Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Treasure

There are so many people who have lost everything this week because of the damaging winds and rain from Hurricane Sandy.  It is so sad watching the news and see horrible sights such as an entire neighborhood on fire, homes ripped off their foundations, and to hear of the loss of life.  It is heartbreaking knowing that some of these displaced families do not live near extended family to help them through this tragedy.  We need to pray for the millions of people who are out of power and for those who have lost so much.  Let's pray that they will experience God's love and provision in such a powerful way.  As I continue on in the book of Matthew, Jesus had some warnings about where we place our hearts; please read Matthew 6:19-24.

Jesus warns us the dangers of treasuring the things of this world that are only temporary.  As we have witnessed, we can lose so much so quickly and He warns us about placing are hope and trust in such things. He reminds us that it is critical that we place our hope and build treasures in heaven.  I have so much growing to do because I grieve for the people who have lost so much in the last few days and it has made me reflect on the fact that I have so many things that I don't want to lose.  But Jesus tells us that if we store up treasures in heaven, we will not lose them.  Have you ever wondered what those heavenly treasures could be?  I would love to share some of my perspective that has grown over the last few years.

As I have learned to dig deeper in the Bible and learned to spend time with God, I have found that there are so many treasures that He has to share with us.  God has an endless supply of riches and gems that He wants to place in our hearts - gems that bring us closer to Him.  In the time we spend with Him, we learn to listen to Him and He speaks such beautiful things.  We receive treasures in the Bible that no one can steal from us; treasures such as truth, life, and hope.  The more of these gems we begin to collect, the more our heart yearns for them and experiences great joy when we receive another.  I just cannot stress enough how God changes the desires of our heart the more we spend in His Word and in prayer with Him.  It doesn't happen overnight; it happens over time.

Are you building up heavenly treasures that no one can take away from you?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don't Look So Miserable!

Did you know that as Christians we are to experience joy in our walk?  Did you know that our walk with Christ requires sacrifice that frees us instead of making us miserable?  Life is hard, but when we are in Christ we have a hope that brings us joy and strength.  Unfortunately, not everyone knows that life with Christ is supposed to be a life that is full and they live as though we carry heavy burdens when we walk with Christ.  The sacrifices that God asks of us are not to make our life even harder, they are to release us so we can walk with the freedom and victory we have in Christ.  In the same way, when we do things like reading the Bible, pray, or even fast; they are to bring a fullness to life not misery.  The verses I am looking at today shows us Jesus' view on fasting; please read Matthew 6:16-18.

These verses focus on how we can try to draw attention to ourselves when we are praying or fasting.  Just typing out that sentence helps me see the sin in that because when we are seeking attention we have lost our focus on God.  In these verses, Jesus tells us that fasting is something that is private between ourselves and God and should not be used to show how religious we are.  When we use things like prayer and fasting to show people how devout we are, we are also showing that our focus is not completely on God.  That is very humbling, isn't it?  There is nothing wrong with corporate prayer and fasting, in fact I believe that when we are earnestly seeking God, we can experience a unity like nothing else when we do it together.  Jesus is talking about the person who fasts just to show how strong their faith is.

But there is something else that I found interesting because Jesus also speaks against the idea of showing our faith by looking miserable.  Since we know that joy is one of the Fruit of the Spirit, this completely contradicts what following Christ is like.  Sure, there are times when He pulls us way out of our comfort zones and asks us to do things that are difficult; however, He hasn't called us to live a life that is miserable.  When we follow Him and make those sacrifices, we find ourselves surprised at the Holy Spirit working in us and giving us what we need in order to do what God called us to do.  So, instead of misery, we find greater fulfillment and joy.  Fasting is the same; we do not fast on a whim because it sounds like a very pious thing to do.  Fasting is one of those things that should be drawing us closer God and we should feel called to fast.

Life with Christ is a life full of a richness that this world cannot provide, so don't look so miserable in your walk!

Do you find fulfillment and joy in your walk with Christ?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Personal Conversations

Have you ever thought of why your best friend is your closest friend, or why you are close to your spouse?  If you reflect on it, you would probably find that it is because you have some important things in common, and some of it is probably because you have had some very personal and intimate conversations with each other.  You have shared things with your friend or spouse that you haven't ever shared with anyone else.  Maybe you are sharing some of your hopes and dreams, or maybe you are sharing some things that you would like them to consider as they pray for you.  Either way you look at it, the people we are closest to are close to us because of some shared moments between you and them.  God wants those moments with us as well; He wants that intimacy.  Please read Matthew 6:5-15 to see what Jesus taught about prayer.

Jesus points out the importance of private prayer.  Prayer isn't something to be used to show how holy we are or to show people that we are closer to God.  Prayer is a conversation with God.  Jesus points out that prayer doesn't need to be repetitive because God already knows what we need.  Don't get me wrong, Jesus wasn't saying that corporate prayer is bad; He is saying that we shouldn't be using prayer as a way of boasting about ourselves.  In fact, without having our private time with God, how are we supposed to bring those private and intimate struggles and concerns to God?

Jesus gave us a beautiful model on how to pray in verses 9 - 13.  We see that we are to praise our Heavenly Father, and I know that starting this way is such an amazing reminder to me that we can even bring our needs to Him.  When we start with praise and honor to God, we are reminded of how great He is.  We are to pray for God's kingdom and pray that His will be done here on earth.  We are to bring our needs before Him - our needs for His provision and our needs for His help living this life.  We are to pray for His forgiveness and we are to forgive those who have offended or hurt us.  If we cannot forgive - pray that God helps you forgive!  Notice what Jesus says in verses 14 and 15 - we have to forgive!  We are to pray for the strength to overcome our temptations and to be saved from the enemy's attacks.

As we look at prayer, I ask that you pray for the many people who will be affected by Hurricane Sandy.  They are predicting widespread damage and power outages.  Pray that God would protect people and provide for them in their time of need and also for the many rescue workers who will undoubtedly be put in dangerous situations.  Pray for me and my family as well since we are in an area that is predicted to have a high probability of power outages (although we are nowhere near the shore!).

Do you spend some time in prayer alone with God?

This post is linked with Sharing His BeautyMonday Musings and A Heart Reflected.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Public Rewards

Every now and then, the media will trumpet a major act of philanthropy.  The philanthropist is splashed all over the news because of the amount of money that was given away to a cause or an organization.  Sometimes, as we walk around the campus of a major institution such as a college, and see buildings that are named after a donor.  Not all buildings named after someone means that they were a major donor; however, there are times when putting the donor's name on the building is a stipulation of receiving the funds.  As humans, we like to receive accolades for the good we have done, but Jesus turned the tables on that thought during His Sermon on the Mount.  Please read Matthew 6:1-4.

In these verses, we read how Jesus pointed out that our focus shouldn't be on receiving attention here on earth for the good things we have done.  He points out that if we are seeking attention for our giving, then we have missed the point in why we give.  We should be focusing on pleasing our Father in heaven, not pleasing the world.  Jesus basically pointed out that if we are seeking reward here on earth, then we have turned our focus away from God.  Have you noticed how Jesus keeps showing us that our focus easily shifts from God to ourselves?

The problem is that it is really easy for us to shift our focus without even realizing it.  This is because our "reward" comes in many different varieties.  It could be that our reward is public admiration.  We want others to see that we are very generous and we are obedient to God's call to help others.  Maybe our reward is control.  If we are giving a large sum to our local church, perhaps we feel that our opinion matters more in major decisions.  Maybe when we are giving, we are expecting something in return from God - isn't that focusing on our heavenly reward?  But even that attitude shows that our giving is still focused on ourselves rather than focusing on giving to God and pleasing our amazing Creator.  God doesn't want us to give for personal gain; He wants us to give because we want to obey and trust Him.

Where is your focus in giving?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A New Perspective

The other day, I received a note from our health insurance company explaining one little change to our policy.  The problem was, I couldn't understand what it was saying because it was so full of legal jargon.  So, this note that comprised of two short paragraphs was obviously written by a lawyer who was used to reading such legalese.  It was a note to tell me about whether or not prescription eye drops were going to continue being covered; however, I finished reading the note not really sure if they were part of the insurance coverage or not.  Since I currently am not using prescription eye drops, I set the note aside.  In a sense, that is what the religious leaders had done to the Mosiac law; they had filled it up and added their own interpretations and the average Jew could no longer understand the heart of what God was telling us through the law.  Jesus had a way of challenging human perspective on the law.  And we see in Matthew 5 how He was trying to reorganize our thoughts back to the original intention of the law.  Please read Matthew 5:38-48.

Jesus had very different thoughts on our enemies and revenge in these verses.  In fact, He said that we were not to retaliate and instead, we were to respond with love.  That is not easy to do!  In fact, I believe that we can accomplish that only with the change that God does on our hearts.  But Jesus also shows us that we have to want that change - we have to actively choose to respond with love.  In these verses, Jesus points out that this is what sets us apart from the world - when we love those who do not love us in return.  I remember as a child, my mom explaining to me that when I am having difficulty with that I should pray.  I should be praying for God to change my heart, and I should be praying for that person.  My prayer focus shouldn't be that they would change into a nicer person or that God would change whatever was bugging me, but my prayer should be that they would experience God's love.  That was such good advice and it has helped me in many difficult situations.

Notice verse 48 - Jesus tells us that we should be perfect just as God is perfect.  There are so many things I could say about this verse; however, I'm just going to stick to one thing.  The Greek word in this verse translated as perfect is teleios, which means complete, finished, full grown, mature, and perfect.  It reminded me of James 1:3-4 (NLT), "For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."  The word teleios is used twice in James 1:4!  "Fully developed," is the first time it is used and the second time it is translated as perfect.  Do you think that Jesus was telling us that as we learn to love in adversity we are becoming complete - perfect?  Isn't that amazing and encouraging?  The law's purpose was to refine us; to make us complete and perfect.  Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the law.

Do you find encouragement knowing that what God commands of us is only to bring us to completeness?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To Keep a Promise

I really try hard to follow through on what I say.  I think this comes from the fact that there was someone close to me who would make a lot of promises and often would forget them.  It was sometimes very disappointing and painful when that would happen and I learned to not trust that person and for a long time I was even skeptical of other's promises.  I've caught myself doing the same years ago, and I didn't want to cause pain or disappointment, so now I say yes to things only if I know I can do it.  If I am not sure it is something I can do, I will admit it and say something like, "I'm not sure if I can, but I will try."  Don't get me wrong, I say yes to a lot of requests; however, I do actually make sure that it is something I can and will follow through on.  I want people to trust me and know that when I say yes I mean it.  With all that said, I still have to admit that there are times that I realize that I am not following through on what I said.  In those moments, I am reminded of the fact that good intentions are only good if we actually act on them.  Jesus tells us that it is important that our word is something that people can trust.  In fact He tells us that we shouldn't need to make a vow or an oath at all; please read Matthew 5:33-37.

Jesus was telling us that the need for an oath stems from unreliability.  We wouldn't need to make oaths if our yes and no really meant yes or no.  It is interesting how Jesus points out that we really do not hold any rights to the things that we try to swear on.  All of it belongs to God and we really don't have any ownership to swear by anything.  That is truly something to think about, isn't it?  So, in a sense we are claiming ownership when we are swearing by something and forgetting that everything belongs to God.  Thinking about it that way allows us to see that swearing an oath by something is from the enemy.  When we make a promise, there is no need to make an oath - just follow through.

Something that I have learned is that it is okay to say no.  For example, if someone at church is asking you to organize an event that you really have no time to do because you are already involved in a few other ministries, it really is okay to say no.  Even if it seems no one else is willing to step up and do it, we still need to consider if we can really get the job done and do it well.  It is far worse for someone to depend on us only to be disappointed because we have to step away from the job half finished.  Once again, the good intention of helping is only good if we follow through on helping.  This is not an excuse for ambiguity, because that is not what Jesus was teaching.  We also need to consider if we are saying no because that is what is best or if we are saying no because we just don't feel like doing something.  The bottom line - if we say yes than we have to follow through.  James reminded us of this in James 5:12 (NLT), "But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else.  Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned."

Does your yes mean yes?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Marriage

This morning, I did a little digging around about divorce statistics, and I learned that the perception of divorce in America is different from the reality.  This is both good and bad.  The good news is that I have been told that divorce is on the rise and hovers around the 50% rate; however, I read a few reports that showed that divorce was on the decline and was somewhere around a 40% rate in America.  Forty percent is still very high; however, this shows an improvement and also makes me wonder if not everyone feels that marriages have to end in divorce.  I learned that there are some things that will make a marriage more likely to end in divorce such as if you lived together prior to marriage you were more likely to divorce.  If one person is a smoker in the marriage and the other is not, that marriage is more likely to end in a divorce.  One statistic I learned according to the Barna Group was that one of the lowest divorce rates in America was among "evangelicals."  The Barna Group termed someone "evangelical" based on seven faith criteria not on what church they went to or how often they went to church.  Evangelicals had a divorce rate of 26%, while non-evangelical born again Christians had a divorce rate of 33%.  You can find more information about the Barna Group research at their website.  During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said a few things about divorce; please read Matthew 5:27-32.

Jesus first talks about adultery in these verses.  Adultery is having sex with a married or engaged woman.  He explains that even looking at someone lustfully is committing adultery and it would be far better to cut out your eye than cause yourself to sin in such a way.  Jesus never really beat around the bush, did He?  These verses are a pretty graphic view on how God feels about adultery and marriage.  We can see how important the bond of marriage is to God.  Jesus continued in these verses to explain that divorce is not to be considered lightly.  The only time Jesus said divorce should happen is if there has been unfaithfulness in the marriage.

Look, I am not condemning people who have been divorced; I am a child of divorced parents and I understand that there are circumstances where divorce is necessary.  There are times when a spouse is battered or the children are being abused; and I believe that safety is very important!  In fact, I believe that we in the church need to be careful not to judge those who are divorced because we do not know the circumstances surrounding the divorce.  Besides, we need to be more concerned about preserving our own marriages than worrying about why someone is divorced.  But I also believe there is a reason that Jesus spoke so strongly about adultery and divorce.  I have also seen the effect of divorce on children and the link between poverty and single parent homes is staggering.  Marriage is a beautiful gift from God and we have an enemy who wants to destroy it.  Let's pray for the protection of our marriages rather than focusing on divorce.

Do you pray over your marriage?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Conflict

A few years ago, my family took a vacation in Arizona and we drove along the Coronado Trail.  This is a road that winds up into the mountains, where it leaves the desert behind and twists and turns through areas filled with majestic Ponderosa Pines and beautiful Aspens.  We drove into an area that had just been in a forest fire and we found out later that the road had just been reopened after being closed for a day because of the fire.  We stopped and investigated the area because the site was so fresh and was still smoldering.  As we walked through the area, we saw some tree stumps that were smoking and when you looked down into them you could see that the roots were still burning.  We learned that was one of the reasons why forest fires in the mountains are so difficult to extinguish.  The ground is rock, so they cannot bulldoze the trees that are burning at the roots.  If the conditions are dry enough, the fire may spread through the roots.  Anger is the same way; once it takes root in our heart it is so difficult to extinguish.  Please read what Jesus said about anger and conflict in Matthew 5:21-26.

One of the things that really got my attention in these verses is that Jesus doesn't say anything about the person that may have done something that caused us to be offended.  Notice that He only focuses on our own reactions.  Do you ever wonder why He always focused on us rather than the other person?  I think there are a few reasons for that.  First of all, we cannot control the way the other person reacts and behaves; however, we can control our behavior and reactions.  I think this is such an important point to consider that will help us before anger begins to take control.  We don't have to stay angry.

That brings me to my other point which is, anger will only do harm to ourselves.  We may do things that are hurtful to other people out of our anger, but the greatest danger is still what we do to ourselves in our anger.  Jesus warns that we put ourselves in danger of judgement because of our anger.  Notice that Jesus doesn't say anything about being justified in our anger because someone didn't apologize, He told us to stay away from the dangers of anger.

Jesus also teaches the importance of reconciliation.  Once again, He places that on our shoulders and not on the shoulders of the other person.  He tells us that if there is something that we need to make right with someone that we should do it quickly.  He doesn't say anything about the other person's obligation to forgive; He only mentions our part in the reconciliation.  I think it is so important for us to keep focused on our part in forgiveness and reconciliation because the minute we focus on what the other person should be doing, we forget what God expects from us.

Is there anger smoldering in your heart?  Do you need to apologize to someone?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Accomplish Its Purpose

Something I have learned being a parent is that there are household rules that we make for various reasons.  Some of them have the sole purpose of keeping our kiddos safe, while others are made to help the home run smoothly.  Some of the rules are in place to help our children learn valuable life skills while they are still under our roof.  No matter what, when we make rules they have a purpose.  Jesus tells us that God's law is the same way; it has a purpose and there is no part that is least significant.  Let's look at what Jesus said about the law in Matthew 5:17-20.

Jesus explained that it is not for us to pick and choose which part of God's law is more important than others.  In fact, He even said that His purpose was not to abolish the law, but it was to accomplish its purpose.  What is the purpose of the law?  The law helps us to understand what is and is not acceptable to God.  The law helped draw the line in the sand between the righteous and the unrighteous.  Well, that is an interesting thought because Jesus also warns us that unless our righteousness is better than the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, we will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.  This had to be so confusing for some people to hear because Jesus just explained the importance of the law and its purpose, yet He also told them that they had to be more righteous than the people who knew and understood the law the best.

We have the ability of hindsight to see that Jesus accomplished its purpose on the cross.  Since none of us can claim to be perfect and fully obedient to the law, non of us could truly claim to be righteous.  The law cannot fix this dilemma for any of us because we have already broken it.  But Jesus, who was the only righteous person, took our unrighteousness and carried that burden to the cross and suffered the consequence of death.  The most incredible thing is that He conquered death and rose again, and He shared that victory with all of us!  He accomplished the purpose of the law!  This is accomplished in each person who understands the low place they are in and need and accept Jesus' gift in order to be saved.

Do you believe that Jesus accomplished the law's purpose in order that we can have a righteousness that is required?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Who Are You?

One of my favorite genres of literature is fantasy because I enjoy picking up a book and being taken to a world that doesn't exist.  It is fun to read another person's adventure and wonder if you could ever respond so heroic in such difficult situations.  My favorite fantasy author is without a doubt J.R.R. Tolkien.  The world he created in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings just draws me in.  But I also enjoy how there isn't a single hero in the books that is perfect.  Each and every one has a struggle at some point or makes a critical error.  Tolkien made it very clear that he did not write these books as an allegory, but there are some things in the books that reminds me of how God interacts with us.  The one thing I am thinking about today is when Bilbo is first introduced to the dwarves that he is about to have as traveling and adventure companions.  The dwarves needed a burglar to pull off the job they needed done, and Gandalf declared the unadventurous and respectable hobbit, Bilbo, as the burglar.  When the dwarves protested, Gandalf responded that if he called Bilbo a fit companion and burglar for their trip, then that was who he is.  Reading that made me pause because isn't that what God does with us?  Doesn't He declare us to be something that we don't see in ourselves nor do other people?  Yesterday, I began reading through the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus gave; I would like to continue today and see what Jesus declared about us.  Please read Matthew 5:13-16.

Jesus called us salt and light.  Those are both very powerful elements in our world.  Salt is important for more than just flavoring, although it sure makes food taste good!.  Salt also creates a chemical reaction that helps in baking, which is why cookies require a pinch of salt.  Jesus declared His followers as the salt of the earth.  God chooses to use us as the ones to make this life taste good.  God chooses to use us to enhance this life for those who are without Him.  Can you imagine this life without God?

Light is so important because it exposes the dark.  Light illuminates and shines the way to God.  Dark is the absence of light but requires light in order to exist.  Without the existence of light, how could the absence of light exist?  Jesus tells us that we can shine our lights to the whole world by doing the good deeds that please our Heavenly Father.  When we do His work in this hurting world we are bringing glory to God.  We are shining the light of our Creator.  You have to admit that when you are trying to make your way through a dark room, the moment that even the tiniest light is seen, you are drawn to it.  God chooses us to draw people to Him.  How amazing is that!?  We are God's salt and light - even if you don't see it in yourself.  That is what God has declared about you.

Do you believe you are who God says you are?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What Is Your Attitude?

© DepositPhotos, iqoncept 
Four times a year, my children receive a report card that shows how they have been performing in their studies at school.  There is a small section of the report card that show some behavior and attitude scoring.  The behavior is probably fairly easy to put on a grade because there are measurable things to bring to account when considering the grade.  But, I'm sure that the attitude grade isn't quite as easy because who is to say what the child's attitude truly is?  For example, when I was in elementary and middle school I went to a parochial school where they handed out a monthly award based on the Fruit of the Spirit.  I always seemed to win the award for peace, which was so far from the truth.  The fact that I was shy and quiet seemed to hide the fact that I was so consumed with fear and worry that I actually gave myself stomach cramps.  Really, what our true attitude and feelings are only expressed internally and they are left between ourselves and God.  But Jesus reminded us when He began His famous Sermon on the Mount that God cares about what our true attitudes and struggles are and gave us some encouragement.  Please read Matthew 5:1-12.

These twelve verses are known as the Beatitudes, and each one could have its own book; however, my goal is to write a quick post and not a set of books.  So, if it seems that I am gliding over these verses, I apologize.  The first set of people Jesus tells is blessed are those who are the poor in spirit.  The Greek word translated as poor can refer to wealth and also to a lack of knowledge.  It seems to reflect the person who is in a position that they cannot get out of themselves without a helping hand.  Their promise is the kingdom of God.  The next set of people are the ones who mourn and they are promised comfort.  The next set of people are the meek, and the Greek used here could also be translated as gentle.  Jesus promised that they would inherit the whole earth.  The next people Jesus mentions are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (the NLT translates it as justice; however, looking at the Greek definition righteousness fits the context better).  We are told that they will be satisfied.

Jesus mentions those who show mercy will also receive mercy.  I just think of how the book of Matthew tells the story of Jesus' parents and how His own mother was shown mercy from His father, Joseph.  The next set of people Jesus mentions are the pure in heart.  This is such an interesting one that I want to stop and take note because it is a little gem.  The Greek word, katharos is translated as pure and can mean without sin or blemish, but its first definition is the process of purification such as being refined in fire.  Within that first definition it can also elude to the pruning away of branches so the vine can bear more fruit.  So, I just want to say that this is so beautiful because the purifying of our hearts is not done by us, but by God.  The promise to the pure in heart is that they will see God.  What a wonderful promise!

Those who work for peace will be called the children of God.  And then Jesus talks about those who are persecuted for doing what is right and for what they believe.  These people are promised the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus actually tells us that we can rejoice in the persecution because there is a great reward for those who endure the persecution.  They are in the company of the ancient prophets!  These verses are so full of encouragement and promise.  The wonderful thing is that notice the first people that are mentioned are those who know that they are in a position that they need help.  Of course, in particular help from God.  This is first and foremost the place in which we all start on our journey, isn't it?  If we cannot recognize that we need a Savior, then the journey will never take place.  But once we know and understand our plight, we can call out to God and ask Him to rescue us from our sin.  How wonderful and beautiful our Creator is!

Are you encouraged by these beautiful promises?  Are you challenged to ask for God's help to change?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Commitment

Matthew 4:23-25

We live in a world that has instant news.  Our TV shows can get interrupted with breaking news stories, and we can even set news sites to text us when something we are interested in has some updates.  We can make our homepages on the internet set to a news site so we can see whatever the top stories are at that very moment.  We don't have to wait for our news anymore and we can get news immediately from around the world.  Yesterday, when we came home from church my son found the live stream of Felix Baumgartner's record and ground breaking jump.  But when Jesus walked this earth, there was no internet or broadcast news stations.  It kind of makes you wonder what kind of press He would receive today.  Would there be constant cameras and live feeds on Him wherever He went?  While He was here, He had created quite a stir and was attracting so much attention that large crowds were following Him.  The verses I am looking today show that it didn't matter that all the media didn't exist; please read Matthew 4:23-25.

This is so interesting because verse 24 tells us that news about Jesus spread as far as Syria.  Today, that doesn't seem like it is so far because Jerusalem to Damascus is 135 miles; however, when you consider that people traveled by foot it is amazing that world about Jesus was spreading that far.  Galilee was much closer to Syria than Jerusalem, but it was still far enough to make it amazing that people were hearing about Him.  We also read that people from all over were coming to listen to Him and have Him heal their diseases.  We are told in these verses that Jesus healed every kind of disease and demon possession.  There was nothing that was too much for Him.

I just think of the fact that people were traveling so far to see Him and be touched by Him.  It is very humbling because things are so different for us now.  We don't have to travel to hear a speaker; for example, a month ago I drove about one hour to participate in a simulcast.  Our instant gratification makes it difficult to comprehend this culture and the dedication it took to hear Jesus.  We get to read His words in our Bibles while sitting in our living rooms.  We don't even need to step out doors to hear a sermon because we can turn on our radios, TV's, or internet.  I'm not saying that our access to such media is bad, but you have to admit that we don't always understand the commitment it took to see Jesus.

So, then it makes me realize why it is so easy for us to become a bit lackadaisical in our walk with Him nowadays.  Where is the prioritizing and commitment we need to make in order to follow Him?  I believe that God expects no less from us than He did when Jesus walked the earth.  The sacrifice may come in a different form here in America.  Maybe it is that we need to commit more than what we are used to committing when serving Him.  Perhaps we just need to commit.  Maybe we need to learn that we have to stop doing one thing in order to make the time for Him in our private prayer and Bible study and spend time with fellow believers in a small group.  It really does take commitment in order to follow Jesus.

Are you ready for the journey of a lifetime and commit to making Him your priority?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Leave Our Nets

Matthew 4:18-22

I really enjoy learning.  I don't know why, but it is fun learning something new that I never knew before especially when it is a passion of mine.  My greatest passion is God, so when I can learn more about Him and His nature, I get excited.  I don't just get excited about learning about Him, it is exciting to learn more about what pleases Him.  At times gaining new knowledge can be very convicting because that means I have learned something new about myself that needs to change.  Other times, the new knowledge is comforting because I gain a new understanding of His great love for us.  I guess that is why I have such a passion for the Bible - it is God's Word.  This is what tells me I need to know about Him and how I need to live.  It shows me love and redemption.  And going through Matthew, one of the Gospels, I am learning how Jesus lived and what He said so I can learn to be like Him.  You see, I consider myself a disciple of His as should anyone else who believes in Him as their Savior.  Today, I want to look at some verses that show us Jesus calling some men to be His disciples.  Please read Matthew 4:18-22.

These verses are interesting, aren't they?  First, it is interesting that Jesus would just call on some men fishing in their boats to follow Him.  Second, it is interesting that they would just get up and leave their nets and follow Him.  It begins to make a little more sense; however, when we understand a little about Jewish culture and rabbis.  Every boy had to go to school to learn about the Torah and memorize it.  After they finished with that level of school, some of the boys moved to the next level and memorized more scripture and gained greater understanding.  After they finished with that level, it was time to find a rabbi, but only the best students would move on to a rabbi.  They would choose a rabbi to follow and ask him if they could be his student, or disciple.  After some questions and quizzing, the rabbi would either say, "Come, follow me," or, "You are not able to be my disciple.  Go back home and learn a trade."  If they became a disciple, they left everything and did everything the rabbi did.  They ate the same food and walked in their footsteps.  But, as we read through these verses, we see that is not what Jesus did.

Instead of his students choosing Him, He chose His students.  So, when he told Simon, Andrew, James, and John to come follow Him, they understood that this man was calling them to be His disciples.  Notice that they were all fishermen, which means that somewhere along the way they were not considered good enough to be a disciple.  Knowing that, their response makes a lot more sense doesn't it?  But Jesus didn't just tell them to follow Him, He told them that He would teach them to be fishers of men.  I love this because we are told that they left everything behind, including their nets, to follow Jesus.

We each have our own nets, fishing for something that will help us along the way in life.  Maybe we are fishing for financial security, or maybe we are fishing for a position at the top.  We all have perceived needs and spread out our nets to catch whatever will give us our desires.  But Jesus tells us that we don't need to fish for the things of this world; everything we need is found in Him.  If we choose to follow Him, He will give us His net to spread out.  He will give us a commission to love the people around us and draw them into to God's kingdom.  God doesn't want to see one person fall away, and He invites us to be a part of His great work in this world!  Reading these verses, we see that if we are to follow Him and be His disciple He wants us to bring in more disciples.

Are you ready to learn from our Rabbi?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

To Join Together

Matthew 4:12-17

If you enjoy looking around craft stores, one of the things you may have discovered is chain mail jewelry.  This is a type of jewelry that is made from small circles of metal joined together to make a beautiful pattern.  I've never tried it, but it seems like it would be very time consuming but worth it in the end because of the unique creation you will have.  It is important to pick the right type of metal so that it doesn't fall apart or become discolored after all that hard work that went into making the piece.  It is also important to have the right tools so that way the job can be done efficiently and with ease.  In a sense the jeweler is making a chain of loops that are connected to one another.  This picture is an illustration of chain mail, which was a form of protection for a soldier.  Just as this chain mail has been joined together, Jesus came to unite us all as one as God's children and one body and He began to spread that message early in His ministry.  Please read Matthew 4:12-17.

These are some interesting verses that show Jesus on the beginning of His journey.  After John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus moved on and spoke the message of repentance to all people.  We see how this fulfilled more prophecy about the Messiah and how He would be shining the light of truth to even the Gentiles (non-Jews).  But His message was simple.  Repent of your sins and turn to God.  We still hear that message today - the message that says that we no longer have to be slaves to our sin and can turn our lives toward God.  But there was another interesting part of His message: the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  Some versions translate it to mean the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  I looked it up on BlueLetterBible.com and found that it is a verb that means to draw near or to join one thing to another (see footnote 1.)

I found it interesting that it could also mean to join one thing to another.  It seems that Jesus wasn't just telling them that the Kingdom was near, but He was telling them that He was here to join us all together as one body.  We learn more in Ephesians what this unity means to us even today.  Ephesians 2:14 (NLT) says, "For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us."  Ephesians 2:19 (NLT) says, "So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family."  And Ephesians 2:21 (NLT) says, "We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord."  Isn't that beautiful!  We are joined together as one through Christ - this is God's Kingdom.  Jesus came to join together the Kingdom of God as one body of believers and as His temple.

What do you think that means for us as believers?  How does that mean we should be with one another?

1.  Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for eggizō (Strong's 1448)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 11 Oct 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1448&t=NLT >

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Temptation

Matthew 4:1-11

Temptation...we have all faced it.  Sometimes it is minor temptations that we can overcome, and other times it hits us in our weakness and we have a difficult time ignoring the temptation.  Each of us have different temptations that are hard to overcome, so what seems hard for me may be easy for you.  But what tempts you the most may be something that doesn't even tempt me at all.  Sometimes we can do things on our own that puts in a place of great temptation and other times we feel like we have been knocked over from behind and are finding ourselves in unexpected temptation.  Jesus faced temptation just like we all do and He gave us an amazing example of how to push it away.  Please read Matthew 4:1-11.

The first thing that I want to point out is Matthew 4:1, which says that the devil tempted Jesus.  That is an important point because God does not tempt us.  The idea that He would tempt us is so contrary to what the Bible tells us about the nature of God; for example look at James 1:13-14 (NLT): "And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, 'God is tempting me.' God is never tempted to do wrong, and He never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away."  So, in order to understand and fight our temptation we need to understand where its origins are.  Temptation's beginning takes root in our own desires.  When you think about it, this makes total sense because how could we be tempted in something we really do not desire?  This also gives us one way to fight temptation; we could pray that God would change the desires of our heart.

The next thing we need to consider is the fact that Jesus used scripture to help fight temptation.  When He was tempted to do something that was against God's desires, He used scripture that spoke against that very item.  This is powerful because we can do that!  Something this is telling me to do is to memorize the verses that speak against my own temptations so when I am being tempted I can remind myself how God feels about it and use the scripture to speak against it.  In addition to scripture, Jesus also told the devil to leave.  This is absolutely incredible for us to remember because Jesus has shared that authority with us.  We can also tell our temptations to leave using the Name of Jesus.

The last thing I want to point out that we don't necessarily see in these verses but Jesus teaches us about fighting temptation is to pray.  There are several places in the Gospels where we are told to pray about temptation.  One example is found in Luke 22:40 (NLT), "There he told them, 'Pray that you will not give in to temptation.'"  I think this is important and it is something that I need to remember as I am praying in the morning.  Can you imagine the power in our prayers when we start the day asking God to help you to not give in to temptation?  It also reminds us that it isn't in our own strength and power that we are able to overcome temptation; it is in the power of God working in us that helps us overcome.  Here is one last verse to remember that gives us hope for those who overcome temptation:  "God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."  James 1:12 (NLT).

Do you believe that God will help you with your temptations?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop and Word Filled Wednesday.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Not Too High and Mighty

Matthew 3:13-17

I am one week into my journey with the gospel of Matthew, and today I am finally reading about Jesus!  The first two and half chapters had me looking at the genealogy of Christ, Joseph's response to Mary's conception, the wise men, Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt, and John the Baptist.  It is interesting to think that the first action of Jesus that Matthew chose to write about was His baptism.  Last week, I ended with John the Baptist being a rather eccentric looking man; however, many came to hear his message of repentance and hope and were baptized.  Please read what happened when Jesus came to him in Matthew 3:13-17.

John had been baptizing many people and one day Jesus walked onto his shores to be baptized.  Can you imagine how John must have been feeling baptizing the One who he knew was the Messiah.  Even though no one else knew who Jesus was, John was filled with the Holy Spirit and knew.  This understanding also helped him to know that he was not worthy to baptize Christ, rather, Jesus should be baptizing him.  But Jesus' answer in verse 15 is interesting.  The NLT translates it this way: "But Jesus said, 'It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.'"  As I looked at other translations it was worded differently, so I looked it up on BlueLetterBible.com to see how it is worded in the Greek.  I have to admit, that I don't feel like I have a complete understanding even after looking at the Greek, but I see that there is definitely more than meets the eye in this verse.

In the Greek, there are a few phrases that seem absolutely powerful to me.  Jesus' first words to John (literally translated) are "Permit it at this time..."  The phrase, at this time, is what caught my attention.  It comes from the Greek word arti which means, just now or at this very time or moment.  To me, it was as if Jesus was saying the time is right - the time is now.  Also, the NLT translates the next phrase, "for we must carry out..." where BlueLetterBible.com literally translates it as "...for in this way it is fitting..."  When I looked up the word, prepō, which is translated as fitting, I found something interesting.  It can also mean eminent.  That kind of gives us an understanding that it was highly important, not just a good thing.  This was something that was very important and had to be done at that moment.  Without continuing on with the Greek, Jesus explains that this is necessary to carry out all righteousness.  I have to admit, with my limited understanding of the Greek, I cannot fully explain this last statement except to say that I wonder if Jesus meant for Himself or for all people.

This first account of Jesus already shows us that He was on mission and was going to make sure that He was always in line with what God would have Him do.  John pointed out that He didn't need to be baptized by an imperfect human, but Jesus pointed out that the timing was now and this was what God required.  How powerful is that?  I wonder how often we are willing to do something that seems "beneath us" because it is what God requires of us.  Jesus lived each and every day of His life here on earth "below Himself" because He should have been sitting on a throne.  But that isn't the heart of God, is it?  Jesus's mission to save us was far more important at that moment than getting what was due Him.  This serves as a fresh reminder to us that no matter what position we find ourselves in life, we are not too important to do the work God wants us to do.

What does God want you to do today?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Odd Man

Matthew 3:1-12

When I was in 5th grade, my family changed churches and that also meant a school change because our new church had a school.  I didn't fit in too well.  My old school had an excellent academic reputation while my new school didn't have very good academics, so I came in further along than my classmates.  My old school started band in 4th grade and my new school started in 5th grade.  This meant that I went to band with all the 6th graders.  My classmates didn't like that I was in the 6th grade band and the 6th graders didn't like me being in their band.  I was extremely shy at that point in my life, and I'm sure I appeared snobby to my new classmates.  It was a tough year and I didn't feel like I belonged, but God was still with me.  We can feel like we just don't fit in, but God can and wants to use us.  Please read Matthew 3:1-12.

John wrote a very interesting description of John the Baptist in verse 4.  Just the fact that John felt it important to describe the clothes he wore and the food he ate should point out to us that he was different in some way.  We typically do not read about fashion choices or diet (unless it is pointing out what is in the law) in the Bible.  It is believed that John the Baptist may have been a Nazirite, which is a person set aside for God.  Luke 1:15 (NLT) says of John the Baptist, "...He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks."  We find the law about the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6 and verse 4 says, "As long as they are bound by their Nazirite vow, they are not allowed to eat or drink anything that comes from a grapevine—not even the grape seeds or skins."  The vow also required that they were not to go near a dead body during their vow, which may have explained his clothes made of camel hair.  He was not wearing the skin of a dead animal.

The point is, John was visibly different because of what he wore and what he ate.  But notice that even though he really didn't fit in, God was using him in amazing ways.  People were recognizing their sin and coming to him to be baptized.  Notice Matthew 3:5 (NLT), "People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John."  This man was different from everyone else, yet people came out to hear his message.  God had set him apart and was using him in powerful ways.  It probably wasn't easy to be different from everyone, yet he continued to be the person that God called him to be.

We may feel different, in fact I believe that is one way the enemy tries to stop us from doing what God wants us to do.  If we feel odd doing something, maybe we will not want to do it, so we are told lies that no one will like us if we do what God wants.  Don't get me wrong, there will always be people who don't like us, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't do what God called us to do.  Someone may think you are different or strange but there are probably hundreds of others that can relate to you and will listen about the love of Christ through you.

Do you feel different?  Do you believe that God still has a message that you can share with many people?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

God's Plans Will Happen

Matthew 2:13-23

Yesterday, I wrote how interesting it was that the wise men and Herod seemed to understand that the long awaited Messiah was born, yet the Jews failed to recognize this.  The religious leaders were so in the thick of things that even when they were questioned by Herod, they didn't seem to put two and two together.  The verses I explored yesterday ended with the wise men leaving the country from a different route in order to avoid having to report to Herod.  Please read Herod's reaction when he realized that he had been outsmarted in Matthew 2:13-23.

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had left from a different route.  When Herod realized that he was not going to know which child was the Messiah, he decided to have all boys ages 2 years and under in and around Bethlehem killed.  That seems like a rather harsh reaction; however, consider once again the fact that Herod truly believed that this baby was the Messiah.  He was threatened by this reality because he didn't want to see his throne overturned.  So many boys died because of his misunderstanding of why the Messiah had come to earth.  The Jewish leaders believed that he would free them from the physical rulers of the world; however, God's freedom is so much greater than that.  God sent Jesus to free all of us from the chains of sin and death.  Herod had no idea that he wasn't being threatened and he also had no idea that he could never out smart God's plans.

Joseph was warned in a dream about Herod's plotting and was sent to Egypt until Herod died.  Even after Herod's death, God warned Joseph in another dream to stay away from Judea.  Joseph moved the family to Nazareth in Galilee and that is where our precious Savior was raised.  You see, we humans can be rather arrogant at times thinking that we know more than the One who made us.  We can actually believe that we have a better plan, but the reality is that our "better plans" just leads us down a path of destruction.  God's plans lead us to safety.  Do we really believe that we can see things better than the One who created everything?  Do we really think that we can handle our problems better than God can?  I guess that shows how small our minds really are!  Instead, it is far better to know and trust that God knows what He is doing and He will lead us to where we need to be.

Do you believe that God's plans are unstoppable?  Do you believe that He knows what is best?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

In the Thick of It

Matthew 2:1-12

Have you ever been in a corn maze and tried to make your way out?  What may be a very easy maze becomes difficult because you only have one perspective and you are just making guesses on where to go next.  Several years ago, my husband and I took a trip through a maze that was made in the same shape as the state of Illinois.  The beauty of this maze was that they used some of the major freeways in the state and major landmarks to help you know where you were.  The maze started in Chicago and exited out of St. Louis.  Since I was very familiar with the freeways in Illinois, I didn't think it would be any problem at all to make it through; however, they didn't make it so that the freeways went through completely; sometimes they would dead-end and then they would pick up somewhere else.  It was fun, but much harder than I expected because I couldn't even rely on my perspective about landmarks and freeways in Illinois.  Sometimes we can be in a place where we are in the thick of things and we lose perspective of what God is doing.  Today, I was struck on how relying on our human perspective can be dangerous to our spiritual growth.  Please read Matthew 2:1-12.

As I was reading through these verses something really grabbed my attention.  I found it very interesting that the wise men saw the star and understood that the King of the Jews was born and they traveled to worship him.  Okay, the first thing that I find interesting is that they traveled to worship a future king.  Obviously they knew that this baby was more than just a king to rule for a short time; they understood that this baby was one who deserved praise and honor.  Also notice their assumption that all the Jews would know who they were talking about when they arrived in Israel; however, they were not getting any information from them because the Jews had no idea what they were talking about.

But Herod noticed!  This troubled Herod so much that he brought in the priests and religious leaders and questioned them about the Messiah.  He gleaned enough information from them that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and sent the wise men on their way.  He seemed to understand that the Messiah was born.  Once again, the priests and religious leaders didn't seem to put two and two together the way Herod did.

The very One that all of Israel was waiting for was born right in their midst and they didn't even know it, but others on the outside recognized what was happening.  Don't you find that interesting?  It is all in perspective.  You see, when we are relying strictly on what we see and experience, we may find ourselves missing out on something even greater.  We can think we understand and see clearly; however, God often works in a way that we do not expect or foresee and we miss it all together because we think we know what we are looking for.  But if we rely not on our knowledge and "experience" but rely on the Holy Spirit's guidance, we will always be going in the right direction.  We can trust in His perspective because it is always truthful and right.

Whose perspective do you use?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop and Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Difficult Task

Matthew 1:18-25

I love reading the Bible!  God put so much in there, and after following Him all my life and reading the Bible all my life I feel like I am still a beginner in my Bible study.  The more I learn from the Bible, the more I realize I don't know.  Yesterday, as I was looking through the genealogy of Jesus I went back and looked at Genesis for some reference.  In that process, I noticed something that I didn't even see while going through the book.  I love how I can read same story, yet God opens my eyes to something new.  When you experience that, you know that is the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart revealing what you need to know for the moment you are in.  So, even if you are familiar with the Gospels, pray that God would give you fresh eyes and ears to learn something you need to learn today.  Please read Matthew 1:18-25.

Something I want to point out about the culture and engagements - if you were engaged it was the same as marriage.  So when two people were engaged, you didn't just break off the engagement it was a process that would be equal to a divorce for a marriage.  The main difference between engagement and marriage was that the couple wouldn't live together or have sexual relations while engaged.  So, with that said, Mary becoming pregnant while they were still engaged showed a couple of huge social implications.  First, we are told that this happened because of the Holy Spirit while she was still a virgin; however, how would the people in the town believe that?  The other problem was that Joseph knew that he didn't have sexual relations with her, so he must have believed that she slept with someone else.

But there is something we learn about Joseph's character that allows us to see a small picture of why God chose him to raise the Messiah.  We are told that Joseph was a good man and that he chose to divorce Mary quietly.  He didn't want to publicly humiliate her even though he was probably very hurt at this point.  He would have had every right to point her out for the wrong she had done, but instead he remained quiet.  While he was sleeping, an angel came and visited him in his dream.  Notice the amazing greeting: "Joseph, son of David."  We learn in the genealogy that a man named Jacob was his father, so was this angel wrong?  Absolutely not!  This angel was pointing out the royal line that Joseph was from - the line of King David.  I think this was important because there was prophecy saying that the Messiah would come from the line of David.  Joseph knew that was his family because genealogy was very important to the Jewish culture; however, this greeting was also another way to point out the prophecy of the Messiah.  This was setting Joseph up for the rest of the story.

The other thing that was amazing was that Joseph did what he was told and took Mary as his wife.  Can you imagine what it had to be like to wrestle with the fact that your wife conceived a child through the power of the Holy Spirit?  Imagine how he must have felt knowing that he was raising a child that would save people from their sins.  Do you think he understood after all the angel told him that he would be raising the Messiah - the long awaited One?  Joseph and Mary were ordinary people like you and me who loved and honored God.  They were not angels or super-humans.  They faced the same trials we face.  But they both accepted the job gave them to do.  God may be placing a burden on your heart that seems beyond your ability, but know you are not alone.  Paul wrote about what God told him about his weaknesses in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT), "Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me."  God's power works through us to show His strength all the more.

Do you have a difficult task before you?  Do you believe in God's strength working in you?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, October 1, 2012

God Wants To Use You

Matthew 1:1-17

After spending six months in the book of Genesis, I thought it would be good to spend time in the book of Matthew.  We read all about our history and beginnings in the book of Genesis, and now I would like to look at God's response to our behavior by reading through the book of Matthew.  Reading through the Gospels is important because they map out the way God would like us to live.  We get to read through the words of Christ and examine what He felt was important.  Basically, while reading through the Gospels, we learn about the heart of God.  A friend of mine reads a portion of the Gospels each day, no matter what they are studying in the Bible.  They feel it is very important to read about Christ every day.  So, let's start a new journey through the book of Matthew to see what God wants to tells us about Himself.  Please read Matthew 1:1-17.

Perhaps reading through a genealogy list was an anticlimactic way to start a new journey; however, I want you to consider some things as we look through this genealogy.  First of all, after reading through the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we know that they were not perfect but their faith was amazing!  We see that even with mistakes and human behavior, they believed and trusted God and He honored that by building His people on their descendants.  As one reader pointed out last week, God chose to continue the line of Judah from Tamar, who was his daughter-in-law who had been set aside and forgotten by Judah.  Don't forget, Judah was the one who suggested that they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders so they could at least have a gain in the process.

We see Rehab mentioned in this genealogy (one of only a few mothers mentioned).  Rehab was the prostitute in Jericho who showed her faith in God by hiding the Israelite spies.  Boaz is in this same line who is the man who showed great compassion on Ruth (who is also mentioned in this list), Naomi's Moabite daughter-in-law.  We also see King David and his family line as kings over Israel, some of whom were faithful to God and others were considered evil.

What I am showing you is the fact that God chose to have His son to come from a line of humans that were far from perfect.  They were people just like you and me who had human struggles.  Some of the people in this line were considered evil in the eyes of God and even participated in human sacrifice.  But God chose to use two people who honored Him to raise His son - Joseph and Mary.  While our culture doesn't place the great significance on family line like the Jewish culture does, there is still some importance we place on it.  In fact just this morning I was watching how Joe Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's grandson, is running for Congress in the state of Massachusetts.  Some people believe that he won the primary based on his own record, while others believe he is riding on the coat-tails of his family.

But God wasn't concerned that Manasseh, the king who sacrificed his children to other gods, was an ancestor of Jesus; He was looking at promises He had made and how Joseph and Mary honored Him.  Maybe you come from a family that is well-known in your community or church, or maybe you come from a family that has some dishonor.  Do you believe that that God bases how He uses you on how well known your family is?  I don't!  In fact, we are told that when we are in Christ, we have a new family legacy - a spiritual legacy.  When we believe in God's grace extended to us through Jesus, we become a part of the family of God (John 1:11-13).  So, be encouraged because you have a greater legacy than any legacy or family line here on earth!  God wants to use you for His kingdom, and don't let anyone tell you anything different.  Believe and trust God.

Do you trust in your human family line, or do you believe that you are part of a family line that is far greater?

This post is linked with Monday Musings and Sharing His Beauty.