Tag Archives: Gospel of Matthew

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 8

Jesus and the centurion in Capernaum (Matthew ...
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“Then those who grew up ‘in the faith’ but had no faith will find themselves out in the cold, outsiders to grace and wondering what happened.” Matthew 8:12 (MSG)

After reading through the chapter today, I took a step back from the text and mentally outlined the events that are described. There are several brief exchanges between Jesus and various people:

  • A leper: (social outcast, diseased, unwanted) Jesus touches and heals him.
  • A Roman Officer: (oppressor, enemy, invader, outsider) Jesus compliment him on his faith and heals his servant.
  • A religious scholar & follower: Jesus offers a “curt” rebuke and questions the man’s motivation.
  • A “follower”: Jesus reprimands him for his excuses
  • Disciples: Jesus reprimands them for their lack of faith
  • Demons: (enemy, dark, evil) Jesus graciously grants them their request to embody the pigs, to the ire (and expense) of the locals

What struck me as I went through the list is that Jesus’ exchanges were the exact opposite of what I must honestly say I see myself doing. Jesus was gracious and kind to the people I would have avoided or to whom I would have been harsh. He was gracious even with demons. The people to whom I would have catered and tread lightly so as to not hurt their feelings or create a stir were the very people he was tough with. He got in the face of “his” people, the people that were following Him.

Ouch. As I think about it, my life seems to exemplify the exact opposite of Jesus’ example. Today, I’m thinking hard about how I relate and respond to those around me. I say I want to be like Jesus, but I have a long way to go. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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Chapter-a-Day Matthew 1

Luke’s genealogy of Jesus, from the Book of Ke...
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The family tree of Jesus Christ, David’s son, Abraham’s son: Matthew 1:1 (MSG)

I remember back to grade school and some of the contests of pride me and the boys would get into on the playground, in the lunch room, and during recess. Whose dad is bigger? Who is better at [fill in the blank]? Who was related to somebody famous?

It’s silly to look back on now, but some of those things are simply a part of human nature, and they carry down through generations. Walk onto any playground today and you’ll hear variations on the same pissing match.

Even in Jesus day, the people took a great amount of pride and interest in who was related to whom. In those days, much of your life was determined by the tribe in which you were born. In fact, the writers of the gospels knew quite well that the Old Testament prophets claimed that the Messiah would come out of the royal line of David. Unless Jesus could trace his lineage back to David, the people would not accept him as the Messiah. That’s why both Matthew and Luke begin their biographies with a family tree. Matthew traces the lineage through Jesus earthly father while Luke traces the lineage through his mother. Either direction, you find the key link to David.

And, while Jesus could have bragged to the other boys on the playground about being from the royal line, they would have taken one look at the list and given Jesus grief that the line also included prostitutes, deceivers, adulterers, murderers, and evil idolatrous kings.

Everyone can point back to honorable and dishonorable branches in the family tree. While the past can help us understand who we are and where we came from, the journey is all about the steps we choose to take in propelling us forward.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 15

"Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Je...
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Unlucky mother—that you had me as a son,
   given the unhappy job of indicting the whole country!
I’ve never hurt or harmed a soul,
   and yet everyone is out to get me. Jeremiah 15:10 (MSG)

It isn’t easy swimming upstream. Jeremiah discovered that. Going against the grain of a community or a culture has all sorts of ripple effects. I doubt that, in many ways, there is much difference between Jeremiah’s community and ours. People are people. We tend to like others who go with the flow and don’t make waves.

Follow Jesus, however, and you’ll find that the path will often lead you against the stream of popular culture. When that happens, we may find ourselves identifying with Jeremiah’s self-pitied lament.

But, without contrast, how will people see any difference?

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 17

Cleansing of the ten lepers
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Jesus said, “Were not ten [lepers] healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.” Luke 17:17-19 (MSG)

Ten things for which I’m thanking God this morning:

  1. An amazing wife and life partner I get to kiss backstage
  2. Loveable, valuable, & capable daughters who, daily, make me proud to be their father
  3. A loving family (who get along & love one another)
  4. Daily phone calls with Kevin
  5. Coffee and conversations with Chad and with Matthew
  6. A job I love, that fits me, with a great team of co-workers
  7. Getting to be involved with the stage
  8. Playing bass in worship
  9. Quiet nights at home with a glass of wine
  10. Quiet mornings and coffee with God

What about you?

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 16

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“I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.” Luke 16:9 (MSG)

My daughter, Madison, called last night. She is a poor college student living with three other girls in the Cities. She is working hard at work (ironically, at Bare Escentuals), working hard at school, and learning to walk her own journey on her own [cue: Mary Tyler Moore Theme].

Right now, her daily journies have become more difficult. Her beloved car (a.k.a. Squirt) is dying. In fact, there is an epidemic of car problems among her roomies. They have been sharing one girls car as they all figure out what they are going to do to repair or replace their sputtering vehicles.

“If I have to,” Madison said on the phone, “I can walk to work. It’s a long walk and I’ll freeze my butt off, but I can do it.” [This from the girl who trekked miles into the jungle of Costa Rica using a machette].

How could I not think of her this morning as I read Jesus’ dictate to be on constant alert, looking for angles, and surviving by your wits. Those are life lessons we don’t get in books nor can we absorb them from a lecture. I find it fascinating when people ignorantly believe that being a follower of Jesus is about “complacently getting by on good behavior” when Jesus call was to follow him in the opposite direction.

The journey is frighteningly more adventurous than that.

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 14

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He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table. Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honor, he said, “When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’ Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left. Luke 14:7-9 (MSG)

I consider stories, books, and films that seem timeless. There is a reason Shakespeare’s works are still staged for packed crowds around the world. There is something in them that resounds with our own core human experience and longing. Jesus was a great teacher because he spoke in stories, parables and spiritual lessons rooted in universal human experiences. He pointed us to eternal significance in everday occurrences.

Life lessons are all around us. They lurk in our daily conversations, in our every day relationships, and in the most mundane moments of our daily journey. God’s Spirit whispers to our spirit in a crowded shopping mall, in the quiet car ride home, and in the midst of our daily work.

For me, the crucial question is the one Jesus asked at the end of the chapter: “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 3

Compass with inclinometer
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When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change, not your skin. Luke 3:7-8a (MSG)

Have I changed? Am I different?

Along the journey I’ve experienced distinctly different types of life change. There is the radical change of direction that happens in a moment’s decision when you turn and walk in a different direction. Some change is hard earned and requires effort and perseverance. It’s like the steep hill that you attempt to climb over and over, only to slide back down to where you started. But you keep trying until that one day when you reach the top and can move on to the next ridge. Still other changes are more subtle. A minor course correction doesn’t feel like much in the moment, but as the miles go by you find that one degree of course change leads to a completely different destination. You hardly notice the change until you’ve arrived at the destination.

Life change. That’s the whole idea: new direction, the struggle to ascend, course correction, life transformation. The theme of John the Baptist’s message was no different than that of Jesus:

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

and Paul:

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. Romans 7:6

And James:

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17

And Peter:

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…. I Peter 2:1-2

And the Apostle John:

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. I John 2:4-6

Have I changed? Because, if I haven’t, then what’s the point?

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