Read MATTHEW 24

We are living in the last days.  For over 2000 years, ever since Jesus was crucified and resurrected we have been living in the last days.  Many books, countless sermons, hours of television shows, and millions of dollars have been made by those seeking to understand and pinpoint when the Second Coming of Christ will be.  Some people have made careers out of reading the Bible, finding hidden meanings and promising they have found the secret code that will finally interpret the signs and give us the date for the end of the world.  Matthew 24 is one of the texts often cited along with Revelation.  Here Jesus is speaking to His disciples, telling them signs and wonders they will see to know the end is near.  Wars, rumors, earthquakes, false prophets, etc.  Don’t get caught up.  You see, the point Jesus is really making comes at the end of the chapter.  Starting from vs 36 on.  No one knows, not even the Son of Man.  Only the Father.

Jesus is not giving us all these signs so that we will know when He is coming.  All the signs listed we can see now.  In fact, they were seen then.  The point we really need to see is that He will come suddenly, any day now, and what will He find us doing?  Vs 45-46 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.”  So, we are found doing the work to which we were commanded.

You may be saying to yourself “What could possibly be wrong with knowing when He is coming back, it would give us time to prepare?”  Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m like the wicked servant Jesus warns us about in vs. 48-51 “But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed’, and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  I am a procrastinator by nature, and Christ gives me a strong warning about procrastination here.

I pray He finds me faithfully and obediently doing His work when He returns.

Today’s author: Lane Owens

Read Matthew 23

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he was constantly at odds with the religious leaders of the time – the Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the law (scribes). These were men who had given themselves to the study of the Mosaic law, yet completely missed the point. As Jesus is wrapping up the last week of his life, he makes a strong public denouncement of these religious leaders; the language Jesus uses is strong and sharp. You will not find much in the way of encouragement from this chapter! Jesus repeatedly uses the word “woe” – “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees”. The term “woe” was often used by the Old Testament prophets when pronouncing coming judgement on a rebellious people; specifically pointing out the behavior that was bringing the judgement about. Jesus follows that same pattern here. At the conclusion of chapter 23, after pronouncing seven “woes” over the Pharisees and teachers of the law, Jesus in v. 37-39 weeps over Jerusalem and makes a final pronouncement “Look, your house is left to you desolate.” Then in chapter 24 he tells the disciples about the actual destruction of Jerusalem.

What specifically does Jesus have against these Pharisees and teachers of the law? While there are certainly behaviors that he points out – hypocrisy, legalism, pride, vanity – he goes even deeper than that. Notice what he says in v. 31-32

“So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!”

The rejection of those sent by God by the leaders of Israel wasn’t anything new, and certainly didn’t end with the killing of Old Testament prophets. They would reject and kill Jesus, and as Jesus says in v. 34 would go on to reject and kill the prophets he would sent to them. Everything about the religious leaders that Jesus condemns, all the hypocrisy, legalism, pride and vanity ultimately stem from their rejection of God, and a preference of doing things their way. Jeremiah said it like this:

“Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror, declares the Lord. My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” 2:12-13

At the root of every expression and manifestation of sin is a rejection of God and preference of our own way, and every one of us, just like the Pharisees and teachers of law, stands guilty. Just as judgement came to Old Testament Israel, and 1st century Jerusalem on those who rejected God, there will be judgement for all who reject God. The good news of the gospel is that through the rejection and killing of Jesus on the cross, God has made a way for rebels to be saved!! If you find yourself identifying closely with the Pharisees and teachers of the law that Jesus is condemning, repent and turn to God the spring of living water.

Today’s author: Joey Sutton

Read Matthew 22

    Like many of you, over the course of my life I have received several invitations to attend various special events. Weddings, banquets, concerts and sporting events make up the bulk of these invitations. None of them though were quite like the one I received from a friend about 30 years ago to go with a group to the Major League Baseball All Star Game at the Houston Astrodome! Of course I said yes and we had the time of our lives. Our seats were on the very front row in right field, oh what a view! The crowd was electric and the game was fantastic. To top every thing off at the end of batting practice, Darryl Strawberry of the New York Mets was walking through the outfield picking up stray balls when he suddenly turned towards the stands and tossed a couple our way! Unbelievably one landed right in my hands, a wonderful souvenir!! A great night all because I said yes to a kind invitation!!

   In Matthew 22 Jesus uses a parable to warn the religious elite of turning down another type of invitation. In his story Jesus uses a wedding banquet as the setting to represent the gathering of all Believers for the great wedding banquet in Heaven!! Many were invited to the wedding in this parable but when it was time to come they all refused to go, even after a second call of invitation! The Master of the banquet then sent his invitation to all others no matter their position or wealth. All who could hear and accepted could attend! Many came and had a grand time, though one tried to sneak in who didn’t belong. Of course he was quickly removed and thrown where those who didn’t accept were sad  and distraught!

   What Jesus wanted the so called “religous” leaders of that day, as well as all people today to know is that there is only one way to attend the grand wedding banquet in Heaven, saying yes to Jesus Christ! All are invited but few will be allowed to attend because they are not willing to give their heart and life to Jesus. Just going through the motions of being a Christian will not work, as seen by the one in the parable who was not clothed in proper wedding attire! Jesus knows who’s heart has been changed by him and who is just “playing church”!

   At the age of 12 I accepted Jesus’ invitation to change my heart, wash away my sin and make me his! My place at the banquet table has been reserved! How about you? This is one invitation I wasn’t about to turn down!!

Today’s author: Kirk McMaster

Read Matthew 21

The gospels are a story riddled with people’s doubts about Jesus’ identity. They had certain expectations about what the Messiah would be like and how he would establish his kingdom. Many thought, based on prophecy, that the Messiah would be a warrior, sent by God to save the Jewish nation. Others thought that he would be a political leader, who would establish justice, and care for the people. Though he was not the Messiah they expected, there was plenty of evidence that he was indeed the Messiah. He intentionally rode into the city in such a way that people could not mistake his identity. “Your king comes to you gently and riding on a donkey.” It could not have been more obvious who Jesus is. Their shouts of “Hosanna” and their references to him as the “Son of David” clearly show us that the crowd had great expectations of what was going to happen. Hosanna literally means, “Save us, we pray.” Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah, come to save them, though not in a way they anticipated.

Jesus came to set them free from the bondage of sin and death, rather than from other nations. He came to restore the kingdom of God, to restore humanity’s connection with God. Jesus answered their cries of “Hosanna” in a much more meaningful and lasting way. He greatly exceeded their expectations, in ways they could not fully know at the time.

It is often the same with us. Many Christians have expectations of Jesus. At times we have expectations of what we think that Jesus should be doing for us. We might even tell him in prayer exactly what he needs to be doing. Our hosannas often have just as much expectation built into them as those of the people that day. However we often find that, like those people who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, our expectations are at odds with God’s. As disappointing as that may sound, the reality of God’s fulfillment is always far beyond what we had either hoped or imagined.

Today’s author: Katy O’Quinn

Read Matthew 20

Matthew 20:1-16

The Parable of the Vineyard workers.  A landowner goes out early in the morning to find workers to work in his vineyard.  He finds them, and they agree to work for a certain amount of money. At nine o’clock he is passing through town, finds some men who need work, and sends them to work in his vineyard also. He repeats this process at noon and at three o’clock. At five o’clock in the evening, just before quitting time, he finds some people who are standing around and wants to know why they have not been working. They reply, “Because no one hired us.” The landowner sends them out to the vineyard.

In the evening, he tells his foreman to pay them, starting with the last hired.  Each person receives compensation for a day of work.  The people who were hired first see this happening and think that if the people who have only worked an hour received that much pay, surely we will receive more! Yet, they too, receive a day’s wages. And how do they react?

They protested to the landowner, “Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat (vv11-12).”

UNFAIR!!!!

We can all feel it deep inside, can’t we?  It was the cry of the older brother when the father welcomed home the prodigal. It is the cry in children’s church, or in our own living rooms when one child feels that someone has received more than they deserve. It was the cry of the Jewish believers who wanted to add to the salvation of the Gentile believers. And sometimes it is the cry of the saints when a new believer or new member, one who has not been in the trenches, one who does not know the history, receives the same grace that others feel they have earned.

Once, when I had been at a new church for about four months, a member asked me if I had heard the good news that a fellow member had been healed of a disease. I said yes, and that I was rejoicing because I had been praying for that person. The church member’s face became stiff, and they said, “You don’t understand, we have been praying for this healing for six years!” I smiled and replied, “Good thing I got here to help you then.”

We all feel that sense of unfairness. We often feel that because we have been Christians longer, because we have prayed longer, because we have sacrificed more, because we have given our time, our money, and our service, we should receive more. And in a sense, we are right, because grace is inherently unfair. We want life to be fair! Or do we?

Do we truly want to receive what we deserve? If all of our righteous acts are the same to God as filthy rags, do we want to be treated fairly? We are each desperately in need of the grace that Jesus spoke of in this parable. We are deserving of death and eternal separation from God, but He has graciously forgiven our sins and made a way for us to experience His unmerited favor and lavish outpouring of love.  God’s grace is the greatest kindness we can ever experience.  And those who understand that they deserve nothing cannot begrudge this same gift to others. If you feel angered when others receive grace, check your heart. Could it be that you have begun to feel entitled to God’s love and grace?

Today’s author: Sharon Warner

Read  Matthew 18

Living life as a believer (follower of Christ) is not meant to be theoretical. Jesus’ intention is that we actually seek to incorporate His teaching into the decisions, attitudes, and actions of our daily lives. This understanding gives a tremendous amount of relevance to Jesus’ words in today’s passage.

For example, we are given very clear directions on how we are to respond when we are wronged by another believer (vs 15-17). The goal of the process is to resolve the conflict and restore the fellow believer involving as few others as possible. The sad reality is that too often we are guilty of nearly reversing the process. Too often the person who has sinned against us is the last person we speak to about the sin, that is, after we have expressed our hurt to numbers of others.

Our hesitancy to follow the Biblical mandate is that, frankly, it takes guts. But living life as a Christian is not easy. Going mano y mono with another believer on a potentially sensitive issue is hard, but it can lead to greater unity in the body.

Here’s our challenge. We can not say anything to anyone about another person, especially a believer, who has wronged us until we have first followed Jesus’ process for restoration. (This includes prayer requests.) And our desire each step of the way is for restoration. By the way, if the person responds appropriately, we are to never speak about the issue to anyone!

Following this one teaching can transform our lives as well as our fellowship and unity in the body. Just be ready to respond appropriately in case you are on the receiving end of the process!

Today’s author: Monty Pierce

Read Matthew 14

In the first 12 verses, it explains what led to John the Baptist’s death. Immediately in verse 13, you see that Jesus goes by himself to mourn. Obviously Jesus was sad, he went on a boat by himself, but even in the midst of his mourning, he had compassion on his people.

So many times when we’re hurting, whether that be from the loss of a loved one or something we’re personally struggling with, we tend to think of ourselves and our problems. We don’t always realize that someone could potentially need our help.

As Christians, we strive to be more like Christ, and he sets a perfect example for us here. Jesus portrays so much of his character and how we should be in just two verses, verses 13 and 14. It says “when Jesus landed [he] saw a large crowd…” Multitudes of people flocked to Jesus for help, and he did not forsake them. He could’ve sent them away like his disciples suggested so he could continue mourning, but Jesus didn’t leave his people until their needs were met.

Jesus was selfless; he didn’t let what he was going through stop him from helping people that needed him. We should strive to be the same way. No we can’t heal sick people and feed 5 thousand men like Jesus can, but we can show love through our love of Christ in the midst of any suffering.

Matthew 14 is full of different lessons, like that danger of letting your sinful desire overtake you (verses 1-12), or how powerful our God truly is (verses 17-36). I only focused on 2 verses, but too often do we read those 2 verses and just pass over them. There is so much to learn about God, even in 2 simple verses.

Today’s author: Alandra Sales