“But whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what makes a man unclean and defiles [him]. For out of the heart come evil thoughts such as murder, adultery, sexual vice, theft, false witnessing, slander, and irreverent speech. These are what make a man unclean and defile [him]; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him unclean or defile [him].” Matthew 15:18-20 ->me: I don’t feel like there is anything else to say in regards to this passage. Pretty plain -> Our speech is a direct reflection of where our heart is. What we say in an empty car when someone cuts us off. What we think to ourselves when we see something in someone that repulses us. I will have to admit that the biggest issue I have to tamper my mind and thoughts with, is people posing or trying to be something they are not. I lose all respect and am sometimes disgusted by their behavior…but I think this is exactly what Jesus is talking about. The behavior I am exhibiting in response to what I see is the sin. It is the ugliness of pride and the flesh that come boiling out. When you read what I have just said, it may not sound like murder, adultery, sexual vice, theft, false witnessing….but it is slander. Not only that, I feel conflicted by the Holy Spirit about it today and therefore it fits the bill.
“And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent around into all the surrounding country and brought to Him all who were sick and begged Him to let them merely touch the fringe of His garment; and as many as touched it were perfectly restored.” Matthew 14:35-36 ->me: Passages like this one always get me thinking. Here, Jesus gets off the boat in this area called Gennesaret (South of Capernaum), and people who knew Who Jesus was, ran into the countryside to grab those who were plagued by sickness. These people just needed hope and that is what Jesus offered. I was explaining this passage to Marianne and as usually happens, she has a great point of view on the topic. As I was talking to her, I realized that it was the faith of the ‘bringer’ that led to the healing of the people they brought. Whoa! This adds so much to the power of my prayer for others. Marianne also reminded me about the book we both just finished ‘The Praying Life’ by Paul Miller where he talks about all the examples in the bible about people of faith bringing loved ones and friends to Jesus (the man lowered through the roof by his friends as a great example). When I persist in my prayers, God is listening. My intensity and commitment to that person, matters to God. Don’t stop petitioning the Lord for that loved one. Then Marianne said another thing that was soo good. These people saw what Jesus could do. If I lived back then, and I knew there was this person who was healing people left and right, wouldn’t I take my friend Ted, with cancer, to them? I can! I do know personally this person Jesus, Who is not just capable of healing but is all knowing enough to know whether that healing is the best thing or not.
“But when he perceived and felt the strong wind, he was frightened, and as he began to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me [from death]! Instantly Jesus reached out His hand and caught and held him, saying to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt? And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Matthew 14:30-32 ->me: Ability to follow Jesus is 100% about focus and faith – Continuing with this awesome passage on Jesus walking on water, I am reminded that the point is more about Peter’s response. Peter -> “Lord, if it is You, tell me to come to you out onto the water.” —- Me -> “Lord, if this thing I am feeling my heart to do is You, make it clear that this is what I am to do.” I think we ask Jesus to tell us what to do all the time through not only our prayers to Him asking that He show us His will, but also for confirmation of something we think He might be telling us to do —- Jesus says to Peter and us, “Come!”. Peter -> In faith, he gets out of the boat and begins to walk toward Jesus on the water! —- Me -> In faith, I move forward towards something I never thought I would do (Short Term Missions trip, Adoption, etc.). When I am God’s word and seeking His voice in my life, I routinely jump out in confidence and faith into the void. This is the awesome power of faith. —- Peter -> He then sees the rough seas and wind all around him and he begins to sink. He cries out “Lord, save me!!”. —- Me -> I see all of the work, the possible security issues on my Missions trip, maybe the adoption of a child with special needs; and I start to sink into the fear and distrust that God can give me the strength I need, protect me, or give me the tools I need in the right timing. I cry out, “Lord, help me! Save me!”. When I do this I am admitting I can’t do it without Him. —- Jesus, IMMEDIATELY reached out His hand and caught Peter. —- Me -> Jesus IMMEDIATELY reaches out His hand and comforts me, gives me peace, and promises to give me the strength I need when I need it. It’s all about FOCUS and FAITH.
“The boat was by this time out on the sea, many furlongs, beaten and tossed by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea.” Matthew 14:24-25 ->me: This story about Jesus walking out to the boat on the crazy water during the storm is one of my all time favorite stories – there is so much here!! Let’s take some things here, one by one. 1) The boat was a mile or so off shore. It says that the boat was ‘many’ furlongs from shore (a furlong is about 1/8 of a mile) – out of view. 2) The boat was being beaten and tossed by the wind and waves and the wind was against where they were trying to go. 3) In the fourth watch (between 3am and 6am in the morning) He came within viewing distance of the boat (had to be close since the weather was so crazy) – remember Jesus had been praying since the previous evening after sending the throngs of people home. TAKEAWAYS: Jesus knows when I am in trouble even if I can’t see Him. When I am under tribulation and trial, Jesus comes walking in on my problems. I love this picture that Jesus is above the fray and He can even use the crazy waves as a transport to get to those He loves. He doesn’t take the waves and wind away, He comes to join and comfort them in storm. It may be God’s will that I ride out a storm in my life but when I see Jesus walking in on the trouble plaguing me, I can rest in the comfort that He is in control. I can weather the storm in peace because He is there…NOTHING can pluck me from His hand.
“And after He had dismissed the multitudes, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was still there alone.” Matthew 14:23 ->me: One of the interesting things about reading the gospel of Matthew slow and deliberate like this is that you find the nuanced differences in the recollection between the gospel writers. Here, Matthew simply says ‘He dismissed the multitudes’, but John says ‘Then Jesus, knowing that they meant to come and seize Him that they might make Him king, withdrew again to the hillside by Himself alone.’ John 6:15. Both John and Matthew were there but have different ways of recording it. Ok, now to the last 2 days of learning – Jesus routinely gets away to spend time between Himself and the heavenly Father. Jesus, modeled prayer to the Father in the same way we can hook into this today. Jesus (incarnate) was held to all the same constraints we endure here on earth today and which is why He spend time to get away to spend in prayer with His Father in heaven. For whatever reason, this really hit home the last 2 days. Connecting with and pursuing God the Father is hard but oh so rewarding! Jesus understood this immensely (He had a knowledge and relationship with the Father that we have never experienced). He would pursue and embrace the times He was able to get away in solitude to spend meaningful time with the Father. My pursuit should be no different. Just like Jesus, this is my way of communing with the Father…but as a benefit, I get the Holy Spirit as a helper and an intercessor in Jesus. God hears me the same way He hears His Son because His Son is mediating on my behalf. My Savior is my connection to the Almighty Father.
“He [Herod] sent and had John beheaded in the prison.” Matthew 14:10 ->me: John the Baptist had an amazing ministry and had been put in prison by Herod because John had rebuked Herod for marrying his half-brother’s wife (Herodias). Herod stuffed John away so that he would not cause more damage to his image but knowing the popularity of John, Herod stopped short of killing him. Then, on a whim, Herodias’ daughter (Salome [likely a teenager]) asked for John’s head on a platter as a gift for her mother. Having made a promise to give Salome anything she wanted, Herod obliged. There is an anger that wells up in me when I read this recollection by Matthew. I am fighting questions of how could God let this happen to the one who went before Jesus, baptizing converts and making ready the hearts of men and women to be tuned to God as Jesus came onto the scene. First, in my heart I believe this story played out exactly how God intended. Second, God understands our pain but His plan goes forth. When Jesus heard of John’s death, ‘He withdrew privately in a boat into a solitary place’. Jesus mourned the death of John – but John’s death was still part of the redemptive story. If I look at John’s death through a different lens then I see mercy. John was spared a painful death by being beheaded, and the Jew’s focus would now turn to the Redeemer, Jesus; and it was at this point that Jesus ministry took a turn toward the cross through teaching and healing…in fact, this is exactly what Jesus does as soon as he comes off the boat to the throng of people who had gathered. 1) I must see that the suffering of believers is part of God’s plan to build His Kingdom. 2) If I am to be like Jesus, then I am to react to these moments with sorrow for a time, but to respond in continued focus to bring more unto Himself.
“And they took offense at Him, but Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house’, and He did not do many works of power there, because of their unbelief.” Matthew 13:57&58 ->me: <I started this last night but it was too late to send – You’re welcome. 🙂 > The main phrase I have been focusing on with this verse is ‘He did not do many works of power there, because of their unbelief’. How does this show up in my own life? I am sorry that I keep referencing ‘The Praying Life’ book but the points made by the writer and my quiet times are so connected this week. Some of you have heard me say that when I am in a spiritually dry season of life I will carry forward with my pursuit of God’s character and will stick to my commitments to Him in spite of the trench -> “Duty until Delight”. What I am learning is that during those dry spells, unbelief can settle in, and that can have a direct impact on being elevated out of the ditch. Yes, I am praying and reading God’s word but my prayers lack deep conviction that Jesus is listening, hearing my pleas for His presence and touch in my life. Just yesterday I was talking to a dear friend at lunch and talking about how God uses these times in my life to help me see that it is not about me, it is about worship and glorifying God simply because of Who He is not because of who I want to be. If I don’t do this with a full belief in God’s power to answer prayer, or full belief in my hope in Him, then I am cutting short the opportunity I have to see the Lord do something big. Lastly, I need to see Jesus as GOD. Not the ‘Handy Man’ who might show up once in a while help me fix a leak in my spiritual tank; He is the tank, He is the Power and Reason for my existence. In the lowest moments I need to see Jesus as the Almighty God of Creation Who has chosen me, not the ‘carpenters son’.
“The kingdom of heaven is like something precious buried in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44 ->me: When I first read this verse I thought that the parable was outlining the sacrifice the man made to buy the field and thus own the treasure…but after careful thought I now realize that he was actually being self serving. The rest of his possessions meant nothing to him compared to the treasure he had found. To have access to and ownership of the treasure meant that he would have the desires of his heart. He could ABIDE in the field and revel in his treasure. This is just like what we do when we find the treasure of Christ’s Living Word in our lives. We leave the ‘old man’ behind and ABIDE in Jesus. There in Jesus resides the treasure of heaven, the Father, and hope in eternity. This book ‘The Praying Life’ is sooo good and meshes with this quiet time today soooo well. Today the book talked about the fact that making requests in prayer are weighted by the depth at which we ABIDE in our Savior and He in us. As I ABIDE in Him, my heart will be tuned to the prayerful needs of those around me by the Holy Spirit and those prayers will be answered. Prayer is about fellowship with Jesus so deeply that we have a spirit of understanding what Jesus is doing and our prayers fall inline with those needs. Wow.
Ben’s QTVOTD (Part 2) – “So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them (the weeds)?’ But he said, No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”'” Matthew 13:28-30 -> My primary deep dive on the parable was in relation to sower telling the workers not to pull up the weeds before the harvest lest good wheat be uprooted with the weeds. Jesus doesn’t address this specifically in His explanation of the parable, and none of the other gospels have a recount of this parable so I was not able to cross reference. After talking about his with Marianne, my thoughts are 2 fold. 1) In the context of the church maybe the workers represent the shepherds of the church since the reapers are the angels who will come and gather the evil and wicked out of the world at the end of the age. Maybe the accidental uprooting would be the human error of accidentally segregating out true followers of Jesus with the rounding up of the wicked. 2) Evil living alongside true followers actually is instrumental in driving believers to depend entirely on their Savior. If all the evil and wicked were removed before the end of time it would not serve God’s purposes to solidify and draw His own unto Himself. Regardless, it was an awesome time of study but not crucial theology to get hung up on – IMHO.
Ben’s QT Thoughts (Part 1)->me: The last two days I have spent time in 2 places – 1) Deep study into the parable of the Wheat and Darnel Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) and Jesus’ explanation of the parable to the Disciples (Matthew 13:36-43). 2) The start of the book Pastor Steve suggested – The Praying Life by Paul Miller. What has been awesome is that what I am learning through book is helping me to hear the Lord in His gift of understanding regarding the passages I have been stewing on. I cannot recommend this book enough. I am already on chapter 8 and I can’t stop listening. I am applying what Paul Miller suggests in the ways to pray and it is already having an impact. The passage on the Wheat and Weeds is one of the great times where Jesus clearly explains the parable. In a nut shell, A sower planted good wheat seeds and while the workers were sleeping, the enemy planted weeds among the good wheat seed. The weed seed (Darnel) was very similar in appearance to the wheat while growing but still discernable. The workers wanted to pull the weeds but the sower said ‘no’, because some good wheat might be uprooted when pulling the weeds. The sower said, ‘Wait until the harvest and then I will tell my reapers to gather the weeds up first and toss them into the fire and then gather the good wheat into my storehouse.’ Part 2 will come this afternoon.