Friday, December 30: Jeremiah 3- Watch your example

In verses 6-10 God spoke of Israel’s (the northern kingdom) unfaithfulness and how Judah (the southern kingdom) watched and then committed similar sins and adulteries. Two times, in fact, God references Israel’s example impacting Judah. Both times it was a negative impact. Judah watched Israel sin and followed suit.

I mused about one’s example. It seems so easy, so natural, so human, to transfer negative, God-dishonoring qualities to others… my children and those close to me in particular. I sit here under the weight of my sin, realizing that in addition to dirtying my life, it has touched and influenced others negatively as well.

God, I don’t understand why it seems so easy to influence someone negatively and so hard to influence them for good. That doesn’t seem fair?!

And as I thought about this I saw again the depravity of the human heart.  We are (I am) sin-filled and corrupt…

Lord God, the only answer is the atoning work of Jesus and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Only then can my sins be forgiven and I can have the strength and ability to live for You, O God.

Thank You, Jesus, for saving me. Holy Spirit, fill me, use me, transform me to be more and more like Jesus every passing day of my life…

To You –Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the honor and the glory for ever and ever. Amen




Thursday, December 29: Jeremiah 2- Are you walking with the Lord

A scathing rebuke of Israel, that’s chapter two. From opening to closing, Chapter two is God’s indictment against Israel. They have run after other gods. There is not one positive word spoken to Israel in this chapter. Not one!

As 2011 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the year past and thinking about the year ahead. God’s rebuke of Israel causes me to review my life foundations. I have not run after other gods… as least as completely and recklessly as Israel. But I have dallied. There are chinks in my faithfulness and areas of my life where I have not surrendered , where I listen to and follow other voices than the Lord.

My food for thought today… I don’t want to become an Israel, faithless and pursuing other gods. Self-examination and confession are my only defense…

Lord, if there be any wickedness in me, search it out and destroy it. Discipline me as needed so that my life might shine for You, my life might point to You, my words sing of You.

I pray this in the name of the One who rescued me and who ransomed me with His own blood…. Jesus, the king of glory. In His name powered by the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.


Wednesday, December 28: Jeremiah 1 -Before you were born.

I found myself attracted to Jeremiah’s call, simply stated in two verses.

The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (4-5)

I sat pondering those words…

God knew (‘knew’ carries the idea of choosing, calling, setting apart) Jeremiah before.  That statement takes a bit of effort to get one’s head around. Jeremiah was known, chosen, called, set apart before he was even formed in the womb. I was known, ‘chosen’, before I was formed in the womb.  You were known… before you were formed in the womb. Wow! I wish I could say that I fully understand that but it stretches my thoughts. I can and do affirm it. I believe it because it is in God’s Word, but it stretches me.

Oh, the glory of God, the wonder of God as Creator…

Jeremiah’s call goes on to say, before you were born I set you apart. My mind is stretched again.

Before he was born, breathed a breath, said a word, thought a thought, God had set him apart for his great calling!

I flash from Jeremiah to myself. The major part of me relishes that my life is totally in God’s hands.  His sovereignty controls my day and the day. Yet, there is a small part of me that says, what about ‘free will’? Do I have a choice in all this? And even if I don’t personalize this to myself, the same thoughts circle regarding Jeremiah. Did he have a choice in this, what about his ‘free will’ and so on?

For the umpteenth time, I find myself bowing to and submitting to God’s absolute sovereignty. Though I don’t fully comprehend it and even though it wrecks havoc with some of my thinking about free will and choices and … I say, ‘Alleluia the Lord reigns’. He is God and I am not! And I choose to submit to His will and His way and His calling in my life.

Great and mighty is the Lord, He formed me and I am His. I am a sheep of His pasture. Lord, I will listen for Your voice and I will follow where You lead. I will go where You send me and do what You have for me to do. I bow and surrender to Your will and I do so out of love for You and wonder at Your mighty name. In and through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Saturday, December 24: Matthew 26- Why Jesus came.

My thoughts are focused on Christmas… the sights, the sounds, the smells… decorations & carols. Tonight we will celebrate our Christmas Eve service and tomorrow, since it is Sunday, we will hold Christmas morning worship. Christmas, Jesus’ birth, the Incarnation, dominate my thoughts. So it was odd to sit this morning and read about the end of Jesus’ earthly story.

It was odd, but it was also rich, rich because it reminded me why Jesus was born, why He became human. He did so to save you and me and all who believe!

Reading the institution of the Lord’s Supper hit me the hardest. Matthew records, While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom (26-29)."

Jesus gave His body and His blood for me and my salvation. Jesus gave His body and His blood –His life- for you and your salvation. He came to die to pay for the penalty of my sin.

That cute newborn we will remember in worship tonight and tomorrow grew to be a man who had a purpose… to save people by offering His life as a ransom for theirs.

Wow! that makes Christmas even richer

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”


(Refrain:) Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”


Christ, by highest Heav’n adored; Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.




Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.




Come, Desire of nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power, Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.




Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart.




Monday, December 26: Matthew 27- Dead.

The glories of Christmas still ring in my ears and wonderful carols still waft through my home and yet, I sit today reading of Jesus’ torture and death. Today’s reading ends with the lifeless body of Jesus lying cold and still in a guarded tomb. Jesus is dead!

How can beauty turn to ashes so quickly?

I celebrated gold, frankincense, myrrh and homage to the babe yesterday and today I read of Jesus’ pitied death.

Yesterday I celebrated what angels sang at His birth and today ugly crowds called for Barabbas, instead of Jesus, They hurled insults at Jesus as He hung dying for their sins.

Life is anything but steady state, emotions and situations fluctuate broadly. Up one moment, down the next…

Through it all Jesus is there… always present. One momentHe sat on His rightful throne in heaven, the next He was a seed planted in the womb of Mary. And yet there was not one single moment that He was not Lord of All.

The wonder of the faith is that this Lord of glory became a man so that He might teach us the way of God and then die in our place so that we could be restored to a vital and living relationship with God … Alleluia!

Lord Jesus, thank You for saving me… for all You did so that I (we) could be saved… Thank You for the marvel of Your incarnation and Your sacrificial death… Thank You. Amen.


Tuesday, December 27: Matthew 28- Jesus is alive.

Jesus came not only to die but to be raised to life again, a witness to all who believe that we, too, will be raised to life again!

I noticed an intriguing aspect of the story.  After the women found the tomb empty and spoke with the angels, they headed back to tell the disciples. As they were walking back, Matthew tells us, Jesus met them (9). I found it interesting that Jesus found them; Jesus met them. Could it be that Jesus intentionally sought them and met them? What I saw in those three words from the text is that Jesus made sure He found the women. And even more, after greeting them, He told them, Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me (10). Jesus was making sure He met up with the others as well.

After the separation of death, Jesus made sure He reconnected with His disciples.

I thought…that’s Jesus.  He meets us in our bewilderment, in our hardships, in our pain.  He pursues us. Jesus didn’t simply speak platitudes when he said, And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (20).

In the Old Testament God says to Joshua As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5).

We serve a God who pursues and who stays with us… no matter what.

I spent a few minutes thinking about how God has been with me throughout my life, through thick and thin, and now I just want to thank Him. Psalm 121 comes to mind, my prayer for today.


I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you-- the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm-- he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore Amen. (Psalm 121:1-8)



A word about Jeremiah

Jeremiah, sent to Judah, was God's last prophet to Judah, before their exile.  The people of Judah had become hopelessly attached to Idols and immorality, so God through Jeremiah sent the message that if the people repented God would spare them from Babylon.  Jeremiah preached this message for 40 years, but the people didn't listen to him.  The result of Judah's repeated sin the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon and the exile of all Judah's people.


Friday, December 23: Matthew 25- Keep at it.

Immediately on the heels of yesterday’s chapter about the return of Jesus and the call to live ready comes Jesus’ story about the 10 virgins. It was his set up that attracted my attention. At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. … The bridegroom was a long time in coming… (1, 5).

The bride groom was a long time in coming. Just in case his disciples (including me) thought that Jesus’ call to live ready would last only for a short time, Jesus sets the record straight. The bridegroom, Jesus, will be a long time in coming. Our call to obedient living and faithfulness to the master’s general and personal call will last a long time.

The Christian life is not a sprint, a burst out of the blocks give it 100% for a few seconds or minutes and then fall across the finish line. No, it is a marathon that will at times seem endless and will have its fill of ‘heart break’ hills.

Jesus’ call is to live ready and to keep at it until he returns and we have to be prepared for His return to be a long time in coming.

Sometimes I grow weary, it would be so much ‘easier’ to give up faithfulness and live like everyone else. Shave corners here, cheat there. Who among us wouldn’t like an immediate 10% boost in household spendable cash? I mean all I have to do is stop tithing…

When I have these pity-parties, this is a good chapter to read. Keep at it, I hear the Lord say, I may be a long time in coming but my reward will be worth it when I do come if you keep on living ready.  Just read the next Jesus story about the 3 servants…!

Jesus, thank You for this Word. I am sorry that I sometimes get in these funks. I am spurred on by Your Word to take a deep breath and get back out there, living ready, living for You until the day you do return and take me along with all believers home to Your eternal kingdom.

Blessed be Your name. Amen and amen!


Thursday, December 22: Matthew 24- Be ready.

Jesus gives an extended teaching about the end of times when He will return and usher in God’s forever kingdom. Everyone wants to know when this will be. For millennia people have been predicting the day Jesus will return. No one has been correct yet. And we shouldn’t be surprised about this. Jesus himself said, No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (36).

In lieu of knowing the date he will return, what should we do???

We should live ready for his return. In verses 42-46 Jesus makes this plain. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.

Notice the key verbs: keep watch… you also must be ready. With these Jesus is telling us how to live as we await his return. We should be active in doing what God has assigned us to do!

It seems to me that this has both a general and particular charge to us as Christ-followers. There are certain things all believers should be doing… loving God and loving neighbor is a good summary. This is the general charge.  It is for all believers.

Then there are the particular things God has for me (and you) to do. This is where my gifts, abilities and callings come into play. Are you a servant?  Then serve. Are you a teacher?  Then teach. Are you gifted with generosity?  Then give.

Before you close up the scriptures for today, spend a few minutes asking yourself how you are doing with the general and particular callings God has for you. In other words, “Are you living ready?”

Come, Lord Jesus, come. And until You do, empower me to live for You! Amen.


Friday, January 6: Jeremiah 9-A golden nugget.

Reading chapter after chapter of the depravity of Judah exhausts me. As I read today, I wondered, are we any different today? Is the church any more faithful than Judah was? A sad thought. A painful wondering. Sadly most statistical polls show little or no difference between Christians and the general world population in things like divorce rate, pornography use, etc.

As I read I mused about such things…

Then as the chapter drew to a close I spied a golden nugget… words that could carry me today. Verses 23-24 This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.

As I engage this new year God has given me a simple gauge by which I can measure and evaluate my life: let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.

I can focus on knowing and understanding the Lord God. I can model my life on the three characteristics He delights in: kindness, justice, righteousness.

Kindness… treating people well, nicely, politely.

Justice… caring for and speaking up for those who have no voice in society; taking on abuses and excesses of society.

Righteousness… right and proper living in light of God and His Word.

Some practical nuggets for living… Thank You, Lord.

Lord, I have my marching orders… kindness, justice, righteousness… not easy, but a worthy goal for one who wants to follow You faithfully. Bless you, Lord God. Through Jesus I pray. Amen.


Wednesday, December 21: Matthew 23-, Integrity & honesty...

The chapter for me was summed up in the opening sentences of Jesus’ speech. Jesus said: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

Is that an indictment or what?

Let the sting of his closing sentence smack you again. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

It is all too easy to point fingers at those ‘Pharisees,’ yet God won’t let me off that easily. His Word to me is simple, ‘Don’t emulate the Pharisees’.

As I flip Jesus’ Word over and point it positively at myself, I hear the Spirit chiding: “Be a man of integrity. Let your life actions speak the same message as your words. Practice what you preach…”

Those are strong words. To live them I first must take an honest look at my life. Where am I living up to these words and where am I falling short. Now my work is laid out for me.  I have to shore up my failing, I have to deal with my inconsistencies and areas of dis-integrity.

I have much work to do! How about you?

Lord, I seek to live a consistently life that honors You. But I often miss the mark.  There are many inconsistencies in my life. Please forgive me and more importantly, Lord, help me to gain victory in my areas of sin. Transform my life into one that is consistent. Discipline me as needed so that my life –words and actions- will represent You well, my Lord and my God. In and through Jesus, I pray. Amen



Tuesday, December 20: Matthew 22- Who would be that crazy?

I found myself contemplating the opening parable of the king’s marriage feast. The more I looked and listened, the more stunning and shocking it became.

The lead character being a king suggests a significant level of wealth, prestige and might. I wondered what regular person in their right mind, having accepted a king’s invitation to the prince’s marriage, would at the last minute decide going to his/her field or some business deal more important? I am not a big royalty watcher, but if I had received an invitation to Prince William’s wedding, I would have locked in the date and been there. It would be an honor and down right fun to have been there.  Who at the last minutes decides, ahhh I’d rather go plow a field???

Even more surprising, who would mistreat the king’s servants when they arrive to escort you to the gala? I mean, really, what kind of far fetched story is Jesus concocting?

The answer it seems is that Jesus is sticking a dagger into the religious leaders for rejecting God’s invitation to the wedding feast. They had to be furious, which seems born out by verse 15 where they lay plans to trap him…

Secondly, their rejection of Jesus as communicated by Jesus in this parable is simply ludicrous. Who would be so foolish, nearsighted and can I say it, stupid!?!

The next stage of the parable is the king sending his servants to invite everyone they see. This scene is John 3:16 in parable, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. And it begs the question, “Have you accepted God’s invitation to eternal life through belief in Jesus?”

Please, do so if you haven’t done so yet.  Please don’t be one of the foolish, nearsighted and yes, even stupid ones, who reject God’s free offer of life eternal through Jesus Christ, the Lord.

Dear Father God, thank you for inviting me and everyone. Yes, I will come. Yes, I love You and am so awed that You invited me. I am humbled and honored and blessed to come. Thank You! In and through Jesus, I speak these words to You. Amen. 


Monday, December 19: Matthew 21- Responses to Jesus.

I did a double take. I had to stop and reread verses 14 and 15. Did I read what I thought I read? Yes!

Check it out for yourselves… The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant.

I realize that previously Jesus has just driven out all of the money changers from the temple courts, something that surely riled the chief priest and teachers of the law. But these verses say that it wasn’t Jesus’ temple actions, instead it was His healings and the children’s chant that made them indignant! Indignant is a strong word.  Why would a person react so strongly and negatively to healings and children chanting "Hosanna to the Son of David."

I wondered how the same Jesus that I love and serve could engender such revilement in others. Jesus does that. He causes reactions and He calls people to decide who He is to them. Is He your God and Savior, or is He something else?

This is the eternal question. Who do you believe Jesus is?

With Christmas –the birth of Jesus- on the horizon, it is good time for all of us to ponder the question, Who do I believe Jesus to be? …

And even as you ponder this remember, too. Answering this question is more than an intellectual exercise, it is a faith statement tht determines how we will live and what we will believe.

Merry Almost Christmas…

Yes, Jesus, I believe you are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. 100% God and 100% human… the God-man. I believe in You and I believe You and I will gladly follow You all the days of my life. Hallelujah Amen!


Saturday, December 17: Matthew 20- What do you want me to do for you?

I found myself captivated by Jesus’ question to the two blind men. "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked (32). I found myself wondering what I would answer if Jesus asked that of me? Would I want a million bucks? Happiness for myself, my wife or my kids? Would I ask for something I want or something for someone else?

I never did come up with an answer, in part because I knew it was only a mind exercise and not real.  And partly because I chose not to indulge my selfish self and I knew that was the direction my response was headed.

I read on. "Lord," they answered, "we want our sight." Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him (33-34).

The word ‘compassion’ hit me next. Jesus had compassion on them. They had a major need. Their request of Jesus caused Him to have compassion on them.

I circled back to my response to Jesus’ question and I wondered if asked ,would my response be highly selfish or would it be so significant that it elicited compassion from Jesus?…

I’m not sure.

What I do know is that it is easy for me to go to highly selfish places…

Lord Jesus, my heart is deceitful. I am in great need of Your forgiveness and cleansing. With Isaiah I cry, “I am a man of unclean lips…” And with David I cry, “cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow…”

Please, Lord, please…



Friday, December 16: Matthew 19- Which ones?...

Those two words jumped off the page glaring at me… “which ones?” They stood there, a shaft of light, allowing me to see deeply into the human heart and soul. “Which ones?” the man asked.

The vignette begins with the man seeking out Jesus with a question (16-18). Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" … Jesus replied … If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

"Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied…

Isn’t that like us, like me? Always trying to justify self.

Think about it. The man had a simple question and Jesus a simple answer.

Question: What do I have to do to get eternal life?

Answer: Obey the commandments.

Retort: Which ones?

I mean really, Jesus couldn’t mean obey them all… all 10 of them. No, that can’t be it. Maybe there is a loophole, maybe only 5 really count. “Which ones?” he asked, we ask.

There was another time Jesus was talking about loving others/neighbors.  “Which ones?” the crowd implicitly asked.  So Jesus told a parable about a Priest, a Levite, a Samaritan and a mugging victim… (check out Luke 10:25ff).

We want to justify ourselves… “which ones?,” “who?,” “how much?” We want to do just enough to get in, and nothing more…

Is it any wonder then, following a bit more of an exchange between Jesus and the man, Jesus turns to His disciples.  The vignette ends with Jesus’ powerful line, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

I cannot earn salvation (eternal life) on my own. I cannot do enough to pay for the sin and corruption in my life. Only a work of God in my life can possible save me…

Lord, I have duly humbled. I am always asking ‘which ones’ trying to skate by. O, forgive me! Corruption continues to have a hold on my life. ‘I need You every hour’ the old hymn teaches me in its lyrics. And I certainly do!

Lord, I feel compelled to thank and bless You, too. Were it not for Your work in my life I could/would never have come to You by faith, surrendered to Jesus and been ushered into the kingdom of life. Thank You, God, that You made my salvation possible! Hallelujah! Amen.


Thursday, December 15: Matthew 18- Who's the greatest?

Jesus teaches on a number of topics in this brief chapter. Greatness and forgiveness bracket topics like ‘causing others to sin’ and ‘lost sheep’. I found it an interesting mix of issues.

The ‘greatest in the kingdom’ issue is where I found myself dwelling as I spent my morning with the Lord. It’s only a couple of sentences, here’s what Jesus taught:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (1-4).

We,humans have this infatuation with greatness. It is not simply a desire to do our best, it runs deeper than that. It often seems to have to do with recognition, awards, halls of fame, being top of some list, number of championships, size of ones portfolio, etc. And people seem quite willing to ‘bend’ rules or flat out break them to achieve greatness. Steroid and performance enhancing drugs used in sports is one case in point.

The disciples come to Jesus and ask Him about greatness. Underlying their ‘who is the greatest’ question seems to be either ‘which one of us is the greatest’ or ‘how do we get to be considered the greatest?’ Like us, they were infatuated with greatness.

Jesus’ reply must have been a mind bender. Become like a child?!? I imagine Jesus using a toddler or preschooler as his living example.

A child utterly dependent, of no legal standing in the eyes of the Roman government, a child simple in thought, generally accepting of what the Father or parent says and generally less jaded by the world than adults. A child.

I thought about the various qualities of a child.

Jesus calls us to get past our adult notions of greatness and to humble ourselves like a child, then we will be great in God’s kingdom. I have much to chew on… much!

Lord, I don’t get all You seem to be saying. Throughout the day show me more of how a child lives, so that I can carry myself in a manner that pleases You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Wednesday, December 14: Matthew 17- As the dust settles.

Jesus’ message to His disciples has shifted. Since the end of last chapter Jesus has been weaving in word of his death and resurrection wherever possible when He speaks with His disciples. He is preparing them for the future.  He is preparing them for his death.

Face it, when Jesus is arrested and dies, their lives will be turned upside down. Their ‘miracle worker’rabbi will go from revered ‘do-no-wrong’ to arrested and crucified within less than a day. My world would be shaken and theirs was, I am sure.

So Jesus is preparing them, teaching them so that the blow can be understood, if not immediately, at least when the dust settles.

Jesus’ teachings are preparing His disciples for the future.

As I mulled on that, I realized that God’s Word, the Bible, plays a similar role in our lives. The Word teaches us about the things of God and prepares us for our future. When believers die, God’s Word and the teachings about eternal life comforts me. Sure I grieve but as the ‘dust’ settles in my life,,I understand.

The Word teaches me about forgiveness so that when I am hurt by others, I can understand the power of forgiveness. Do I access this truth immediately? Generally not, the sting of the hurt often cuts deeply but as the dust settles in my life, Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness ring true and I take the gamble to forgive. That has never been a decision I have regretted! Never…

And so I found myself thinking about all the ways God’s Word prepares me for life and for death.

Thank You, my God, for Your Word, for the teaching and truth of the Holy Bible, the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,  It prepares me, it comforts me, it teaches me.

Your Words are life, O God, and I feed on them by faith with thanksgiving… Praise Jesus. Amen.


Tuesday, December 13: Matthew 16- The first steps of a marathon are not the whole race.

So many lessons…

My thoughts sparked on the last few vignettes. Peter makes the amazing confession that Jesus is the Christ. He gets it… he makes his profession of faith. This could possibly be Peter’s ‘cross-the-line-of-faith’ moment.

Then in the next moment he rebukes Jesus, as Jesus begins to explain the cross. Jesus harshly corrects him.…

One moment Peter is a paragon of faith and godly insight, and literally the next he is rebuked by the Lord for being a “stumbling block” who doesn’t have the mind of God. Up one moment, down in the pits the next…

What really prodded my devotions was Jesus’ next statement, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (24).

Following Jesus is a life of self denial, accepting the cross and continually following.  This is a life long journey that will be filled with challenges and growth and getting things wrong and getting things right.

I saw in these few sentences, a picture of life with Jesus.  First,  a moment of insight and the thrill of getting it right and then moments when we will miss the mark. It requires self-denial and sacrifice…

Following Jesus is like running a marathon. All runners start with energy and excitement but to complete the race, runners must settle in for the long haul, push through times of pain.  Sometimes they even stumble and fall, but to finish they get back up and push on until they cross the finish line…

Jesus, I pray for strength to keep on following You. Forgive me for my sin-stumbles. Holy Spirit, please send grace so that I can get up and keep on going, keep on running for and with Jesus until You call me home or You return. Amen.



Monday, December 12: Matthew 15- Serving; a second lesson.

I’ve been walking with Jesus for 30+ years and as I review my life, I see areas where I have grown and transformed significantly. I see other areas that have more of an ‘up and down record’ and then some places where I still have not gained victory. I get frustrated with myself, sometimes, for failing again and again.

Reading the story of the feeding of the 4000, I started to think, “Those dullards, just one page before Jesus feeds 5000! Don’t they get it? Where’s their faith?” Yet even as these reactions were starting, I flipped to myself and realized I’m no better. I stumble and fall. I don’t get it the first time. I am slow to learn who Jesus is, too!

Realizing this is not a license to fail, to give up, or to be slow to learn. Instead, Jesus gave us a gift.  He knows we are human and that we don’t often learn things the first time around so he served His disciples a second lesson. He does this for me, too, serving me a second and third and … lesson until I learn what He is teaching. Thank You, Jesus.

Spend a few moments reviewing your life.  Where has/is Jesus being patient with you in your growth? Thank Him for His patience and resolve yourself to deep dedication to grow and be transformed.

Jesus, thank You for never giving up on me, for offering me truth and opportunities to grow over and over again. Also, for being patient with me.

Forgive me for faith negligence; for not giving my following of You my all. I ask for courage and determination to follow through on the areas of growth You show me. I pray for dedication to Your cause and a transformed heart. I sit with Your Word as a practice that Your Word might wash me clean and transform my life as the Holy Spirit applies it to my life and cleanse me with it.

I pray this prayer with deep gratitude for the One who will never let me go. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Saturday, December 10: Matthew 14-

The report of John the Baptist’s beheading is a despicable account of abusive power. John is bound and imprisoned because he dared to call King Herod’s adultery with his brother’s wife unlawful. Although he longed to kill John, silencing his critic, John was a political nightmare because the people revered John.

Then comes the party, a liquored oath, a provocative dance, a cunning wife and John is beheaded.

My thoughts travel in two directions…

First, I thought about the abuse of unchecked power. Herod could do what he pleased. He had the power! It is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, the phrase isn’t biblical but it is generally accurate. The selfish-sin nature in us seems to become unbridled of any conscience when a person gains absolute power. Even as I was musing on the nature of power, the Spirit prompted me to consider those areas in which I have power. I have some places of power, none absolute, but power nonetheless. For example:

within my family,

over my time and checkbook

certain areas at my work

and so on.

Next the Spirit prompted me to consider how I was using my power. Was it honorably or recklessly? It was as if the Spirit was saying, “Don’t be a Herod. Don’t let the sin within you get the best of you…”

The second was in the arena of oaths. Herod, probably in ‘good’ spirits from wine, said so all would hear, that he would give his daughter anything she asked for. When she returned asking for the head of John the Baptist, Herod felt bound by his oath and complied by killing John. It struck me, as strange as it might seem, that in this moment Herod was a man of integrity. He kept his oath! First, I pondered oath making.  Herod should never have said what he said, a reminder to me that I have to be careful about my words. Second, Herod kept his word, reminding me that I need to be a man of my word, too. When I give my word, people should understand that my word is my bond…

Such were my meditations for today.

Father, Jesus, Spirit, I feel pierced. First by the ways I am prone to misuse power and then by the way I can give my word only to forget or reneg later.

O, God, I fall so short of Your desire for me as a Christ-follower. Please help me to grow, to mature. Use my time in Your word to be a transforming agent in my life that I might be more Christ-like. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Friday, December 9: Matthew 13- What is it worth to you?

Clearly the kingdom of God is the subject of this chapter. Jesus layers parable after parable teaching about the kingdom of God. I found myself ruminating on two short ones near the end.  

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it (44-46).

These two parables ask a penetrating question, ‘How much do you value God’s kingdom?’ Or put another way, ‘How much will you sacrifice for God’s kingdom?’

According to these parables the kingdom is worth everything… there is no sacrifice to large, no price too great to gain the kingdom… sold all he had and bought that field (44); sold everything he had and bought it (46).

It didn’t take long for me to begin looking within.  How much do I value, how much do I sacrifice for God’s kingdom?

My internal picture isn’t pretty. I sometimes get the equation upside down thinking about how much I will get from the kingdom, not how much will I give. I feel so ‘little’ realizing how often and much I distort God’s kingdom into something that serves me. Scripture is so correct… the heart is deceitful about all things (Jeremiah 17:9)

Lord, as we move toward the celebration of Jesus’ birth, so much attention is focused on gifts I will give and receive from others. Christmas has become the great package exchange.

Lord, Jesus’ birth is often lost or at best minimized in our celebrations and traditions around Christmas. And surely the concept of sacrifice and giving all to gain the kingdom is no where to be seen in present day Christmas celebrating in my world…

O, God, I am so inculturated I don’t know what to do… (I feel small admitting this).

Lord, what can/should I do???

Help me, Lord, please lead me. In Jesus’ name and for Your kingdom’s sake… Amen.


Thursday, December 8: Matthew 12- We want a sign.

The last few chapters have been a parade of miracles and the parade continues in this morning’s reading. A bullet-point synopsis of chapter 12 shows Jesus healing a man with a shriveled hand (13). Word spreads, people seek him out and he healed all their sick (15). Next, He heals a demon possessed man who is blind and mute (22). After this, and remember He has been performing healings and the like for a number of chapters, Matthew recounts a head-scratching incident.

Verse 38: Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." WHAT!?!

Pharisees have been tracking Him and have determined to kill Him because of what He is doing, particularly healings on the Sabbath (14). People are flocking to Him so that they can hear Him teach and have friends and relatives healed (15). And yet some Pharisees and teachers wanted to see a miraculous sign.Hadn’t they seen enough? What more did Jesus need to do to convince them He was who He said He was???

This started me thinking.  Some people are never satisfied; they always need ‘one more’ proof before they can believe. How sad because many never do believe. It is as if they cannot ‘see’ what is right before them.

My hunch is that most who read this already believe in Jesus. If that is you, then pray for friends and family who don’t yet believe. Maybe your intercession on their behalf will unlock their ‘blindness.’

And if you are a reader who does not yet believe in Jesus, what is holding you back? Why not take that step of faith today…

Lord, I am reminded of a father who in Mark 9 asked Jesus if He could help his son. When queried about his “if” the father said, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (9:24).

Lord, I pray for those stuck in unbelief today… help them with their unbelief and lead them across the line of faith to believe in Jesus. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.



Wednesday, December 7: Matthew 11- What's your resume?


John, wondering if Jesus is the Christ, sends disciples to ask Jesus. Jesus answers not with a direct ‘yes or no’, but rather Jesus cites His resume. Jesus replied, Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor (4-5). Jesus understood that John would know the answer to his question hearing what Jesus did and taught. Jesus’ Words and actions were congruent… forming quite a resume.

This got me to thinking.  What’s my resume? If someone were to ask me if I were a Christ-follower, what resume could I produce? First, let’s set aside miracle-working before I probe my resume.

Do I have a legacy of caring for those in need and speaking of Jesus’ Good News to the poor? Do I? Do you?

Worth thinking about… at least it is for me! (And a bit sobering, too.  What am I doing with my life for Jesus and His kingdom?)

Father, help me to hear and see and DO the good works You have prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). I long for my light to shine that others may see my good works and praise You (Matthew 5:16) because I do them in Your name, by Your leading and through Your strength. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.



Tuesday, December 6: Matthew 10- Authority.

I found myself captivated by the word authority in the opening sentence. He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness (1). It is an interesting choice of words.

Authority… think about that for a moment.

Doctors don’t heal by authority; they heal through training in medical science and learned skills. Right?

Jesus doesn’t give ‘the twelve’ wisdom about physiology, nor does he train them in medical procedures or medicines. He doesn’t teach them healing techniques. Jesus gives them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Presumably He gives them ‘His’ authority or authority in ‘His name’ to do these things.

Police have the authority of the state to arrest. Judges and Justices have the authority of state and federal governments to preside over cases and make pronouncements. Authority is different than power. Power is generally based on things like size, strength, or intelligence. But authority is invested in a person due to title and rank.

Greenwich Avenue is the main shopping street in our town and it has police officers who control the intersections during the prime shopping times. By simply raising their hand these officers stop traffic. In and of themselves they do not have the power to stop a car. Any car has to power to make a pancake out of the police officer standing in the intersection. But the officer has the authority to stop the cars.

Jesus gave his disciples authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

I invite you to join me in thinking about these things today…

Jesus, you gave authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. That’s amazing. And I know that at the end of this Gospel you will give authority to make disciples to the end of the earth. That may be even more amazing.

Help me to understand better the authority You have given, so that I can be most effective in advancing Your kingdom. In Your name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.



Monday, December 5: Matthew 9- The crush of needs.

As I read this chapter, I found myself thinking….how did Jesus do it? One need after another, it seemed like the line of people never stopped. How did Jesus maintain approachability? How did he keep his composure? I sat and marveled at how Jesus was willing to give and give and give!

The text is silent about my wonderings but I sat amazed at Jesus. Here He is the one and only Son making time for everyone who came to Him with a need.

My selfishness is so readily apparent compared to Jesus’ selflessness. I am in awe of Him who came to save me…

Lord Jesus, I am not even sure how or what to pray. I am awed by Your love for people.  You turn no one away. Instead, You bend over to care for people. O, Lord, I simply want to thank and praise You.  You have never turned me away. I am so blessed to be Yours.

Jesus, help me please to learn the care for people that You displayed. Lead me and guide me. Holy Spirit, teach me to be more like Jesus.  In His name I pray. Amen.



Saturday, December 3: Matthew 8- Whatever the need.

After 3 chapters of teaching, Jesus becomes a man of action and miracles. I watched Jesus. When people had a need, it didn’t matter if it was great or not, Jesus met it and cared for the individual.

Right out of the shoot Jesus heals a man with leprosy. Touching an untouchable, this healing allowed an outcast to rejoin the community. Go Jesus!

Next stop, the Centurion’s servant who was at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering (6). Again, the need seems great.  Who wouldn’t want to bring healing to someone in terrible suffering? Jesus did and He showed us a lesson about faith in the process.

Next comes Peter’s mom. It sounds like Jesus is having one of those days when you get out of bed and never stop running. Jesus and His crew go to Peter’s house, I’m surmising for some RnR and a good home cooked meal, only to find Peter’s mom in bed with a fever. Matthew doesn’t tell us the extent of the illness –a case of the flu, a migraine, an allergy headache- we don’t know. But compared to leprosy and someone paralyzed and in terrible pain, the headache issue doesn’t stack up. And yet Jesus cares for Peter’s mom just as he did the others. Herein lies my morning lesson…

Jesus was present with the people He was with. He didn’t keep score, only helping people in dire need. He doesn’t have a rating system dealing only with the most critical. Jesus helps the person He is with, whatever their issue or need. To Jesus ,the woman with the headache is as important as the leper.

The person He is with… whatever the need, that’s a picture of Jesus in action!

Do I reflect Jesus? This is my question and thought for today…

Lord Jesus, as I go about my day today, help me to be present with those people You bring my way. Help me to be present with them and to act as Your Spirit leads and directs. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Friday, December 2: Matthew 7- Judging others.


Like it or not, judging others is part of human life. We do it all the time and for the most part we do it by external factors. We meet someone new and internally we are making judgments based on their appearance and dress, the way they speak, vocabulary, how they carry themselves, comments they make… and so on. It is called first impressions. And they count, just ask people applying for jobs.

Then as we get to know people we continue to make judgments, hopefully based on more substantive matters. Let’s face it, we are regularly making judgments about people.

Because of this, Jesus’ Words struck home as I read his opening salvo… Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

It is the second paragraph that really hit me, the plank and speck paragraph. Jesus played hardball.  He gives my neighbor the speck and I have the plank, which tells me I need to deal with my problems at home –in my life- before I try to solve others’ problems. And often that which I notice (and judge) in other’s lives reveals issues in my own life.

One thing I am trying to do (unfortunately, I am more unsuccessful than successful) is to make a mental note of what issues I judge in others and then examine my life through those lenses. Hopefully, that is one way I can live out Jesus’ Word to remove my plank before I take on other’s specks…

Lord, I need a lot of help with this judging thing.  Please help me. Amen.