1455.) Matthew 10

November 28, 2014

Matthew 10   (NRSV)

The Twelve Apostles

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.

2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.



Were the 12 disciples the first organized Young Men’s Christian Association?!  “Y.M.C.A.”  —  the original music video by the Village People, 1979.


The Mission of the Twelve

5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 9Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.

When they came among others, they were to be workers among them.  They would work among them in both spiritual work and practical work.  We can imagine them preaching the Word of God, praying for and with people, and helping with the farm work.

Even though the twelve could expect their needs to be met through the people they served, they should never require their needs to be met as payment.  The foundational principle was freely you have received, freely give.

–David Guzik

11″Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12As you enter the house, greet it. 13If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Coming Persecutions

16“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

This isn’t a justification of poor preparation in teaching and preaching God’s Word, but it is a promise of strength and guidance for the persecuted who have an opportunity to testify of Jesus.

21″Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

Whom to Fear

two sparrows

26“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

“There is no cure for the fear of man like the fear of God.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.


I remember my mother, Maurine Riskedahl, reciting this poem to me when I was a child, helping her hang clothes on the clothesline of our Iowa farm.  I would hand her the clothes pins and she would talk to me about the Lord.

“Overheard in an Orchard”
by Elizabeth Cheney.

Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I should really like to know
why these anxious human beings
rush around and worry so.”

Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
that they have no heavenly Father
such as cares for you and me



No one does it better.  Mahalia Jackson sings “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.”


32“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

Not Peace, but a Sword

34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

37″Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

“Take Up Your Cross,” the Savior Said

“Take up your cross,” the Savior said,
“If you would my disciple be;
Forsake the past, and come this day,
And humbly follow after me.”

Take up your cross; let not its weight
Pervade your soul with vain alarm;
His strength shall bear your spirit up,
Sustain your heart, and nerve your arm.

Take up your cross, nor heed the shame,
Nor let your foolish heart rebel;
For you the Lord endured the cross
To save your soul from death and hell.

Take up your cross and follow Christ,
Nor think till death to lay it down;
For only those who bear the cross
May hope to wear a golden crown.

–Charles W. Everest; first published in 1833


40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;

42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”


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:
Jesus and the 12.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/m10-12-apostles-bw.jpg
verse 16.   http://media.salemwebnetwork.com/ecards/scripturecards/matthew10_16.jpg
sparrows.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/1812a-twosparrows.jpg
Jesus carrying cross.   http://i22.tinypic.com/2mdf395.gif
child drinking water.   http://www.madre.org/images/uploads/images/1252429475_Project_Nicaragua_WangkiTangni_WaterFilters1.jpg

1454.) Matthew 9

November 27, 2014

“Jesus Summons Matthew to Leave the Tax Office” by Jan Sanders van Hemessen, 1536 (Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany).  In all the conundrum, Jesus catches Matthew’s eye.

Matthew 9  (NRSV)

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town. 2And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

Psalm 103:3    (NIV)

who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,

3Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”

Two things to note here:

1)  This is the first opposition to Jesus in this gospel.  It will be a recurrent theme.

2)  This charge is what the leaders will use to condemn Jesus before the Sanhedrin immediately before his crucifixion.

4But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he then said to the paralytic—’stand up, take your bed and go to your home.”

7And he stood up and went to his home. 8When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

Isaiah 35:5-6    (NLT)

And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
    and unplug the ears of the deaf.
The lame will leap like a deer,
    and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Springs will gush forth in the wilderness,
    and streams will water the wasteland.

The Calling of Matthew

“Matthew” by Louis S. Glanzman

9As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth;

tax collectors

The Jewish people rightly thought of them traitors because they worked for the Roman government, and they had the force of Roman soldiers behind them to make people pay taxes.  They were the most visible Jewish collaborators with Rome.

The Jewish people rightly considered them extortioners because they were allowed to keep whatever they over-collected.  A tax collector bid among others for the tax-collecting contract.  For example, many tax collectors might want to have the tax contract for a city like Capernaum.  The Romans awarded the contract to the highest bidder.  The man collected taxes, paid the Romans what he promised, and kept the remainder.  Therefore, there was a lot of incentive for tax collectors to over-charge and cheat any way they could.  It was pure profit for them.

–David Guzik

and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

10And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Romans 5:8   (ESV)

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

12But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

The Question about Fasting

14Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. 17Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

Jesus’ reference to the wineskins was His announcement that the present institutions of Judaism could not and would not contain His new wine.  He would form a new institution – the church – that would bring Jew and Gentile together into a completely new body (Ephesians 2:16). 

–David Guzik

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.

20Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, 21for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.”

22Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

23When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,

I have read that the tradition for mourners in ancient Jewish practice was ‘not less than two flutes and one wailing woman.’

24he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26And the report of this spread throughout that district.

“Jairus’ Daughter: Number 2” by contemporary American artist Daniel Bonnell

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

27As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” 28When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

“Do you believe that I am able?”

For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

–2 Timothy 1:12 (New American Standard Bible)

They said to him, “Yes, Lord.”

29Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” 30And their eyes were opened.

Over and over again Matthew emphasizes that we must have faith in Jesus and that blessings come to us through that faith.  Watch for this in the upcoming chapters!

Then Jesus sternly ordered them, “See that no one knows of this.” 31But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.



HERE  is “He Touched Me,” performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.


Jesus Heals One Who Was Mute

32After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. 33And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, “Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.”

34But the Pharisees said, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.”

The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

The harvest is great . . .

35Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

. . . but the workers are few.

Matthew 9:38 (King James Version)

“Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

The key to the missionary problem is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer not work, that is, not work as the word is popularly understood today because that may mean the evasion of concentration on God.  The key to the missionary problem is not the key of common sense, nor the medical key, nor the key of civilization or education or even evangelism.  The key is prayer:  “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest.”

My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers


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:
Hemessen.   http://www.abcgallery.com/H/hemessen/hemessen4.html
Glanzman.   http://www.louisglanzman.com/matthew.html
Matthew 9:13.   http://www.4catholiceducators.com/graphics/Matthew9_13.jpg
Bonnell.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/9-bonnell2.gif%3Fw%3D450
harvest.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/9-harvest-ready.jpg%3Fw%3D450
faces.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/9-workers-few.jpg%3Fw%3D450

1453.) Matthew 8

November 26, 2014

“Leper Cured” by contemporary British illustrator Ian Pollock.

Matthew 8   (NRSV)

Jesus Cleanses a Leper

We remember an important foundational verse for Matthew’s Gospel: Now Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people (Matthew 4:23). Matthew went on to tell us about the teaching ministry of Jesus (Matthew 5-7); now he tells us more about the healing ministry of Jesus, and how His works confirmed His words.

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; 2and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.”

According to Jewish law and customs, one had to keep 6 feet from a leper. If the wind was blowing toward a person from a leper, they had to keep 150 feet away. The only thing more defiling than contact with a leper was contact with a dead body.

Barclay wrote:  “In the middle ages, if a man became a leper, the priest donned his stole and took his crucifix, and brought the man into the church, and read the burial service over him. For all human purposes the man was dead.”

–David Guzik

3He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant

“A Centurion’s Plea” from Clay Illustrations by Georgia Cawley

5When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him,

The centurion was an officer in the Roman army, obviously a Gentile.  Whenever the New Testament mentions a centurion (there are at least seven), it presents them as honorable, good men.

appealing to him 6and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.”

7And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.”

You half wish the centurion would have agreed to this!  It was forbidden for a Jew to enter a Gentile home — what would the Jewish leaders have said had Jesus disobeyed their human rule for the sake of God’s Kingdom?

8The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”

10When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.

“Only say the word . . .”

In the Roman Catholic Mass, just before Holy Communion, the celebrant raises the host and proclaims to the congregation: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” The people respond with the prayer , “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.”

That response is adapted from the centurion’s prayer in Matthew 8:8. The centurion asked Jesus to cure his servant at home. When Jesus said he would come to the centurion’s home, the man responded that he was not worthy to have Jesus visit his house. Besides, if Jesus would stay there and “only say the word,” then the servant would be healed.

Jesus did; the servant was cured. Jesus praised the great faith of this gentile centurion.

With the substitution of the word “I” for “servant,” this prayer becomes a preparation for receiving Holy Communion.

How do you know when you are worthy to receive the Eucharist? Strictly speaking, no one is ever worthy . . . but “Only say the word” is a way of acknowledging that all healing and grace ultimately come from God.

(from Ask a Franciscan, http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Aug2001/Wiseman.asp)

Years ago when I was living and teaching in Izmir, Turkey, I played the organ for the Catholic military masses there, and every Sunday I heard the congregation say, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.”  My heart heard.  To this day, when I take Communion, I hold the bread in my hand and murmur these very words to myself and to Jesus. 

Jesus Heals Many at Peter’s House

14When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; 15he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him.

16That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. 17This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah,

“He took our infirmities
and bore our diseases.”

Would-Be Followers of Jesus

18Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

21Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Jesus Stills the Storm

“Jesus lulls a storm” from Vie de Jesus MAFA

23And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”

26And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.

27They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”


Is there a storm in your life?

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal;
Chart and compass comes from thee.
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boist’rous waves obey thy will
When thou say’st to them: “Be still.”
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus Savior, pilot me.

–Edward Hopper (1812-1888), pastor of a small church in the New York harbor area, known as the Church of Sea and Land.



HERE  is a comforting hymn.  “In Times Like These, You Need a Savior”  sung by the wonderful Cadet Sisters.


Jesus Heals the Gadarene Demoniacs

28When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29Suddenly they shouted, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”

30Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.”

32And he said to them, “Go!” So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. 33The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. 34Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.


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:
Pollock.  http://www.eichgallery.org/ianpollock/ipfinal/m28.html
Cawley.  http://gcawleyart.com/images/clay/biblestories/ClayDetailCenturian.jpg
MAFA.   http://www.artbible.net/3JC/-Mat-08,23-He%20calms%20a%20storm_Il%20calme%20une%20tempete/20%20MAFA%20JESUS%20LULLS%20A%20STORM.jpg
pigs.    http://responsivereiding.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/pigs-2.jpg

1452.) Matthew 7

November 25, 2014

Matthew 7   (NRSV)

Judging Others

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

When our judgment in regard to others is wrong, it is often not because we judge according to a standard but because we are hypocritical in the application of that standard – we ignore the standard in our own life. It is common to judge others by one standard and ourselves by another standard – being far more generous to ourselves than others.

  • We break this command when we think the worst of others.
  • We break this command when we only speak to others of their faults.
  • We break this command when we judge an entire life only by its worst moments.
  • We break this command when we judge the hidden motives of others.
  • We break this command when we judge others without considering ourselves in their same circumstances.
  • We break this command when we judge others without being mindful that we ourselves will be judged.

–David Guzik

Profaning the Holy

M7 Pig in Pearls

6“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

Ask, Search, Knock

7“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

Ask with confidence and humility. Seek with care and application. Knock with earnestness and perseverance.”

–Adam Clarke

8For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Proverbs 10:22   (King James Version)

The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.

The Golden Rule

12“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

The Wizard of Id, by Parker and Hart

The Narrow Gate

13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

A Tree and Its Fruit

“Fruit Tree” by Calli Danae Hirsch, 2006

15“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Concerning Self-Deception

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

I find these verses some of the most frightening in the Bible.  The power of our own self delusion!  Oh, Lord, open our minds to understand clearly the difference between following You and following our own prideful ways!

Hearers and Doers

24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.


26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

28Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Proverbs 10:25   (NLT)

When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away,
    but the godly have a lasting foundation.



Oh, to build our house upon the Rock!  Psalm 18:2 says —

 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
    my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
    and my place of safety.

HERE  is Chris Tomlin singing “My Deliverer.”


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:
narrow gate.   http://www.4catholiceducators.com/graphics/Matthew7_13.jpg
pig and pearls.     http://blog.juliaallison.com/Images/Pink%20Pig%20in%20Pearls.jpg
cartoon.     http://www.paulkeeb.talktalk.net/images/goldenrule.jpg
Hirsch.  http://www.callieart.com/Tree%20of%20life%20series/fruit-tree-I.jpg
House at Fallingwater.     http://www.aspaceman.com/wp-content/gallery/blog_1/falling_water.jpg
house falling into water.  http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3015/2959726348_1ed2ccd261.jpg?v=0

1451.) Matthew 6

November 24, 2014

Matthew 6   (NRSV)

Concerning Almsgiving

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

God cares about what we do and the motive we have in the doing.

Concerning Prayer

5“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

“Oh, let us rather seek to be good than seem to be so.”

–John Trapp

6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Keep the thing so secret that even you yourself are hardly aware that you are doing anything at all praiseworthy.  Let God be present, and you will have enough of an audience.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

7“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.

When you pray, rather let your heart be without words than your words without heart.

–John Bunyan

8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus says:  Forgiveness is not an option!  It is an imperative.



HERE  is “The Lord’s Prayer”  sung by Charlotte Church.


Concerning Fasting

16“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Concerning Treasures

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

My mother knew this poem by heart and I remember hearing her recite it to us kids.

Let me hold lightly things of this earth;
Transient treasures, what are they worth?
Moths can corrupt them, rust can decay;
All their bright beauty fades in a day.
Let me hold lightly temporal things–
I, who am deathless, I, who wear wings!

Let me hold fast, Lord, things of the skies;
Quicken my vision, open my eyes!
Show me Thy riches, glory and grace,
Boundless as time is, endless as space…
Let me hold lightly things that are mine–
Lord, Thou hast given me all that is Thine!

— Martha S. Nicholson

The Sound Eye

22“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Serving Two Masters

24“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Do Not Worry

25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

31Therefore do not worry,

We are invited to know a freedom from the worry and anxiety that comes from undue concern about material things. We can reflect the same kind of heart that Matthew Henry showed when he said the following after being robbed:

 Lord, I thank You:
That I have never been robbed before.
That although they took my money, they spared my life.
That although they took everything, it wasn’t very much.
That it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.

–David Guzik

saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.



In 1971, Karen Lafferty’s rent and car payment were due, while at the same time her savings was gone and her job was teaching guitar lessons to only three students.  But at her Bible Study, they read from Matthew 6.  She came home and put the words to music, thinking, “Yes, that’s the answer.”  The little song soon became well-known around the world!  HERE  is “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God.”


34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”


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:
Lord’s Prayer.   http://www.gallery93.com/gallery93webpage/products/prints/christian/lordsprayer/lordsprayer.jpg
praying hands.    http://nescab.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/praying_hands.jpg
eyes.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/beautiful-eyes-ritemail_blogspot_com-007.jpg
lily.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/lily.jpg

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.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/2-3-kings-kneeling.jpg
Janknegt.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/2-3kings.jpg?w=450
He Qi.   http://www.heqigallery.com/gallery/gallery2/pages/4-FlightIntoEgypt.html
Satheesan.    https://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