Saturday, May 31, 2008

Matthew 16-18

This week I have been reminded that God is a loving parent (yes, again.) He provides for the big and the small. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he wants us to be “happy,” but surely he loves us and touches our lives on both the levels of salvation and sanctfication AND the levels of our physical and emotional needs. He can and He does solve our problems in ways that are unfathomable to us as we are asking Him for help. Do you suppose Peter ever dreamed that Jesus would get the tax collector off his back by telling him to go catch a fish? Maybe he thought that he could sell a fish for the money, but Jesus had other plans:

Matthew 18:27-
But we don't want to upset these tax collectors. So go to the lake and fish. After you catch the first fish, open its mouth and you will find a coin. Take that coin and give it to the tax collectors for you and me."

When my A/C broke down in the heat of a Gulf Coast summer, I prayed for help- but when the a/c man said it would be a week until the part came in, I thought God was telling me that I would have to tougj it out. Instead, it turns out that he was giving me a reason to take a break from household work (since wecouldn’t be in the house) to focus on being with the kids right when I needed it. By the time sleeping in a single guest room with a double bed and a family of four got to be too much for us, He provided a window unit that makes our bedroom a cool 70 degrees at night so that we could go home to sleep. God is good – all the time. Once again, all my worry and frustration was a waste.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Matthew 11-15

I don’t get it: Matthew 10:13
If the people there welcome you, let your peace stay there. But if they don't welcome you, take back the peace you wished for them.

It sounds like Jesus is being spiteful. It’s hard for me to accept this verse. I think though, that since God is righteous, it is right for him to spite evil. He could not be holy and also accept evil – that is the truth of our need for a savior.

I totally get it: Matthew 10:16
Listen, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. So be as clever as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Lately, my job is this verse. Every day, I feel like I am navigating my way amongst the wolves that I work with. They are out to get each other, and I’m sure at least one of them is out to get me. I’m constantly challenged to stay on top of them and protect my own interests without playing their games…and still finding time to do my job.

Isn’t that the truth: Matthew 11:18-19
John came and did not eat or drink like other people. So people say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and people say, 'Look at him! He eats too much and drinks too much wine, and he is a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved to be right by what she does."

You can’t make everyone happy. Even they don’t know what they want.

So wait – Jesus is the thief? Matthew 12:29
"If anyone wants to enter a strong person's house and steal his things, he must first tie up the strong person. Then he can steal the things from the house.

Something like that. I think the analogy here is that Jesus is reclaiming people who have been taken over by demons? Yes? No? I’m not sure.

Who are these “good people”? Matthew 13:43
Then the good people will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let those with ears use them and listen.

This translation (NCV) seems to use the phrase “good people” in place of “the righteous,” saints, etc. I don’t like that choice of wording, but I’m not sure if it’s because I’m used to the other words or because there is something wrong with it. I have a feeling this will come up again.

Haven’t you been paying attention?
Matthew 14:17-21
They said to him, "But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish." …All the people ate and were satisfied. Then the followers filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of food. About five thousand men there ate, not counting women and children.
Matthew 15:32-33
Jesus called his followers to him and said, "I feel sorry for these people, because they have already been with me three days, and they have nothing to eat. I don't want to send them away hungry. They might faint while going home." His followers asked him, "How can we get enough bread to feed all these people? We are far away from any town."

I read this and think, “What was wrong with these guys?” except, I totally just did the same thing myself…

ACH! Schedule?

OK- I'm behind on my posts, but I am actually keeping up with the reading. New post coming soon!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Matthew 7-10


Faith is the over-riding theme of these chapters and the theme of this blog. The whole gospel message is revolves around this one mysterious thing.

In Matthew 7, Jesus says:

7 "Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. 8 Yes, everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened.

We need only the faith to seek God in order to find Him.

In Matthew 8, the sick are healed when they believe that Jesus has the power to set them free of their infirmities. Some are healed by their own faith, and others are healed through the faith of someone who loves them. Jesus calls his followers to leave the lives they know and follow Him by faith. Then He chastens them for their fears and lack of faith when the storms come to the lake they are crossing.

In Matthew 9 – more healings, more callings by faith. Jesus makes a significant comment that His followers do not need to fast while He is with them.

Matthew 10 – Jesus calls His followers to put the faith He has been demanding of them into practice.

'8 Heal the sick, raise the dead to life again, heal those who have skin diseases, and force demons out of people. I give you these powers freely, so help other people freely.9 Don't carry any money with you—gold or silver or copper. 10 Don't carry a bag or extra clothes or sandals or a walking stick. Workers should be given what they need.

I can imagine standing before Jesus and getting these marching orders. I remember Sunday afternoons in college, hanging out with my friends in the band’s marching field practicing flag football plays. It was fun and relaxed, and we messed up a lot but it didn’t really matter. Then one Tuesday night we found ourselves under the field lights with uniforms and referees, and another team staring us down over the football. Suddenly it was like- OK, you’ve been shown what to do, you’ve practiced, and now it’s time to put it out there and see if you’re for real. I’m sure the apostles felt like I did that night. Unprepared. Unsure. Except losing at flag football is nothing like going out with no food or clothes to work miracles by faith in a man you’ve known for a few weeks.

How did they do it? They had known their God much longer than a few weeks and they somehow knew that Jesus was a part of that same God. They couldn’t have understood it, but they must have known in their hearts. I think the faith we are called to have in God through the power of the Holy Spirit is not really all that different from the faith we can read about here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Matthew 6-7

From Matthew 6:
28 "And why do you worry about clothes? Look at how the lilies in the field grow. They don't work or make clothes for themselves. 29 But I tell you that even Solomon with his riches was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers.30 God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today but tomorrow is thrown into the fire. So you can be even more sure that God will clothe you. Don't have so little faith!31 Don't worry and say, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?'32 The people who don't know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them. 33 Seek first God's kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well. 34 So don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I basically spent the last week doing so much worrying. In March, I retired from full-time employment, and my husband and I changed our insurance policy to one provided by his employer. This week, my husband told me that he had been trying to refill a prescription and found out that the new insurance only covered 60% of the $4000/month cost of the drug he needs. We spent quite a few days panicked, scrambling on the phone to find out what our options might be. I found myself close to despair, at times imagining that I would have to go back to work full-time so that my husband would not be crippled from not getting the medicine he needs. I prayed about it right away, but in my heart I did not expect God to solve this problem for me.

Just as we had given up hope, God stepped in and took care of us just like he promised. First, my husband’s doctor gave him a 3-month supply, free of charge. Then, we found out that the drug manufacturer has a program that will reimburse some of the co-pay. The best news came after my husband finally got to speak with someone in billing, and we found out that the cost of this drug will count toward our out-of-pocket maximum, so we only have to pay $1000 one time for the year. Even better, the drug manufacturer’s reimbursement will cover that cost 100%. God not only met our need – he met it abundantly and extravagantly.

I should have already learned this lesson. When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I started looking for my maternity clothes and could not find them. We searched every nook and cranny in our attic, garage, and closets to no avail. Eventually, I tried to think back to the time when I had packed them up, and I could barely remember a time when I had thought about getting rid of them. I had just gone back to work, and I was so miserable that I was convinced I would not have another child. That must have been what happened to them, but I was so depressed that I don’t even really remember. All of those feelings came flooding back, along with fear that I would have to go through that again and shame at having done such a foolish thing.

I sent an e-mail to my girlfriends asking if they knew of a place that had re-sale maternity clothes – I needed nice items for work and knew they could be pricey. One friend replied that she had a neighbor who was tall like me (I’m 5’11”) and a “nice dresser,” who might have some things to sell me. In the end, this person who was a complete stranger to me gave me – at no charge – 3 large plastic tubs and a garden-size trash bag stuffed with high-end designer-brand maternity clothes. These clothes were nicer than my own everyday wardrobe and more than I could have hoped for. God knew that I not only needed clothes, I needed to feel taken care of. I needed to let go of the dark times and mistakes that had left me in that position and feel like I had a fresh start. He knew my need, and he exceeded it. I have never felt so loved in my life. As I looked through the boxes of clothes, I just sat and cried for joy that God and this stranger would care enough about me to make this little unseen miracle.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Matthew 4-5

Ouch. The beatitudes are always hard to read. If I ever think I am getting it right, all I need to do is go and read Matthew 5. It’s not the description of sin that is most convicting to me. I already know that I am a sinner. It’s this line that gets me every time:

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (NIV)

Sometimes I think that I love God and not the world, or that I am done with the process of dying to myself to make room for the Holy Spirit to work in me. All it takes is those two sentences to set me straight. I know that I could not do this thing that Jesus commands, although it is for my own good. I could not cut off my hand or gouge out my eye, nor could I give up some of the comforts of my life, even knowing that I would be eternally better off without them.

Just one example- I love my house, although I know there is sin in the way I spend hours of my time and too much of my money making it clean and shiny and well-adorned – especially when company is coming, and especially if I know that the guests’ house is better looking than mine. I know all this, and yet I continue to do it. Why don’t I give it up? My life would be less busy and less stressed if I did. Do I believe that my friends’ potential judgment of me and my home-making skills is more important than God’s judgment of my stewardship? Actions speak louder than words, I suppose.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Matthew 1-3

Yesterday, I read Matthew chapters 1-3. This was the first time I had read then genealogy of David and Jesus without being a bored by it. I’ve recently read (well, book-on-CD’ed) the Chronicles, Kings, and Samuel in the Old Testament, and it was interesting to see all the characters tied together in one place.

Mostly, this section is about Jesus’ early life from the time Mary finds out he is coming until he is baptized by John the Baptist. I thought I had too much motherhood drama in my life, but reading this made me think about how much of an emotional rollercoaster it must have been to be Jesus’ mother. She had the most unplanned pregnancy in all of history (or the most planned, just not by her I guess.) She rode a donkey for days during her ninth month. She spent the day she gave birth wandering around a strange city (probably still on that donkey) with little hope of having a place to rest that night, much less a place to give birth. She had to leave her home and hide for years from a crazy king who wanted to kill her son so badly that he had every firstborn son in the country killed.

Every mother has a special bond with their firstborn, but Mary had a child who always obeyed, always did what was right, and always respected her. How prized he must have been to her! Yet she must have known that she could not hold onto him. Did she ever see herself reflected in him the way we see ourselves in our children? Or was he always “other” to her, the only one who could never doubt the miracle of who his father was and how he came to be hers?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Off in a cloud of snail sweat!

Well, here we go. The nature of this blog is this: It’s been a few years since I read through my Bible in an organized way, and this blog is my accountability tool for doing it now. I won’t be writing commentary or sermons. I have no seminary training whatsoever. I will simply be journaling my “trip” through the books of the New Testament and inviting others to join in with their own comments and thoughts. I’m excited to see what form this takes on in the coming months!

Here’s the schedule, for now. I fully reserve the right to change it as I go:

Week of:
May 6 -Matthew 1-5
May 13 -Matthew 5-10
May 20-Matthew 11-15
May 27-Matthew 16-20
June 3-Matthew 20-28
June 10-Romans 1-5
June 17-Romans 6-10
June 24-Romans 11-15
July1-Romans 16 / Romans wrap up
July 8-Mark 1-5
July15-Mark 6-10
July 27-Mark 11-16
July 29-1 Corinthians 1-5
August 5-1 Cor 6-10
August 12-1 Cor 11-16
August 19-2 Corinthians 1-6
August 26-2 Cor 7-12
September 2-2 Cor 13 / Corinthians wrap-up
September 9-Luke 1-5
September 16-Luke 6-10
September 23-Luke 11-15
September 30-Luke 16-20
October 7-Luke 20-24
October 14-Galatians
October 21-John 1-5
October 28-John 6-10
November 4-John 11-15
November 11-John 16-21
November 18-Ephesians 1-3
November 25-Ephesians 4-6
December 2-Acts 1-7
December 9-Acts 8-14
December 16-Acts 15-21
December 23-Acts 22-28
December 30-Philippians
January 6-Colossians
January 13-1 & 2 Thessalonians
January 20-1 Timothy
January 27-2 Timothy
February 3-Titus / Philemon
February 10-Hebrews 1-6
February 17-Hebrews 7-13
February 24-James
March 3-1 Peter
March 10-2 Peter
March 17-1, 2, 3 John
March 24-Jude
March 31-Revelations 1-5
April 7-Rev 6-10
April 14-Rev 11-15
April 21-Rev 16-20
April 28-Rev 20-22 & wrap up!