Day 11 - What Does It Mean to Be Blessed?

Read Matthew 5:3-11

I've been studying part of Deuteronomy 28 this week, and it strikes me how similar yet different these two passages are.  Deuteronomy 28 basically says "If you obey all these commandments, everything you do and everything you have will prosper and be blessed"; while Matthew 5 is so counter-cultural (and by that I mean counter to the Jewish culture).  Jesus didn't say everything you had or did would prosper.  He said blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, the insulted.

Where do you fit in that list today?  Are there people who are in that list that you don't like, that you don't want to see blessed?  Are there qualities listed there that you need to work on today?

Jesus, help me to see where I am lacking today in character.  Form me, Lord Jesus, into your likeness.  Amen.

Day 11 - What Do I Need Jesus to See Today?

Read Matthew 4:23-5:3

Jesus has just invited disciples to follow him, in spite of cultural norms.  He and his new disciples are taking huge risks.  Now Jesus travels around and preaches and heals; and people from all over everywhere are coming to hear him.

When He saw the crowds....

It's hard for me to read this and not feel disappointed.  I have dear friends who are sick, who are hurting in their bodies or their souls or both.  I have joined with hundreds, maybe thousands, to pray for miraculous healing for one suffering saint that did not receive it on this earth.  Why those but not this one?  It feels sometimes like Jesus doesn't see the crowds who need him right here, right now.

What do you need Jesus to see today?

Jesus, I kneel before you today broken and waiting.  I trust you.  I know you.  But today I am asking for you to see and act.  For all those who are suffering, perform miracles; if not by your Spirit and power alone, then through your people.  Cause us to move in…

Day 10 - What is Jesus Inviting Me to Do? To Leave Behind?

Read Matthew 4:18-23

At this point, Jesus has already faced enormous temptation and started preaching a radical message.  He walks past fishermen, who actually made a decent living with that vocation*, and invites them to follow him.  They very likely had heard his message preached, and knew he was not just a random passerby.  His message carried weight.  But his invitation was more powerful than usual because most Jewish Rabbi's did not invite disciples to follow them.  Rabbi's were followed by the disciples own choice*.  

The Rabbi invited Peter and Andrew to follow him.  They left their nets IMMEDIATELY.

Then Jesus calls the sons of Zebedee who then also IMMEDIATELY left their father and everything behind.  This would have been recognized in both Jewish and Greek culture as a sign of radical discipleship, and it could have led to dishonor for James and John as they abandoned their family to follow Jesus.

Read the passage again.

What does this passage tell you about the kind of m…

Day 9 - Where Do I Need Light Today?

Read Matthew 4:12-17

A prophet is quoted again!  This time the passage chosen from the prophets shows the focus of Jesus' ministry: light to the Gentiles.  The heart of Jesus' message? - Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near!  These were very strong words from a new King in an occupied nation.  Israel was not exactly in charge of it's own affairs.  They constantly had another nation looking over their shoulder and bossing them around.  For Jesus to declare that a kingdom is coming....let's just say it probably wasn't the safest thing to preach.

How do you think the very nationalistic, proud Jews felt about the prophecy that Matthew brings up?  If Israel is God's chosen people, then the Gentiles are clearly not the chosen people.  Why would the Messiah come to include them?

Lord, shine the light of your love and truth on the dark places of my life where I refuse to see people as you see them.  I surrender my will and weak flesh to your sovereign authority as the…

Day 8 - What Shortcuts am I Tempted to Take?

Read Matthew 4:5-11

Jesus' whole mission was to show his authority and rescue his beloved world from the enemy's grasp.  Knowing the work, endless days of walking and healing, and the final tortuous death that awaited him -- I can imagine how tempting it may be to show the world Who he was and then have his world safely under his rule and reign. 

But it was not worth giving the actually glory and authority over to the accuser, Satan, for a false rescue of the ones He loved.  No short cut could actually do the work He came to do.

What tempts you to take short cuts or backtrack instead of pushing ahead toward the call God has placed on your life?

Jesus, I'm pretty sure I prayed this same thing yesterday, but my flesh and will are so weak.  I often chose the easy, immediate over the wise, more difficult.  Help me to remember and be obedient to your Word that is hidden in my heart.  I surrender my selfish desire to do things my way in my time.  Your way is worth it.  Amen.

Day 7 - How Tempting is the Word of God?

Read Matthew 4:1-4

Ok friends, it's time for me to be absolutely honest with you.  I hate being hungry.  I know that's a very privileged, ungrateful attitude. 

Have you ever fasted?  I have.  I've never made it past one week.  Three days is usually my limit.  Can you imagine fasting for 40 days?  FORTY DAYS???  Jesus was famished?  NO KIDDING!  I know Jesus is God, but at that point it seems like a miracle that he would say his food is God's Word.  Mad props, JC.  

What are the things that are hard for you to say "no" to?  What would it mean for God's word to be more important, more filling, more delectable, more tempting to you than those things?

Jesus, I am so so so weak when it comes to the simple desires of my flesh.  Help me be mindful of the millions of my neighbors who have no food, or no warmth, or no safety, or no freedom.  Help me understand what it truly means for your Word to be my food, my sustenance.  I surrender my selfish desires and hungry tu…

Day 6 - Delight

Read Matthew 3:11-17.  Read it slowly, and read it aloud if you can.

Was there a word or phrase that stuck out to you?  Take a few moments to think or write down your reflections.  Why does that word/phrase strike you?  

Read the passage again, slowly, aloud.  

That word or phrase that stuck out to you, ponder it again.  What could it have meant to the person who said it, or the ears that heard it?  What does it mean to you, today?

Read the passage one final time.

Talk with Jesus about the thing that stood out to you the most from the passage.  Ask Him if there's anything He'd like you to hear from him, or remember, or do.  

Jesus, as I read this section about John and you, I was struck by several things; but the one that stood out to me the most was what you heard from your Father.  "This is my one dear son in whom I take great delight."  My mind is constantly full of all the things I know I do wrong, or poorly.  I constantly fight a battle in my mind to not speak ill of …