Tag Archives: Matthew

Salt & Light

Happy World Kindness Day!

Jesus tells us to be salt and light.

He says in Matthew 5, “You are the salt of the earth, but what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled under foot as worthless. You are the light of the world, like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead a lamp is placed on a stand where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.”

Salt was used for the preservation and flavoring of food. Salt helped society. The same is true for light. It had its obvious implications of illuminating the darkness, providing safety, and offering heat. Society would be in a worse place if not for salt and light.

It seems Jesus’ point is clear. Christians are to be salt and light; we are to improve society by being the true hands and feet of the Lord.

Annually, World Kindness Day is celebrated November 13. It is a day designed to unite humanity through kindness. I believe the challenge for Christians is to extend kindness beyond one day a year to every day. Are we truly the salt and light of the world? How well do we model Jesus’ behavior?

  • Jesus treated others the way he wanted to be treated.
  • Jesus loved and prayed for his enemies.
  • Jesus was compassionate. He empathized with those who were hurting.
  • Jesus always offered an encouraging word.
  • Jesus was gracious. He did not throw mistakes in a person’s face, but offered grace to the person.

Be salt and light!

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Worthy of Praise

They praised him.

Jesus had a seat on a hill, “A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who could not speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all.” Matthew goes on in 15:31, “The crowd was amazed. Those who had not been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again, and they praised the God of Israel.”

Why did they praise the Lord?

The people praised the Lord because of his acts of grace and compassion. They praised the Lord because of his character.

The people praised the Lord for the same reasons David praised the Lord in the Psalms.

Many times, in the Psalms David offers praise to the Lord. David praises the Lord because of his grace, mercy, and compassion.

David writes of many occasions in his own life when the Lord came through in a big way. As a young man, David was kept safe from Saul’s envy. As an older man, David was kept safe from a rebellion. David was offered grace amid many mistakes and wrong choices. David could not help but praise the Lord.

The people praised the Lord for the same reasons we can praise the Lord.

We can praise the Lord because of his grace and compassion. We can praise the Lord because of his character.

Psalm 145:8 says, “The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry, and filled with unfailing love.” Verse 9 goes on, “The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all of his creation.”

How has the Lord’s grace and compassion been visible in your life? Remember to praise him.

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Can we help the lonely?

A touch cured a lonely soul.

Leprosy was a horrible disease. There was no cure, and the infection was easily transmitted. Individuals with leprosy were forced to live alone. As someone approached, the person was forced to shout “unclean” as a warning.

A person suffering from leprosy had to endure the physical pain of his or her flesh rotting. There was also the emotional pain of loneliness. Those with leprosy had to quarantine themselves, leaving their families and friends. The disease took its tole both physically and emotionally, and we find Jesus offering much compassion to those with leprosy.

Matthew 8 says, “Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. ‘Lord,’ the man said, ‘if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Imagine the scene. Jesus is leading a large crowd, and suddenly enters a man with leprosy. He starts speaking to Jesus as perhaps the crowd backs up a little. The man’s faith is obvious. He knows Jesus can heal him. Jesus does heal the man, but the other action Jesus takes is just as powerful.

“Jesus reached out and touched him,” records Matthew 8:3. Jesus touched him!

We do not know how long this man had endured the pain of leprosy. We do not know how many days or even years it had been since the man felt the closeness of human touch. All we know is Jesus touched him. Yes, Jesus healed his leprosy, but Jesus also healed his loneliness. The compassion offered by Jesus in this moment was stellar.

The man with leprosy was lonely, and Jesus interaction helped him. You and I may have the ability to help someone who is lonely.

When appropriate, the embrace of a hug and the holding of a hand is powerful. The sharing of a smile and a friendly greeting are equally as powerful. A wave can go a long way.

Our interactions today may help someone who is lonely without us even realizing it.

 

God uses Messy People to do Amazing Work

No one is perfect. We are messy people, and sometimes our lives can be a little messy. We make mistakes. We have regrets, and we have many struggles. All of this can make life dirty at times, and we may wonder how the Lord can have a purpose for a life as messed up as ours. He does; the Lord uses messy people.

The Bible says liars, cheats, and prostitutes were all used by the Lord. Their lives were anything but clean; they were not perfect. They seemed to be the least likely to be used by God, yet he used them to do some amazing work. They were messy people with messed up lives, but the Lord still had a purpose for them.

As we read the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, we find a messy cast of characters.

David

David makes the list. David lusted after Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed to cover up an affair, and had a family life filled with turbulence. Yet, the Lord used him. Scripture even says David was a man after God’s own heart.

Ruth

Ruth was poor, and it seemed she had few opportunities. She was humble and dedicated to her mother-in-law. Life was hard as Ruth was forced to walk behind the harvesters hoping enough food was left to provide for her and her mother-in-law. Ruth developed a relationship with Boaz, and they had a son. Ruth’ life took her from rags to riches, from impoverished to having plenty, from unknown to finding a place in the Lord’s lineage.

Jacob

Jacob is used by the Lord to spite being a liar and cheater. Jacob wanted his father’s blessing, but since he was younger than his brother, he had to lie and cheat to get it. One day while his brother was hunting, Jacob pretended to be Esau so Isaac would bless him. Jacob was dishonest. He lied to his father and cheated his brother, yet Jacob had a grand purpose for his life.

Judah

Judah is listed in the family lineage though he hated Joseph. Judah and his brothers sold Joseph as a slave hoping to never see him again, yet God used them in his plan.

Tamar

Tamar is listed. Tamar’s life was filled with heartbreak. She was widowed twice and promised a third husband, but the man and Tamar were never married. Trying to fix things herself, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and tricks Judah. Judah has intercourse with Tamar, and she gives birth to a son placing her in this genealogy. Tamar’s life was messy, but she is in the genealogy of the messiah.

These are dirty stories of messy lives, and it might even be shocking to think the Lord used such messy people, but he does. The Lord did not sanction the messiness, but he overcame it to do some amazing work.

The Lord can use us in the same way. Our lives may be smeared with many mistakes, regrets, and struggles, but the Lord can overcome all of them. To spite being messy, you and I have a purpose to fulfill. The Lord will help us even though we are not perfect.

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord,” in Jeremiah 29:11. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Life may get a little dirty at times, but the Lord will help us overcome it. He will help you and me complete our calling and fulfill our purpose. The Lord uses messy people to do some amazing work.

Acting

Remind yourself the Lord uses people who are not perfect, and he will help you realize and fulfill your calling.

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3 Suggestions for Coping with Overwhelming Circumstances

74% of respondents reported being overwhelmed and unable to cope. Here are 3 suggestions.

The wind whipped sea tossed the boat as the fierce winds swirled around them. The sky was completely blackened by the thick storm clouds, and the fishermen were overwhelmed by the storm. What should have been a quick and smooth trip across the sea was taking all night and the water was rough. The fishermen were straining at the ores trying to get through the storm, and as each minute passed, the feeling of being overwhelmed increased.

Can you relate? Maybe not to being in a boat amid a storm, but to feeling overwhelmed by circumstances surrounding you. According to a 2018 mental health survey, 74% of respondents reported being so overwhelmed by stress they were unable to cope. So, you are not alone.

According to the study, there were many factors contributing to individuals feeling overwhelmed. Factors included a person’s own, or loved ones, long-term health condition, debt, feeling like messages required an instant response, and younger adults reported being overwhelmed by the pressure to succeed. Comparing oneself to others and low self-esteem were also mentioned as factors.

It may be one of these factors or another causing you to feel overwhelmed, so here are 3 suggestions to keep in mind when feeling overwhelmed.

1. We should focus on the Lord.

Jesus’ disciples can relate to feeling overwhelmed. Matthew 14 records the disciples being in a fierce storm. They had been trying to cross the sea all night, but the boat was buffeted by the waves. Walking on the water, Jesus comes to them, and gives Peter a chance to show us what to do and what not to do in overwhelming circumstances.

Matthew 14:28-30 tells us, “Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink cried out, ‘Lord, save me!”

Peter was in an overwhelming storm, yet he walked on water if he focused on Jesus. It is when he shifted his gaze from Jesus to the waves he began to sink. Focusing on the Lord equals walking on the water; focusing on the waves equals sinking.

When you and I are in overwhelming circumstances, we should focus on the Lord. When we feel we don’t measure up to others, we should remember the Lord loves us, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. When we feel the pressure to succeed, we should remember what success looks like in the Lord’s eyes. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we should focus on the Lord.

It is when you and I lose focus on the Lord we are overwhelmed by circumstances the Lord can overtake.

2. The Lord will grab hold of us.

Peter is sinking, and cries out, “Lord, save me!” The Lord, in turn, grabs hold of Peter.

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him…,” says Matthew 14:32.

Jesus grabbed hold of Peter to help him get back in the boat. Jesus will grab hold and help us in overwhelming circumstances.

He grabs hold of us when we believe all options are exhausted and we have no where to turn. He will take our hand and guide us in life’s storms. He grabs us when financial security is gone, physical health is fading, and we are forced into the storm of change.

Who better than Jesus to grab hold of us? In this storm, which is overpowering the disciples, Jesus is taking a walk on the water. In this storm, which is consuming the disciple’s strength, Jesus is about to pass them.

Mark 6:48 says, “Shortly before dawn he went out to them walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them….”

Circumstances we find overwhelming the Lord finds underwhelming. Situations overpowering us don’t even cause the Lord to flinch. When we are consumed by the storm, the Lord is taking a walk. The Lord will grab hold of you and I in overwhelming circumstances.

3. The storm doesn’t last forever.

Peter and his companions were only in the storm for one night. It did not last forever; however, in the middle of the storm, they probably thought it would never end. The disciples would have been exhausted. Hours spent straining at the ores, trying to keep the boat going in the right direction. The elements were physically and mentally demanding, so I’m sure they were tired.

The circumstances which overwhelm you and me will not last forever; however, when they are occurring, it seems like they will never end. We are exhausted. The doctor doesn’t know what to try next. We rearrange our rearrangement of the budget, but we still do not have enough money to pay the bills. We know the situation won’t last forever, but when will it end?

Matthew says the storm ended when Jesus and Peter returned to the boat, and John offers a deeper perspective.

John 6:21 says, “Then they were willing to take him into the boat and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”

John says the boat reached the shore immediately. For Peter, the darkest, most frightening part of the storm was the last part of the storm. He was closer to shore than he realized. Perhaps the same is true for us.

We may be closer to the end of an overwhelming circumstance than we realize. We may be nearing the end. If nothing else, you and I can honestly say we are one day closer to the end. We are one day closer to the end than we were yesterday.

Meanwhile, the overpowering situation is still swirling around us, and Jesus makes the same statement to us he made to the disciples.

Jesus says, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid,” in Matthew 14:27.

Focus on the Lord. Allow him to grab hold of you and walk with you through the overwhelming season of life. This is not the first time he’s faced overwhelming odds.

This is not the first time the Lord has faced overwhelming odds.

The same day Jesus walked on the water he was faced with the overwhelming challenge of feeding 15,000 to 20,000 people with two fish and a few loaves of bread. The disciples had no idea how to feed that many people with so few supplies, but Jesus did. The Gospel writers tell us there was plenty to eat. Jesus beat overwhelming odds.

Some time after walking on water Jesus was placed in a tomb. The disciples were overwhelmed with sorrow thinking this was the end. But Jesus came out of the tomb leaving it empty. Jesus was not overpowered by death. He knew how to beat it.

Your life may be overwhelming right now. You may be facing circumstances in which you have no idea what to do. The Lord does. “Take courage,” Jesus says, “I am here.”

Acting

Ask the Lord to help you go through the overwhelming circumstances of life.

What suggestions do you have for someone feeling overwhelmed? Please share in the comments below.

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A Single Choice Changed Everything

Her life was anything but a dream. Disrespect and endangerment occurring daily. Different men, perhaps more than one a day, stopping by to take advantage of her. Each day a different scene of a continual nightmare, but one day, everything changed. She made a choice which changed everything.

Choices have the power to chart the course of our lives, and the choices you and I make are significant because we are significant. We matter to the Lord, so the choices we make matter to the Lord.

One choice has the potential to change everything. One choice has the potential to influence lives for multiple generations. Choosing to influence one person’s life can have lasting impacts.

The Impact of One Choice

Rahab made one choice which changed the direction of her life and influenced the world in a positive way.

Joshua 2 tells us Rahab lived in the city of Jericho, and her life was anything but a dream. Israel sent two spies to Jericho and they sought lodging at Rahab’s home so they would not stick out as strangers in town.

Rahab heard of the Lord’s power and requested protection when Israel conquered the city. She helped the spies secretly leave town, and they promised protection to her and anyone within the walls of her home.

Jericho was conquered, and the one choice Rahab made to help the spies…

Saved her life.

The spies kept their word, and no one within the walls of Rahab’s home was injured during the conquest.

Changed her life.

Rahab was able to live with Israel.

Joshua 6:25 says, “Joshua saved Rahab, her family, and all those who were with her. Joshua let them live because Rahab helped the spies Joshua had sent off to Jericho. Rahab still lives among the Israelites today.”

Had a lasting impact.

Since Rahab lived among the people of Israel, she became the great, great grandmother of King David.

According to Matthew 1:5-6, “Salmon was the father of Boaz, his mother was Rahab. Boaz was the father of Obed; his mother was Ruth. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David.”

Rahab’s choice had a lasting impact. Being in the lineage of King David means Rahab is in the lineage of Jesus. The Lord used Rahab as a part of his plan to bring grace to the world.

All because Rahab made one choice.

Our Choices Matter

You and I can make some powerful choices. The Lord may be compelling us to start a friendship. Choose to start it. We may feel led to tip generously. Choose to be generous. Our choices are impactful.

The next choice we make may be the one that leaves a positive influence on lives for generations.

Acting

Choose to follow the Lord’s leading in your decision making. Pray for courage so fear and uncertainty do not stop you from making the right choice.

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How can I help?

You don’t have to read into the newspaper far or watch the news long before you see someone in need. You don’t have to get far outside your home before you run across a friend or neighbor having a hard time. Sometimes, the person needing help is right inside your home.

You long to help, but you don’t know what to do. The tornado ravaged a neighboring town, but you cannot do construction work. Your friend just received an unwanted diagnosis, but you do not know a cure. Your dad’s health is slipping, but you do not know how to help. Your daughter just had her heart broken for the first time, but you don’t know what to say. The situation is not within your control, but it is within God’s.

You and I can always help by praying, and there are times, that is all we can do. In those situations, remember our prayers are powerful and effective.

We can always help by praying.

Jesus taught the disciples it was good to pray for one another. Notice his words.

“Give us today the food we need,” Matthew 6:11-13 says, “and forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sinned against us. And, don’t let us yield to temptation but rescue us from the evil one.”

By his choice of words, I believe Jesus is saying, “Pray for each other.”

You and I don’t have to feel helpless when we see someone hurting. We can pray for that individual.

1 Timothy 2:1 says, “I urge you, first, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them, intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.”

When the neighboring town is devastated by the tornado, we can pray for the citizens. When our friend needs a cure, we can request wisdom on behalf of the doctors. When our daughter is heartbroken, we can ask the Lord to heal her pain. And, it may not hurt to pray that we’re not overwhelmed by the urge to afflict pain upon the boy who is responsible for the heart break.

Acting

Take a moment to pray for those who need the Lord’s help, and don’t be afraid to ask others to pray for you.

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Want an Additional Resource?

Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado is a great resource on prayer.