1450.) Matthew 5

November 21, 2014

“The Sermon on the Mount” by 19th century Danish painter Carl Bloch

Matthew 5  (NRSV)

The Beatitudes



HERE  is a chant of “The Beatitudes”  from the Valaam Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior, Kareliya, Russia.


When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.

I have read that this was the common posture for teaching in that culture. It was customary for the teacher to sit and the hearers to stand.

2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.



HERE  is a quiet conversation with God around the Beatitudes.


Salt and Light

A key thought in both the pictures of salt and light is distinction. Salt is needed because the world is rotting and decaying and if our Christianity is also rotting and decaying, it won’t be any good. Light is needed because the world is in darkness, and if our Christianity imitates the darkness, we have nothing to show the world. To be effective we must seek and display the Christian distinctive. We can never affect the world for Jesus by becoming like the world.  — David Guzik

13“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

from Monday Moments,
by Dr. Mike Halleen:

In ancient times, salt was not a food seasoning but a preservative.  Fresh meat and vegetables, in the absence of ice, have a short shelf life.  Bacteria need moisture in order to thrive, and salt lowers the amount of water molecules in these foods, keeping them safe to eat for an extended period of time.

The metaphor Jesus used here, therefore, was to not to liken his followers to something that brought zest to the world but something that preserved it.  People of faith keep society from falling apart.  Through faith the world is held together.  Where faith is lacking, life begins to disintegrate.  Without commitment to the moral compass that faith provides, the thin veneer of civility that keeps us from chaos is quickly torn away.

The nightly news shows us a stream of people trying to survive through deep distress.  A devastating hurricane leaves hundreds of thousands homeless.  An outbreak of flu has people walking around in masks, and there are murmurs of pandemic.  Worldwide economic recession creates crises for governments, industry and labor, as well as for financial institutions.  Stories come to us every day of personal heartbreak, and we wonder how some are able to bear the crushing load, or even survive.

But among the stories also are tales of helpers and heroes – salt.  A family from South Dakota travels the U.S. in a van offering counseling to the terminally ill.  A minister in Spain works tirelessly to teach a Christian and Muslim community to live together in harmony.  A rural Virginia couple donates 40 percent of their modest annual income to those in need.  A Texan relocates to Russia to help young people who grew up in orphanages to find better opportunities for education, housing and employment.  Heroes . . . preservatives . . . salt.

We who believe are the salt of the earth.  Living boldly by faith, we help to preserve this world and whatever kindness and mercy are in it, not merely for ourselves, but for the good purposes of the Creator who gave us life.

14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

The Law and the Prophets

17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Concerning Anger

21“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Concerning Adultery

27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

Concerning Divorce

31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.



HERE  is “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” — a classic by Tammy Wynette, from 1986.


Concerning Oaths

33“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Concerning Retaliation

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.

Proverbs 24:29

Do not say, “I will do to others as they have done to me; I will pay them back what they have done.”

42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

The rain, it falleth on the just
And also on the unjust fella,
But chiefly on the just because
The unjust has the just’s umbrella.

46″For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Block.   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/96/Bloch-SermonOnTheMount.jpg
salt and light.  http://vricky.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/salt-and-light.jpg?w=480
anger.  http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVstudies/MoralPrinciples/anger.gif
heart.   http://wbom.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/red-heart.png

1449.) Matthew 4

November 20, 2014

“Jesus Tempted” by Chris Cook, contemporary Southern American artist

Matthew 4   (NRSV)

The Temptation of Jesus

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

After identifying with sinners in His baptism, Jesus then identified with them again in severe temptation. This was a necessary part of His ministry, so He truly was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness.

It was a remarkable contrast between the glory following Jesus’ baptism and the challenge of this season to be tempted by the devil.

  • Then the cool waters of the Jordan; now the barren wilderness.
  • Then the huge crowds; now solitude and silence.
  • Then the Spirit rests like a dove; now the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness.
  • Then the voice of the Father calling Him “Beloved Son”; now the hiss of Satan the tempter.
  • Then anointed; now attacked.
  • Then the water of baptism; now the fire of temptation.
  • First the heavens opened; now hell.

Jesus did not need to be tempted to help Him grow. Instead, He endured temptation both so that He could identify with us (Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15), and to demonstrate His own holy, sinless character.

–David Guzik

2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  (Deuteronomy 8:3)

“Out flashed the sword of the Spirit: our Lord will fight with no other weapon. He could have spoken new revelations, but chose to say, ‘It is written.’”

-Charles Haddon Spurgeon

5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and on their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”  (Psalm 91:11-12)

the pinnacle of the Temple, Jerusalem

7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  (Deuteronomy 6:16)

8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”  (Deuteronomy 6:13)  11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (King James Version)

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.



HERE  is “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me” arranged by Moses Hogan, sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, featuring Alex Boye.


Jesus Begins His Ministry in Galilee

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.

The region of Galilee was a fertile, progressive, highly populated region. According to figures from the Jewish historian Josephus, there were some 3 million people populating Galilee, an area smaller than the state of Connecticut.

–David Guzik

13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”

17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

from Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition:

Main entry: repent

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: ask forgiveness

Synonyms: apologize, atone, be ashamed, be contrite, be sorry, bewail, deplore, feel remorse, have qualms, lament, reform, regret, relent, reproach oneself, rue, see error of ways, show penitence, sorrow

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

“The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew” by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

How God Makes Fishermen
by Os Hillman
(find him at http://www.marketplaceleaders.org/tgif/)

Our calling has three distinct stages, which we can see in the lives of many called before us, to become mature fishers of men who greatly impact God’s Kingdom. First, there is the gestation period. This is the development stage of our lives. It may involve years of normal work experiences. You may be a Christian during this time, or you may be following after worldly success as a non-Christian. Paul spent years in religious and political training, persecuting believers most of his early life. Moses spent years in the court of Pharaoh and 40 years tending flocks in the desert. Jesus spent 30 years living at home and working in His father’s carpentry business. However, all these years were part of their preparation.

Next is the crisis stage. Sooner or later, God calls you into relationship with Him. For many, like Paul, it comes through dramatic encounters like being knocked off a horse, blinded and spoken to personally by God. Some people are more difficult than others to reach and so require this level of crisis. This is a time when God requires major changes so that you follow Him fully. It can be a time in which God harnesses years of experience for a new life purpose. Paul’s earthly experiences would be used in his calling to the religious and political leaders of his day. For Moses, the burning bush experience would begin his journey in which he would discover his ultimate calling after years of preparation. For Peter, it was his denial of Jesus three times that allowed him to face his shallow commitment to Christ. For Jesus, it was the garden of Gethsemane. These were the benchmark turning points for men who made an impact on their world.

Last is the fruit-bearing stage. In it, God’s power is manifested in your life like never before. God takes all your experiences and uses them to build His Kingdom in and through your life. Your obedience to this final call results in fruitfulness you could never imagine without the long preparation process. For Abraham, it resulted in becoming the father of many nations. For Paul, it resulted in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. And for Peter, it meant becoming the leader of the Church. For Jesus, it was salvation for the entire world.

What does God want to achieve through your life? God has a plan that is so incredible you cannot comprehend it. It requires only that you love Him and follow Him. Then you will become fishers of men like the world has never known.

Jesus Ministers to Crowds of People

23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. 24So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. 25And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Cook.    http://chriscookartist.com/portfolio/spiritual-paintings/
stones.  http://www.gardensite.co.uk/upload/media/livingstone/aggregate/beach%20pebbles.JPG
Temple.  http://s942.photobucket.com/albums/ad264/stacipell/Jerusalem%202009/?action=view&current=Israel2128.jpg&newest=1
empires.  http://www.islamfrominside.com/images/Empires.jpg
di Buoninsegna.   http://www.oceansbridge.com/paintings/collections/92-saints/big/Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_1308_1311_XX_The_Calling_of_the_Apostles_Peter_and_Andrew_(St._Andrew).jpg

1448.) Matthew 3

November 19, 2014

Matthew 3  (NRSV)

The Proclamation of John the Baptist

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

John’s message was a call to repentance.

Some people think that repentance is mostly about feelings, especially feeling sorry for your sin. It is wonderful to feel sorry about your sin, but repent isn’t a “feelings” word. It is an action word. John told his listeners to make a change of the mind, not merely to feel sorry for what they had done. Repentance speaks of a change of direction, not just a sorrow in the heart.

–David Guzik

3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”

Our Lord Jesus was the coming Messiah and King, and John the Baptist was the one crying in the wilderness, and through his message of repentance, he worked to “prepare the way of the Lord.”  We often fail to appreciate how important the preparing work of the Lord is.  Any great work of God begins with great preparation.  What preparation is the Lord working in your life right now?  Another way of saying this might be — What problem are you dealing with now?  The Lord is using it for your good and for His eternal purposes!  And that may just be worth singing and dancing about!



HERE  is an exuberant “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord”  from Godspell, the film, 1973.


4Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Baptism was practiced in the Jewish community already in the form of ceremonial immersions; but typically, it was only among Gentiles who wished to become Jews. For a Jew in John’s day to submit to baptism was essentially to say, “I confess that I am as far away from God as a Gentile and I need to get right with Him.” This was a real work of the Holy Spirit.

–David Guzik

7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Baptism window from St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Colton, California.

11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

on DVD:

Godspell — A Musical Based upon the Gospel According to St. Matthew, by Stephen Schwartz and others; opened off-Broadway in 1971. 

The Baptism of Jesus

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

“In accordance with the symbolic significance of the rite as denoting death to an old life and rising to a new, Jesus came to be baptized in the sense of dying to the old natural relations to parents, neighbors, and earthly calling, and devoting Himself henceforth to His public Messianic vocation.”

–F. F. Bruce

16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

about baptism –

Certainly when the devil sees baptism and hears the Word sounding, to him it is like a bright sun and he will not stay there, and when a person is baptized for the sake of the Word of God, which is in it, there is a veritable oven glow.  Do you think it was a joke that the heaven were opened at Christ’s baptism?  Say, therefore, that baptism is water and God’s Word comprehended in one.  Take the Word away and it is the same water with which the maid waters the cow; but with the Word, it is a living, holy, divine thing.
–Martin Luther

Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely. Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.
–Max Lucado

The old Irish when immersing a babe at baptism left out the right arm so that it would remain pagan for good fighting!
– Unknown



HERE  is “Baptism”  sung by Randy Travis.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
John the Baptist.  http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_9l2lhz6XYkA/SZeAyqNC8aI/AAAAAAAAADY/4YYzUqVNVVo/s1600-h/baptist1.j
shell and dove.    http://stjohncolton.org/media/images/OurWindows/fullsize/Baptism-50.jpg
Jesus with dove.  http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/pics/Jesus_Son_of_god_Holy_Spirit.JPG

1447.) Matthew 2

November 18, 2014

“Three Kings” by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, 1900.

Matthew 2   (NRSV)

The Visit of the Wise Men



HERE  is “We Three Kings,” with artwork of the wise men as well as pictures of Bethlehem.


In the time of King Herod,

King Herod

This was the one known as Herod the Great. Herod was indeed great:  in some ways great as a ruler, builder, and administrator; in other ways great in politics and cruelty.  “He was wealthy, politically gifted, intensely loyal, an excellent administrator, and clever enough to remain in the good graces of successive Roman emperors. His famine relief was superb and his building projects (including the temple, the port at Caesarea Maritima, Herodium, and Masada) were admired even by his foes. But he loved power, inflicted incredibly heavy taxes on the people, and resented the fact that many Jews considered him a usurper. In his last years, suffering an illness that compounded his paranoia, he turned to cruelty and in fits of rage and jealousy killed close associates.”

–D. A. Carson

after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

Re: the wise men — they were more likely astronomers than kings.

Re: the child — It is a strange thing for a baby to be born a king.  Usually they are princes for a long time before they are kings.  D. A. Carson says, “His kingly status was not conferred on him later on; it was from birth.”

3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The idea that there were three wise men comes from the fact that there were three gifts.  We may say that gold speaks of royalty, incense speaks of divinity, and myrrh speaks of death.  Yet it is almost certain that the Magi did this unawares; they simply wanted to honor the King of the Jews.

“Adoration of the Kings” by Jim Janknegt, contemporary

12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

from “In the Bleak Midwinter”
by English poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

The Escape to Egypt

“Flight into Egypt” by Chinese artist He Qi.

13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

Psalm 91:11

He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.

14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”


“The Flight into Egypt,” by John August Swanson. Love the skies! Click  HERE.


“Angel Visits Joseph” by A. K. Satheesan, 2009. This painting is done in the traditional mural art style of Kerala, India.

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw


I love the story of Joseph of Nazareth.  All he wanted to know was the right thing to do.  His girlfriend was pregnant, and it was not his baby.  She said that an angel had appeared to her and told her that her child was from God.  That explanation did not seem plausible, but she had never lied to him before; she had always been a model of purity.  Now she was telling him that she was pregnant, and he faced a dilemma.  If he believed her story, he might be cooperating with her evil.  But if he denied her story and it was true, then he would be guilty of evil.  What should he do?

At this point, an angel appeared with directions for Joseph.  The angel told him to believe Mary and take her to be his wife.  Angels do not usually visit humans, but at this crucial moment in history they entered our world in order to help righteous people differentiate the truth from a lie.  We must be in communication with the One from outside of our world if we are ever to know what is right and what is wrong.  It is no accident that modern America has nothing to say about ethics and truth because true ethics come from outside our space-time universe.

At two other times in Joseph’s life, he received supernatural guidance when his only concern was the protection of his wife and her child.  Could it be that the purpose of theses stories is to let us know that there is no way we can be responsible for our family unless that we are in communication with heaven?  At crucial points in each family’s existence, divine counsel and guidance are needed to protect each member of the family.  God provided direction to Joseph, and he will do the same for you.

The Massacre of the Infants

16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

18“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they are no more.”

“Slaughter of the Innocents” floor panel designed by Sienese Matteo di Giovanni and inlaid with marble. (Siena Duomo, Italy)

The Return from Egypt

19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”

21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazarene.”


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Leyendecker.    http://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/2-3-kings-kneeling.jpg
Janknegt.   http://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/2-3kings.jpg?w=450
He Qi.   http://www.heqigallery.com/gallery/gallery2/pages/4-FlightIntoEgypt.html
Satheesan.    http://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/angel-visits-joseph-satheesan-a-k.jpg
Siena Duomo.   http://randomthoughtsfrommidlife.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/slaughter-of-innocents.jpg?w=590&h=391

1446.) Matthew 1

November 17, 2014

“For unto us a Child is born” by Hanna Cheriyan Varghese, Malaysia

Matthew 1   (NRSV)

The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah



HERE  is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” — a haunting arrangement by the ethereal Irish singer Enya.


The Jewish flavor of the Gospel of Matthew makes for a logical transition between the Old and New Testaments.  For this reason, perhaps, the early church placed it first in order among the four gospel accounts.

The Jewish character of this Gospel is evident in many ways.  There are many indications that Matthew expected that his readers would be familiar with Jewish culture.

  • Matthew doesn’t translate Aramaic terms such as raca (Matthew 5:22) and corban (Matthew 7:11).
  • Matthew refers to Jewish customs without explanation (Matthew 15:2 to Mark 7:3-4; see also Matthew 23:5).
  • Matthew starts his genealogy with Abraham (Matthew 1:1).
  • Matthew presents the name of Jesus and its meaning in a way that assumes the reader knows its Hebrew roots (Matthew 1:21).
  • Matthew frequently refers to Jesus as the “Son of David.”
  • Matthew uses the more Jewish phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” instead of “Kingdom of God.”

Yet significantly, the Gospel of Matthew also triumphantly ends with Jesus commanding His followers to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). So the Gospel of Matthew is deeply rooted in Judaism, but at the same time is able to look beyond; it sees the gospel itself as more than a message for the Jewish people; rather it is a message for the whole world.

–David Guzik

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

The genealogy of Jesus is arranged in three sections based on three great stages of Jewish history, writes William Barclay.  The first section takes its history down to David, the man who welded Israel into a nation and made the Jews a power in the world.  The first section takes the story down to the rise of Israel’s greatest king:

2Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David.

The second section takes the story down to the exile to Babylon — the nation’s shame and tragedy and disaster:

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

The third section takes the story down to Jesus Christ.  Jesus liberated people from their slavery, rescued them from their disaster, and turned the tragedy into triumph:

12And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

17So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

“The Women in Christ’s Line” by contemporary American artist Sallie Poet (left to right: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Mary)

Four women:

This genealogy is noted for the unusual presence of four women. Women were rarely mentioned in ancient genealogies, and the four mentioned here are worthy of special note as examples of God’s grace. They show how God can take unlikely people and use them in great ways.

  • Tamar: She sold herself as a prostitute to her father in-law Judah to bring forth Perez and Zerah (Genesis 38).
  • Rahab: She was a Gentile prostitute, for whom God took extraordinary measures to save from both judgment and her lifestyle of prostitution (Joshua 2; 6:22-23).
  • Ruth: She was from Moab, a Gentile and until her conversion, out of the covenant of Israel (Ruth 1).
  • the wife of Uriah: Bathsheba (who is mentioned by implication in Matthew 1:6) was an adulteress, infamous for her sin with David (2 Samuel 11).

These four women have an important place in the genealogy of Jesus to demonstrate that Jesus Christ was not royalty according to human perception, in the sense that He did not come from a pure aristocratic background.  They demonstrate that Jesus identifies with sinners in His genealogy, even as He will in His birth, baptism, life, and His death on the cross.   Spurgeon says, “Jesus is heir of a line in which flows the blood of the harlot Rahab, and of the rustic Ruth; he is akin to the fallen and to the lowly, and he will show his love even to the poorest and most obscure.”

–David Guzik

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

M1 Holy_Family

18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

“The greatest truth of the Scripture is that God is with us.”

–ascribed to John Wesley

24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

“St. Joseph” by Guido Reni, c. 1630 (Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice)


As his “body,” the church, through us, members of the body, the living Christ is always intruding, going where he is not necessarily wanted or expected, taking up space where people did not expect God to be.

In his earthly ministry, Jesus intruded into the homes of sinners. He showed up at a wedding and caused a scene. He came into places of death, where people hardly knew him, and brought forth unexpected life.

Maybe that is one reason people try to keep religion theoretical and spiritual. But Christianity is not a “spiritual” religion: it is an incarnational religion. It believes that God has a body, that God takes up space, that God will not remain ethereal and vague, distant and detached.

– The Rev. Barbara Lundblad



And  HERE  is “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy,” sung by Kiri Te Kawana, Michael George, and the Choirs of Coventry and Litchfield Cathedrals.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Varghese.     http://www.biblical-art.com/artwork.asp?id_artwork=12475&showmode=Full#artwork
Poet.  http://salliepoet.com/resized/7.jpg
olive wood Holy Family.    http://i00.i.aliimg.com/photo/v4/131605286/hand_made_olive_wood_Faceless_Holy_Family.jpg
Reni.   http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/r/reni/2/joseph1.html

1445.) Psalm 8

November 14, 2014
"Psalm 8 -- Man in the Universe"  by Irv David, 2000.

“Psalm 8 — Man in the Universe” by Irv Davis, 2000.

Psalm 8   (NRSV)

Divine Majesty and Human Dignity

1O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 (New International Version)

. . . to the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever.   Amen.

2Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

a note to “the enemy and the avenger”:

“Aha! Aha! O adversary! To be overcome by behemoth or leviathan might make thee angry; but to be smitten out of infants’ mouths causes thee to bite the dust in utter dishonor. Thou art sore broken, now that ‘out of the mouth of babes and sucklings’ thou art put to shame.”

—C. H. Spurgeon



“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise . . .”  –Psalm 8:2 (NIV)

HERE  is “The Lord’s Prayer”  sung by the enthusiastic two-year-old Zoei Toh!


3When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

4what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

1 John 3:1 (New International Version)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

5Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.


6You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,

7all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

8the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!



HERE  is “Creation Calls” by Brian Doerksen.  The video includes some beautiful pictures of our world.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Davis.    http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/jmjoncas/LiturgicalStudiesInternetLinks/JewishWorship/JewishWorshipMusic/OTPsalms/Ps008IrvDavis.gif
crown.  http://www.4catholiceducators.com/graphics/Psalm8_4-5.jpg

1444.) Psalms 6 and 7

November 13, 2014

Psalm 6   (NRSV)

Prayer for Recovery from Grave Illness


1O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, or discipline me in your wrath.

2Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.

3My soul also is struck with terror, while you, O Lord—how long?

4Turn, O Lord, save my life; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.

bent-over woman

“Deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love. . .”

Luke 13:10-13 (The Message)

He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn’t even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. “Woman, you’re free!” He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.

5For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give you praise?

6I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.

The Lord understands the meaning of our tears, when our words fail.

7My eyes waste away because of grief; they grow weak because of all my foes.

8Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.

9The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer.

“The Lord accepts my prayer”

We are certain that God will hear our prayers when we ask for what pleases him.  And if we know that God listens when we pray, we are sure that our prayers have already been answered.
– 1 John 5: 14-15 (Contemporary English Version)

When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed.  They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.
– Matthew 14:35-36 (New Living Translation)

10All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror; they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.

Psalm 7   (NRSV)

Plea for Help against Persecutors

"Psalm 7"  by Moshe Tzvi HaLevi Berger (The Museum of Psalms, Jerusalem)

“Psalm 7″ by Moshe Tzvi HaLevi Berger (The Museum of Psalms, Jerusalem)

1O Lord my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me,

2or like a lion they will tear me apart; they will drag me away, with no one to rescue.

3O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands,

4if I have repaid my ally with harm or plundered my foe without cause,

5then let the enemy pursue and overtake me, trample my life to the ground, and lay my soul in the dust. Selah

David is not claiming to be perfect, but that he is innocent of the charges his enemies have made against him.

6Rise up, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake, O my God; you have appointed a judgment.

7Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered around you, and over it take your seat on high.

8The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.

Psalm 139:23-24 (New International Version)

Search me, O God, 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.

9O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous, you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God.

10God is my shield, who saves the upright in heart.

11God is a righteous judge,

"The heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is a judge." -- Psalm 50:6

“The heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is a judge.” — Psalm 50:6

and a God who has indignation every day.

12If one does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and strung his bow;

13he has prepared his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

14See how they conceive evil, and are pregnant with mischief, and bring forth lies.

15They make a pit, digging it out, and fall into the hole that they have made.

16Their mischief returns upon their own heads, and on their own heads their violence descends.

My mother used to say, “What you put into the lives of others, comes back into your own.”

17I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

P7 sing praise_________________________


HERE  is “Sing, Sing, Sing”  by Chris Tomlin.  Don’t let a day go by without singing praise to our wonderful Lord!


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Psalm 6: 9.   http://wonders.wallpaperdave.com/ps06-09v.jpg
bent-over woman.
Berger.    http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/7-museum-of-psalms.jpg
judge and gavel.   http://s3.amazonaws.com/rapgenius/gavel-judge.jpg
I will sing praise.   http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2126/2087657653_a254ea45c9.jpg


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 535 other followers