28 November 2013

26 November 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 9:35-10:42

I apologize upfront if this post is a little convoluted. I was feeling really distracted while studying this lesson, so I didn’t get really deep into the applications.

At the end of Matthew chapter 9 and throughout chapter 10, Jesus explains the cost of discipleship to His followers. Being a disciple of Christ is extremely costly but eternally rewarding.

He sees the people as sheep without a shepherd. He not only sees the people, but He sees their hearts.

Jesus tells us to pray for God to supply the workers. And be warned that I may be the answer to my own prayer!

Next Jesus commissions his 12 apostles. While disciples are any people who follow Jesus, He appoints 12 specific men whom He chooses to represent Jesus to others. Jesus gives them the authority to heal people and cast out demons besides the power to speak the Gospel. This authority was the credentials they needed to prove their work was from Jesus.

Jesus also gives the apostles some specific instructions:
  • Don’t go to the Gentiles and the Samaritans.
  • Don’t take extra money, clothes or shoes.
  • Do go to the lost sheep of Israel.
  • Do proclaim Jesus’ message of repentance and the kingdom of heaven.
  • Do heal people and cast out demons for no cost.
  • Do be as shrewd as snakes (tough-minded) and as innocent as doves (tenderhearted).
Finally, Jesus prepares His disciples for persecution. Jesus calls His apostles (and us!) to endure to the end. He tells us to fear not for seven reasons:
  • We should expect suffering.
  • God will bring everything into the light one day.
  • We should fear God only.
  • God cares for His own.
  • Christ honors those who confess Him.
  • We cannot escape conflict.
  • We can be a blessing to others.
Things to Think About
  • Who is in my crowd of sheep without a shepherd? Who in my life is confused and walking around aimlessly?
  • Am I willing to be tough-minded and tenderhearted?
  • Stay committed in the face of suffering and even death. Jesus did not promise ease but warned of trouble in the Christian life.

21 November 2013

19 November 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 9:1-34

The people in this passage were trapped in sin and its effects, though they may not have realized it. But Jesus healed them and met their deepest needs.

In the first miracle, four friends of a paralyzed man take him to Jesus for healing. They carry the man to the roof and lower him through the roof to Jesus who was preaching to a crowd below. Jesus sees the friends’ faith and says the man’s sins are forgiven.

Then the Jewish leaders question Jesus. They think He is dishonoring God because they know only God Himself could forgive sins. But Jesus is saying He is God.

After giving the man spiritual healing, Jesus also gives him physical healing. Jesus sees that the man’s greatest needs is the forgiveness of sin. He needs spiritual healing more than physical healing. Jesus shows the man He has the authority to forgive and to heal.

Next, Jesus calls Matthew to be one of His apostles. Matthew is a Jew and a tax collector. Because of his job, he is despised by his own people. When Jesus calls Matthew, he leaves everything to follow Him.

Matthew hosts a party at his house for tax collectors and “sinners,” and he invites Jesus to attend. The Pharisees question this. How could Jesus spend time, especially sharing a meal, with such horrible people? But Jesus reminds the Jewish leaders that He was doing God’s will by showing mercy to the people who needed it most. The Pharisees were looking down on the people God was calling to Him.

Jesus wasn’t done with His miracles! Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, approaches Jesus. He kneels before Jesus, believing He could heal his daughter simply by speaking. In the midst of this conversation, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touches Jesus’ cloak and was healed immediately. She believes she could be healed if she simply touches the hem of Jesus’ cloak. What faith she displays! Then at Jairus’ house, Jesus raised his daughter back to life.

There are two more miracles in this passage. Two blind men ask for mercy and believe Jesus could heal them. And He does. Finally, some friends bring a mute, demon-possessed man to Jesus for healing. And He does. Again, the Pharisees are skeptical. They accuse Jesus of casting out demons by Satan’s power.

Faith in Jesus changes lives – the paralytic walked, Matthew could see, the bleeding woman was well, Jairus’ daughter regained life, the blind men could see and the mute man talked. How is your faith in Jesus changing your life?

Things to Think About

  • There is no power that enslaves us that is not subject to the power of Christ, which frees us.
  • Who am I bringing to Christ like the paralyzed man’s friends did?
  • Am I amazed by Jesus like the crowd, or do I doubt Him like the Pharisees?
  • Matthew hosted a party to introduce his friends to Christ. Would I do the same? Which evidence in my life shows I am not ashamed to be associated with Christ?
  • When God calls me to obey Him, will I do it with as much abandon as Matthew did?
  • Jesus has the power to forgive, heal, call and restore.

14 November 2013

12 November 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 8

After the Sermon on the Mount, many people began following Jesus. He was making some radical statements and performing some miraculous signs to prove He was the promised Messiah...no wonder so many people wanted to follow Him!

But Jesus didn’t perform miracles just to get people to follow Him. His miracles demonstrated His divine power and authority. Jesus’ miracles also revealed spiritual truths. They showed that He has authority over bodies, souls and worlds.

At the beginning of Matthew 8, Jesus first heals a leper. Leprosy is a terrible disease. People who suffered from it also were subject to religious and social laws that forced them to live away from their families. The Jews saw this disease as a mark of God’s displeasure and as a punishment of sin.

In this story, a leper kneels before Jesus, acknowledging that He was God. Jesus touches the man, and immediately the leprosy disappears. This miracle is a picture of how Jesus cleanses us from sin. Jesus does not become sinful by touching us, but we become righteous by touching Him.

Next, Jesus heals a paralyzed servant. A centurion, who was a Gentile and a ranking officer in the Roman army, came to Jesus asking Him to heal his ailing servant. The centurion had great faith and knew Jesus only had to speak a word for his servant to be healed. He knew that when Jesus spoke it was God speaking. Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith and healed his servant from a great distance.

Another way Jesus shows His authority over disease is by healing Peter’s mother-in-law. She is confined to her bed and is sick with a fever. Women did not have a high position in society at this time, yet Jesus noticed Peter’s mother-in-law and healed her completely. To show her appreciation, she immediately got up and served Jesus.

The healing of our bodies is wonderful, but the healing of our sinful souls is even more wonderful. Jesus’ authority over sickness points to His authority over sin.

Jesus asks for a commitment to following Him. Next, He challenges two men who want to follow Him. The first man wanted to make a commitment without understanding the cost. He was too quick to promise. He was not willing to make a sacrifice for Jesus.

The second man said he would follow Jesus after he buried his father. The man’s father probably was still alive because people were buried on the day they died. The man wanted to take care of family obligations before he served Jesus. This man was too slow to perform.

Jesus calls us to have a genuine faith. True disciples follow Jesus wherever He goes. Following Jesus is not always comfortable. Jesus doesn’t just want me to be happy, comfortable and fulfilled. He wants to challenge my faith in Him.

Next Jesus tells His disciples to get in a boat. He knew a storm was coming. As Jesus was sleeping, the storm hits. The disciples were afraid. They woke up Jesus and asked Him to save them. With just a word, Jesus stopped the storm.

The disciples were in the middle of God’s will, yet the storm still came. But Jesus was with them. Satan would love to capsize our faith, but Jesus is in the storm with us.

When they reached the other side of the lake, two demon-possessed men approach Jesus. They were violent, naked and threatening to other people. They knew who Jesus was and called Him the Son of God. Jesus casts the demons into pigs. And the pigs run off a cliff. This miracle should have drawn the people to Jesus. But instead the people reject Jesus and beg Him to leave their village.

Things to Think About

  • What am I willing to sacrifice to follow Christ?
  • Where is God testing my faith to get me to follow Him more closely?
  • Will I focus on the storm or on the Savior who is with me in the storm?
  • Only Jesus has the power to completely restore broken lives.

08 November 2013

Halloween festivities

Halloween seemed to be an extra busy time for us this year because we filled it with lots of fun activities.

Avery didn't have very many ideas for her costume. But when my mom showed her a pattern for a Little Bo Peep outfit, Avery was on board.

My mom made the outfit complete by covering her grandmother's cane and turning it into a shepherd's staff. The sheep used to belong to Karen and me when we were little. Now it's Avery's sheep.

She looked adorable, if I do say so myself. But I instructed my mom that future costumes should not have so many accessories. Chris and I ended up carrying the sheep and the shepherd's staff at all of our activities!

Mommaw and Poppaw helped Avery choose these two adorable pumpkins on a trip to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch. Since these pumpkins weren't big enough to carve, Daddy and Avery painted them together.

Avery's handiwork.

Can you guess who put IU and Colts art on his pumpkin?

Avery and I went with Mommaw to her church's fall party. I can tell the pastor really enjoys doing this for the kids, because he goes all out to make it a fun party.

There were several fun carnival-type games. Avery's favorite was this one. A sticker was hidden on the bottom of one of the objects. After they were moved around, Avery had to find the sticker.

I think she only missed once! And she played this game several times.

After she won a game, she got a ticket which she used to "buy" something at the prize table. She came home with so many treats, and almost none of them was candy. Fun things like a DVD, a new pair of sunglasses and a tiny toy tea set.

The kids also participated in a few group games. This was Avery's first official sack race, even though she briefly tried it out with Daddy last Halloween.

I was so proud of her for trying something new. And she led the pack for most of the race!

Next up was the pumpkin patch with Grandma and Grandpa.

This pumpkin patch has a hay bale maze.

I think she liked the swing the best!

After choosing our pumpkin, it was time to carve it.

Avery definitely doesn't mind getting dirty. It's hard to believe she's my child because I never liked doing this part!

Avery requested the sad face on the pumpkin.

Saying thanks to the pumpkin carver.

Our last Halloween celebration was the Fall Fun Fest at our church. Our church used to host a similar event but hasn't done one for several years. This year's festivities included food, boucehouses, games and lots of candy. We were so glad that we ran into our friends the Berkemeiers.

We had planned on doing just this event on Halloween night and skipping the trick-or-treating. But the severe weather in our area caused every local city to postpone trick-or-treating to the next night. That meant that every family in Johnson County was at our church! We had to stand in some long lines, but Avery got to play all of the games she wanted to. I hope a lot of these families are guests and will start coming to our church!

By far, Mike Ditka was my favorite costume (photo courtesy of The Daily Journal)!

07 November 2013

05 November 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 7

This is the last lesson about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Last week, we saw Jesus talk about giving, fasting, prayer, treasures and worry. This week, Jesus will continue by talking about judging others, discerning God’s truth and building our lives on Jesus, the one true Foundation.

“Do not judge... (Matthew 7:1)” Many people take this phrase out of context and believe it’s a blanket statement. Actually, it’s a call for God’s people to be discerning and not negative. God tells us it is appropriate to judge certain things: when a Christian sins, when someone alters the Gospel message, ourselves, wickedness.

Jesus tells us to judge with the right heart. We shouldn’t have a judgmental attitude or a critical spirit. We should build people up instead of tearing them down.

We shouldn’t focus on the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye without focusing on the plank in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3-5). When we try to help others while having our own issues, we inflict undue pain on them because we are unwilling to cleanse ourselves first.

Jesus also says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” The dogs and pigs are people who have heard God’s Word but openly reject it and openly scorn God. They have hard hearts toward God. The sacred things and the pearls are the holy things of God. We should discern what we say to certain people because someone who rejects God will mock our Christian doctrines.

How do we gain this discernment? We ask, seek and knock...continuously. Ask means we call on God for an answer. Seek means we search for the answer in God’s Word and through more prayer. Knock means we persevere and persist in prayer. God always will answer believers’ prayers. The answer may be yes, no or wait. The answer will come in His time and in His will. But God always answers our prayers.

Next Jesus addresses the path to God. The narrow gate and the narrow road lead to life and God. But the wide gate and the broad road lead to destruction and hell. Just as in Jesus’ day, today people say there are many ways to God, but that is not true. There is only one way to God – through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

How do we know when someone is teaching correct doctrine? We must look for the fruit in their lives. Our fruit shows whether our faith is genuine or counterfeit. Look at teachers’ lives, listen to their words, look for the fruit of the Spirit and test everything they say against the Bible to determine if they are teaching the truth. And ask God for His discernment to reveal these things to you.

Following false teachers and their teachings is like the foolish builder who built his house on the sand. When the storm came, the house collapsed because it was not built on a firm foundation. But the wise builder built his house on the rock. When the storm came, the house stood firm because it was built on the rock.

The foolish builder lacked a relationship with Christ and trusted in other things and people to get him to God. But the wise builder trusted in Christ and built his life upon the Rock. The wise builder applied Christ’s words to his life.

Next week, we’ll see Jesus begin healing people with miracles.

Things to Think About

  • Is it easier for me to magnify the speck in someone else’s eye than to address my own issues?
  • Am I willing to remove the plank from my own eye before helping someone remove the speck from his or her eye?
  • In which relationship do I need God’s discernment?
  • Which road am I traveling?
  • Which fruit am I producing?
  • Am I building my life on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ, His work on the cross and His Word?