Category Archives: Matthew Study 2017

Along the way…

As I continue to use The Message for a journey through Psalms during Lent, I found this jewel in Psalm 69:9.

“I love you more than I can say. Because I’m madly in love with you, they blame me for everything they dislike about you.”

Packs a punch, doesn’t it?

Of course the “you” is God.

And the “they” is those who are convicted by the Light they see shining in those who love God and have chosen to walk with Him.

The psalmist, in acknowledging his deep love of God, recognizes that the animosity he encounters by others who DO NOT share this love of God is going to manifest as a personal attack on him.

We see it out there in the world but sometimes fail to comprehend it as the basis for some of the uncomfortable tension we encounter on a more personal level with those who share our bubble.

As I meditated on this concept today, I thought about how difficult it is to feel truly and intimately close to someone if I have to subtract my love for our LORD from that relationship equation.

I can be left feeling defensive, judgmental, critical, cold and even question if I am hypocritical…as in…”I love this person. I love God. God loves this person. Why do I feel this huge wall? Why can’t I express His love to them unconditionally?”

From there my mind rabbit-trailed to looking for an example and here is what I came up with.

It doesn’t fit perfectly because it is a picture based on humans, but here we go…

I love my husband AND I am in a covenant relationship with him.

In all my other relationships, that part of me, that is joined to him, is interwoven into the fabric and context.

If you were, for some reason at odds with him, it would affect our relationship because of the very nature of my love for Russ, expressed in the commitment he and I made to each other.

Any depth to the growth of relationship with someone who is at odds with my husband will be stunted at best and severed at worst.

And here is where my example will need a bit of expansion and fails to be a perfect comparison to what God laid on my heart about this passage.

While the verse helps me realize that my love for God can not be separated from who I am…

AND…

therefore, will just BE a factor in all my other relationships…

my covenant with God DOES include unconditional love for all people.

I would naturally take your rejection of my husband personally because, well, he’s my better half and to continue any depth of friendship would smack of betrayal to him.

But this is not how it works in relationships marked with tension because of my love for Jesus.

As we are studying the book of Matthew in our current sermon series, Jesus warned us we would encounter this kind of tension in relationships with non-believers.

His words encourage us to model God in how we respond to those who are not warm toward the God-loving part of who we are.

We are to love them and show grace and mercy to them because He has shown grace and mercy to us.

It isn’t easy but it helps to know that we are not dishonoring God when we extend His love to those who do not love Him back.

I believe as we begin to understand that the issue is not rejection of us but rejection of His Love in us, our hearts expand to see their resistance with God’s eyes.

He desires that none should perish.

So let’s brave a cold shoulder as we continue to extend wide open arms to all people in His Name.

The ability to love those who reject the thing that matters most to us is another Grace-gift from our loving Father.

If you are struggling in this tension in any of your close relationships, ask Him for His love to be poured through you.

I believe this is a prayer He delights to answer.
<3

To wind it down, at least for the week <3

Happy Friday!

As we come to the end of the week, I leave you with one more thought regarding the Church … the Body of Christ universal.

I was visiting with a sister in Christ this week about some of the classic Christian writings from the past generations. We were discussing the timeless truths that sincere Christ-followers have expressed into their times and places.

The litmus test for timeless truth-writing is that it finds its foundations in God’s written word, not the climate of the culture around the author.

I struggle when believers say we can agree to disagree about the inerrancy of Scripture.

If the truth of Scripture on any point is up for grabs based on our preferences, than so is the message of Salvation.

God’s Word…from the beginning to the end…is God’s Word.

It either is. Or it isn’t.

And yes…

we have to study it ourselves and with others.

And yes…

there are AHA! moments when our eyes are opened to something we interpreted one way or the other and suddenly it becomes clear that we were missing what God was saying.

But no…

we can’t rewrite Scripture or disregard certain aspects of it that make us uncomfortable.

 

THIS applies to the way we view our world AND the way we examine ourselves in the deepest places.

Jesus, Himself, affirmed Scripture as TRUTH.

I love what the pastor at John’s church quotes – All truth is not found in Scripture, but all Scripture is truth. I believe he attributes that to one of his professors…I could be wrong…don’t sue me.

What this phrase means to me is that we can encounter true things outside of the Bible, but when we open the pages of Scripture and look deep into God’s Word…

E.V.E.R.Y. W.O.R.D.

IS

TRUTH

The world and those who have not received Christ are at liberty to regard the Bible as a story… a myth…a suggestion…a joke…a man-made thing to force people to obey a bunch of antiquated rules…or any number of things that we hear outside the Body.

But here, inside the Body…

The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.                     Psalm 119:160

“…and the Scripture cannot be broken.” (Jesus)   John 10:35

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (Jesus)  John 17:17

“For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle (the smallest stroke in a Hebrew letter) will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Jesus)     Matthew 5:18

All Scripture is given by inspiration (literally breathed on to the page by the Living God through human authors), and is profitable for doctrine (the foundations of what we believe), for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.   (Paul)  2 Timothy 3:16

And finally…when Jesus responded to Satan’s attempts to twist God’s Word and write his own story He used these words…

“It is written…

It is written….

It is written….”     Matthew 4: 4, 7 and 10

We definitely do not understand ALL of God’s Word, which is why we study.

We most assuredly do not always apply it correctly, which is why we practice the disciplines and remain in fellowship with other followers to work that out.

But the shifting sand where we pick and choose out of Scripture the things we will believe and the things we will disregard is no place for any Christ-follower to stand.

May God bless us with a deeper love for Him through the reading of His Word. May He grant us understanding and obedient hearts on which His Word can be engraved. Because surely we, who follow Christ, are now engraved on His <3

 

A few things to end the week

So this morning I am finding myself singing the old John Denver song….Hey it’s Good to be Back Home Again..sometimes this old house feels like a long lost friend, so hey it’s good…to be back home again.

And you can thank me later if those lines rattle around in your head.  All. Day.

I spent time with the band of brothers yesterday.

After dinner,  I helped Rachel with their baths.

Graham unloaded his day for her in snippets of information that I had already heard.

I watched and listened as she processed the good, the bad and the ugly.

As I bathed Emmett, she was drying Graham off when he shared some choice words from one of his classmates that climaxed with some sort of reference to Graham having mosquitos in his underpants.

While we can chuckle at such in light of all the garbage he is still spared from being exposed to, you can imagine his tired mommy trying to use this for a teachable moment.

Rachel commented that this fellow wasn’t using nice words and seemed to be making poor choices.

When Graham wanted to know what action to take should this happen tomorrow, she did the hard thing.

The right thing.

She reminded him what Jesus said about loving our enemies and praying for those who are mean to us, and how He forgave those who nailed Him to the cross.

I may have bowed my head and thanked God for the blessing of overhearing this whole conversation.

I may have thanked Him to be reminded in a tender way that where evil abounds….grace abounds more.

And more.

And even more <3

May the Lord bless you today with no one making any kind of derogatory comment about your underpants …. but if they do… remember….

Jesus, the One you and I follow….

said….

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’

and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’

I’m challenging that.

I’m telling you to love your enemies.

Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.

When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer,

for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.

Matthew 5:44-46 The MSG

The value of study

We are so blessed to live in a time where there is an abundance of study materials to help us dig into God’s Word.

Currently our church is doing a rather length and detailed study of the book of Matthew and to help us get more out of it, they are offering a study guide prepared for small groups but openly made available for individuals, families, couples or friends to work through together (info at end of this for those interested).

I did this week’s sermon follow up in my quiet time this morning.

The opening question got me thinking…

What is one of your favorite books and why? (Sunday School answer was eliminated by prefacing “…besides the Bible..”   <insert grin>

I know the answer that pops up just about every time I am asked this question…

and it is…

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

It is a book I read as a child and have read again as an adult and the wonderful way the words created images on the pages transported me into that world and impacted me so that the details are etched on my memory.

At the end of the book, a lost little boy who has become completely absorbed with evil and has evolved into an entirely unlovable stranger is found by his sister…

who chooses to look beyond what he has become and pours out love on him, choosing to look past this stranger and see the little brother she loved down deep in her heart.

Spoiler alert…

It works.

Which brings me to our study of Matthew….

because it is not just a story someone made up…

but a factual, actual, historical documentation of an even more dramatic rescue mission.

Where God fulfilled His plan from the beginning to love us back from the most unlovable and darkest places of earth and Hell….

through His Son…

Jesus Christ.

If you would like to study Matthew with us…the sermons are available on the FCC website

//www.firstdecatur.org

The study guides are also available on the website under the “Grow Together” and then select the “Small groups” option.

Or you can get texts of the study guide by entering  text message FIRSTDECATUR to the number 245-87

So…

would love to sit down with you today…

ask you what YOUR favorite book was/is….

and then talk about Jesus….

Be blessed …. enjoy your President’s Day festivities…and I will see you tomorrow <3