Check Your Motives
January 6, 2022
From today’s Bible reading:
When you give...
· Don't do it publicly - do it privately
· Don't be like the hypocrites - do it quietly
· Don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing - do it with pure motives
Jesus’ message about giving is both clear and simple: (1) Give, (2) Give purely, and (3) Give to glorify God and motivate others. Rather than concerning yourself with who will know about your giving, focus on who will be glorified by your giving and inspired to join you in giving adventures. If your motives are pure, go ahead and let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. The more who are blessed and inspired by your giving, the better!*
It's worthwhile to note that generosity at WL has increased remarkably in the last 20 months since we no longer "pass the offering plate." When you give, do it privately, quietly, and with pure motives.
How and why are you giving to the needs of our church, the community, and the spread of the Gospel?
When you pray...
· Don't do it to be seen - pray to your Father in private
· Don't "babble on" - keep it short and to the point
You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. (James 4:2b-3)
Do you know how many regular opportunities there are at WL to join others in prayer?
This year would be a great time to join one of the many prayer groups open to you.
When you fast...
· Don't make it obvious - comb your hair and wash your face
· Don't do it for show - do it secretly, only before God
Consider how these practices can change you:
Fasting and prayer can help us hear from God.
Fasting and prayer can reveal our hidden sin.
Fasting and prayer can strengthen intimacy with God.
Fasting and prayer can teach us to pray with right motives.
Fasting and prayer can build our faith.†
Have you examined your motives for giving, praying, or fasting? This would be a good time to ask yourself, "Why do I give? Why do I pray? Why do I fast?"
*from Taylor University paper on Stewardship
†from Crosswalk writers, Suzanne Niles and Wendy Simpson
Tuesday, January 4, 2022
Keeping Faith’s Commitment
Jesus encourages all disciples, each whose lives are being threatened by the Satan, with words of commitment. They are a reflection drawn from the ancient Scriptures. Set out within the records of the Old Testament, in the book we call Deuteronomy, these words set a profile of commitment for disciples. “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only…” (6:13).
Matthew 4:1-11 documents Jesus quoting these words. He brings us into the world of spiritual conflict during a power-encounter which challenges our understanding. The most horrific Halloween-themed movie maker has yet to devise sufficient special effects to mirror that time in the wilderness. Reading the passage without discernment may make the encounter seem ordinary.
On those occasions when evil’s foul presence makes life smell like smoke, our tension is magnified ten-fold. We know divine guidance encourages the practice of worship-filled-faith.
Our lives are bombarded with enough thundering temptations to break the stones of London Tower Bridge. Thankfully, Jesus give us a strengthening spiritual phrase worthy of our highest intensity: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only…” Disciples keep faith’s informed commitment because we see Jesus encountering the Satan’s evil presence with overcoming grit.
When temptation strikes your soul what is your prayer of recovery?
When you encounter evil, in a clear time of temptation, what resources are available to help you?
When a temptation occurred, were you were able to overcome it? See 1 John 1:8-10.
What is the purpose of the Scripture section we know as Matthew 4:1-11?
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
Monday, 3 January, 2022
John was a preacher. - John’s message was one of repentance. Repentance isn’t as clear as washing your hands. It is a complete change of heart. This becomes evident over time.
There was a good response to his message, but the religious leaders did not repent. John called them a “generation of vipers”. His message was to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Do the words of your mouth point others to the Savior of the World?
John had been predicted. - Isaiah had prophesied John’s coming – A voice calling in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight the paths for him (Matthew 3:3 and Isaiah 40:3). “John was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the greatest of them” (Warren W Wiersbe, Be Loyal, p.36). John was the first prophet in 400 years. “He blasted Herod and the religious leaders, daring acts that fascinated the common people. But John also had strong words for his audience- they too were sinners and needed to repent. His message was powerful and true. The people were expecting a prophet like Elijah.” (Notes from Life Application Study Bible)
John was peculiar. – John dressed as Elijah did and preached a similar message of judgement. They replied, “He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite” (2 Kings 1:8). John must have looked peculiar to the people wearing strange clothes and eating locusts and wild honey. Their curiosity prompted them to go out in the wilderness to see him.
John was also different from the religious leaders of the day since they were preoccupied with the keeping of the law, self-righteousness and winning the praise of the people. John was concerned only with the praise of God.
Is there enough different about you to raise curiosity and have others inquire about your faith? Do you live out the words of faith that you speak?
John was popular. – People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. (Matthew 3:5) While they went to him out of curiosity, they did not anticipate coming home repentant having been baptized in the Jordan River. Previously the Jews had baptized Gentiles into Judaism, but these were Jews being baptized after repentance. John’s “baptism fulfilled two purposes: It prepared the nation for Christ and it presented Christ to the nation.” (Wiersbe, Be Loyal, p. 36). John’s message of repentance started a revival to prepare the way of the Lord.
Is your witness one of Christ’s work of repentance in your life? Is it enough to start a revival in yourself? And maybe a revival in your community?
Follow Me! Matthew 4:18-24; Luke 4:14; Mark 1:14-18 Friday December 31, 2021
Know the Word of God. Speak the Word of God. Trust the God of the Word. Jesus fielded this three-pronged attack against Satan’s temptation while in the wilderness. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, Jesus trounced Satan, but this victory was far from the end of Jesus’ mission, rather it was just the beginning. The time had come for Him to confront the brokenness in the world around Him--the damage done by the fall of man into sin-- and to call others to join Him.
So, Jesus returned to Galilee filled with the power of the Spirit, and began challenging the physical, spiritual, and relational ravages of sin. Jesus healed physical ailments and diseases demonstrating His power over the curse and hinting towards the future when He will make all things new and restore Creation to perfection. (Revelation 21:1-5) Moreover Jesus preached the gospel of God with authority and by casting out demons, showed His supremacy over evil which will one day be dramatically realized in casting down Satan and his minions and in gathering all of the saints into eternal fellowship with Him. Finally, it would be folly to miss the heart of God for all peoples seen in these passages. Jesus’ work was too astonishing, too significant to be contained. Word of His ministry blazed from town to town reaching both Jew and Gentile. Throughout His ministry, Jesus would engage with both Jews and Gentiles bringing truth, hope and healing,” not wanting anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) One day all nations will bow before the throne of God and declare together that “Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb”. (Revelation 7:9-11) Jesus returned from the wilderness, not just to begin a healing and a teaching ministry which continued to demonstrate His power and authority but also to also seek those who would learn from Him, His disciples.
Have you ever wondered how the men Jesus called to be His first disciples could drop everything and obey with seemingly no hesitation? Certainly, the prompting of the Holy Spirit
was involved, but as was just noted Jesus’ reputation would have spread ahead of Him. Even so, they demonstrated remarkable faith. Matthew tells us that all four of the men Jesus called immediately left their activity and followed Him. They released what was familiar, what they had depended on, and what they found comfort in and followed Jesus to the cross and beyond. Can you imagine Jesus walking into your work place, your home, or your school, looking you in the eyes and saying, “Follow me!” What would you do?
Jesus entered society as the Son of God, but also as one with the people. He felt their pain yet comforted their affliction; He experienced temptation yet cast out demons; He lived in a divided world yet called all to enter the Kingdom of God. After routing Satan’s attempt to derail his mission, Jesus instead called others to join Him and now He invites us to join the mission too, with the same words He used to call His disciples. Follow me!
~clw & nww
How have you seen the power of God’s Word effective in your spiritual battles? What steps can you take to know God’s Word better? Why is it so important to trust the God of the Word? What role does the Holy Spirit play in spiritual victory?
What is the role of the Christ follower in addressing the physical and spiritual brokenness in the world around us? While living under the weight of a broken world, how can that same brokenness serve as a springboard to worship?
Matthew 4:12-17; Isaiah 9:1-7, December 30
Celebrations and Martyrs at Christmas
Birthdays and successful harvests are music-filled occasions when happiness dances with joy. Family and co-workers together say, “Well done!”
We might not expect the triumphant celebration call at a historical moment of sin’s forgiveness to include an arrest; but, Matthew precisely documents events. “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee” (Matthew 4:12).
While the geography references of Zebulon, Naphtali or Galilee of the nations might be obscure to us, we clearly see Christ proclaimed as God’s great light. “…[T]he people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’” (Matthew 4:13-17).
Contrast the incarnational celebration to John’s capture. He languishes in prison, soon to be killed in an official act of murder.
Christmas-thunder and power can be muted by cattle lowing in the not so silent background of manger scenes. Wise disciples accept that Christ’s coming is of prime significance in the long salvation-history initiated by God. Thus, Christmas claims its place as a celebration day; but for John and others, the hurry can not come soon enough to save him in this life.
Matthew draws upon the words of Isaiah, God’s prophet of old. Isaiah plays salvation’s music, writing of Christ’s arrival. Employing metaphors and similes, writing with poetic passion, he establishes distinctly dramatic comparisons (Isaiah 9:1-7). Considered separately each distinction carries spiritual weight; taken together, the parts form music sheets for heaven’s celebration.
Messiah moves from Heaven’s court to Earth’s soil—we rejoice! Still, the celebration is muted by John’s imminent death. Our prayer: May the martyrs of God long be honored in Heaven’s Court.
What puzzle do you find in Isaiah’s assertion, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress” (Isaiah 9:1)?
Why would Christmas be the occasion of celebration in Heaven’s court?
What insight do you draw from the phrase, “…on those living in the shadow of death…” (Matthew 4:16)?
Do you find confidence in the assertion, “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7)?