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August 2015

Matthew 6

Prayer Circle

Wow what a great couple of chapters.  I am drawn back to this issue of prayer.  I must confess that prayer is difficult for me at times, I love reading and studying God's Word but prayer overwhelms me.  But some time ago as I was reading the Lord's prayer I read something about how the prayer was divided and I started using it as a pattern for how to pray.  It helps keep me moving and not just kind of circling around the same things over and over. I also find that it helps when I write down my prayer.  I dont necessarily do it word for word but I pray-write.

Here is the pattern I derived from Jesus' teaching on how to pray.

Adoration:  We take time to express our worship to God and to describe who He is.  God you are holy and righteous.  You are a kind and gracious King.  You are the creator of all things and the ruler over everything.

Kingdom come and will be done:  Here we pray for God's purposes and will be accomplished here on earth as it is in heaven.  There are so many directions this can go in and I allow the Holy Spirit to guide me as I pray this.  Some days I focus on a particular issue that God's will must be accomplished in and then dig in on it.  Other days I pray for a number of areas.

Give and Forgive:  Then I pray for God's provision in my life and the lives of others.  I also take time to confess any area of sin the Holy Spirit brings to my attention and ask for forgiveness.

Lead and Protect:  I ask God to give me direction for different areas of my life.  I also pray for protection for me, my family and those around me.

Then I end with adoration again.

Jesus assumes that prayer would be a regular part of the believer's life.  He did not say if you pray, rather He starts with "when you pray."  Let us use this tool of prayer to draw near to God and to experience His presence in a greater way.

Matthew 5


Matthew 5:3-20 (NLT) 3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. 6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. 7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. 9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. 10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. 17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

The Beatitudes give us four proper (righteous) attitudes that should be present in the life of the believer.
Our attitude towards ourselves: not full of ourselves and thinking that we are the rulers of our destiny.  Rather a correct estimate of ourselves, understanding our place and role in God's kingdom.
Our attitude towards sin: we hate what displeases God and we mourn over it when we do sin.  It is the kind of mourning that causes us to do whatever we can to make a break with that kind of living.
Our attitude towards God: we realize that only God can cleanse us of our sins by His grace and not by anything we could do to curry favor.  Our response of love to His grace and mercy is a heart to please Him in whatever way possible.
Our attitude towards the world: we desire God's desires for the world around us - to help restore people to proper relationship with the Father God.  

What we quickly discover is that we fall short of that kind of righteousness.  The righteousness that is described in the beatitudes is unattainable except through Jesus - the fulfillment of the law.  

(Matthew 5:17 (NLT) 17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.)  

We can ignore the Law, try to do them in our own strength or we seek to obey the Law through the power of the Holy Spirit.  When we surrender to the Holy Spirit and give Him permission to work in our lives, we begin to live humble lives, repentant lives, lives of obedience to God and lives that become beacons that point people to Jesus.

Lord today I want to thank you for your mercy and grace towards me.  I was a sinner on my way to hell and in no way capable of paying the price for my salvation.  But you rescued me!  You reached all the way from heaven to earth and pulled me out of this chaos, out of this ocean of sin.  You set me up on solid ground and I find myself safe, surprised to be loved.  But you didn't stop gave me the Holy Spirit who leads me and guides me in your truth.  He empowers me so that as I seek you and learn more about you I am able (through the Holy Spirit's enablement) to live a life that is pleasing to you. 

Matthew 4


Matthew 4:13-17 (NIV) 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali-- 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

A light has come to Galilee!  Jesus, the Light, brought light to Galilee and everywhere He went.  Matthew tells us in verse 23 that He brought the light through His teaching, preaching and healing. 

Throughout the book of Matthew we notice that Jesus went to people teaching, preaching and healing.  Preaching the good news of the Kingdom and calling people to repentance.  Teaching those who were following Him and healing every disease and sickness.  Our strategy at DSC is the same as Jesus', do you see it in the 4 R's?  Reaching, Recruiting, Resourcing and Releasing.
Jesus reached lost people and got their attention by healing their sick and lame.
Having gotten their attention He began preaching the Good News of the Kingdom and calling them to repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.  This repentance was the invitation to be a part of the family of God (Recruit).
Then He taught (Resourced) them in the synagogue; the church.
Finally He chose disciples and sent them out (Released) to go and continue His mission.  

The Light of the world tells us that we His children are also the the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot (and should not) be hidden.  He calls us, as we will see in the book of Matthew, to continue His work of bringing light to the world through our healing, preaching and teaching in His name.  Let us follow the example of the Master and bring healing to the people around us as we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let us be willing to share the truth of the gospel with those who are turned towards us because of our willingness to meet the physical needs of their lives and show them their spiritual needs by sharing the good news.  And let us be taught so that we can teach others about what it means to live as children of God, being obedient to the Father as we live in the Son and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The people living in the darkness of Santa Clarita have seen a great light as it is reflected through the people of DSC.

Matthew 3


Matthew 3:13-17 (NIV) 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 15 Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

One of the most subtle ways that satan uses to tempt us is pride. 

Humans are prone to pride - a reliance on self and in believing that we are better than.  If there were a human who could be legitimately prideful it would be Jesus - He was definitely superior, He was better than the other people around Him.  Yet Jesus never succumbs to pride.  In today's reading I can easily see how Jesus could have allowed pride to get the better of Him.  He shows up at John's service where large crowds were gathered.  John was the celebrity and on seeing Jesus, John deferred to Him and started telling Jesus how awesome He was.  Imagine how Jesus' stock must have risen with that crowd that was present and if Jesus had allowed the pride to take over He would probably have said, "John, you're right.  I am all that and a bag of chips and I will baptize you."  The crowds would have loved that and it would have been a big boost to Jesus' ego.  Except...that was not God's plan, so Jesus humbled Himself and did not let His ego get the better of Him.  He humbled Himself to the Father and obeyed and submitted Himself to John (even though Jesus was the greater one).
That act of humility and submission brought the approval of the Father. 

We must not let pride be the one who makes the decisions of our lives.  We must be directed by the Father through the Holy Spirit.  Our subjection of pride (self) and submission to God brings the approval of the Father and I dont know about you but I love when my Father is pleased by my actions.

Matthew 2


S- Matthew 2:1-5 (NIV) 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:

O - There are three sets of people in this brief section that I thought was significant; the Magi, Herod and the priests and teachers of the law.

U - The Magi were seeking Jesus, King of the Jews.  Herod was opposing Jesus and the priests and teachers were ignoring Jesus.
The Magi were the Gentiles, not Jews.  The Jews were God's chosen people.  They had all the insight as Matthew continually reminds us; "all this fulfilled what the prophet had said."  The priests and teachers knew the Scriptures and pointed others to its truth but when presented with the opportunity they chose not to go see and worship for themselves.  Yet the Gentile Magi left the comfort of their homes and homeland and traversed a great distance to find Jesus and chose to believe that this was the King that they were seeking.
Herod opposed Jesus because he believed that Jesus threatened his power and way of life.  He was driven by fear and greed and nothing would stand in his way of preserving that way of life.

L - It would seem that we all fit in one of these categories.  Either we are running hard towards Jesus, we are opposing and defying His rule in our lives or we are ignoring Him.  The funny thing is that all three can be present in us.  Many of us are seeking Him and Jesus assures us that if we seek Him we will find Him.  Yet when we do encounter Him, He gently yet firmly calls us to change from a egocentric way of living to living according to His ways.  Most of us do one of two things at this point, we ignore Him or we oppose Him.  Let's choose to be like the wise men, who after they encountered Jesus they submitted to Him, gave Him their gifts and honored Him as a King.

Matthew 1



One of the themes of the Old Testament is given in Genesis 5:1: "This is the book of the generations of Adam." The Old Testament gives the history of "the Adam family." God created man in His own image, but man sinned—and in so doing defiled and deformed that image. Every offspring born after that sinful act was born sinful.  

But the New Testament is, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ" (Matt. 1:1). Jesus is the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), and He came to earth to save the "children of Adam." (This includes you and me.) Through no choice of our own, we were born into the generations of Adam, and this made us sinners. But by a choice of faith, we can be born into the generation of Jesus Christ and become the children of God!

When you read the genealogy in Genesis 5, the repeated phrase is, and he died.  The Old Testament illustrates the truth that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). But when you turn to the New Testament, that first genealogy emphasizes birth and not death! The message of the New Testament is that "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).

 The Old Testament is a book of promise, while the New Testament is a book of fulfillment.  Beginning with Genesis 3:15, God promised a Redeemer; and Jesus Christ fulfilled that promise.  Matthew talks about Jesus the fulfillment time and again.
His birth at Bethlehem fulfilled Isaiah 7:14 (Matt. 1:22-23).
Jesus was taken to Egypt for safety, and this fulfilled Hosea 11:1 (Matt. 2:14-15).
When Joseph and the family returned and decided to settle in Nazareth, this fulfilled several Old Testament prophecies (Matt. 2:22-23).

The Lamb who takes away the sins of the world once and for all had arrived on the scene and Mary and Joseph were given the amazing responsibility to help the promise be fulfilled.  I am sure that they did not see it from that perspective as they were going through the angst of pregnancy before marriage, social pressure, labor pains and raising a child that required them to leave their homeland, but they did not back away and because of their obedience...we have been given an antidote for the inherited sin stain of Adam.  Matthew informs us of the words of the angel to Joseph, "Jesus will save the children of Adam from their sin."  Now that is great reason for celebration.

Genesis 50


Genesis 50:18-21 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph showed grace (unmerited favor) and kindness to his brothers. They did not deserve his forgiveness, only his wrath and retaliation, yet Joseph recognized that 1) He wasn't God (v.19) 2) God had a plan and purpose all along. God was in control the whole time. (V. 20)

This story is again parallel to Jesus. We did not deserve God's love, grace, forgiveness or kindness. We only deserved God's wrath because we are lost and sinful by nature. We nailed Him to that cross. However, we do not have to be afraid of God anymore. We are free to be loved by Him and to love Him in return because of Christ! Thank you Jesus! The lost relationship is now restored. So let's run freely to Him since we have unlimited access and invite others to come to restored relationship with Jesus as well.

Genesis 49


SCRIPTURE: Genesis 49:24-25:
24 But his bow remained steady,
his strong arms stayed[l] limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty,[m] who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
blessings of the deep springs below,
blessings of the breast and womb.

OBSERVATION: (What does it say?)
In the chapter we read yesterday, Jacob was close to death and his son Joseph came to visit him along with his 2 sons. Jacob ended up pouring blessing over his 2 grandsons. In today's chapter, he is now pouring out his blessing over his own 12 sons. Out of the 12, Jacob poured the greatest blessing over Joseph. However, it was just affirmation for a blessing Joseph had already received.

UNDERSTANDING: (What does it mean?)
There's an interesting difference between the blessing Jacob poured over Joseph as opposed to his brothers. The difference is not just in the length, but in the content of it. There's this understanding that he was already blessed by the Almighty God. Jacob was merely affirming the blessing of God that Joseph had been under and would continue to be under. That's why he called him the "prince among his brothers (vs. 26b)."

A blessed life is completely the work of our Heavenly Father. Joseph was able to remain steady and strong amidst the trials and temptations of life not because of his own strength, but because of the "hand of the Mighty One", the "Shepherd", the "Rock of Israel", "God", "Almighty" as verses 24-25 pointed out. The fact that Joseph was blessed by Him and continually given help by Him is why he was victorious. None of it was by his own merit or strength. As a life application, when we face trials and temptations of our own, let us remember that we cannot overcome in our own strength. It is by His strength alone that we are able to have victory. Joseph and Jacob both recognized this and continually gave God credit for it. When we try on our strength, we will fail. When we are weak on our knees before Him, that's when we become strong. Let us not be afraid or ashamed to confess our weaknesses to Him. He knows them all already and is the only One strong enough and powerful enough to help us through it. I believe strength and power comes from Him alone so that we have nothing to boast about. He alone is worthy and to be glorified, not us. Blessing and victory is IMPOSSIBLE apart from Him.

Genesis 48


SCRIPTURE: Genesis 48:17- When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.”

OBSERVATION: (What does it say?)
Jacob (Israel) was close to death. This is an account of Israel's last days. Joseph went to visit his dying father and Israel blessed Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Manasseh was the first born and Ephraim was the youngest son. Usually, the firstborn receives the first and greatest blessing. Joseph thought his father had made a mistake when he chose to put his right hand on Ephraim. Joseph knew his father could not see very well, so he took hold of his hand to move it. However, Israel refused for his hand to be moved and basically told him that he knew what he was doing when he chose to cross hands and put his right hand on Ephraim, the youngest son.

UNDERSTANDING (What does it mean?)
Birth order did not matter to Israel. He knew what he was doing when he put Ephraim (the younger son) ahead of Manasseh. He blessed the younger son to be greater than the older son on purpose, not by mistake.

So what can we learn from this story? It's again parallel to God's dealings with us. When we think about the people that God chooses to bless and work through, it is not dependent on birth order, status, intelligence, or who seems like the most deserving either.
"He chooses the weak things of the world; he raises the poor out of the dust. Grace observes not the order of nature, nor does God prefer those whom we think fittest to be preferred, but as it pleases him."-Matthew Henry commentary
God chooses to work through and bless the least likely of people and least deserving at times too. I'm so thankful that when God chose me, it didn't depend on qualification or being the most likely candidate to get the job done. It doesn't matter our background or birth order. It's Him alone who chooses to bless us and work through our lives. He doesn't make mistakes.

Genesis 47


S: 25 “You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.”

O: The Egyptians were willing to be in bondage to Pharaoh because he had saved their lives by giving them opportunities to not starve to death.

U: When we are desperate to live and are given that opportunity to live as Pharaoh gave the Egyptians, gratefulness to the point of doing anything and everything to please that person would result. We would willingly want to owe our lives to the one who saved it.

L: One cannot help but connect Jesus to this. He saved our lives when our lives were in desperate need of being saved from the wrath of God. Through His sacrifice and resurrection, He gave us an opportunity at a 2nd chance to live instead of die. As a result, our response should be gratefulness to the point of giving our whole lives over to Him not as an obligation, but willingly. If it wasn't for Jesus, we would all be in hell right now with no chance of redemption. Do our lives show gratitude for this undeserved gift or do our lives show entitlement? We owe Him our lives, not because He needs it or is bugging us for it, but because He saved it.