesting to look at history and see over vast amounts of time how people don’t change.  Sure if we compare 2011 with 1811 there are huge differences like cars instead of horses, light bulbs instead of candles, and the internet instead of someone yelling on a street corner (did they do that in 1811?).  But the nature of people, that is something that stays the same.

In v24-25, Matthew records Jesus and the disciples in a boat and going across the sea of Galilee:

Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

The disciples at this point have seen Jesus do amazing things.  They have witnessed Him heal people from all sorts of diseases including the, at that time, incurable leprosy.  They also saw Jesus drive out demons from people and heal family of the disciples.

Last chapter was the end of the sermon on the mount where Jesus taught many lessons in a new way with authority instead of quoting well known people from the past.

After all of these amazing things, they still run into trouble or danger and are terrified instead of trusting in Jesus.

Just like the people before them, in times of danger and worry, they forget the past.

The Israelites in the desert did this almost constantly it seems.  Once they were saved from the plagues and given all sorts of gold and treasures and released from slavery into the desert, they started to think of how good slavery was because they had food.  They didn’t think about relying on God who has just done a miraculous deed for them.  Their lack of counting on God can be seen when Egypt was pursuing them, or when the spies came back from the promised land and said that they couldn’t defeat the people who currently live there.

Enough looking back at them, lets look at our lives.

When times get tough for me do I rely on God?

In the past when problems have come up, I have relied on God and amazing things have come from it.  I have seen God move in ways that were beyond what I was hoping for.

When problems come in the future, does my past make me run to God who was faithful then and will be faithful now?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Sometimes a problem seems so big that after I do all I can do, like the disciples, I turn to Jesus who isn’t worried at all about what is going on because He has control.

Here is v26:

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

 

This chapter has encourage me to make Jesus the first person I turn to when troubles arise.

There is no need to worry and fret about something when Jesus, who loves and cares for you, is in control.

 

How is God using this chapter to speak to you?

 

-Zack

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Grace and peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 7.

Here is a link to it on Biblegateway.com

 

One of the things that an apple tree does is produce fruit.  It’s actions of soaking in the sun and pulling in moisture out of the ground result in fruit.  An apple tree typically lives for around 30 years but can live up to 100 years! These trees produce a couple hundred to a couple thousand apples a year.  So lets be conservative. If a tree lives 30 years and has about 20 years of producing fruit averaging 300 apples a year, you will have six thousand apples from this one tree.  That’s a lot of fruit!  After 6,000 apples, there is no doubt what kind of tree this is.

Jesus in v15-20 is talking about judging a prophets fruit, what he is producing in life.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

If you were to look at my life in the past few years and things that I have done, you could come up with an idea of who I am and what I am working towards, hopefully.  I imagine this is true of most people, especially college students who are charting a course they are looking to plan for their lives.

Jesus makes the point that we should look at someone’s life and the fruit that they produce if we are going to listen to what they are saying.  People might preach and teach with motives other than bring people closer to God.

How can I determine what they are preaching for?  It could be as simple as looking at their life’s work.  Is time spent building themselves up through good works or do they give glory to God while helping those in need?  Does what they preach match up with how they live their life?

What fruit should my life as a Christian produce?

Do I give the same grace, mercy, and love that I need daily from Jesus to others in my life?

Do I curse the person who cuts me off in traffic?

Do I let anger and frustration run unchecked in either action or thought?

Do I forgive the misdeeds of strangers quickly but bring up the trespasses of long ago by family?

This makes me think of 1 Corinthians 13 that we talked about a while ago, check out the link here.

 

I see the idea from this chapter that I can tell who I am by the fruit that I produce.

If I am not producing any Christian fruit, does that mean I am not a Christian?

If a tree claims to be an apple tree but doesn’t produce any apples, is it an apple tree?

It might be, but just not mature yet.

 

What fruit does your life produce?

 

-Zack

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Grace and peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 6.

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

Reading through Matthew this time has opened it up in a new way for me.  I am seeing connections between chapters that I have never noticed before and in reading and studying the chapters, instead of seeing a chapter as multiple sections, reinforced by some editor putting in headings, I am seeing one theme explained in multiple ways.

Jesus in v1 says

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

This is kind of the running theme for chapter 6.  Jesus wants me to look at the reasons behind what I am doing.

Do I give to the poor so people see and think I’m a good Christian?

Do I pray around people so that they think I have an awesome prayer life and a close connection to God?

If I were to enter a time of fasting, do I tell people or just do it to show my reliance on God to Him?

I’ve always read this chapter as “Don’t give so people see, don’t pray so people hear, don’t fast so people think you are pious.”  I’ve now see it as not 3 rules but 1 that is given through multiple examples.

Whatever you are doing, if you are not doing it for God, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

This is much more applicable than just 3 rules that seem pretty clear cut.

This idea can be applied to something like dressing up for church among a host of other things.  Am I dressing up because I am entering a sanctuary of the Most High God or because that’s what you do when you go to church?

Why is it I do what I do? My hope is that I always do something because that is the example of Jesus I want to present.  I hope I do something out of my love for God and my desire to share His love with people around me and be His light in this dark place.

So what did I learn from this chapter?

I am going to be looking at why I do what I do; what motivates me to do good, God or people?  It is my hope that the God column will have more checks.

I hope that you will examine your life in the same way.

What is God telling you through the reading of His Word?

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Conference time

I am currently away at a conference with Impact right now and should be back to it on the 13th.
I hope you are having a good new year.

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