Friday, February 23, 2018

Matthew 4:12-17

Matthew 4:12-17
English Standard Version (ESV)

  If you're a Cincinnati Bengals fan, you're accustomed to life without postseason success.  No matter how good they may be during the regular season, they fail in the playoffs.  They currently hold the record for how long its been since they won a playoff game -- it's almost 30 years, longer than any other team.  You think this is the way it always is.
  We get used to our surroundings.  We adapt.  It's a skill and a gift, in many ways -- if we're always in the light, we get used to it, and if we're always in the dark, we get used to that as well.
  In a lot of ways, we're used to the dark.  We have grown accustomed to the lack of light, and in some ways, we've forgotten what it's like to see the light.  I know I get so used to my work environment, so used to the way it is, that I often forget to think that it could be any other way.  I can't even dream of what it might be like.
  So when Jesus came, he brought light to the darkness.  The people who were used to dwelling in the region and shadow of death saw a great light, and their lives were changed.  I imagine their entire understanding of how life works was transformed by the arrival of Jesus -- they saw everything differently, as it was bathed in the light of Christ.
  When you go out into the world, it's critical to pray for the wisdom and courage to see the world the way Christ sees it, to not lose sight of the vision of the light shining in the darkness.  If we grow accustomed to the darkness, we'll forget that God has another intention for the world, a grand vision for how things are supposed to be.  Let's not lose sight of that -- don't grow used to the darkness and give up the hopes and dreams of the light.  Focus your vision on how Christ is alive in the world.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Matthew 4:1-11

Matthew 4:1-11
English Standard Version (ESV)

  The key to this passage is at the end of verse 2 -- Jesus was hungry.
  The devil is a pretty crafty character.  He tends to wait until the most opportune times.  When we are strong and able to resist, we might not hear from him, but when we are weak, when we are tired, when we are lonely and frustrated and upset, that's when the temptation tends to turn up.  Our willpower is lowered, our defenses are down, and we are more likely to give in to temptation. 
  If we rely upon ourselves in times like this, we'll likely find ourselves giving in to temptation.  But if you have a community of people, I'm willing to bet that someone else will have some strength that you can borrow to help you get through the tough times.
  Think of it this way -- imagine that you're traveling along a dark path at night with a fading flashlight, heading somewhere very important.  The temptation would be to give up and return back to safety, but then a friend comes along with a flashlight of their own, and they help lead you where you need to be.  In the future, you'll likely have the chance to return the favor, offering someone else your strength when they are in need.
  This is how we work as a community, relying upon one another, always looking to Scripture to lead us forward.  We help one another when we are weak.  That's how the Holy Spirit works in and through us to bind us together and lead us through moments of temptation.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Matthew 3:13-17

Matthew 3:13-17
English Standard Version (ESV) 

  Think about a passport for a moment.  If you're an American citizen and you go abroad, you have a document that demands that you are treated like an American citizen.  If you try and come back home, you don't have to give a detailed account of what kind of person you are and how you have grown up.  You don't have to detail all your childhood wrongs -- you are viewed as an American citizen and welcomed home. 
  This passage has great news for us.  Those of us who bow before Jesus Christ and acknowledge him as Lord and Savior are viewed by God the same way as Jesus Christ.  We aren't seen for our flaws and our sins.  Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, when he gives his perfection to us, we are no longer seen as unworthy -- we are seen as righteous and welcomed before the throne of grace to worship forever along with the saints and angels.  We who were once hopeless due to sin now have the boldness to claim that we are worthy of God's love because of what Christ has done for us.
  That's how much God loves you -- to send his son to transform your standing before God and invite you into eternity.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Matthew 3:1-12

Matthew 3:1-12
 English Standard Version (ESV)

  So I went to the grocery store last night and had a strange experience -- I was walking up and down the aisles, all the while wondering what I would do if someone ran into the store and started shooting. 
  It's a sad reality that I have to contemplate this.  It's far worse that there are kids who are afraid to go to school, and that there are teachers who have to think about how they would protect their students if the worst became reality. 
  I don't have an easy word that makes all of this better.  What I know that I know that I know is that this isn't right -- this isn't the way that things are meant to be.  We all know this, because the hope and joy of heaven is buried within our hearts, and when we see this heartbreak and tragedy, we know that there is an alternative, a better way, and we are longing for that reality to break through and tear down these horrors that consume our modern world. 
  John the Baptist came to proclaim that the Messiah was coming, that God would be breaking into the current world and pointing to the coming Kingdom.  Things would change, and the leadership of the day had the choice to prepare for that new reality and get on board or to resist and find themselves working against what God was doing.
  Today, in our own broken world, filled with joy and wonder and beauty and tragedy and turmoil and chaos and pain and tears and love, God is still breaking in, and we have that same choice -- will we join in with what God is doing, or will we resist and stick to our own way?  We can stubbornly resist and allocate God to a dusty corner of our lives, or we can commit ourselves fully to the grace and glory of God offering all of our time and our lives and our money and our energy and seeing what God might do with that.  We can repent of our sins, of what we have done out of selfishness and what we have failed to do out of fear, and we can bow the knee before the Lordship of Jesus Christ and submit our play and our work to him.
  It is a choice we make daily -- to let God work in and through us.  May we join with the coming Kingdom and align our vision and lives to what God is doing in today's world.