Tag Archives: the book of Matthew

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  (Matthew 24:44, NIV)

God often first gives us the answers before giving us the test.

In these final chapters of Matthew’s Gospel (chapters 24-25), Jesus is emphatic in His teaching about the nature of the kingdom of heaven; and He is equally emphatic in His teaching about the final judgment of God, and what is required of you and me.  You see, Jesus wants everyone to pass; but everyone must pass with his or her own work.  No cheating.

The key to successfully facing any crisis — whether financial, emotional, physical, or spiritual — is readiness.  The time to get ready is now.  The adage is never more true: “You cannot give what you do not have.”

Are you ready?  – Luther

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These final days prior to Christmas, allow me to briefly examine three things wrong with the Christmas story, as we commonly hear it.

The scriptural accounts of Jesus’ birth are full of barbs, pricks, and leaps; yet, over time we’ve become so familiar with the story that we now fail to grasp (let alone appreciate) the blessed disruption that always seems to occur when God appears. So, now let us begin with the first thing wrong with the Nativity story: The underestimation of Joseph’s character.

“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”  (Matthew 1:18-21, NIV)

Joseph, in my opinion, doesn’t get nearly the credit he’s due in the Christmas story.  If there was anyone in the story who could have walked-away with his good name unsullied, it was Joseph.  Whatever conclusion Joseph had made regarding the cause of Mary’s pregnancy, he was determined to do whatever he could to shield Mary from the tsunami of public scorn that awaited women in Mary’s situation.  Only a gentleman of good character would act as Joseph did.

The story, of course, didn’t end there. Joseph not only acted to shield Mary but, in obedience to God, Joseph’s good name and good character became her shield and her safe harbor in a hostile society.  This is huge!

As we approach Bethlehem, may we see not only God’s peculiar ways, but people of good character — like Joseph — who are kind and good in even the most dire of situations; and who are obedient to God at great personal cost.  – Luther

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“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:48, NIV)

God expects His children — every one of them — to be as He is.

If it is otherwise, either God is wrong for expecting something of us that we are incapable of achieving; or we do not have His “DNA” and God is lying when He claims paternity.

Today’s scripture verse follows Jesus’ command — with explicit examples — to love our enemies.  It is difficult to love our enemies because love is very personal.  We crave it only from those who matter to us; and we give it only to those we deem worthy.

To love as God loves is the litmus test of our progress toward divine perfection.  Succeed at this one thing, and everything else we do falls into place.  Fail at this one thing, and nothing else we do (no matter how spiritual or sacrificial) matters.

The Gospel of John reminds us that “God so loved the world (the same “world” that would abuse and murder His only begotten Son) that God, nevertheless, gave. . .”  (John 3:16).

When a person accepts the way of Jesus, the Spirit of God is seal of God’s paternity.  The Spirit is the power to be perfect as our Father is perfect.  The Spirit is the strength to love.

It is not easy but, with God, it is possible — and expected.  – Luther

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