Tag Archives: Matthew

Problem or Blessing?

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As I’ve been thinking about blessings this month, I’ve started to realize that feeling blessed has a lot to do with our perspective.  In other words, how do we think about things?  I’ve also learned a new phrase recently, “first world problem.”  Here’s the definition:  a minor frustration or irritation experienced by privileged people in rich countries.  Friends, think about it, most of our problems, all those things we get angry and worried about are really exactly this.  To much of the world, we’re whining about things that are pretty inconsequential.  Wouldn’t it be better when encountered with a “first world problem” to remind ourselves how really blessed we are?

Here are a few problems I encountered this week while on vacation visiting my daughter in South Carolina:

We arrived at our condo to find that due to a leak upstairs, our washer and dryer were not working!  I had to go to my daughter’s home about 20 minutes away to wash my clothes! (First world problem — how blessed am I to own a vacation home and an automatic washer and dryer in the first place!  How blessed am I to have plenty of clothing for goodness sake!  How blessed am I to have children who will help me out!)

We decided to meet our daughter for lunch at a favorite restaurant only to find out that it had closed!  What a disappointment!  We love their crab soup!  (First world problem– all we had to do was select another restaurant, there are many choices.  Aren’t we blessed to have a choice of foods and be able to afford to eat out at all?)

Here’s a good one:  our apartment in South Carolina does not have Wi-Fi.  We’re so used to this convenience, it’s annoying to be unable to look something up on google or check my email instantly (or write a blog post as soon as inspiration strikes).  Instead we had to make a trip to the library to use the computer. (First world problem!  Aren’t we incredibly blessed to have a library where we can not only use our computer — which we are blessed to own– but borrow books and movies at no cost.)

Well, you get the idea.  I don’t have to worry about having food for my next meal, shelter from the weather, or transportation.  I have resources to share.  I’m not alone in the world, I have family and friends around me.  Most of all, I have the church and the gospel. God has provided me with all that I need and more.  From now on, when I’m tempted to complain about one of those “first world problems” I’m going to count my blessings instead.  What about you?

 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matt 6:25-27)?

 

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The path is Narrow

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Matthew 7:13 & 14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Jesus of course was speaking of the afterlife. Why is it that it’s so hard for people to get to heaven?  And why is it so easy for us to find ourselves in hell? Apparently if human kind were a pie graph, a narrow 10-20% sliver would be in heaven and the other broad part of the pie would easily be in hell. The thing is, we LIKE doing bad things. We like to drink in excess, eat in excess, and smoke our paychecks away. There’s plenty of evidence that Americans fornicate without restraint as well. Look at divorce rates (even among Christians), look at how many have sexual relations before marriage, and how many registered sex offenders there are. And when it comes to gossip, complaint, little white lies, slander, or plain ol’ discouragement . . . look no further than the social giants of the internet. Pleasure however, is not happiness. And if we continue to revel in what pleases us, what we are really doing is refusing Christ. We would do well to remember that.

The truth is that it takes discipline to do right. It takes restraint and focus to keep ourselves safe from, well ourselves. But there is hope and His name is Jesus Christ. Even if we fail at trying, that’s something. It means that we are no longer just stopped, but we’ve turned around, and made an effort to move toward Jesus. We don’t need to be perfect by any means, because Jesus did that for us. Still, there’s a difference between messing up and regretting it, and knowingly messing up and justifying it.

Changed Men (and women)

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Peter changed from a man who denied Christ three times to a man who “cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

Paul changed from the most avid persecutor of Christians to the most famous Christian missionary.

Matthew changed from a tax collector to one of the twelve disciples of Christ.

Thomas changed from someone who doubted the resurrection to someone who worshipped Jesus as “my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Mary Magdalene changed from a woman troubled by demons to the first witness of the risen Christ.

There is ample evidence in the New Testament that an encounter with Christ changes lives.  How has Christ changed you?  Bloggers and readers, please respond.  I’m waiting to hear your stories.

 

Obedience?

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puppet_in_the_hands_of_the_puppeteerThis is the new topic this month and it’s a hard one.  Many people who hear the word obedience will think of a dog.  We train dogs to sit, come, go, fetch and so on.  That’s what we think of (myself included!) when we hear this word.

Do you think that God’s up there going Sit!, Lay Down!, Fetch!  That the Master calls out commands and Christians are just supposed to be puppets doing what He tells us to do?

I don’t think so.  The choice is ours.  That is the point.  We still have free will in all that we do.  God actually made us this way.  He doesn’t want puppets, he wants followers.

I just put obedience in BibleGateway.com and a whole big list of scripture comes up.  Yes, the scripture tells us to be obedient to the will of God.  So now we have to think, What is the Will of God?  That’s when we go back to the Word of God: the Bible.

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”  Romans 6:16  So if we want to walk in God’s Will, we need to be like obedient slaves.  We can be a slave to sin or a slave to God.  But there are more scripture that outlines it for us.  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:29-30  We can take up the offer that Jesus holds out for us, to take up His Yoke.  Imagine this: you see those old photos with oxen pulling a cart.  There is this big piece of wood riding across their shoulders.  That’s the yoke holding the oxen together so that they can share the weight of the load.  To be yoked with Jesus in our lives would mean that He is taking the larger portion.  We can drop the worry and fretting.  His yolk is easy and light.  Who wouldn’t want to go through life like that?

So to be obedient we need to obey his commandments.  Jesus gave that to us in Matthew 22:36-39 when he was asked:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘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.’

 

Good and Bad Fruit

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” You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:16-18

In the second Chapter of Acts, we learn about the coming of the Holy Spirit to the believers.  In Galatians, Chapter 5, we find a list of the fruit that flows out of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  There is another list, the list of “bad fruit.”

“Now the works of the flesh are evident:  sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these…”Galatians 5:21

The fruit of the flesh comes naturally to us;  when sin entered the world, it became our default position.  The fruit of the spirit comes from being rooted in God, and is part of being born again and transformed as Christians.  As we become more like Christ (sanctification) the good fruit will be evident in our lives.

Which kind of fruit is growing in your life?  Are you walking the walk, or just talking the talk?  Remember, the world will know what Christianity means by the fruit you display in your daily life.

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit…”  Galatians 5:29

 

In Remembrance

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The cross installed on a pedestal at Ground Zero (c. 2003)

The World Trade Center cross, also known as the Ground Zero cross, is a group of steel beams found among the debris of the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, New York City, following the September 11 attacks in 2001. This set of beams is so named because it resembles the proportions of a Christian cross.

“…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Matt. 16:18

The Opportunity of Forgiveness

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil.  But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also;  and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well;  and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  Matthew 5:38-41

In this verse, Jesus is telling us not to seek revenge, but to forgive and even do good to the person who has wronged us.  I guess I have always looked at that as my Christian “duty.”  Something I was required to do instead of what I really wanted to do.  Recently I decided I am thinking about it the wrong way.  What if I made it gospel instead of law?  (Lutherans love to talk about the difference).  This kind of situation gives me a chance to show God’s grace to someone.

My husband loves to tell a story about our good friend, Gary.  Gary and his family had moved to a house they were renting.  The first evening they were there, the renter of the other half of the house came home and Gary went out to greet him and introduce himself.  His neighbor responded with curses and a basic message of “leave me alone.”  Gary’s response?  “Gee, you must have had a terrible day, what’s wrong?”  The two became friends because Gary saw his neighbor’s rudeness as an opportunity to share God’s love.  He let him see Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance in the actions of another person.

How often do I let this same opportunity pass?

 

Why we should Forgive

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“By this we are sure that we are in him.  Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:5-6

In addition to this verse, the Bible tells us to “clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14) and to “fix …our eyes on Jesus”(Hebrews 12:12).  All of these phrases boil down to the same meaning …imitate Christ, he is our model.  We are to watch Him, to follow His example, to become one with Him.

So, think about Jesus and all the people he forgave:

He forgave the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof to be healed (Mark 2:5)

He forgave two tax collectors, Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10) and Matthew (also called Levi) who became one of the twelve disciples (Luke 5:27-32)

He forgave the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) and the sinful woman who anointed His feet (Luke 7:36-48).

He forgave Peter after he denied Him three times, and He even forgave those who crucified Him.

He forgave things that seemed unforgivable:  sinful behavior, betrayal, selfishness, greed, even murder.  If I want to become like Christ, shouldn’t I be willing to forgive:

the cashier at the store who was rude and abrupt?

my friend who forgot to call when she said she would?

the fellow church member who criticized me?

the neighbor who complains about everything I do?

Often the things I don’t want to forgive are truly petty.  Instead of feeling empathy for the people who offend me, I go over and over my own feelings of hurt and anger.  That’s turning in on yourself, the definition of sin, and it isn’t pleasing to God.

If I truly want to walk as He walked, I must forgive as he forgave.