“DO I JUST HAVE TO BE GOOD TO GET TO HEAVEN?”

Matthew – God’s Purposes
 
Matthew 19 learn
I was busy collecting all i needed to teach Sunday School that cold, snowy morning in January in Oklahoma where Randy was pastor of the church where we grew up. I looked up as Ashley came strolling in with her mom behind her. “We’re early, because I didn’t know how bad the roads would be,” said Mom. “Not to worry, I’m glad you and Ashley are here safe and sound!”
 
While I finished preparing all the supplies for the class, Ashley was randomly talking about her week. Then she asked a question that caused me to stop what I was doing. “Miss Susan, do you just have to be good to get to heaven?” The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and told me it is time to tell Ashley God’s Truth about salvation.
 
Let me pause and relate the background about this 6 year old. At five years old, it was discovered that Ashley had a cancerous tumor growing just below her knee on her right leg. It was so fast growing that the knee had to be amputated and for the next year, chemo administered to aggressively fight the cancer. A year later, this little one wants to know the Truth about heaven.
 
I told Ashley, “No, no one is good enough. Only Jesus is perfect and good. We have all done bad things called sin. Jesus, the Perfect One died for all of our sins and then rose from death and is heaven. If we accept and believe that Jesus did this for us, then we can ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins. Jesus then forgives us and invites us to be part of His family. When we say yes to Him, He prepares a place for us in heaven.” In the meantime, He is with us every hour of every day helping to live in right ways if we listen to Him.”
 
“I want that”, Ashley whispered. I still remember the look on her little face. We prayed together and Ashley became one of God’s own. Later, in worship, she told the congregation of her decision. There was not a dry eye in the house.
 
Want to be rich? Be rich in Jesus! Accept what Jesus has done for us. Believe on Him. Do everything from a heart of gratitude for receiving what we do not deserve, full redemption from our sins. Love God. Love Others. All in Jesus Name. Only then will we inherit the Kingdom of God.
 
Matthew 19, NLT
The Rich Man
Matthew 19 money16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
 
17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”
 
18 “Which ones?” the man asked.
 
And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
 
20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”
 
21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
 
22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
 
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
 
25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.
 
26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
 
27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”
 
28 Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.
 
 
Matthew 19 camelIt is not a matter of what you will get, but with Whom you can have a relationship with forever!
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for saving my soul. Thank you for opportunities to help others find and follow you. Those are precious, holy moments when you intercede and give your words to us to say. Thank you for leading us, guiding us and sometimes causing us to pause to listen to your Holy Spirit when it means the world to someone else. We are so rich in You! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love you with all my heart, mind and soul!
In Jesus Name, Amen.
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JESUS STOPS

Matthew – God’s Purposes
 
Psalm 119 97.pngRandy and I are in the last few weeks of working at Santa Cruz Children’s Learning Center with all kinds of children, younger and older, all precious humans created by God for His glory, honor and praise. I stop in the busyness of teaching at times to realize what a privilege it is to be invited to God’s work of growing and maturing His created to be and do all that they were designed to be.
 
We pause and look into the eyes of each one and wonder what God is doing and will do in their lives and how they will follow Him. Even when we have to correct and confront behavior that will lead them to “crash”, we love, pray, forgive and ask blessings on their lives. We ask God for His wisdom for each day, His insight and His understanding so we can help in the best ways.
The disciples didn’t want to stop in the busyness of the work, but Jesus quickly taught them that is imperative to stop, smile, hug and bless those God has created, for this IS the work of growing and maturing in the faith. He reminds them that the foundation of faith in God is compared to the trusting, unconditional love and faith of a child to older, more mature caregivers.
 
Children look up to us, as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and coaches for love and help, trusting in us to deliver. Jesus tells us we should not “look down on these little ones”. We should BEND down to our children, look them in the eyes, and deliver what they need most…love and acceptance, as was given to us from Our Father in heaven.
 
Matthew 19 Jesus.jpgThis passage opens with “parents brought their children to Jesus…” Oh, how I pray for parents to bring their children to Jesus today! I immediately think of what God commanded, not suggested, of parents who were ready to enter the promised land of God…TEACH your children about Me and what I have done for you “and all will go well with you”.
 
“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.
 
22 “Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the Lord your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him. (Deuteronomy 11, NLT)
 
Matthew 19 Jesus bends down
I love the pictures that artists have given to us of Jesus sitting down as He blesses the children as He goes about His mission. I imagine our Savior settling down on the grass or on a rock so the children could crawl into His lap and hug Him tightly for that is what children instinctively do when you sit down on their level.
 
Matthew 19 Jesus smiling
Oh, what a Savior! Oh, what a lesson for us to meditate on all day long. Want to be like Jesus? Bend down and be a blessing. Stop your “mission” and love on your children and the children God has put in front of you.
 
Matthew 19, NLT
Jesus Blesses the Children
 
13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
 
14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.
 
matthew-19-do-not-hinder.jpg
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for inviting us to Your work while teaching us how to be a help to the growth of those who are young in the faith. Continue to show us your priorities as we go about your work. I pray for parents all over the world to bring their children to You for your blessing.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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NOT WHAT GOD INTENDED…

Matthew – God’s Purposes
 
matthew-18-as-it-was-meant.jpgMarriage is a bond between two people, male and female. If the male and female seek God first, then their marriage is blessed by God. Will there be disagreements and trials in this relationship? Absolutely, for male and female are distinctly designed in different ways with specific gifts and abilities. The blessing in this bond between two people who love God is strengthened BECAUSE of their differences working together to achieve more than what only one person could achieve in following God’s best for them.
 
I talked with a young, unmarried teacher just last night, who commented on how Randy and I work together in the classrooms here in Bolivia. “You and Randy work as a team, that is so cool!” I chuckled a bit and said, “Well, it took us a few years, almost 48 to be exact, to achieve our team spirit.” What she doesn’t see or realize that behind the scene are two very different personalities who realize the gifts and abilities that each of us has been given by God.
 
We know who does what the best and are willing to plan lessons accordingly. We sometimes strongly disagree because of our “night and day” differences when dreaming about our goals. But because of the love of God in us, our love for each other never fails in the discussions. Those disagreements actually lead to each of us seeing life from a different perspective and forming a better plan because of this revelation!
 
Matthew 19 oneJesus reclaims what God intended for male and female coming together in marriage. In Moses time, trying to keep God’s people focused on Him, many strayed. That’s probably why they spent so much time in the wilderness wandering around. They were always under God’s care but chose to complain, argue, and lament over their present circumstances. It is no wonder their marriages didn’t last because of this selfishness. Moses used the “paper” of divorce to protect the women sent away by men from the bond, a “concession to hard hearts” of sinful men, freeing her to marry someone else who would care for her. It is not what God intended but they were doing many things not of God at the time.
 
We have many divorced friends who we love dearly. Most will say, we were not under God’s will when we married and did not live for Him while married. We didn’t know how to be married. We didn’t know how to handle life while going through financial hard times. We didn’t know how to disagree without fighting for our “rights” as individuals. There is the problem today in this key word…individuals. They never came together “united as one” under God’s will and purpose for them as a couple in the marriage bond. Without God, we fight as individuals, selfishly driven to get our own way.
 
Jesus points out this is not what God intended…
 
Jesus also knew then what is said and acceptable in today’s world…“Not everyone can accept this statement,” only those who God helps.
 
Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, Jesus provided a way back to God. Come to Him. Stay with Him. God will help and bless all marriages where two individuals come together as “one” in Him. Use your God given differences, with God’s help, to create a bond of ONE that cannot be broken.
 
Matthew 18, NLT
Discussion about Divorce and Marriage
Matthew 19 love covenant19 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. 2 Large crowds followed him there, and he healed their sick.
 
3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
 
4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” 5 And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
 
7 “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked.
 
Matthew 19 marriage.jpg8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”
 
10 Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”
 
11 “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. 12 Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
 
Matthew 19 love
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for creating us the way you did. Thank you, dear Jesus, for showing us with your life, how to lay down our selfishness and think of others more than ourselves. Help us not to fight for our “rights” but to focus on being more righteous in your eyes. Help us to be one in You.
In Jesus Name, Amen

 

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FORGIVENESS IS MERCY MULTIPLIED

Matthew – God’s Purposes
 
Matthew 18 forgive funny
Peter’s question, “How often should I forgive?”, is so relevant today. Jesus responds with a clear answer and backs it up with another side story to nail the forgiveness and mercy point to our hearts. When we are made fun of, shown no respect, mocked for our faith, offended because we don’t partake in things of this world, or hurt physically by insecure bullies who know little about the love of God, we, too, ask God, “How many times do I let this go, show mercy and forgive?” It’s not fair!
 
matthew-18-called.pngBut then we think of how little we deserve the mercy and complete forgiveness of Jesus Christ that was displayed to the mocking world on a cruel cross. Did Jesus ask God, “How often should I forgive?” His answer, “Only once and forever.”
 
Our love for others is measured in two ways:
1. How much we realize God’s love for us–for with that measure we love each other.
2. How deeply grateful we are for the forgiveness and mercy of Christ measures how quickly we forgive and show mercy to those who offend us.
 
What does God require of us? The prophet of God, Micah, states it clearly for us,
 
“What can we bring to the Lord?
Should we bring him burnt offerings?
Should we bow before God Most High
with offerings of yearling calves?
7 Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?
 
8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6, NLT)
 
To forgive quickly and completely with holding a grudge which hinders our growth in Christ, is to walk humbly and to love mercy. Mercy and forgiveness go together like peanut butter and jelly, or like love and peace of heart.
 
Matthew 18 unfogiving servantMatthew 18, NLT
Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor
 
21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
 
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
 
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
 
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
 
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
 
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
 
Matthew 18 how often31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
 
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
 
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
 
Matthew 18 you.jpg*Leave a trail of forgiveness and mercy so that others will forgive and show mercy.
 
*If we do not forgive, our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ will not forgive us. YES, Our Father, is serious.
 
*We negate the work of the cross for us if we do not, in turn, forgive those who offend or hurt us.
 
*It’s not about being fair…Praise God! If we got what we deserved, NONE of us would be forgiven!
 
*Forgiveness is mercy multiplied.
 
Matthew 18 forgive
*Burdens are lifted when complete forgiveness, full of love and mercy, by the power of His Holy Spirit in us, is freely given…as it was freely given to us. “Freely as you have received, freely give”, Jesus told his disciples as they worked among hurting, broken people. This includes forgiveness and mercy.
 
*How many times? “To infinity and beyond!”…Always and Forever.
 
Thankfully, forgiveness is not about what is deserved, rather it is about what is right, loving mercy and walking humbly with God knowing He is merciful to us each day.
 
Matthew 18 freedomDear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for your relentless love and mercy for me. Thank you for forgiving me of my selfish ways. Thank you for showing me Your ultimate example of forgiveness and mercy. Help me to walk humbly with you showing mercy and grace, forgiveness with love to others.
In Jesus Name, Amen
 
And I’m singing…
 
God forgave my sin in Jesus’ name.
I’ve been born again in Jesus’ name
And in Jesus’ name I come to you
To share his love as he told me to.
 
He said ‘Freely, freely you have received;, freely, freely give.
Go in my name, and because you believe others will know that I live.
 
All pow’r is giv’n in Jesus’ name
in earth and heav’n in Jesus name
And in Jesus’ name I come to you
To share his pow’r as he told me to.
 
He said ‘Freely, freely you have received;, freely, freely give.
Go in my name, and because you believe others will know that I live.
 
God gives us life in Jesus’ name
he lives in us in Jesus’ name
And in Jesus’ name I come to you
To share his peace as he told me to…
 
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WE’RE ON THE SAME TEAM!

Matthew – God’s Purposes
 
Matthew 18 15 won
An unbeliever married into a family of believers who attended our home church years ago. We were friends with this couple and went out to dinner or attended sporting events together often. After a while, the unbeliever trusted us enough to ask questions about the church, letting us know that he had been observing the conduct of church going people. His questions caused us to think more deeply about how we look to the unbelieving, outside the church world, who are searching for Truth. They look for honesty and integrity in humans who “go to church”. Here are some of his questions:
 
Why do you fight with each other over what is sung in church? Who really wins?
 
Do you follow each other or do you, like you say, follow Jesus, who you say is the One?
 
Why are you in competition with other churches? Aren’t you all on the same team?
 
Why is money such a big issue? It seems all you want is my money when I just want to be friends until I trust you and your organization with what I have.
 
Will you still love me and be my friend if I don’t “buy into” what you are “selling”? (He was a salesman so this was his language.)
 
What about the person you have as a church deacon who regularly cheats people in his business during the week? How is that okay?
 
Matthew 18 stepsOur kind of lame, first answer is God’s church is made up of imperfect people who make mistakes. But as I think more deeply about this answer, it isn’t good enough. We are a redeemed, forgiven, chosen people because of Jesus’ dying and rising again from death as a result of excruciating pain and agony a cruel cross. Why, then do we continue to hurt Jesus by the way we behave as believers with one another when he clearly told us (through His disciples) to “Love God and Love each other” like I have loved you? Our disagreeable stuff pales in comparison! Can we begin there? Can we love each other deeply enough to confront them and love them back into living how Jesus taught us to live?
 
Because He knew we would need help in our imperfection, easily offended, still being transformed daily selves, Jesus gave us a method of resolution INSIDE the Body of Christ for our disagreements and wrong doings to each other. Here is the plan:
 
Matthew 18 agreeMatthew 18, NLT
Correcting Another Believer
 
15 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
 
18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
 
19 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
 
THOUGHTS FOR REFLECTION:
 
Oh, what a better witness to the power of Christ in us, if we followed this plan of resolving our issues and misunderstandings PRIVATELY so that the love of Christ is shown more PUBLICLY to the observing world of, what I like to call. “pre-believers”.
 
Matthew 18 30How sweet it is when brothers and sisters agree on the goal helping each other find and follow Christ. Healthy Bodies of Christ know this. Issues resolved in a spirit of love and unity so we can get back to what God has called us to BE and DO is monumental to growing in His love. The closer we are to Christ, the closer we are to each other!
 
BE the Body of Christ who is known for Love of Christ and Love for others in and outside the Body of Christ.
 
Matthew 18 Son
Dear Heavenly Father,
We say and do stupid stuff as the sheep of your pasture as we learned yesterday. Continue to convict and challenge us to be better, more loving and kind than we were the day before. Help us climb higher in our thinking and behaving. Help us to see others the way you see them, to always love, no matter what, and to love You first of all. We are the Body of Christ. We are on the “same team”.
In Jesus Name, Amen
 
And I’m singing…
 
How Beautiful
 
How beautiful the hands that served
the wine and the bread
and the sons of the earth.
How beautiful the feet that walked
the long dusty roads
and the hills to the cross.
 
How beautiful
how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.
 
How beautiful the heart that bled
that took all my sin
and bore it instead.
How beautiful the tender eyes
that chose to forgive
and never despise.
 
How beautiful
how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.
 
And as He laid down His life
we offer this sacrifice
that we will live just as he died:
willing to pay the price
willing to pay the price.
 
How beautiful the radiant Bride
who waits for her Groom
with His light in her eyes.
How beautiful when humble hearts give
the fruit of pure lives
so that others may live.
 
How beautiful
how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.
 
How beautiful the feet that bring
the sound of good news
and the love of the King.
How beautiful the hands that serve
the wine and the bread
and the sons of the earth.
 
How beautiful
how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.
 
Songwriters: Ann Wilson
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THE ONE GOES AFTER THE ONE

Matthew – God’s Purposes
 
Matthew 18 cliff sheep
I seriously believe that I am a devoted child of God because Jesus won’t let me go far from His sight. It is not because of anything I have done or anything I deserve. It is only because I said yes to Him long ago so I am His and He is mine. Many of us feel that way. But we are like sheep. Sheep are not smart. They are dumb and do dumb things. They follow whoever is leading at the moment…even if that means off a cliff to their death. Remember what your parents said (and now you say it to your kids)? “If Billy jumped off a cliff, are you going to do it, too?” We say no, at the time, but then we jump with Billy!
 
Matthew 18 lost sheepI read a true story a few years ago about a Turkish shepherd who had about 1000 sheep in his care. One of the adult sheep decided to make a run for it from the grass where they were feeding and cared for by the shepherd. He ran right off a high cliff to his death below. One at a time, the other sheep followed! He lost a whole herd that day in a matter of minutes because of one who left and leaped. At the bottom of the cliff was just one big pile of wool sweaters and a huge loss to the economy of the village!
 
Matthew 18 sheep of His.jpg
Seriously though, we are thankful our Shepherd goes after us and brings us back. Because of our wanderings, He might find us broken and bruised. Sometimes our Shepherd, like shepherds of sheep, must wrestle us to the ground, tie our legs and carry us back to the fold. Whatever it takes, Jesus comes for us. That’s how much Jesus loves and cares for each one of us who decides to make a run for it. We are so dumb, like sheep, sometimes. It is no wonder we are compared to sheep in the Bible.
 
Matthew 18, NLT
 
Matthew 18 lost.jpgParable of the Lost Sheep
12 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! 14 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.
 
God sent Jesus to go after the lost and save us all, bringing us back to the One who created all and is in all. Praise God for His love–His overwhelming love! What a celebration it is in heaven when we follow the Shepherd and come back to the fold! Baaa! (Happy sheep sound).
 
I woke with this song this morning before reading this passage…Reckless Love
 
Matthew 18 sheepBefore I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me
 
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God,
 
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me
 
And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
 
Matthew 18 Jesus.jpg
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
 
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me…
 
Dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you for coming after me. I love you with all my heart, mind and soul because You left Your throne in heaven to come after all of us. AND you’re coming back!
In Jesus Name, Amen
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WHO IS THE GREATEST?!

Matthew – God’s Purposes
 
Matthew 18 great
A little boy was in his backyard playing baseball with only a bat and a ball. He was up to bat. He was all alone but he could hear the crowd yelling, “hit a homer”, in his mind. He shouted back at the crowd, “I’m the greatest batter in the world!”
 
He threw the ball up in the air, then swung his bat as hard as he could. Missed. He shouted, “Strike One!” Confidently he shouted once more, “I’m the greatest batter in the world!” He threw the ball in the air and swung his bat with all his might. Missed, again. “Strike Two!”, he shouted. He dug his feet into the ground and did some practice swings like the big league ball players do then he picked up the ball once more and shouted, “I am the greatest batter in the world!” It was another swing and a miss. “Strike three!”, he shouted. Undaunted, without missing a beat, the boy then yelled so all “the crowd” could hear, “I’m the greatest PITCHER in the world!”
 
Matthew 18 the greatestWe are born with this natural desire to be great. What gets us in trouble is desiring to be the greatEST, to be greatER than anyone else God created. But that is not how Kingdom living works. Whatever gifts or talents God has given us, we use to the glory of God, not to our glory. Jesus points that out to his followers in a great lesson of how to be great and who accomplishes greatness in His eyes. Listen in. Let’s put ourselves in this scene.
 
Matthew 18, NLT
 
The Greatest in the Kingdom
 
Matthew 18 13.pngAbout that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
 
2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
 
5 “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. 6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
 
Matthew 18 humbles.jpg7 “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. 8 So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
 
10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.
 
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
 
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BE HUMBLE
1. Become humble like a child without being childish.
2. Be like a little child who has complete faith that they will be loved, cared for and protected.
3. God looks on our humility as a sign of greatness to Him.
4. Obey in faith, like a child who loves completely and wants to please.
5. True humility is not thinking merely less of oneself; it is simply not thinking of oneself at all. A child follows without thought of where they are going.
 
The disciples waited breathlessly for Jesus to name the greatest man among them. But He bypassed them completely and called a little child into their midst. This child was the example of true greatness. True humility means knowing yourself, accepting yourself, and being yourself—your best self—to the glory of God.
 
Humility means avoiding two extremes: thinking less of yourself than you ought to (as did Moses when God called him, Ex. 3: 11), or thinking more of yourself than you ought to (Rom. 12:3). The truly humble person does not deny the gifts God has given him, but uses them to the glory of God.
 
An unspoiled child has the characteristics that make for humility: trust (Matt. 18:6), dependence, the desire to make others happy, an absence of boasting or selfish desire to be greater than others. By nature, all of us are rebels who want to be celebrities instead of servants. It takes a great deal of teaching for us to learn the lessons of humility.
 
Matthew 18 eye on the ball
BE LOVING AND GENTLE
 
It is a dangerous thing to look down on the children, because God values them highly. When we welcome a child (or a Christian believer), we welcome Christ (Matt. 18:5). The Father cares for them and the angels watch over them (Matt. 18:10). Like the good shepherd, God seeks the lost and saves them, and we must not cause them to perish. If the shepherd goes after an adult sheep, how much more important is it that he protect the lambs!
 
The truly humble person helps to build up others, not to tear them down. He is a stepping-stone, not a stumbling block. Therefore, anything that makes me stumble must be removed from my life, for if it is not, I cause others to stumble. Jesus had uttered similar words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:29–30). Paul used the eye, hand, and foot to illustrate the mutual dependence of members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:14–17).
 
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BE HONEST
Humility begins with self-examination, and it continues with self-denial. Jesus was not suggesting that we maim our bodies, for harming our physical bodies can never change the spiritual condition of our hearts. Rather, He was instructing us to perform “spiritual surgery” on ourselves, removing anything that causes us to stumble or that causes others to stumble. The humble person lives for Jesus first and others next—he puts himself last. He is happy to deprive himself even of good things, if it will make others happy. Perhaps the best commentary on this is Philippians 2:1–18. (Worth your time to read…again.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
In just a few words from Jesus, with an example, you teach us what you expect from us with clarity and simplicity. I repent of times this week when I thought of myself first and complained when my comfort level was pushed. Cleanse me. Renew a right Spirit in me. Thank you for always correcting our position and stance as we journey here so that we can stay focused on you and on the right path. Thank you for teaching us Kingdom living that leads to peace, joy, and greater love.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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