Do we really need New Year's resolutions? Don't we really need to examine our priorities? Priorities affect all we do. As we begin this new year with a study of Matthew, we don't have to guess about where our priorities should lie. As I read the beginning chapters of this book one verse seemed to be the recurring theme.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
Monday Readings: Matthew 1
My husband loves old westerns. One caught my attention this week. The show was much like the Jim Elliot story. Three women had lost their husbands to a violent tribe who allowed no whites or Hispanics near their mountain. The husbands had agreed with their wives that it was their call to reach this tribe with food, medicine and the gospel. Since the husbands were killed the wives had decided it was their duty to fulfill the promise they had jointly made to God with their husbands. The main character in the western tried to discourage the women by asking if they thought God would require them to fulfill a promise they made, not knowing what lie ahead. One of the women had been a newly wed. Her answer was she wanted to fulfill the promise. Does God require us to fulfill a promise when we don't know what lies ahead?
Joseph didn't know what to do about Mary (vs 19,24). It was hard to believe her story of the angel and the virgin conception. But when God told him to marry her, he immediately did as God said and took Mary for his wife, having no idea what they would face except the ridicule of those who knew them. Yes, God expected him to keep his promise to marry Mary though he could not guess the consequences they would face.
Father, give us each courage to go with Your leading, regardless of what our feelings or family or peers or even religious affiliation tell us. Help us Lord, as Joseph, to seek first the kingdom of God. In Jesus name, Amen.
Tuesday Readings: Matthew 2
In chapter 2 we see wise men following God's lead. I wonder what the people of the East thought of them. Were they wise to the Eastern people, following a star for over a year? When they came to Jerusalem and there was no star, did they feel discouraged? When the king nor the religious leaders seemed excited enough to go with them did they feel foolish? But then the star appeared again and led them to the place. Again they followed God's lead to get them to the place and to go home a different way (vs12). Because they sought the kingdom of God first, they were allowed to see the Messiah, maybe the first Gentiles to see and believe. With the gifts, God provided for Mary and Joseph and Jesus funds for their trip and life in Egypt.
Father, help us not to depend on politicians or so called religious leaders to back us in the way we know You are directing us, but help us to be wise men and women and seek Your kingdom first allowing You to supply all our needs. In Jesus name. Amen.
Wednesday Readings: Matthew 3
John, Jesus' cousin, announces to the people that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and commands them to repent. Jesus, the King of the kingdom, was at hand. In a few verses we find Jesus asking John to baptize him (vs 13). What if we were standing in a crowd listening to preaching and Jesus walked up. How would we react? Would we be aware of His holiness and our sinfulness? Would we fall on our faces in fear, crying out for forgiveness? What would be Jesus reply to us? Would we realize that today is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2) Or would we fall on our face in worship of the King, our Saviour.
Father, help us realize that each time we hear the Word preached we have two choices, repent or worship. Help us realize Christ is in our midst. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Help us Father to use this day as a day for the kingdom. In Jesus name. Amen.
Thursday Readings: Matthew 4
After Jesus' baptism, He was led into the wilderness. He fasted forty days and nights. How would he have felt? Weak, tired, hungry, drained, exhausted, the descriptions could go on and on. When Satan came to tempt, the first thing he did was appeal to a basic need of food. But Jesus reply was that Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God(vs. 4). How can God's word cause us to live?
I believe it was an accidental experiment but nevertheless one that will give us insight into the Word of God. A group of infant orphans were placed in an orphanage and given food, clothing and shelter, the basic needs of man. But they failed to thrive and began to die. The problem was lack of LOVE. No one had held or cuddled or spoken to them. It was simple a routine to feed, and change the babies. Once someone recognized the problem, and began to hold and cuddle and speak to the babies they began to turn around. Without love, we all die. Every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God is love (John 3:16). Satan took Jesus to a pinnacle of the temple and used scripture to try to get Jesus to prove God's love. But Jesus knows that no one needs to prove love by tempting God. He has already proven His love by giving His only Son. Love goes hand in hand with trust. To love is to trust. Then Satan offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world if He would bow to Satan. Power is not love. Jesus was here to do the will of the Father. He was here to demonstrate love. The kingdom of heaven is a spiritual kingdom not made by the earthly hands of power.
Father, Help us be loving servants in Your kingdom, knowing that love conquers all. In Jesus name. Amen.
Friday Readings: Matthew 5
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us of blessings we receive even when things don't go the way we would like. Verses 13-16 tell us who we are in Christ, the salt and the light. What the world sees in us is what the world understands about Christians and God. Remember from yesterday's reading God is all about LOVE. Maybe we need to ask ourselves how we treat the poor, the old, the pre-born, the immigrant, the one who treats us unjustly. Is there love and compassion in all our actions? Others cannot see a loving and compassionate God if they only see us standing for our rights, angrily protesting on the latest political band wagon.
Father, help me let my light shine for You, that others see good works, and glorify You. May the world know the truth that will set them free to live as citizens in the loving kingdom of God. In Jesus name. Amen.
Christians, do we have our priorities in order?
Blessings on your week of new beginnings.