Category Archives: Matthew

Chocolate Santa

There is a huge, half-eaten, chocolate Santa Claus in our kitchen cabinet left over from Christmas. It still tastes amazing, I know this because every so often I walk into the kitchen and break a piece off. I’ve also been reading through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” again. If you haven’t read it, you should. In the second section of the book he talks about Jesus’ sermon on the mound from Matthew 5.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6 ESV).

As I thought about hunger, the chocolate Santa came to mind. Many times instead of making a meal to satisfy my hunger I would just eat part of the Santa. I would fill up on junk food instead of getting proper nutrition. Then I thought about how often I tend to do the same thing in my spiritual life. Instead of feeding my spirit the bread of life that is Jesus Christ, I fill up on junk the world offers. How many times have I scrolled mindlessly through social media instead of spending time in God’s word? How many hours have I spent playing video games instead of praying for opportunities to share the Good News? When was the last time I was truly hungry for God’s word?

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35 ESV

The problem with filling up on a chocolate Santa instead of a home cooked meal, is it doesn’t satisfy for very long. I get hungry again and go back for more. I catch myself in the same cycle with social media, TV, and video games. I binge “eat” thinking it will bring me joy and I’m left unsatisfied. I’m left wanting more. So today I’m taking a stand, I’m throwing out the chocolate Santa. And I encourage you to do the same. Take a break from social media and spend some time in God’s word. Skip tonight’s episode of whatever show you watch and pray. Fast from spiritual “junk food” that leaves you unsatisfied, and fill up on Jesus.

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Fish Shaped Tambourine

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 ESV

When I think about mission work I usually envision people in a third world country building schools or providing medical aid to people. I envision people living in shacks and struggling to find fresh water. And yes, the occasional fish shaped tambourine. Yet, when I googled the biggest need in the mission field I was surprised at what I found. It wasn’t new buildings, fresh water, or medical aid. Several articles stated that the biggest and most neglected mission field wasn’t in some far away country, it was in our own back yard. Article after article, saying the same thing, we are doing an amazing job at providing a service and spreading the gospel “to the end of the earth,” but have forgotten our neighbors.

One of the last things Jesus says in the book of Matthew is, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19). Yes, we are called to reach the world for Christ, but we can not forget about those in the world that live on the same street as us. We can’t forget about the part of the world that we work with or go to school with. In our effort to reach the ends of the earth, we should not forget about those on this earth that we see everyday, our friends and family, our neighbors.

We don’t have to jump on a plane and fly to some impoverished village to be a missionary, you just have to walk out your front door. As Christians, everywhere we go is a mission trip. Schools, the work place, the grocery store, these are our mission fields and we have been neglecting them.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38 ESV

This is my prayer, that we would take our mission field seriously. That we would realize we are God’s laborers in His harvest and approach our everyday lives with urgency in spreading the Gospel, not just at the ends of the earth but in our own cities and towns as well. That today, and everyday after, we would reach out to those that God has placed near to us and tell them about Jesus Christ.

Judge not…

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1 ESV

 

I have heard the saying, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” a million times. Usually by non-Christians doing very non-Christian things. I’ve used it myself, before I was a Christian, whenever I would get called out for doing something I shouldn’t be doing. We use this verse to try and justify our actions or condemn those who don’t agree with our actions. If I’m honest, I really struggled with this verse for a while. We have one part of the bible saying to call out people in sin (1 Corinthians 5) and here we have Jesus saying not to judge people. So what do we do?

I think the root of this problem is our understanding of the word “judge.” We associate it with our opinion of someone when Jesus had a completely different idea in mind. We need to think of this type of “judging” as in a court room where a judge has the power to sentence you. Jesus is saying that we have no power or authority to cast judgment on a person in the sense of where they will spend eternity. In that case, yes, only God can judge you. BUT! That is not a pass to overlook sin.

If a brother or sister is caught in sin, we must deal with it. We must deal with it in love and gentleness. In the book of John, a woman is caught in the act of adultery and brought before Jesus for judgment.  She wasn’t rumored to be in adultery, she was CAUGHT in the VERY ACT of adultery. In this moment, the group of “religious” people surrounding her were ready to literally throw stones at her. But what does Jesus say? Jesus says in John 8:7, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus knew that we are all guilty and deserving of this punishment. After the crowd leaves, Jesus looks at the woman and says, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She says, “No one, Lord.” Then Jesus looks at her and says, “Neither do I; go and sin no more.” This is beautiful. This is grace. This is love. This is Jesus.

We are all guilty of sin. We are all the woman in this story, caught in the very act of (insert sin here). And just like this woman, Jesus looks at us and says, “I don’t condemn you.” But He also says, “Go, and from now on sin no more.” Jesus doesn’t give her a pass to sin, He gives her a command to repent. To turn from this lifestyle of adultery and live righteously. This same call applies to us as well.

The great thing about our God is that He doesn’t say to clean up our lives then follow Him, no, He says follow me and then we’ll clean this up together. We have a God who truly loves us. A God who is mighty and able. A God who still works everyday miracles in people’s lives. If you are caught in sin, I beg you, repent and turn to Jesus.

Murder in the first degree

“Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart.” -John

Here lately whenever I’m having my “quiet time” doing a bible study, it seems that the theme of the study always goes back to the same thing…forgiveness. Maybe it’s because I went through a tough season in my life were I honestly felt like God could not forgive some of the things I had done in the past (I would have been stoned in the streets if this were the Old Testament days) maybe it’s because of some of the things going on in my personal family life. I don’t know, but one thing is for sure, God is definitely trying to tell me something.

“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants for you to do, and He will bless you for it.” 1 Peter 3:9 NLT

You see, I’ve held onto this grudge in my heart for weeks now. It plagues my thoughts, my dreams, my prayers, everything I do is tainted by this. It has caused me to slip away from God. To turn my thoughts from Him, to thoughts of hate, violence, and malice. While trying to find scripture that would help support me in my hate filled rage, I stumbled across a verse that made me rethink my whole perspective.

“Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” 1 John 3:15 NLT

Murderer? Really? It’s amazing which verses stand out depending on what you’re going through or where you are in your walk with Christ. I have read Johns books numerous times but have never paid that verse any mind, until now.

“If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen? And God Himself has commanded that we must love not only Him but our Christian brothers and sisters, too.” 1 John 4:21-22 NLT

God didn’t say we should “try” to love, He didn’t “recommend” we love, He COMMANDED it. God is love. God is mercy. God is grace. God is forgiveness. If we want to follow Christ’s example and be more like Him, we have to love one another, forgive one another no matter the pain that was caused.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father WILL NOT FORGIVE YOUR SINS.” Matthew 6:14-15 NLT

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the hatred that filled my heart. I’m sorry for the violent thoughts that plagued my mind. I’m sorry. Two simple words that are often times the hardest to say. I’m sorry. Two words that have the power to completely change a relationship. I’m sorry. Two words that could mend a relationship that has been rocky for years, or maybe just a few weeks. I’m sorry.

As true Christians, we have to follow Christ’s example. If Jesus could forgive the people that were crucifying Him, WHILE THEY WERE CRUCIFYING HIM, I don’t see why we can’t forgive each other now. We don’t have a very long time on this earth, we shouldn’t spend the time we do have in hate and anger. There’s only one thing that matters and that is spreading the Good News. Showing Christ’s love to others. Finding the lost and help in bringing them closer to God. How can we show the love of God if we are bitter and angry with one another?

Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive? Or perhaps someone that you need to apologize to?

“and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” Matthew 6:12 NLT