Tag Archives: book of Matthew

Love Lifted Me


“…Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid;  and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord save me!’  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him …”  Matthew 29-31

I’ve never walked on water, but I’ve certainly had the experience of trusting God, and then almost in the same moment doubting and becoming anxious … only God’s love can lift us up and keep us from sinking during those times of fear.

The original version of this beautiful “love” hymn was written in 1912.  It was the joint effort of James Rowe who penned the words, while his friend, Howard E. Smith, composed the music.  Row worked for many years composing hymns and editing music journals for various publishers.  Sing these words when you are in need of God’s sustaining love.


Love the One You’re With


Love The One You're WithDoes anyone out there remember this song?  I looked it up and it was released in 1970 by Stephen Stills and became a number one hit.  I used to make fun of it … I mean how pathetic can you get,  saying, if you can’t have the person you really care for, just give up and love the one you’re with — any old person, it really doesn’t matter.  However, thinking about it from a Christian perspective, isn’t this exactly the kind of preposterous love Jesus calls us to?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43-48

We’re to practice agape love, the kind of love God shows to us and the rest of the world.  So love your neighbors, love your enemies, love your coworkers, love your fellow church members,love those who are different and unlovable, the people who really annoy and irritate you and yes, love the one you’re with!

Let’s Go On An Adventure or Fanning the Flame #3


“He set out, not knowing where he was going.”  Hebrews 11:8

Before my mom went into a nursing home, my siblings and I were doing our best to care for her in her own home.  Each day one or more of us would stop by to make or take her a meal, straighten the house, give her a shower and sometimes take her out for a ride.  One of my sisters said she would say to mom, “let’s go on an adventure” — mom would smile and her eyes would light up.  She loved to get out and just ride around. She didn’t worry because she trusted her daughter to bring her back safely.  Bev said they would explore the country roads nearby, just getting on one and following it to see where it went.  Sometimes they came back out in a familiar location, other times they’d just have to backtrack in order to get home.

Well, our congregation is about to go on an adventure.  The Fanning the Flame program was approved at our voters’ meeting by an approximately 2-1 majority.  Now the hard work and anxiety really start.  We’re setting out on a journey, and we don’t even have the map!  We know we want to end up as a healthier church body, but we’re not sure what that means or will look like. We don’t know exactly what it will require. We may end up with a totally unexpected result.  We must trust the process and trust God.

P.S. I read from two different devotionals today and the theme in each was going out in trust.  This is probably not a coincidence.  The first scripture is at the beginning of this article.  The second is below:

Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  Matthew 14:28-29

Pray with us friends and readers as we step out onto the water!

Love Yourself?


Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37-39

As I’ve been thinking about the theme for this month my brain keeps coming back to the thought of loving yourself.  I have a really hard time with this concept as a Christian.  I know that God loves me and created me (and God don’t make no junk!) but my brain gets scrambled with the worlds’ concept of loving ourselves.

We are bombarded everyday with advertisements about making ourselves better.  If we do this or buy that we’ll be so much better, so much prettier, so much more desirable as a person.  Beauty products, hair products, vitamins, gym equipment, clothes, shoes; the list goes on and on.  Go to this spa, this gym, this hairdresser and they will make you look wonderful.  Maybe we don’t love ourselves if we are constantly trying to fix something or maybe we love ourselves too much because we spend so much time and money, and we’re worth it?  Then there are the self-esteem and self-image problems and I, truly, don’t even want to go there. There are so many self-help books, just pick a problem and then pick up a book to fix it.

What does loving myself look like?  I look at myself and I see a corrupt, sinful being.  How can I love that?  I know that Jesus loves me and that he died for me.  I was created for a purpose.  That makes me think that, perhaps, I might be worth saving.  Jesus certainly thinks so.

Then I’m to take this new found love for myself and turn it on my neighbor.  Oh boy.  What a task!!  Although, I think that sometimes it’s easier to love our neighbor then it is to love ourselves.  I have no problem taking care of others; I’ve proved that with my care-giving roles.  I have a tough time taking care of myself and I think that is where my problem is.  I need to stop looking at the world for the answer to my dilemma.

As a child of God I should respect and take care of myself so that I’m ready to do God’s will.  I don’t need to go overboard and try to be a fashion or makeup model.  I have to be me, the person God created.  I know, that’s easier said than done.  But in the future, I will try to love myself more as the Lord loves me.  Then it will be easier to love my neighbor and I’m sure that the quality of that love will be much better.



Who Do You Fear?


Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matt. 10:28

I’ve started reading a book by Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black;  maybe you’ve heard of it.  Piper is the typical upper middle class girl.  She graduates from college, and unfortunately is attracted to the wrong person — a woman whose life seems exciting and adventurous.  turns out her lifestyle is funded by drug money.  She invites Piper to travel with her as she manages drug mules and money laundering couriers in exotic places;  it’s fun … for a while.  Eventually Piper is put into a situation where she crosses the line and delivers a suitcase full of dirty money for her friend.  The stress and fear she experiences while committing this act wakes her up to the fact that she’s in over her head, so she flees.  She moves, gets a regular job, reconnects with family and eventually is engaged to a nice young man.  She’s recovered her “normal” life and nobody  is aware of that brief, foolish, lapse in judgement.

Ten years later federal agents knock on her door to tell her she is being indicted for drug trafficking.  At this point she must confess to her fiancé and family.  She is humbled and embarrased as she agrees to plead guilty to a charge of money laundering and serve three years in prison.  Then something even worse happens — shortly after sentencing, her date with prison in postponed indefinitely, as the authorities want her to be available to testify against one of the drug kingpins “in street clothes, not an orange jumpsuit.”

Okay, I’m finally getting to the point.  For years Piper lives with a jail sentence hanging over her.  Can you imagine how awful that would be?  She knew she had committed a crime and she was going to prison, she just didn’t know when or where.  It was a miserable way to live. I could empathize with her pain and terror, trying to lead a normal life, yet knowing the punishment that was waiting for her.  But, think about it, without Jesus, wouldn’t we be in the very same situation?

Like Piper, we go on living our lives, telling ourselves that our sins don’t have consequences.  They’re not big sins anyway.  Just the kind of things we fell into without really thinking;  things somebody else lured into;  things that happened when we were young and inexperienced.  We foolishly think we’ll never be called to account.

The Bible tells a different story.  Judgement is hanging over us and we don’t know when it will come.  Most of us, like Piper, would be terrified at the thought of going to prison, even for a short time — so why aren’t we worried about spending eternity separated from God?  Piper was humbled before an earthly judge;  at some future date, we’ll all bow before the Lord God Almighty!  She was pathetically grateful for those who spoke up for her in order to reduce her sentence because she knew what she really deserved — how grateful should we be to Jesus who died to save us from the fate awaiting us?

Christmas is a time to rejoice in the good news that our sentence has been commuted, thanks to the God who came as a helpless baby, willing to bear our punishment. We’ve been released from the penalty of sin. We don’t have an eternity of darkness hanging over us.  Now we need to live a life that reflects gratitude for that grace.  Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to appreciate the gift we’ve received.


Be Kind at Christmas


I’ve been using a devotional recently called “The One Year Daily Acts of Kindness Devotional” by Julie Fisk, Kendra Roehl, and Kristin Demery.  These women were concerned about the attitude their children displayed about Christmas — begging for the newest toy, complaining about what they couldn’t do or didn’t receive.  They decided to combat this tendency each family would do one kind act each day during the Christmas season and post about it on social media to encourage others.  Their report?  It changed them all much more than they expected.  They saw their relationship with God grow as they put their faith into action with simple acts of kindness.  It evolved into the devotional which gives many good suggestions for intentionally showing kindness.  Here are some of the Advent Acts of Kindness listed at the end of the book:

  1. Write encouraging notes to place in your children’s lunch boxes
  2. Buy or make treats for your coworkers
  3. Send cards and supplies to servicepersons or veterans through organizations like Operation Gratitude or the USO
  4. Babysit for free for a single mom or young couple so they can have a night out
  5. Take cookies or other homemade gifts to your neighbors
  6. Drop off boxes of tissues at a local school to help replenish their supplies
  7. Write a note to a business, recognizing an employee by name and commending them for excellent service
  8. Invite someone who may be lonely to dinner
  9. Donate pet food to the local humane society
  10. Go caroling in your neighborhood or at a local nursing home

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These are only a few suggestions to be found in the book, and once you start, you will be able to come up with lots of ideas of your own.

Christmas has become a time that is often filled with stress and rudeness.  Shoppers are harried, store employees tired out and irritable, travelers impatient.  Why not go against the flow and spread  kindness instead?

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me.”  Matthew 25:40

Hungry for What?


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied Matt. 5:6

It’s hard to ignore hunger, isn’t it?  When we’re really hungry it becomes difficult to work or concentrate or focus on anything else.  Hunger becomes insistent.  If it isn’t satisfied, it begins to consume us (literally).  In the verse above, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, and one of what we call the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us about one hunger only He can satisfy — a hunger for righteousness.

Image result for images of the beatitudes

According to my Bible dictionary, righteousness is “inherent or imputed guiltlessness before God.”  In layman’s terms you might say it is being made right with God;  or being declared “not guilty” in God’s eyes.  We all know we can’t do that on our own.  All the good deeds, all the striving to avoid sin, all the confessions and church services and Bible study in the world won’t get us there.  For that, we need a savior.  Only Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for each one of us can close the yawning gap between us and God.

So the question is, do you hunger to be saved?  Do you hunger for Christ?  I have to say, too often, I hunger for worldly things because they seem so much more immediate. After all, I need a house and a car and someone to love me right now!  I’ll attend to that spiritual hunger later, when I have more time, when my other hungers have been sated.  The problem is, later never seems to come;  and the truth of the matter is, we do find the time for things we really care about.  Don’t we care about Him?  He should be first on our hunger list.

Be right with God now.  Put the Kingdom first.  You’ll be satisfied.  The rest will follow.




A Continual Feast


All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.  Proverbs 15:15

This verse made me think about the things that oppress me.  That would include sin, worry, fear, loneliness.   According to Scripture, God has released me from these things.  Here are some of the verses that are important to remember when I am depressed about my sin, my future and my present problems.  (Note in some translations, be cheerful is translated as “take heart.”)

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying ‘Take heart;  it is I.  Do not be afraid.”  Matthew 14:27

Here Jesus is speaking to the disciples who are terrified because a storm is threatening to swamp their boat.  He reassures them:  you’re not alone;  you don’t have to fear.  I’m with you, and I am in control.  God is in control of our circumstances as well.  He’s always with us.  We can be cheerful!

“And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son;  your sins are forgiven.'” Matthew 9:2

Jesus heals the paralytic but even better than that He forgives his sins.  He has already forgiven our sins, as well, through His sacrifice and death.  We can be cheerful!

Because of all these things God has already done, we can have a continual feast.  Our hearts can be at rest;  we can celebrate with others; we can share the good news, as well as good food.  We can nourish those around us physically and spiritually.  There’s plenty of cheer to spread around.  There’s no excuse to miss this feast, although some try to beg off because they are too busy attending to worldly cares. (see the Parable of the Great Banquet in Chapter 14 of Luke).

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“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I tell you, none of these men who were invited shall taste of my banquet.”  Luke 14:23-24

The feast is ready.  You’re invited.  You’ll be fed and forgiven, nourished and nurtured.  Don’t stay our in the cold.  Don’t be oppressed or alone.  Jesus is waiting for you at His banquet.  It’s a continual feast.

What is Our Daily Bread?


“Give us this day our daily bread.”  Matthew 6:11

This well-known and much used phrase comes from what Christians call The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus taught to His disciples.  I was just reading about it recently in Eugene Petersons’ book about the Scriptures, “Eat This Book.”  Evidently at one point in the history of Bible translation and interpretation, the word used for daily(espiousion) was not found in very any other ancient document written in classical Greek;  many scholars assumed this meant it was a very unusual word, and must refer to some deeper, uncommon, probably spiritual meaning.  However, after the discovery of a number of ancient “housekeeping” documents they realized that the word was actually one used in the everyday language of normal life.  It means exactly what it says:  bread produced today;  fresh bread, ready for consumption.  The word wasn’t in any literary documents, because it was too ordinary, too unassuming for a real author to use.  It was a word meant for housewives and shopping lists.

So when Jesus told us to pray for daily bread, He did, indeed mean we should pray for things that are real and physical.  Martin Luther casts a wide net for the term when he explains it in the Small Catechism:

What is meant by daily bread?

Everything that is required to satisfy our bodily needs;  such as food and rainment, house and home, fields and flocks, money and goods;  pious parents, children and servants;  godly and faithful rulers, good government, seasonable weather, peace and health;  order and honor;  true friends, good neighbors, and the like.”

Wow!  That’s a lot to ask for, isn’t it.  Many are things we accept from God without much thought at all.  Yet they are all gifts, gifts we should reflect on, and be thankful for.  So this month of Thanksgiving, let’s each make time to give thanks for those everyday blessings from our good God.


Growing Our Gifts


“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.”  Matthew 25: 14-15

Most people are familiar with this parable of Jesus.  It goes on to tell us how the first two servants used their talents to increase the wealth of their master;  the third servant simply buries the talent in the ground.  Those who made more of what they were given are commended as “good and faithful”, while the servant who hid his talent is rebuked as “worthless.”

Image result for the parable of the talent image

The moral?  God gives each one of us talents, too.  Our talents include not only money, but abilities, roles in society and family, education, time, life experiences and more.  If we are His servants, He expects us to use those things to grow His kingdom.  We’re each unique and some of us are able to do more than others;  that isn’t the issue.  God doesn’t say we have to reach a certain level to earn His approval; He doesn’t tell us exactly what to do;  He

simply wants us to continue to grow and progress.  Other parables tell us He is patient …but eventually we’ll have to account for how well we’ve handled what’s been entrusted to us.

This is something each of us needs to think about and assess regularly.  Have you thought about your talents and how you’ve been using them?  Have you made more of what God has given to you?  Have you contributed to His kingdom through good stewardship?  Or are you hiding your talents out of fear or laziness?

Readers and authors, I want to hear your thoughts!