2 Things That Will Matter On Your Deathbed – Matthew 22:23-46

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 22:23-46 in the One Year Bible New Testament. 

My First Hospital Visit

A little over a week ago, I made my first hospital visit as a minister. One of our 21 year old students was diagnosed with leukemia, and when I arrived in his hospital room he was declining fast.

In his waning moments, he was surrounded by friends and family whom he loved and who loved him back. He, along with his family, held a strong faith in God, which remains strong even now. My friend passed away when I was in the room.

At that moment there were many tears, but walking away that night I was struck with a sense of clarity. Life is ALL ABOUT LOVE. Nothing else really matters. I was very grateful that I accepted him and loved him for him, and that he made the choice to love God and commit his life to Christ.

Also, I was motivated to live with renewed passion to give my all for the sake of the gospel. Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Matthew 22:36 Here’s his response.

1. Do I love God with all my being?

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” Matthew 22:37–38

Basically, Jesus said that we are to love God with our WHOLE BEING! In Jewish tradition this is known as the “Shema.”  It was a phrase commonly used in Israel. It emphasizes the fact that we must worship God with everything.

  • Heart – In the Bible the heart is the control center of our lives. Proverbs 4:23 warns us to, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” In other words, what we let into our hearts trickles down into every area of our lives! If you love God with all of your heart your actions will follow.
  •  Soul – To love God with your soul is to love him in the deepest part of you.
  • Mind – We think most about the things we love most. To love God with your mind means that you think about him constantly.

Loving God is the greatest investment we can make in this short life we get on earth, and that love overflows and gives us love for others!

2. D0 I love my neighbor as myself? 

“And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:39–40

It is important that Jesus adds this statement to his answer. It is impossible to truly love God and not love the people he created.

Loving God above all gives us the power to truly love our neighbor as ourselves!

We are all naturally self-centered, and to love someone in the same way you love yourself is much easier to talk about than to do. One of the ways we show our love for God is caring about what he cares about… other people!

Jesus finishes that on these two simple commands you can hang the whole Old Testament. Everything else flows out of loving God first and loving others as yourself.

On your deathbed, how you answer these two questions is what is really going to matter.

 Did I love God with all my being?

Did I love my neighbor as myself? 

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Why Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Matthew 21:23-46

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 21:23-46 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what predictions were made, the team that wins will be the Champion. Because actions trump words!

Two Types of People

Jesus tells a powerful story to the religious leaders of the day. Here’s my summary: A man told both of his sons to work in the vineyard. First, the older son said ‘no I won’t go’, but later changed his mind and went. Second, the younger son said, ‘Yes sir, I will’. But he didn’t go. Then Jesus asked them,

“Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” Matthew 21:31

Prostitutes before Pharisees? 

Jesus told the religious leaders that the least respected people who humble themselves and choose to obey God would get into the Kingdom before the most respected who do not obey God.

“For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.” Matthew 21:32

Though the religious leaders appeared to be following God, they actually refused to repent and respond to John the Baptist’s or Jesus’ teaching. Many of the prostitutes and tax collectors on the other hand changed their minds and believed in Jesus! 

Humble obedience is greater than prideful promises. 

From this passage we can learn that we should be careful that we are ACTUALLY responding to what God is commanding us instead of mearly talking about what we are going to do.

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What Made Jesus Angry? – Matthew 21:1-22

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 21:1-22 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Like A $5 Soda

Have you ever been in an amusement park and really craved a soda only to see that the price was $5? The owners know they can jack up the price because you came all that way to the park and you have no other option.

Most likely, this is what the money changers and pigeon sellers were doing in the “court of the Gentiles.” They were  taking advantage of the non-Jewish people who had traveled far to just get to the temple. What probably started as a convenient idea turned into a huge distraction and opportunity for corruption.

Probably, the money changers would give the traveler a terrible exchange rate for their foreign money and then the bird salesmen charged an arm and a leg for the sacrificial pigeons. If that wasn’t bad enough, the pigeons were the sacrifice that the poor were permitted to bring if they could not afford a lamb! (See Leviticus 1:14) In other words, they were preying on the poor!

The very place designed to welcome the outsider was taking advantage of them.

Jesus Threw Down… (Tables)

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.” Matthew 21:12

Jesus got mad because these people were making it hard for people to worship and pray. Jesus then explained the reason for his anger.

He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:13

Prayer was the purpose of this part of the temple, not profit. Jesus was angry because instead of being a place of connection with God, this area had become a place of corruption.

From this story we learn…

Righteous anger is not a sin.

Jesus loved the outsiders enough to risk upsetting the religious of the day.

God’s temple was meant for connection with Him.

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The Key To Greatness – Matthew 20:17-34

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 20:17-34 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Come on Mom!

I love the funny details of the Bible. Like a soccer mom asking the coach for more playing time for her son, the mother of James and John asked Jesus to let her precious babies to sit at the right and left hand side of Jesus in heaven. Here’s Jesus’ response:

“Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” Matthew 20:22

If James and John really knew what suffering they were signing up for, they may not have been so confident. Then Jesus responded,

He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” Matthew 20:23

Jesus basically told them that he couldn’t reserve them a place, but God the Father decides that.

Pride Divides

The result of their effort to exalt themselves caused division among the disciples.

“And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.” Matthew 20:24

Pride divides even the closest of friends. Being in a home of brothers we loved to compete, but when the competition became a source of pride it led to jealous feelings and division. Jesus said leading through pride is the way the world works.

“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.” Matthew 20:25

The way that the world defines greatness is by how many/much you rule over. Position and authority is the world’s key to greatness. Prideful leaders will “lord over” others in order to get what they want. This type of leadership is not the kind Jesus modeled for us.

You’ve Got Served

“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26–28

There are several insights from this powerful statement.

1. We should be different from the world.

Christians are to lead by serving and to differentiate themselves from the way the people of the world promote themselves.

2. Leaders must be servants.

If you want to lead, you must be willing to serve. Even Spiderman knows “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Our motivation for leadership should not be to promote ourselves but to serve others.

3. Jesus is our ultimate example

 Jesus, the Lord of the universe came to serve, not to be served. His motivation was others-centered. His entire life was one of service through healing the sick, feeding the hungry and preaching to the helpless. Greater than these things, Christ’s death paid the penalty (or ransom) for our sins, and that is the ultimate service!

True service is costly; Jesus’ death proves that! 

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What Did Jesus Say About Divorce? – Matthew 19

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 19 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Divorce is a Touchy Subject

If you personally have not been directly affected by it, many of your close friends have been. It was a touchy subject back in Jesus’ day as well. The religious leaders wanted to get Jesus to say something controversial, so they ask him,

“Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Matthew 19:3

Divorce is Not What God Intended 

 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4–6

Jesus’ appeal to creation is showing us what God originally intended for us before sin entered the world and messed everything up! God created man and wife to live their lives holding fast to each other.

God’s design is for two to become one flesh, and once they are made one then they are not to separate. When two things are glued together with super glue the only way to speaparte them is breaking both. Unfortunately, this is exactly what divorce does; it breaks the hearts of all involved: husband, wife, and kids.

What About the Old Testament Command That Allowed It?

“They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:7–8

The law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was regulating an already widespread practice of divorce in the Old Testament era. Jesus said it was put in place because of “your hardness of heart.”

The purpose of the law was not to promote divorce but to guard people against taking it lightly and paint divorce in a negative light. Again, Jesus again refers back to God’s design with creation by saying “from the beginning it was not so.”

The Biblical Grounds for Divorce

“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9

Marriage is a permeant physical and spiritual bond where two become one flesh. The only way to break that bond is through a physical act of sexual immorality. Jesus is saying that sexual immorality is a legitimate grounds for divorce, but he is not saying that it has to end the marriage.

When adultery happens, sometimes the damage is virtually unrepairable. Though if both parties decide to make it work it can be healed by God. Reconciliation and forgiveness is still the ideal.

The other Biblical grounds for divorce is found in the case of an unbeliever separating from a believer.

“But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. ” 1 Corinthians 7:15

In the case of an unbeliever leaving a believer, then the believer is not bound to that commitment and can remarry.

Jesus Forgives

If you are reading this and you or your parents have been in an unbiblical divorce, then know that Jesus forgives. No one is perfect and the only kind of people he accepts are those willing to admit they are sinners.

If you or a loved one has divorced and remarried unbibically, don’t live in shame; confess your sin to God and make it a priority to honor the marriage you are currently in. Jesus loves us in the midst of our failure and sin; this is the heart of the gospel.

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At What Point Do You Stop Forgiving Someone? – Matthew 18:21-35

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 18:21-35 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

At what point do we stop forgiving someone?

Peter came up to Jesus and asked him this.

“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21–22

Peter was likely trying to impress Jesus with how generous he was willing to forgive someone by saying seven times. Jesus did not mean literally 70 x 7 (or 490 times) and once you get to 491, sorry no more forgiveness. Jesus made it clear that we should NEVER stop forgiving! Jesus then told a story that I will summarize.

God’s Radical Forgiveness

 There was a many who owed a huge sum of money to a King, 10,000 talents, which is equivalent 150,000 year’s wages (1 Talent = 15 years of wages)! In other words that would be something that he could NEVER REPAY! Even at the world’s average income of $7,000 a year, it would be over a BILLION dollars! 

He knew he would be enslaved and in debt forever, so he begged the king to have mercy on him. Out of pity, the master forgave the whole amount!

We are like the servant in this story. God has forgiven us this much!  We can never pay God back the debt we owe him. But in his mercy, he forgives those of us who humble ourselves and ask for it.

Forgive As You Have Been Forgiven

This same servant who had been forgiven so much found someone who owed him a mere 100 denarii (only 100 days wages, which factoring the average current wage would be less than $2,000 USD!). Someone who was forgiven over a BILLION dollars would not forgive someone who owed him less than two thousand dollars!

When we refuse to show others the mercy, we are acting like this servant. We have been forgiven so much, we have NO RIGHT to withhold forgiveness from others. The king was very angry with the servant and asked him this,

“And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” Matthew 18:33

We must forgive as we have been forgiven. 

“At what point do you stop forgiving someone?” 


We must forgive as we have been forgiven, unconditionally and radically. 

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What Was the Purpose of The Transfiguration? – Matthew 17

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 17 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

The “transfiguration” is one of those cool stories in the gospels, but what was it’s purpose?  These three reasons are my best guess as to why the transfiguration happened. Of course we can not fully know the mind of God and why he does things, but from the text I think these are logical reasons.

1. To Show the Majesty and Glory of Jesus

“And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” Matthew 17:2

The phrase “He was transfigured” is literally the word metamorphoo (like the english word metamorphosis) which means ‘to be changed or transformed.’ Warren Wiersbe put it elegantly,

“A metamorphosis is a change on the outside that comes from the inside. When a caterpillar builds a cocoon and later emerges as a butterfly, it is due to the process of metamorphosis. Our Lord’s glory was not reflected but radiated from within. There was a change on the outside that came from within as He allowed His essential glory to shine forth.”

Jesus was giving Peter, James and John a glimpse of his true glory.

2. To Show Jesus in the Context of the Old Testament

And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” Matthew 17:3

I’m not sure how the disciples knew it was Moses and Elijah, but seeing them with Jesus puts him in the context of those men who paved the way for his coming.

Moses and Elijah could represent the “law and the prophets.” Wiersbe said, “All of the Law and Prophets point to Christ and are fulfilled in Christ.” Seeing Jesus with them underlines the fact that he is one with the God of the Old Testament.

3. To Show the Father’s Pleasure with Jesus

“He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Matthew 17:5

The Father took this opportunity to give Jesus the ultimate endorsement. Peter in his second letter wrote of his experience as a proof of Jesus’ divinity.

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” 2 Peter 1:16–18

He is the Son of God and everything he does please the Father. We would be wise to listen to him!

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How To Have Dogged Determination And Faith – Matthew 15:1-20

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 15:1-20 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Jesus and his disciples when North to the region of Tyre and Sidon to possibly get away from the crowds and the religious leaders. Then a Canaanite woman asked him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. Historically, the Canannite people were enemies with the Jews and generally worshiped false gods. Here’s what she said,

“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” Matthew 15:22

Jesus ignored this at first. This caused the disciples to tell Jesus to send her away. By ignoring her, he was testing her faith. She called him the Jewish term “Son of David.” This term was used for the promised Jewish Messiah. The commentaries argue that he didn’t respond because she was trying to come to him on Jewish terms. Jesus then said, 

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:24

Jesus used this as an opportunity to share that his ministry focus was indeed the Israelites. (Something we learn from this is that it is okay to have a target group of people that you are trying to reach in your church or ministry, but you still must love and accept everyone.) This response tested her faith even further, but she would not give up!

“But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”  And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Matthew 15:25–26

She then called him “Lord,” which shows her faith in him and does not have the same Jewish ties as “Son of David.” But Jesus again says that he needs to focus his work on feeding his Jewish children and not the Gentiles, or “dogs.”  Jesus is not being harsh with this woman but using a normal term to illustrate how his ministry is directed toward Israel. Even hearing this, she still won’t give up!

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.” Matthew 15:27–28 

Jesus called this woman’s faith GREAT! We can learn a lot from this woman to not give up asking Jesus for what we want. Jesus was pleased with her and granted her request. Eventually, after Jesus ministers to the Jews, the good news indeed would be opened up to all people!

This woman’s faith and dogged determination inspire me to ask God and not to give up on my requests. I am grateful that I (as a Gentile) get to eat the crumbs of God’s grace because his crumbs are better than our lobster dinner!

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The Danger of Religious Traditions And Extra Rules – Matthew 15:1-20

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 15:1-20 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!

 The religious leaders  came to test Jesus, attempting to get him in trouble for not following the traditions of the day. The tradition in question was the ceremonial washing of the hands before eating. They equated following human traditions with spiritual maturity. Basically they had elevated human traditions to the same level as God’s commands!

Tools Vs Rules

He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Matthew 15:3

Jesus reprimanded them for focusing so much on human traditions that they we’re actually not obeying the simplest command to “Honor your father and mother.”

Traditions often start as helpful tools to help you follow God. The problems come when we elevate the tools to the same level as the actual rules.

When tools become rules, we become fools!

When the focus shifts to outward conformity, instead of inward transformation, legalism happens.

“ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” Matthew 15:8–9

Legalism happens when the commands of men become as important as the commands of God.

No One Likes A Fake

Not only do those enslaved in legalism suffer under the unrealistic burdens, but non-believers look in and say, “If that is Christianity, I want no part of it!” The truth is that even those who pretend they are measuring up are just pretending. People can smell someone who is fake a mile away, and will stay away!

The Heart of the Matter

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matthew 15:17–20

Jesus cares most about the heart, because that is what really controls you. The good news is that Jesus offers us a new heart when we choose to repent of our sin, believe in his sacrificial death, and choose to follow him. Stick to the clear commands of scripture and don’t add or subtract from them. Focus on following Jesus with a pure heart instead of following human tradition.

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How To Know If You Are Saved – Matthew 7

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 7 the One Year Bible New Testament. 

Jesus gave us some strong warnings and a test to see if we are really saved.

The Narrow Gate

 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  Matthew 7:13–14

The narrow gate is Jesus. Actually, in John Jesus says,

 “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9

Only those who enter through Jesus will be saved. Period.

The Fruit Test

So how do you know if someone has has truly made Jesus their Lord.  I call it the fruit test. Jesus said in short,

So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:17

Basically Jesus is saying if your life is producing good fruit, it is evidence that you have been saved. Are you growing in the fruit of the Spirit?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22–23

Other fruit can be seen in your words, actions, and being a part of leading others to faith. If you have Christ living inside of you, there will be outward changes. This fruit may take time to grow, but it should be identifiable.

Do You Know Him?

One of the scariest passages in the Bible is Matt 7:21-23

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “

Here’s the ultimate test if you are saved or not. Do you know Jesus? It doesn’t matter if you have even done a lot of good things, even “Christian” things, if you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus resulting in a changed life. Jesus is inviting you into a loving relationship with him!

How can you know you are saved? KNOW JESUS!

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