Tuesdays

Tuesday Blog

 

Up to this point in Matthew we have seen Jesus display his authority in many ways. In Matthew 26:36-56 Jesus enters the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples and they see a different side of Jesus, he is sorrowful and troubled. In fact, he tells them his “soul is overwhelmed to the point of death.” (vs.38)

Jesus was about to enter into the most difficult task the Father had given him. N. T. Wright describes it as “he was called to go into the darkness, deeper than anyone had gone before, the darkness of one who, though he was the very son of God,  would drink the cup which symbolized God’s wrath against all that is evil, all that destroys and defaces God’s wonderful world and his image bearing creatures.”

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Jesus will have to walk this path alone. Right before he enters the garden he tells his disciples they will all fall away from him. While they are in the garden, Jesus is in great agony and asks them to stay with him and pray, but they fall asleep. He is then betrayed by one of his own and after he is arrested,  all of the disciples desert him.  Soon he will go through tremendous suffering and while he is on the cross he will say, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”

The story of Easter has become so familiar to me I can easily minimize all that he endured. In the moments leading up to the cross he was not only mocked, spit on and beaten, but he was alone.

I am so thankful the story doesn’t end there, shortly we will see the King display his ultimate power in the resurrection, but it is good for me to reflect on all he has done for me. He walked through the suffering of the cross alone, and because he rose from the dead, as I walk through my own roads of suffering,  I never have to walk alone.

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Tuesday Post

 

Last Sunday Travis spoke on Matthew 18. In that passage the disciples ask Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom?” I was struck by how Jesus responds. He says, “I tell you the truth, unless you CHANGE and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Wow, this is a strong: “I better pay attention,” statement.

In my last blog I wrote about how dangerous entitlement can be. I said that when we find ourselves grumbling and complaining about what we don’t have or about what we think we deserve we should remember to humble ourselves. Well, after writing that, I can’t tell you how many times this week I found myself grumbling about what I don’t have. This past weekend we visited our daughter at Wake Forest. On the way home, we talked about possibly stopping in Richmond for dinner. As we approached Richmond, it was becoming clear that we were not going to stop for dinner because we had a refrigerator full of leftovers and our son was home so it just made sense to eat at home. It was clearly the right choice to head home but I still wanted to go out to eat. Doug could see the disappointment on my face and kindly said that it was fine to go out if I really wanted to, which made me happy. But then he said, but if we go, let’s only order entrees and no appetizers, salads or desserts. I immediately found myself grumbling and said, “what’s the point of going out then?” I felt entitled.

Recently I did the Bible study, Gideon, by Priscilla Shirer. In one of the video sessions she was telling us how she loved to play Legos with her youngest son. She said she would sit on the floor with him and they would begin to build a tower together. But, after a few Legos were stacked he would get distracted and get up and run into the other room to see what his brother was doing. She didn’t go anywhere and just sat on the floor because she knew that he would be back in a minute. When he came back he would start building a new tower. Then, the same thing would happen. He would get distracted and run to check on his brother again, but he would come back and start building ANOTHER tower. She said she would feel frustrated because she wanted to finish the first tower they started building, but he would always want to start over. I do the same thing in my relationship with God. He teaches me something, and wants to continue to build on that foundation, but I easily become distracted and have to start over and learn the same thing again and again.

Jesus is calling me to change. He doesn’t want me to live with a constant sense of entitlement. He wants me to humbly follow Him. I find that the more time I spend with Him, the more He changes me. When I read His word, He gently reveals things to me, but He also puts me in situations where I am asked to live out what He has been teaching me. Jesus says I MUST change, that can be scary to me, but I have hope that He will change me because as I look back over my life, I can see areas where He has grown me. There have been times when I have really trusted that His ways were better than my ways, and I have taken steps of faith knowing that He would give me exactly what I needed to walk where He was calling me.

He wants to do more in all of us. He doesn’t want us to go back to our comfortable places. If we humble ourselves, listen to what He is saying and move forward in obedience to the places He is calling us to go, He WILL, gently and lovingly, change us into the people He has created us to be.

 

Tuesday Post

There are many different challenges parents face in raising kids. One that I have faced has been in sports, when my kids have been a part of a team but they have had to sit on the bench. I know how badly they have wanted to get in and how hard they have practiced. I hate to see them have to watch the whole game from the bench. I think they deserve a chance.

In Matthew 20 Jesus tells the parable about the workers in a vineyard. The landowner hires several people throughout the day but at the end of the day they all receive the same wages. The workers who were hired earlier in the day started grumbling to the landowner because they thought they deserved more than the people who came at the end of the day. The landowner reminded them that they agreed to work for a certain price and that is what they received. Jesus begins (at end of chapter 19) and ends the parable by saying, “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

The workers felt entitled. I think we can all relate. It seems to be the norm these days. Our culture screams to us, “you deserve it” in many ways. Feeling entitled is a dangerous place to live because it is the opposite of how Jesus tells us to live. It affects our relationships when we start to think we deserve something from someone else. It really affects our relationship with God. The opposite is also true. When we humble ourselves, it changes our relationships for good and we can see how He uses us to build His kingdom.

Jesus really is entitled.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet He is constantly talking about humility. It is interesting that right after he tells them this parable He tells them they are on there way to Jerusalem to Jerusalem where He will be betrayed and handed over to death. He wasn’t just telling the disciples this is how they should live, He was showing them.

This week when I find myself grumbling because I don’t have something that I think I deserve, I hope I can get beyond the superficial and see that I am really grateful that I don’t get what I deserve because of His grace. I will be praying for humility, which isn’t a hard prayer to pray, but it is a hard lesson to learn. I want to lift others up before myself, because I trust Jesus knows what is best for me, and He does not ask me to go to places that He hasn’t been.

Matthew 15

I like to follow rules.  Recently I went to a Celtics game with some friends.  My friends have season tickets located right where the Celtics leave the court to go into the locker room.  As the players walk by sometimes they will high-five you.  I got a bit nervous to stick my hand out because I thought the players might not want to high-five me back. I was talking about this to my friend’s son before the game.  He told me that when they don’t high-five him back, he just taps them on the shoulder when they walk by and he encouraged me to do the same.  So, that is exactly what I did when a particular player walked by and didn’t acknowledge my hand.  When I patted his shoulder, the security guard stepped forward and said, “You are not allowed to do that.”  I immediately jumped away and put my hands behind my back so I wouldn’t break anymore rules.  I hate the feeling of breaking rules.

The Pharisees liked rules too.  They liked to make up rules, follow rules, and make sure everyone else followed the rules.  In Matthew 15 the Pharisees are watching Jesus and his disciples closely.  Big crowds are following Jesus and the Pharisees are getting anxious.  They are so stuck on following the rules they even miss out on the miracles happening right before them.  They confront Jesus, and tell him that his disciples are unclean because they didn’t wash their hands before they ate bread.  I wonder what their real motives were.  Were they really worried the disciples were unclean?  Did they feel threatened by Jesus’ authority?  Did they feel better about themselves because they followed the rules?  Whatever their motive was for following the rules, they were off because Jesus responds to their confrontation by confronting them.

Jesus responds to the Pharisees by telling them that they break God’s commands for the sake of their own rules.  In verses 7-9 Jesus calls them hypocrites because they say the right words, but their hearts are far from God.

After reading this passage, I am reminded how easy it is follow rules but find that my heart can still be far from Him. It’s funny how I can find comfort in following rules in my relationship with God.  My intentions seem good, but somehow they get twisted when my focus becomes looking good on the outside, instead of developing my relationship with Him.  What is also scary is that I find myself judging others who don’t obey the rules I think they should be following.  I can get so focused on other people’s problems, that I easily lose sight of my own sin.  I like to feel good about myself and when I look at others sin, I don’t have to look at mine.

I have incorporated a time of daily confession into my prayer life.  It has allowed me to look at the state of my own heart, which is not always fun.  It helps me live in the reality that no matter how many rules I think I’m following, I am desperate for Him to cleanse my heart.  I am amazed at how many things He has brought to my attention that needing dealing with. So, during this time, I continue to beg Him to change me and find myself praying with David at the end of Psalm 139, “Search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Matthew 10

(I wrote this on Friday before I knew what passage I knew Travis was going to speak on. I think God was trying to teach me something this week.)

Some of my favorite movies are sports movies where the underdog ends up winning the championship game. It doesn’t even matter what sport it is, there is always this intensity that builds right before the final game. Even though I am pretty certain what the outcome will be, I feel my body tense up as it gets down to the final moments before the game. Then, in comes the coach, with words of strategy and encouragement to prepare his team for the game of their life.

In Matthew 10, I feel like Jesus is giving his disciples a pre-game speech. He ends chapter 9 with “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” He is ready for them to help with building His kingdom, so He gathers them around before He sends them out to do His work.

The very first thing Jesus says to them is that He is giving them His authority. The disciples have just witnessed His authority being displayed in miraculous ways. In the preceding chapters Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed a storm, and even raised the dead. They must have been amazed to hear Him say that He was giving them His authority. Just in case they didn’t get it the first time He spells it out for them in verses 7 and 8. “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven in near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” Wow! He gives them His authority to do His work.

But, there is more to this pre-game speech. He goes on to tell them that it will be difficult. In verse 17 He tells them to “be on your guard against men that will flog you.” Verse 18 says they will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And, in verse 19 He says “when you are arrested do not worry.” He is telling them they will suffer.

What a pre-game speech. I wonder how the disciples felt as they were hearing it. Did they hear the part about suffering and feel paralyzed? Did they even remember the words He said about authority or how He tells them three times they do not need to be afraid (vs. 26, 28, 31). The fact is real suffering is coming their way. In verses 38 and 39 He says “anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses it for my sake will find it.” These must have been hard words for the disciples to swallow, but when we hear them, it’s different. We know the full story, that Jesus walked this road of suffering Himself. We see that He had all authority and we can see that power used in miraculous ways, but we also see it in His suffering. The King of Kings took up His cross and lost His life. What looks like a devastating end to His suffering, ends up being the most powerful display of His authority.

I find it hard to really believe that He wants to use me to build His kingdom. He has put me in my neighborhood, my job, my family, and my small groups for a reason. I can easily let paralyzing fear creep in and lose sight of why I am here. My husband often prays a prayer that God will use him to build His kingdom and to be the man God created him to be “at all costs.” It challenges me. I work hard at setting myself up so I don’t have to be uncomfortable, let alone suffer in any way. I only get one chance at this life and I don’t want to waste it, I don’t even want to waste one day. It isn’t my life anyway, the more I try to control it, the more I find how out of control I am.

Unlike the movies that I am so fond of, the ending to this story is certain. The victory has been won, He is risen! One day there will be no more pain or suffering, but in the mean time, I don’t have to be afraid to do the work that He is calling me to do. As I try to live this life for Him, suffering is sure to come, but He reminds me in Matthew 28:18-20, that “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me…and surely I am with you to the very end of the age.” I don’t have to be afraid because the one who sends me also goes with me, and He has all the authority.

 

Tuesday Devotional

As I have entered into this season of Lent, I have been trying to gain a greater understanding of what Lent really is. I did not grow up in a church that practiced Lent. I know the basics, that it starts with Ash Wednesday where we have a time of confession and repentance. The pastors put ashes on our heads to remind us that we came from the dust. I know Lent involves fasting from something, or dying to ourselves in some way.  Easter is the end of Lent,and somehow, after sacrificing something small, we are more able to appreciate all Christ sacrificed for us, and it helps us celebrate the resurrection.

I seem to struggle with the idea of Lent on some level, not because I disagree with what it is calling us to do. It’s just the opposite. My problem is that I feel like I should be living this way everyday. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul reminds us that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead,  because of that we are made alive in Christ.  He goes on to say that he “dies every day” in verse 31. Shouldn’t I be living a life that is sacrificial and be grateful for the resurrection everyday?  I should be especially grateful for the resurrection when I mess up and am reminded that I can’t live how I am supposed to live, except for the fact that he died and rose again for me. Because I don’t live like this every moment, I am truly grateful for this season and the opportunity to seek Him in a new way. I trust that He will teach me more about living this way every day.

I had been thinking and asking God what I should “give up” for Lent. I really felt like He was asking me to give up a couple of things: coffee and media. You need to know that these are two big things for me to give up. Doug brings me coffee while I am still in bed. I can’t function without it. I love it. Reading my Bible and drinking coffee go hand in hand and they have for years. The other is media. I really enjoy unwinding after a long day at work in front of my favorite television show, or connecting with my friends on Facebook,  or looking for recipes on pinterest. I love media. I know these things aren’t bad things to enjoy, but I felt like they were what God wanted me to give up. I can see, even in this first week of Lent, how He might use giving these things up to change me. Instead of waking up because I get to have COFFEE and read my Bible,  I now wake up looking forward to just reading my Bible. There is something so sweet about just looking forward to spending time with Him (Doug still brings me hot water, which is not the same at all). Instead of screen time, I have used my free time to read my Bible, organize my prayer life, read books and listen to worship music. I have tried really hard to spend time with Him instead of filling myself with another distraction.

Even though I don’t fully understand Lent, I do know I have a lot of growing to do. My hope is that He truly transforms me more into the likeness of Christ. I trust that by seeking Him in a different way during this season, He will speak to me and I will be able to hear Him more clearly.