Focus on These Six . . .
Six Traits Worth Modeling - April 22, 2018
We’re all looking for ways to spend our lives pursuing what is most important. We’re weary of rushing here and there, putting out fires caused by the tyranny of the urgent. We long for worthwhile targets on which to focus our thoughts and live out our days . . . character traits that we are confident will lead to valuable, meaningful results. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Nathan: A Courageous Man of Truth - May 6, 2018
It is one thing to “speak the truth in love” in a safe setting, but it’s something far more significant to speak the truth in an uncertain setting, where the outcome of your honesty is, at best, unpredictable. That tenuous situation gives new meaning to “the truth hurts,” since it can bring pain both to the one who speaks it as well as to the one who hears it. That is precisely what we find in the story we’re going to revisit, recorded in 2 Samuel 12. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Daniel: A Faithful Man of Integrity - May 20, 2018
We are unpacking the six virtues listed by Paul in Philippians 4:8. He writes: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT). We are selecting six people from the Old Testament, each of whom modeled one of these six traits. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Esther: A Woman Who Did What's Right - May 27, 2018
It is worth noting that our modern world seems to have left the spirit of independence. Virtually everything we read encourages our being comfortable, willing to compromise, to blend in, be like everybody else, and go along with the majority—regardless. We need to be reminded that standing alone and thinking for ourselves and being true to our convictions represent strength of character. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Joseph: A Man of Moral Purity - June 3, 2018
The story of Joseph is one of the most amazing stories in the Bible. Though not “perfect,” he was a man of unyielding moral commitment. The secret of his purity, of course, lay not in himself but in the oft-repeated phrase, “The Lord was with Joseph.” Click here to read more and view the outline.
Abigail: A Lovely Woman of Wisdom - June 10, 2018
We are working our way through a statement Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable . . .” (4:8) . . . Today, we will meet Abigail, who was a lovely woman, whose wisdom saved her husband’s neck and also calmed David’s anger, which kept him from an act of murder! Click here to read more and view the outline.
Caleb: An Admirable Man of Action - June 24, 2018
Here, we come to the sixth and final virtue as seen in Caleb, an admirable man of action. Though well up in years (85 years of age), he refused to restrain himself from accepting a challenge that was packed with risks. Caleb remained forever young in heart and strong of fortitude. Click here to read more and view the outline.
The Gospel by Matthew
Let's Meet the King - November 2, 2014
Rather than starting our study of Matthew with the first verse and immediately plunging into the details of the verses that follow, it will help us to grasp an overview of the entire account. Click here to read more and view the outline.
The Genesis of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17 ) - November 9, 2014
Anyone who makes the decision to read through the New Testament for the first time immediately encounters a daunting challenge. Right out of the chute, the reader has to wade through a long list of names. To make matters worse, most of the names are unfamiliar, and some are difficult to pronounce. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Try Standing in Joseph’s Sandals (Matthew 1:18–25) - November 16, 2014
The story of Jesus’ miraculous conception and remarkable birth is the best-known story in the whole Bible. Other births recorded in the Scriptures may be amazing, perhaps even spectacular, like Isaac being born to his 90-year-old mother, Sarah; Elizabeth giving birth to John at a very old age; and Hannah, who was unable to have children, finally getting pregnant with Samuel. However, none can compare to the birth of Jesus from the virgin womb of Mary. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Wise Men, Wicked Men... and Us (Matthew 2:1–12) - November 23, 2014
When we come to this section of Scripture, we immediately recall the lyrics of the well-known Christmas carol composed in 1857 by the Episcopal minister John H. Hopkins, Jr. He based his words on the traditional Christmas story handed down through many generations:
“We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain–following yonder star.
O, star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to Thy perfect light.”
Click here to read more and view the outline.
Destination Driven Dreams (Matthew 2-13-23) - November 30, 2014
One dream has already played an important role in our study of the Gospel by Matthew. It was the dream Joseph had as he was wrestling with how he should respond to Mary’s shocking announcement of her pregnancy. In that dream (1:20–23), an angel of the Lord appeared to him, assuring him he had no reason to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. What happened in that dream was sufficient to convince Joseph to marry the woman he loved, even though he would never be able to fully explain the miracle in her womb. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Strange Preacher. . .Strong Proclamation (Matthew 3:1–17) - January 4, 2015
Through the years, there have been some unusual preachers who have delivered powerful messages. Consider some who lived in biblical days. Noah built a huge boat while proclaiming his message for well over 100 years before a disinterested, antagonistic audience. Moses did not get started until he was 80 years old. Then, he made up for lost time for the next 40 years. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Surprised by Jesus (Matthew 3:11–17) - January 11, 2015
One of the major challenges Christians face when reading the Scriptures is overexposure. As a result, we seldom read verses with “fresh eyes.” Since we are overly familiar with the stories surrounding Jesus as set forth in the four Gospels, we already know what is coming next, unlike those in the original scene. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Acing the Devil’s Tests (Matthew 4:1–11) - February 8, 2015
The ministry of Jesus was launched at His baptism. It must have been an emotional high mark in His life—especially when He heard those affirming words from the Father in heaven: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Click here to read more and view the outline.
Where and How It All Began (Matthew 4:12–25) - February 15, 2015
The earthly ministry of Jesus is an intriguing study. He travels (mainly, by foot) from one area, town, and/or city to another, making His message known. Without exception, He attracts large crowds through His words and His actions. Click here to read more and view the outline.
The Sermon of All Sermons (Matthew 5, 6 and 7) - February 22, 2015
Of the millions of sermons that have been preached down through the centuries, none is more famous, more convicting, or more enduring than the one Jesus preached shortly after beginning His ministry. We know it as the “Sermon on the Mount.” Click here to read more and view the outline.
The Checklist for Lasting Joy (Matthew 5:1-12) - March 1, 2015
For many, the search for lasting joy is a frustrating and futile effort. Everybody is looking, but few find it. We long to know the secret of being truly contented deep within . . . regardless of our circumstances, our financial status, our rank or position in life, our list of accomplishments, or our personal health. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Shake and Shine! (Matthew 5:13–16) - March 15, 2015
One of our passionate desires as Christians left on this earth is to make a difference. Few believers want to exist for a while, then ride off into the sunset with a shrug, thinking, “Who really cares?” No, we would much rather think that as a result of investing all these years on this planet, others’ lives were changed for the better as a result of our influence. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Crucial Truths, Rarely Understood (Matthew 5:17–20) - March 22, 2015
No one spoke more clearly than Jesus. Without any attempt to parade His wisdom or flaunt His role, He moved quietly into the ranks of humanity and confidently explained truth like none other. What courage that took! For many long years faulty information had been taught by the religious aristocracy. With unquestioned authority, they twisted the meaning of Holy Scripture, offering interpretations that were faulty, while making demands that were extreme. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Steering Clear of Murder (Matthew 5:21–26) - March 29, 2015
The teachings of Jesus are both insightful and clarifying. They stand in sharp contrast to the traditional religious instruction we have been taught throughout our lives. That is true now and was equally true when Jesus walked among His disciples and taught the Truth during His earthly ministry. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Whatever Happened to Fidelity and Honesty? (Matthew 5:27–37) - April 19, 2015
One obvious, telltale sign of moral erosion in a society is the breakdown of integrity. On the domestic scene it reveals itself most clearly in the absence of marital fidelity. Something is terribly wrong when a long-term marriage is a rarity—the exception rather than the rule. In the personal realm, the lack of integrity is most blatantly evidenced by verbal dishonesty. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Shocking Advice to the Selfish and Strong-Willed (Matthew 5:27–37) - April 26, 2015
If we did not know it before, we will discover today that Jesus did not mince words. He had a way of saying things that were so unexpected, so radical, those who heard Him could scarcely forget what He said. What makes Jesus’ words even more radical is He had the audacity to say them to those who lived in Galilee, which was a culture that had no tolerance for “turning the other cheek” and virtually no room for forgiveness in their hearts. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Beware! Religious Performance Now Showing (Matthew 6:1–8) - May 3, 2015
Few things were more a turnoff to Jesus than religion on parade. He reserved His severest criticism
for hypocrites—especially religious hypocrites—who liked to be seen showing off their piety in order
to impress others. He was a master at exposing what was beneath the veneer of all that nonsense. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Prayer and Fasting Minus All the Pizzazz (Matthew 6:9–18) - May 10, 2015
We are engaged in a study of the Gospel by Matthew, which includes the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus delivered early in His earthly ministry. We are learning that what He taught that day was
information His listeners had not previously heard. Click here to read more and view the outline.
The Lure of a Lesser Loyalty (Matthew 6:19–24) - May 17, 2015
The roots of secret erosion go deep into the soil of humanity. No one is immune—neither the young, nor the middle-aged . . . not even those who have walked with the Lord for decades. The supple, teachable years of our youth can erode, leaving the aging brittle, boastful, and/or bitter. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Our Favorite Sin (Matthew 6:25–34) - May 24, 2015
In His immortal Sermon on the Mount, Jesus delivered truth that was not only true, but also timeless. Whoever reads His words in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 would never guess they were spoken so many centuries ago. They drip with practicality and significance. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Attention, All Speck Inspectors! (Matthew 7:1–5) - May 31, 2015
Some sermons make us sleepy because they are boring, irrelevant, and uninteresting. Others make us angry as we endure the abuse of being word-whipped and shamed, rather than instructed and encouraged. Those that connect most effectively, remaining memorable for years to come, do so because of three things:
1. They grab our attention.
2. They help us understand the truth.
3. They motivate us to make important, personal decisions.
Click here to read more and view the outline.
Pearls, Pigs, Prayers, and People (Matthew 7:6–12) - June 7, 2015
Without realizing it, we frequently quote from the Sermon on the Mount. These statements that punctuate our speech are familiar to all of us—so familiar, in fact, they stand as mottos in our minds. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Three Non-Politically-Correct Warnings (Matthew 7:13–23) - June 14, 2015
The closer Jesus comes to the end of His magnificent Sermon on the Mount, the greater His intensity. By now it is clear that He is not meekly making a few simple suggestions for everybody to “try a little harder and do a little better.” Click here to read more and view the outline.
The Secret of an Unsinkable Life (Matthew 7:24–29) - June 21, 2015
Storms and life go together. There is no place on earth where we can be free—completely safe— from trauma, tension, or trouble. What Job wrote was spot-on: “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil” (Job 14:1). Click here to read more and view the outline.
Snapshots of Power, Far and Near (Matthew 8:5–17) - October 25, 2015
Anyone who studies the four Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus realizes that what is recorded is not a continuous story as if captured on film, like a lengthy movie, but periodic situations captured in writing, like literary snapshots, taken by someone standing near the Savior. Click here to read more and view the outline.
How Not to Follow Jesus (Matthew 8:18–27) - November 1, 2015
Talk is cheap. Many people have the ability to use a lot of verbiage; they say a lot of words, but either don’t mean what they say or don’t admit what they’re hiding. The slang expression we have for this is “running off at the mouth.” Click here to read more and view the outline.
Dealing with Demons - January 3, 2016
There are amazing scenes and stories in the Bible that almost take our breath away. When we picture ourselves being there, seeing with our own eyes the incredible events as they take place and wondering how everything will turn out, we are held in the grip of our imagination. The disciples of Jesus occupied a front-row seat throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry. How often they must have stared in amazement at what they saw and heard . . . mouths wide open, shocked beyond words! Click here to read more and view the outline.
A Soul-Searching Walk Alongside Jesus - January 10, 2016
Even a casual reading of these verses in Matthew’s account leaves you with the feeling of walking right next to Jesus. As He climbs into a boat to sail back across the Sea of Galilee (v.1), you climb in, too. While He is inside that house packed with people, you can almost feel the crush of the crowd . . . and when He forgives the paralyzed man then answers His critics before healing the paraplegic, it is as if you can hear His voice (vv.2–8). Click here to read more and view the outline.
A Non-Stop Day of Miracles - January 17, 2016
Chances are good that you have known busy, demanding days . . . days when you have had to work hard to catch your breath. One problem led to another. They went something like this: a very significant event happened or some serious problem emerged, and you had to stop to address it . . . and while in the midst of putting out that fire, another burst into to a blaze. You hardly had a chance get that flame extinguished before yet another occurred and then another. Jesus faced that sort of day recorded by Matthew in the section of Scripture we are looking at today. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Listen Well, Think Right, Talk Straight, Travel Light - January 24, 2016
It is easy to forget the disciples as we focus on all that Jesus said and did. They were by His side throughout His earthly ministry, always watching, frequently learning, and occasionally responding. Their training remained at the forefront of His agenda, even though He usually did not call attention to it. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Sheep Among Wolves: What to Expect - January 31, 2016
Up until now, the disciples of Jesus have remained, for the most part, behind the scenes. They have watched their Master while standing back in the safety and security of His shadow. As He taught, they listened; as He dealt with criticism, they stayed quiet and observed; as He healed the sick, cast demons out of their victims, and raised the dead, they were impressed but uninvolved. No longer. Click here to read more and view the outline.
A Severe Checklist for Disciples - February 7, 2016
Two words describe the instructions of Jesus to those who are loyal to Him: painfully honest. As one keen-thinking student of the New Testament has written, “Nowhere is the sheer honesty of Jesus more vividly displayed than it is here.” Truth be told, we are either for Him or against Him—there is no middle ground. Click here to read more and view the outline.
When Disappointment Leads to Doubt - February 14, 2016
There is an all-too-familiar syndrome each of us can identify with. It goes like this: We set our hearts on something we long for and we think will occur. As we turn it over in our minds, we can mentally see it happening. Our anticipation grows into confident expectations. In fact, we become so confident it is going to happen, nothing can dissuade us—it is only a matter of time before the imagined seems more like reality. Click here to read more and view the outline.
When Jesus Turned Up The Heat - February 21, 2016
When people hear the message of Jesus, they have a choice. Either accept it, then go on to have their lives transformed, or follow the majority and reject it altogether. Such rejection is expressed in one of two ways: either active resistance or passive indifference. Those who are active in their resistance aggressively (sometimes loudly and violently) stand against it. The rest express their indifference by ignoring His message altogether. This dual response is not only true in the twenty-first century; it was true back in the first century, when Jesus lived on earth and ministered to others. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Get Some Rest - February 28, 2016
Of all the things Jesus said during His earthly ministry, the words we are considering today are among the most beloved in all the New Testament. Most Christians, serious about their walk with the Lord, can quote the last three verses of Matthew 11 from memory. As is often true, we learn Bible verses and even quote them to others without being aware of the context of the words when they were originally spoken. Click here read more and view the outline.
Sabbath Lord vs. Religious Nitpickers - April 24, 2016
Some confrontations are essential. There are times when it is right to fight. While He was not looking for an argument, Jesus never ran away from one if there was a significant principle at stake. Whenever wrong-thinking was attempting to override the truth, Jesus refused to shrug it off and look the other way. He stood His ground in order to set the record straight. Click here to read more and view the outline.
God's Servant or Satan's Pawn? - May 1, 2016
We are in a section of Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus occupies center stage. As we just saw, He stood toe-to-toe with the Pharisees, confronting them with the difference between their man-made, uninspired “traditions” and the God-given, inspired Law as set forth in the Scriptures. His exposé resulted in their beginning to plot His death. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Severe Warnings Everyone Must Remember - May 15, 2016
Two words best describe the context surrounding Jesus at this stage of His earthly ministry: growing hostility. When news first reached the official religious authorities, the Pharisees and scribes, telling them of His ever-enlarging following, they began to check Jesus out, initially motivated by mere curiosity. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Miraculous Signs, Evil Spirits, Startling Statement - May 22, 2016
Understanding the Bible can be complicated. To begin with, it is difficult for us to put ourselves in the scenes portrayed in Scripture. As the biblical narrative runs its course, it flows through unfamiliar places, among people we have never met, who lived in a first-century, middle-eastern culture altogether different from our twenty-first-century, western world. Click here to read more and view the outline.
A Story for the Hard of Listening - May 29, 2016
Something has definitely changed. Anyone reading through the Gospel by Matthew realizes this when reaching chapter 13. Before, Jesus spoke openly and freely. He offered Himself without restraint, demonstrating by His words and by His works that He was, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah. Click here read more and view the outline.
A World Full of Wheat and Weeds - June 5, 2016
Where is God when I need Him? We know that God is not only holy, but also just. In light of that, why does He permit so much evil, and why is He so slow in dealing with it? We long for our righteous Lord to step in and deal with evil—sooner, not later! Click here to read more and view the outline.
Get It? Got It? Good! - June 12, 2016
Anybody who enjoys stories with hidden meanings would love the thirteenth chapter of Matthew! Jesus tells one story after another, some to a large, random gathering of people (13:2) who stood near the shoreline of a lake, trying to figure out what the stories meant. Click here to read more and view the outline.
The Strangest of All Gifts: A Beheading - September 11, 2016
Some people think the Bible is drab, dull, and boring. Obviously, they have never read the stories that are woven through both the Old and New Testaments. Truth be told, it is virtually impossible to find one that comes close to drab, dull, or boring! Some hold us in rapt attention since they are so heartbreakingly sad, and others are so witty and downright funny, we laugh out loud! Many are filled with adventure, surprise, and excitement. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Eating a Miracle for Dinner - September 18, 2016
The miracle of “the feeding of the 5,000” is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in all four Gospel accounts. This gives us some idea of how significant it was. However, because it has become overly familiar to us, we miss its importance and tend to diminish in our minds what a magnificent event it was. Click here to read more and view the outline.
What Brings Us to Our Knees? - October 2, 2016
As Matthew tells the story of what it was like to walk with Jesus, he takes us into some unforgettablescenes with the disciples. With the help of our imagination, we can go where they went, see what they saw, feel what they felt, and even do what they did. Today we will relive one of their most unforgettable experiences. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Spiritual Blind Spots - October 9, 2016
Try to imagine being physically blind . . . plunged into a world of perpetual darkness. Those who are totally blind can see neither light nor any of the images that surround them. We who are able to see find it almost impossible to enter into what it would be like to be blind. Interestingly, a person can have physical sight but at the same time be spiritually blind. There may be nothing wrong with their eyesight, but their minds have been blinded (see 2 Corinthians 4:4). Click here to read more and view the outline.
Feeding Scraps to a “Dog” - October 16, 2016
We have all known what it is like to be “at wits’ end.” It happens when we reach the absolute final measure of our strength, when we realize we do not have the ability to change our situation. All attempts to alter our predicament and decrease the pain of reality have proven futile. Parents often face this with one (or more) of their children. No matter how much we love them and are willing to do for them to turn things around, we cannot bring the change that is needed. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Touches of Compassion on Tons of Needs - October 23, 2016
It is easy to move too quickly through the scenes in Scripture. Familiarity can breed indifference. Because we have heard many of the stories since we were young, it is easy to skate along the surface and fail to enter into the feelings that played such a significant role in each event. This is especially true while walking with Jesus as He walked among His peers. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Testy Critics and Dull Disciples - October 30, 2016
The beat goes on and on . . . and on. While continuing His earthly ministry, Jesus experienced dual frustrations: (1) His frowning critics, who refused to respect Him, which resulted in their looking for reasons to argue . . . and (2) His faithful disciples, who failed to understand Him, which resulted in their repeatedly missing His point. The critical group, being blind, kept testing Him by setting deceptive traps in hopes of exposing Click here to read more and view the outline.
Answering Life’s Ultimate Question - November 6, 2016
All of us have taken courses in school that reached their climax with a final exam. We have learned over the years of our education that it is the single most important test in the course. Well-prepared exams help both student and teacher determine if the class really grasps the overall significance of those months of study. It is not uncommon for the final exam to have only a few questions, but they are probing, strategic questions, addressing the core of the course.Click here to read more and view the outline.
Three Nevers We Must Never Forget - November 13, 2016
A lot happened that day up in Caesarea Philippi. While Jesus was alone with His disciples, their little world would implode. Their minds were shocked and stretched while their selfish lifestyle was invaded and challenged. They learned their Master would be killed—a revelation so unexpected they could scarcely believe it! Click here to read more and view the outline.
A Terrifying Glimpse of Glory - November 20, 2016
Since so much has been said and so much has been written about God and the things of the Lord, it is easy to lose a healthy fear of Him. Too much casual familiarity with the things of God can cause us to lose our awe of Him. It does not help that so much around us is now referred to as “awesome.” As a result, the one and only “awesome One” no longer seems all that “awesome.” Click here to read more and view the outline.
Micro-Faith and Mountainous Obstacles - January 15, 2017
Any time we read a story in the Scriptures, it is essential that we keep its overall historical and geographical context in mind. The story we are looking at today is no exception. It occurs on the heels of an astounding event that just transpired on a mountain—the “transfiguration of Jesus.” From the ecstasy of all that, Jesus and three of His disciples return to encounter a scene of human need in raw reality. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Death and Taxes - January 22, 2017
As Jesus entered the last six months of His earthly ministry, He spent less and less time with the multitudes and more and more time with His disciples. Knowing His time was growing shorter, He intensified His instructions regarding what they would be facing, as well as what lay in His immediate future. Periodic reminders of His impending suffering, death, and resurrection emerged during those instructions. Here we read of the third time He mentions those events, grievous though all of this was to those who were His closest friends. Click here to read more and view the outline.
The Blessedness of Childlikeness - January 29, 2017
Our lives are soaked to the ears in pride. We are forever seeking to discover the greatest, the brightest, the strongest, the fastest, the longest, the richest, the biggest, or the prettiest . . . the best this, the most that. We are shown a group picture, and the first person we look for is ourselves. When a project we were involved with is completed and the names of all the participants are listed, the first name we want to make sure is included is our own. Unfortunately, the older we get, the more we lose one of the most admirable of all life’s qualities: childlikeness. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Life Lessons We Learn From Children - February 12, 2017
Most adults are soaked to our ears in pride. We compare ourselves with others, usually to highlight our own virtues and strengths. We criticize others in order to emphasize their weaknesses, underscoring our own importance. We are forever seeking to find the greatest, the smartest, the fastest, the richest, the largest, or the prettiest. We are hung up on the best this and the most that. When shown a group photo from a gathering where we had been present, the first person we look for is ourselves. When a project that we were involved in is completed and the participants are announced, we long to hear our name mentioned. Unfortunately, getting older does not result in our becoming less significant to ourselves. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Caring Enough to Confront - February 19, 2017
Strange as it may sound, one of the most obvious proofs of parents’ love for their children is their commitment to discipline them for wrongdoing. It is the uncaring and irresponsible mother or father who fails to confront, who will not deal with wrong in their children’s lives. The same is true of our heavenly Father, who faithfully disciplines those He loves, as is clearly stated in Hebrews 12:5–6, where we read: “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves . . . .” What is true of our earthly parents and of our heavenly Father is also true of those in the Body of Christ. Click here to read more and view the outline.
How Often Should We Forgive? - February 26, 2017
Forgiveness is not an elective in the curriculum of the Christian life. It is a required course—everyone must take it, and the exams are always hard to pass. But what a relief when we pass them! It is not vertical forgiveness we have in mind here—God’s forgiving us of our sins, which happened once for all at the cross when we believed in Jesus. We are addressing horizontal forgiveness—our forgiving one another, which needs to happen repeatedly throughout our lives. Without it, we drag longstanding feelings of resentment that will ultimately erode into hatred, bitterness, and mental misery. Not to forgive imprisons us in the past, locking out all potential for change. Click here to read more and view the outline.
E-Harmony vs. Disharmony - March 5, 2017
Marriage and divorce—talk about hot issues! It is doubtful there is a more active battleground of disagreement than this one—even among Christians. This would include those who believe in (and often quote) the Bible, who lead ministries, who encourage others to obey its teachings and say they obey Jesus’ instruction. Twisted interpretations abound, which always result in weird applications and extreme rationalizations. Some couples have convinced themselves that, in the name of “love,” it is better for them to be “divorced friends” than “married enemies.” It is easy to approach Scripture with preconceptions so deeply entrenched, it is impossible to determine responsible interpretations. It is not uncommon to add to or take away from what God’s Word says. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Dark Days - March 12, 2017
It has been said that if you preach to the brokenhearted, you will never lack for an audience. Today’s message is to the brokenhearted. It is to the one who finds himself or herself in the pits. The Old Testament character Joseph found himself in a pit and has much to offer us by way of help. Joseph (an illustration of Jesus) dealt with injustice, obscurity, and suffering. Let us take a look at these three areas from the life of Joseph and glean all we can because dark days come to us all. If we keep our focus upward, God will exalt us as He did Joseph after his trials. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Who Has The Most Toys? - March 19, 2017
During the earthly ministry of Jesus, He was in touch with every kind of person—young and old, poor and rich, sickly and healthy, sad and happy, immoral and pious, corrupt and honest, harsh and courteous, hateful and loving, humble and proud, deeply broken and self-sufficient. But seldom do we come across two examples in greater contrast than the scene in these ten verses before us: to begin with, we meet a group of innocent little children who were brought to Jesus by their parents to be blessed by Him . . . then we meet a very rich man who was anything but innocent! After seeking out Jesus on his own, he asked Him a question regarding eternal life. It was what he did not talk about that was most important to him. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Lessons Learned From A Fat Camel - April 2, 2017
Perspective is always helpful. It keeps us from getting caught in the backwash of extremes or jumping to false conclusions. When we have perspective, we stay balanced; we maintain the long view of life. We do not rush to judgment or allow ourselves to think that now is forever. Perspective alters our thinking. We realize that there is a difference between cost and value . . . between earthly money and heavenly treasure . . . between the seen and the unseen. Jesus was excellent when it came to adding perspective to situations where the majority opinion was popular but grossly incorrect. While almost everyone mistakenly thought this—He, with unerring perspective, would surprisingly teach that. We observe that occurrence twice in these eight verses: first, He offers helpful perspective on riches, and second, He provides some needed perspective on greatness. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Let's Let God Be God - April 9, 2017
Lots of people waste a lot of effort trying to do God’s business. When things happen that seem unfair, they are quick to grumble. They feel the need to respond, “How unjust of God to allow that to occur!” Such responses reveal how shortsighted we are, by nature. As we evaluate things, we react negatively against what appears to be special favors being granted to others, especially when we have not been given the same benefits. The same happens when we endure a series of painful trials that are hard to bear, while others seem to sail through life with hardly a blip on their screen. In spite of living faithfully before our God, sickness and/or accidents bring us to our knees, causing us to struggle and suffer loss, while others we know (especially some who have not lived nearly as dedicated to God as we have) know little of hardship and heartache. Is God unfair? Jesus helps us with this real issue by telling a story that says, in effect, “Stop grumbling, and stop begrudging; it is time you learned to let God be God!” Click here to read more and view the outline.
A Roadside Reminder and Reproof - April 23, 2017
Jesus and His disciples are on the road again, walking along the east side of the Jordan River (Perea) from Galilee to Jerusalem (19:1). Jesus used such journeys as teaching times as He prepared His disciples for what lay ahead. For the third time, He reminds them that He is on His way to the Cross (Matthew 16:21; 17:22–23), even though His men had great difficulty comprehending such things, since their minds were preoccupied with being honored in His Kingdom. This is highlighted in the forthright request of James’ and John’s mother, who approaches Jesus without hesitation. She wants her sons promoted to places of highest honor! This results in Jesus’ reproof regarding greatness in the eyes of God, which is the opposite of what is seen as greatness in the eyes of the world, where rulers “lord it over” others and officials “flaunt it over” those serving beneath them. Jesus firmly states, “. . . among you it will be different.” Click here to read more and view the outline.
Seeing Ourselves Through Blind Eyes - April 30, 2017
Important interludes are woven through the biblical narratives in the story of Jesus. Some are long and intriguing. Others are filled with excitement and passion. Occasionally, there is a brief yet significant interchange between some otherwise unknown character and Jesus, which grabs our attention and forces us to pause in order to see ourselves portrayed in the story. This is one of those brief interludes. It centers our attention on two unnamed beggars who, though blind, were fully aware of their own needs and bold enough to make them known by shouting for mercy from Jesus and then asking Him for a miracle. Moved by compassion, He touched their eyes and gave them sight. Click here to read more and view the outline.
That's Who? Riding on a What? Why? - May 7, 2017
We who love the Bible have to admit there are some very strange scenes recorded in it. They are sometimes so strange, we find them difficult to imagine. To name only a few: an enormous body of water is drawn back so a huge number of people can walk across (on dry ground!) before the waters rush back to their normal level. Those same people are miraculously fed every day, provided water from a rock, and kept safe in a wilderness for 40 continuous years. A massive rock wall collapses as a result of some people walking around it a few times. A man endures a night in a dungeon with several hungry lions, but they never hurt him. Another man spends three days and nights inside a huge fish and lives to tell the story. As Jesus approaches Jerusalem not long before He is taken under arrest and put on trial, He enters as their King in a most unusual way. Unlike all other potentates, He is on a donkey—actually, He rides a little colt of a donkey! There was definitely a reason He did that. Click here to read more and view the outline.
When Jesus Lowered the Boom - May 21, 2017
People are often shocked when they read stories like the two we are considering today. The reason is that most, while growing up, are taught only a one-sided view of Jesus . . . namely, that He is “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” Without question, He modeled humility and meekness; He was the personification of grace and mercy. But He was more—far more than that, as we shall see today. Because He was jealous for the holiness and the glory of God, because He had only the highest regard for prayer and worship, He could not tolerate anything that compromised those all-important marks of true spirituality, especially if hypocrisy played a major part in the process. As Jesus encountered the gross sacrilege taking place in the Temple—all the buying and selling, the changing of money (which included extortion), in the midst of a loud, bazaar-like setting, His indignation reached its limit! And as we shall see, even the next morning, He remained concerned as He condemned an unfruitful fig tree. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Slugging It Out With Caustic Critics - May 28, 2017
The slugfest continues. In this final week of Jesus’ life and ministry, the religious leaders intensify their criticism. They move into an attack mode. A spirit of hostility has now replaced veiled disagreements. Judgmental statements that were once voiced as mere questions have now turned to harsh demands and public put-downs. It is obvious that their resentment of Him is growing. Rather than backing away, Jesus “takes off the gloves” and throws some strongly stated verbal punches in the form of stories. They were meant to penetrate beneath thick robes of hypocrisy, exposing how evil those religious leaders were. Before, it seemed as though they kept the upper hand on Him, dominating each scene with their lengthy, critical arguments. No longer; Jesus now stands His ground. Speaking with greater courage than ever, He stands toe-to-toe with His opponents and silences them with strong words. As these verbal blows hit their mark, their hatred of Him reaches such a fevered pitch, they “wanted to arrest Him” (v. 46), but their fear of public disapproval keeps them from going there. Clearly, the battle is underway, and it is getting ugly. Click here to read more and view the outline.
A Dialogue With Deceivers - June 4, 2017
As we learned last time, with this being the final week before He would be arrested and put on trial, Jesus finally decided not to hold back any longer. He went on the attack, first, in the Temple as He turned over the tables and chairs of those who were guilty of bringing corruption into the place of worship. Once He drove them out, He began to speak openly against them. He told stories that exposed their wicked ways. These stories, which we know as “parables,” were pointed and penetrating. They cut through all the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, which they resented. We have looked at two of those stories, and today we will read a third that is equally strong. At the conclusion of the third story, the Pharisees had heard enough! It was then the Jewish leaders launched their counterattack. They directed carefully prepared questions at Jesus in hopes of making Him discredit Himself by His own words before all the people, which would give them reason to arrest and put Him on trial. But their smooth talk and hypocritical approach did not fool Him for one minute! Click here to read more and view the outline.
Will We Be Married in Heaven? - June 11, 2017
Being earthbound creatures, our perspective is riveted to earth. It is, therefore, the next thing to impossible to remove ourselves from our earthly existence. We constantly think of all existence in terms of earth. So, when the subject of the afterlife surfaces, it is our natural tendency to transfer our earthbound lifestyle to our heavenly existence . . . but it is incorrect to do so. Heaven is not to be compared to earth in any way. We will not be as we are on this earth, but rather, as we learn from the words of Jesus in this section we are considering today, we will “be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). In light of that, if you want to know what you will be like in heaven, you need to understand what the angels are like. You will realize that, unlike earth, there will be no sexual relationships, no reproduction, no births, no sin, no sickness, and the factor of time will be no issue. Like angels, we will be equally spiritual in nature, equally ageless and deathless, equally glorified, and equally eternal. Teaching ourselves to “think theologically” is not something that comes naturally or easily. Click here to read more and view the outline.
The Two Ultimate Questions - June 25, 2017
Few people ever stop to realize how constant the verbal battle was between Jesus and His opponents. Most of us are familiar with the events that led to His arrest, trials, and crucifixion. But it is easy to forget the relentless arguments, disagreements, and verbal assaults He endured one day after another—and they did not let up, even in His final week before the cross. Rather, the disagreements heated up! The high priest and his cohorts took Him on, as well as the Pharisees, then (as we saw in our previous study) the Sadducees chimed in with their attempt to “stump the Rabbi,” albeit without success. Following all that, the Pharisees are back at it again, trying to trap Him with yet another question (22:35). After answering it perfectly, the Lord asks them a question that put a stop to any more. In this dialogue, we discover the two ultimate questions. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Exposing Religious Phonies - September 17, 2017
Jesus reserved His strongest and most critical words for religious hypocrites. Anyone who has the mistaken idea that He was always a soft-spoken, meek-and-mild soul who spoke only affirming words in tender tones has never read Matthew 23! Knowing His time was short and that unreliable, hypocritical leaders were in charge of the religious world of that day, He held nothing back. He revealed the pretense and pride of the scribes and Pharisees who modeled an ostentatious lifestyle that was the furthest thing from true godliness. Their pious theatrics were on full display for all to see and be impressed—until Jesus called it what it was, stating that “everything they do is for show” (v. 5). Refusing to look the other way, He openly exposed it all, right down to where they chose to sit at banquets, how they craved being seen in the eyes of the public, and the titles they loved to be called. After this scathing exposé, He warned His disciples what not to do, then described the path to true greatness. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Seven Woes and a Wail - September 24, 2017
The last time we were working our way through Matthew 23, we realized that this represented the last sermon Jesus preached. He would have other important things to say, but they would not be said openly to the general public; this message would be the last one like that. We also learned that it was His strongest of all the sermons He preached as He exposed the truth regarding the “scribes and Pharisees,” who were the official leaders among the first-century Jews. Because of their lives of hypocrisy and their messages of deceit, He felt they needed to be exposed for all to know the reasons He was warning all who heard Him not to follow their example. As we shall see today, Jesus spoke His strongest and most condemning words against those who lived hypocritical lives. Seven times He began His statements with “Woe to you!” And then, as He drew His message to a close, He grieved over Jerusalem. Click here to read more and view the outline.
First Glimpses of the Last Days - October 1, 2017
Having completed His heated and forceful warnings to the religious leaders—the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23)—Jesus left the Temple and started walking toward Bethany by way of the Mount of Olives. While leaving and walking along the way, Jesus made a couple of casual comments about the Temple buildings that piqued the disciples’ curiosity. So, they asked about their meaning. Realizing an explanation would take some time, Jesus sat down along the slope of the Mount of Olives in order to spend some private time with them. What followed was a somewhat lengthy session regarding future events, which is commonly referred to as the “Olivet Discourse” (Matthew 24–25). It’s prompted by two questions asked by the disciples: “When will all this happen?” . . . and “What sign will signal Your return and the end of the world?” Click here to read more and view the outline.
More Misery Than We Can Imagine - October 8, 2017
When Jesus sat down on the western slope of the Mount of Olives to talk with His disciples about the future, He held nothing back. As we say today, He “unloaded the truck” of prophetic information! He told them about the numerous worldwide events that would transpire in the future, prior to His ultimate return to earth. As we are discovering, many of them will be terrible—borderline impossible even to imagine. As we continue studying Jesus’ explanation to the disciples (commonly called the “Olivet Discourse”), we realize there will be even more perilous events than we saw last time in verses 1–14. In fact, Jesus states “ . . . there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began . . . it will never be so great again” (24:21). The severity of calamity, great confusion, and sinful corruption will reach its zenith. This horrific time is further described in portions of the final book of the Bible, Revelation 6–16, where “the seal, the trumpet, and the bowl” judgments are carried out on sinful and rebellious mankind. That will bring more misery than we can imagine. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Here He Comes, Ready or Not - October 22, 2017
Anytime prophetic themes are mentioned in the Bible, skeptics always have a field day. This is especially true in these “last days.” Peter writes about this near the end of his second letter: . . . in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the time of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created” (2 Peter 3:3–4 NLT). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s easy to think like that if you choose to ignore cataclysmic events like the universal flood when God judged the ungodly people of the world far back in Noah’s day. As it happened back then, so it will in the future—a time of worldwide judgment when Christ returns. He IS coming . . . ready or not! This is what Jesus described to His disciples in Matthew 24–25. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Countdown to Betrayal - October 29, 2017
As chapter 26 of Matthew’s Gospel begins, we can almost hear the throbbing drumbeat of death. Several significant events follow each other in sequence as the cross comes increasingly more clearly into focus. Shortly after finishing His discourse on the Mount of Olives, Jesus directs His disciples’ attention to the reality of what will soon transpire. He wastes no time in telling them, “As you know, Passover begins in two days and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (26:2). While preparing His closest followers for what lay ahead, His arch enemies are “. . . plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill Him” (26:4). In sharp contrast to that evil plot, a woman comes and pours a jar of expensive perfume over Jesus’ head as an extravagant and spontaneous act of worship. While the fragrance fills that room, Judas slips away from the other disciples to meet with the leading priests in order to lay the ground work for betraying the One he had been following. These back-to-back events are so different, they’re almost more than we can comprehend. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Soul-Searching During Supper - November 5, 2017
Everything in Matthew’s account is now moving inexorably toward Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s on His mind as well as His lips. Within a matter of hours, He will be betrayed by Judas, arrested at Gethsemane, pushed through a series of three Jewish trials followed by three Roman trials (all illegal), severely scourged, mocked, and nailed to a cross by heartless soldiers, then left hanging there to die a slow, excruciatingly painful death. But before all this, He and His twelve disciples will gather around a common table for the Passover meal—their last supper together. As Matthew remembers the events, he records them methodically and meticulously, right down to the conversation Jesus had with them at the table where He made the shocking statement, “One of you will betray Me.” The soul-searching that followed was a deeply emotional time where each one asked, “Am I the one?” Amazingly, this included even Judas, who had already met with those plotting His death, finalizing his betrayal. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Denial, Distress, Deception, Desertion - November 12, 2017
We’ve reached the beginning of the end. From here on, there will be no more extensive teaching sessions (discourses) between Jesus and His disciples. There will be no more crowds gathering to witness magnificent miracles performed by Jesus or to be miraculously fed or to listen to other heated debates between the Master and His opponents. All of those events are now over. His “hour has come” and there is no turning back. In only a brief period of time, there will be an anguishing time of great sorrow spent in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, abruptly interrupted by a body of men carrying clubs and swords looking for Jesus . . . the deceitful kiss of the traitor, an arrest, then a sudden desertion and escape of all the disciples, leaving Jesus alone, at the mercy of those who have one goal in mind: His death by crucifixion. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Who's Really on Trial? - November 26, 2017
The Jewish authorities finally had Jesus where they had wanted Him for a long time: under arrest and facing His accusers before a court of law. It was all, at last, a reality. Thanks to Judas’ kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had been identified and captured. It was now only a matter of time before there would be three Jewish trials, resulting in a verdict of “guilty of blasphemy” from the Sanhedrin, followed by the approval for capital punishment from an official of Rome (Pilate) as He was interrogated then declared “guilty of treason.” That charge, though untrue, would result in His death by crucifixion. Though all the trials He endured were illegal and though He was innocent from start to finish—never once proven guilty—the rush to judgment was on a fast track. During those official and unfair trials, another person was also “on trial” behind the scene. Unlike Jesus, he was guilty. Click here to read more and view the outline.
The Strangest of Foursomes - January 14, 2018
Anyone who makes a serious study of the six trials of Jesus comes across some of the most unusual pieces of information in the Bible! Court scenes are more like kangaroo courts, where shouting is common and violent, brutal reactions are permitted. In settings where most would normally expect to find justice and truth-telling witnesses, there are prejudicial motives, false charges, and repeated lies. Jesus chose not to react or resist, though there were occasions He gave forthright, honest answers that disarmed His accusers and made heads turn. The only judge who seemed interested in seeking the truth was the anti-Semitic governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, who was notoriously weak-willed and corrupt in character. As the scene unfolds before us, we are able to see how Pilate attempted, at least initially, to give Jesus a fair trial—even find a way to release Him. Finally, he gave in to the pressure and, literally, “washed his hands before the crowd” in his attempt to escape public blame, placate his wife, and relinquish all responsibility . . . or so he hoped. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Those Final, Dreadful Hours - January 21, 2018
The grim details of crucifixion are more than our minds are able to comprehend. The anguishing ordeal was so dreadful and demeaning that most who lived in the era of this extreme capital punishment refused to discuss it or even think on it. “The idea of the cross should never come near the bodies of Roman citizens,” said Cicero; “It should never pass through their thoughts, eyes, or ears.” Though it was the method Romans used in the first century, it was reserved for murder, slave revolts, and the worst kinds of heinous crimes in the colonies. Almost without exception, Roman citizens were beheaded, not crucified, for serious crimes. Jews shared their revulsion, preferring stoning when they had authority to execute. All of the above explains why none of the writers of the four Gospels spends an extensive amount of time describing the details of Jesus’ crucifixion. Those of that era were so familiar with it, they did not need or desire an in-depth explanation. This is why Matthew records what occurred around the scene of the cross rather than describing all the gory details of the execution itself. Click here to read more and view the outline.
. . . And Then, What Happened? - January 28, 2018
All of us are familiar with the final moment at the cross where Jesus died. All four of the Gospel writers include a similar statement. Quoting from the New Living Translation: “Then Jesus shouted out again and he released his spirit” (Matthew 27:50); “Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last” (Mark 15:37); “Then Jesus shouted, ‘Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!’ And with those words he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46); “. . . he said, ‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and released his spirit” (John 19:30). With those few climactic words, the intense passion of Christ suddenly came to an end. Clearly, deliberately, and unequivocally, Jesus died. Do you remember what happened next? Most people don’t. We rarely, if ever, give thought to the post-crucifixion phenomena that transpired. But they are much too important to overlook! Click here to read more and view the outline.
What Happened . . . What Didn't? - February 4, 2018
We usually don’t think of a tomb and a miracle at the same time. A tomb is silent and serious, representing just the memories of a life. The only words at a tomb are those etched in stone: a name, which is usually accompanied by two dates: a birth and a death. Look up “death” in the dictionary, and you’ll read: “a permanent cessation of all vital functions: the end of life.” But in the case of Jesus, that definition is wrong on two points. First, it was not a permanent cessation of anything. Second, it was not the end of life—not by a long shot! As a result of His miraculous, bodily resurrection, He emerged from the tomb fully and completely alive, raised to a new kind of life with a new kind of body. That’s what really happened, but that’s not what His critics and opponents chose to believe. So, they came up with a phony story they bribed the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb to tell. As a result, there are always those who believe what happened, and those who believe what didn’t. Click here to read more and view the outline.
What Now? - February 11, 2018
After Jesus was miraculously and bodily raised from the grave, He spent 40 more days on earth, mainly with His disciples. It must have been an incredible transition for those men as they spent time with their resurrected Master, whom they had thought they would never see again. After He had died, they must surely have asked themselves, “What now?” Jesus didn’t leave them without an answer. During this 40-day period of time, He made it clear to them that, though His own mission was finished, His message must continue to be communicated. In fact, that assignment must be their number-one commitment for the remainder of their years on earth! He declared this in what has come to be known as “The Great Commission,” which is found in Matthew’s final words. After hearing these words from their Lord, they never again would be asking, “What now?” They now had their perpetual marching orders! Click here to read more and view the outline.
Kickstarting a Plan to Reach the World - February 18, 2018
Just before Jesus’ ascension into heaven, He met with His closest, most-faithful followers. There were eleven of them who remained. For a little over three years, they had been His disciples (Greek MATHETES, for “learner—one who engages in learning through instruction from another”). As He is about to depart from them, their role will undergo a major change as they become His apostles (Greek APOSTOLOS, for “one sent forth with authority for the achievement of a specific objective”). No longer having Him near to learn from, they will now be sent forth to spread the truths they had learned from Him—from the good news of salvation by grace through faith to the importance of obeying all the commands He had communicated with clarity and conviction while He walked among them and talked with them during His ministry. Their “specific objective” as His apostles was now to reach the world with this life-changing information. To empower them for this global task, He promised to send the Holy Spirit. Click here to read more and view the outline.
Essential Fuel for Fulfilling the Mission - February 25, 2018
When He gave His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20) and just before He ascended back into heaven (Acts 1:8), Jesus clearly set forth the extent of the disciples’ mission. They were to spread His message throughout the whole world. Once He departed from them, that mandate would become their single, most important mission for the rest of their lives. Knowing their limitations and very human tendencies, He promised them divine power for getting that all-important task accomplished. That power (in Acts 1:8, it’s the Greek word, DUNAMIS) would transform their lives, enabling them to function with extraordinary capabilities, determination, and giftedness that were essential for getting the mission accomplished. We know today that this promise of such “power” was fulfilled in the invisible, phenomenal Person of the Holy Spirit. We’re going to revisit the original scene when the essential fuel arrived . . . when those fearful and reluctant disciples were changed forever . . . when the promise that Jesus gave during His final session with His disciples was finally fulfilled. Click here to read more and view the outline.
An Original Snapshot of the First Church - April 8, 2018
Most Christians have never examined the church’s first portrait. We rarely go back any further than our own “church roots” (the church we attended while growing up) to form our opinions. We remember our pastor and some of the people who attended. We also recall how things were handled, what was considered important, and some of the events that took place. We can never forget the joys that accompanied those years, and we definitely remember if there was trouble in that church—especially if it led to a “church split.” We have to admit, those memories are so strong and affect us so deeply, they shape our historical roots. What a different picture emerges when we go back to the original scene—when the church was first formed, before there was a building to meet in or even a name to call it. You may be surprised at how effective it became. Click here to read more and view the outline.
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