Monthly Archives: February 2014

28 Days Through Matthew – Chapter 28 Reading with Devotion

Read Matthew 28

Reading Matthew 28, I couldn’t help but compare to events that are happening today. When the guards went and told the chief priests that Jesus had risen from the dead, they actually paid the guards money and told them to keep quiet about what had happened and to tell the people that his body had been stolen. The fact that people want to shush Jesus’ existence, His glory, His power, and His word, was so real; and is still so real today. Being a Christian, I have faced many discriminations, and have even been told, “You can’t talk about Jesus or Christianity here…” In this world, there have been so many rules and barriers in sub-cultures and community groups, and the works of Jesus Christ is not a topic that people want to always hear about. This saddens me. I believe that the truth about Christ sometimes scares people. It scares them because “if He really is real”, then this takes away the ‘power’ that people strive for here on earth. Some do not want to believe that there is something more powerful than them. These false ‘idols’ of our world (government, false prophets, media ‘gods’, etc.) will lose their power and control over others if everyone came to truly believe in Christ our Savior. We should continue to pray for those who believe they are actually in control. Pray for them to find Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Savior. His works are real! Rising from the dead was only one of many miracles that God has done, and there are so many more to come. Jesus gave specific instructions to us before returning to the heavens. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” So, let’s spread His word to all the world while we still can!

Diana Miles

 

28 Days Through Matthew – Chapter 27 Reading with Devotion

Read Chapter 27 

This chapter as so many in The Word is rich with meaning and insight, these are just some thoughts that have pierced our hearts as we read it.

As the chapter begins we are shown that through Judas, the Priests and Pilate they all wanted to shift the responsibility of their sin to others even going as far as “washing their hands of their guilt”. All of them were aware of their wrongdoing and yet none were willing to be held accountable.

The people that were just praising him a week earlier upon his entry have now just joined the crowd in crucifying him, some people just go with the crowd regardless of whether they agree or sometimes without complete knowledge of the circumstances.

Just as the soldiers mocked Jesus, lest we not judge those if we fail to learn and yet continue to mock Him by our disregard to His commands and lack of obedience.

While continuing to seek miraculous signs regardless that they were present during His ministry on earth, we continue to doubt today even though there are miracles all around us – if only we choose to see them. He came to open the eyes of the blind – His word says “if you have eyes to see and ears to hear”.

When you think about the spectators at the trial and crucifixion, what were they waiting to see? Were they hoping things would change? A miracle.  Yet, are we no different? Jesus came to show us how to serve by sacrifice.

Yet if we see the needs of the hungry, the brokenhearted, the lonely, and the violated and yet sit by as a spectator and not a participant, are we no different than those first spectators?

It is only because of His amazing, merciful and unending love for us that He so willingly chose to be our greatest example – the first participant, the first to show us what it really means to love and obey our Holy God and Father.

Now, are we going to be merely spectators or participants in the greatest cause of all time – to extend His love to people in need.

Written by Michelle  Dagostino

 

28 Days Through Matthew – Chapter 26 Reading with Devotion

Read Matthew 26 

Willing spirits with weak flesh, this is how Jesus describes the disciples who could not stay awake for one hour while he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. They allowed the needs of the flesh, a need to rest, to stop them from praying with Jesus. Little did they know that these would be the last hours they would spend with Jesus before his death on earth. This could also be said of Peter who did not want to accept when Jesus predicted that Peter would deny being one of his followers that very night. Peter wanted to follow the will of the spirit, but instead gave in to his weak flesh and denied Christ three times as Jesus predicted he would.

Conversely, Matthew describes two instances where people follow the will of the Spirit and take advantage of opportunities to glorify God. The first is the woman who uses the expensive perfume to anoint Jesus. How did she know he needed to be anointed, the best guess is she allowed the Spirit to guide her actions. As the disciples pointed out, she could have sold the perfume for a good amount of money. Instead, she chose to use it to anoint Jesus head. The second instance was Jesus himself when he prayed that the Father’s will be done, not his, as he knew the path that must be taken to fulfill the scripture and prophesies. This demonstrated how Jesus allowed the strength of the Spirit to guide the path ahead.

Like Peter, we too deny Jesus when we walk away from him and give in to our sinful desires. How often do we allow our weak flesh to guide our actions? Whether we are procrastinating to write a devotion, justifying our reasons for not helping in the mission field, or even failing to commit to daily discipline of time spent with the Word and prayer, we are allowing the flesh to be in control, following the will of our fleshly desires rather than the will of the Father.

How are you responding to God’s calling in your life? Is there something that God is asking of you that you are allowing your weak flesh to be in control? If so, take Jesus’ example and pray to the Father for strength and guidance in those areas to follow the will of the spirit and change your response to be “your will Lord, not my own”.

Written by Jennifer Riddle

28 Days Through Matthew – Chapter 25 Reading with Devotion

Read Matthew 25 

The Final Judgment: Reward or Punishment? 

Judgment is prominent and promised throughout Scripture. At the Final Judgment, as we see in Matthew 25:32, Christ is going to gather the nations and separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. After The Great Shepherd has distinguished between those who are His, and those who are not, He will then invite those to His right to “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (V.34) and he will tell those to His left “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v.41). Jesus concludes the parable of the great final judgment with the words, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (v.46)

All people without exception will pass through the final judgment of God. And He has announced the Day of Judgment before the time and has commanded everyone to repent and love life rather than death (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Paul says in Romans 8:1 that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. If you are one who has truly put your faith in Christ Jesus, recall your acceptance, immunity, and security in Him. Thank Him! Praise Him! For it is “by grace you have been saved through faith.” (Ephesians 2:6)

If you have not, it is my prayer that you would wholly put your faith and trust in the suffering Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came into the world and bore the wrath of God. Who upon the cross became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Who became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). Who alone can save us from “the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10) on “the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5). For salvation can be found in no one else “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Salvation is conditioned upon faith in Christ alone, and only by this faith alone can we be united to this perfect Christ and have His perfect righteousness imputed to us.

Why perish? Choose Life!

Written by Dave Riddle

 

28 Days Through Matthew – Chapter 24 Reading with Devotion

Read Matthew 24 

While reading Matthew 24, I tried to envision what feelings the disciples must have experienced as they listened to Jesus explain the signs of the End Times. As they stood looking at the temple their teacher simply says, “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down (24:2).” I imagine they felt baffled, perplexed, shocked. They probably had a deer-in-headlights look on their faces. And as readers, we could be experiencing those same feelings by the end of verse 2. How do we handle a statement of such magnitude?

Part of being a teacher is building a relationship of trust with your students. My students trust I am giving them truthful information and they trust I am helping them to learn and grow. So in those “deer-in-headlights” moments, my students look to me to clarify and help them understand what is so confusing. Jesus spent a great deal of time with his disciples, building a strong sense of trust with them. I imagine Jesus thinking in that moment, “They’re probably going to need me to explain this.”Lucky for us readers, the disciples later approached Jesus privately for further clarification – much like a student may approach a teacher after class. Jesus goes on to explain the various signs of his coming. I imagine the disciples sitting there with their eyes locked on Jesus, just soaking in the information.

What I think makes Jesus such an incredible teacher is he does not simply spout off the information and leave the disciples to digest it as they want. If I was sitting in a math class, I wouldn’t want the professor to list all the formulas and then leave. A great teacher instructs students how to use the information. Jesus instructs the disciples - and we the readers – to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come (24:42).” Furthermore in verses 45-51, Jesus challenges us to be like a faithful servant who the master puts in charge while he is away. Will we become tired of waiting and fall into the ways of the world? Or will we remain faithful and continue to live out our Master’s purpose?

Written by Kate Sereno

 

28 Days Through Matthew – Chapter 23 Reading with Devotion

Read Matthew 23

Matthew 23 – A Warning against Hypocrisy

In this chapter, Jesus addresses the crowds and his disciples – basically, you and me.  He says we ought to listen to what the Pharisees are saying but not to necessarily do what they are doing because their behavior is hypocritical.

Then he gives seven “Woes” to the Teachers of the Law and Pharisees.  While all the “Woes” focus on hypocrisy, the one that spoke to me the most was in verse 23, “You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin.  But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

This should cause us to examine our own hearts.  I could look at my own behavior and say, “I tithe, I go to church every Sunday, I donate to the food bank” and think that I am a good Christian, that God is pleased with me.  But digging a little deeper, how am I treating my spouse?  My family, neighbors, other church goers?  With justice and mercy?  How is my faith?  How confident am I that God is working all things for the good?

I sure don’t want Jesus to be telling other people, “Do what Claudia says, just don’t do what she does because her actions are hypocritical.” Yikes!  We need each other and we need to hold each other accountable, so that we don’t lose focus.  If I do anything that resembles hypocrisy, I sure hope that you would bring it to my attention.  Likewise, it would be beneficial to accept this kind of feedback from those around you as well.  Iron sharpens iron.  Let’s help each other grow in the Lord!

Written by Claudia Tahan

 

28 Days Through Matthew – Chapter 22 Reading with Devotion

Read Chapter 22 

Reality Show

Jesus uses everyday life to illustrate a very real kingdom or earthly attributes to convey heavenly principles. Matthew 22 alone includes discussions with the following themes; wedding feasts, taxes, marriage law, love, and family,

It starts with the parable of a great wedding feast (vss. 1-14) This story illustrates how Israel and the religious leaders rejected their Messiah,  These would have been like natural family and close friends, Since they refused his bounty and joy the rest of us (gentiles hanging on street corners NLT) were invited in,   But even though all were invited there was still a requirement for proper attire – “Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb: that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city Revelation 22:14 NIV. We are clearly reminded that merely attending church events does not guarantee participation in God’s kingdom now and for eternity.

There are too many great topics in chapter 22 alone to cover in one devotional but that is exactly the point Jesus makes in verses 23-33.   The Sadducees were once again trying to find fault in Jesus by asking question about the resurrection that they didn’t even believe in!   Two times in verses 29-31 Jesus nails them with these words, ““You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you.”

Woe unto us who have the scriptures and the words of life and do not take the time to know them!  You see when we spend the time to know Him as opposed to worldly thinking the result is this in verse 33, “When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching”. Jesus has so much wisdom available for our benefit!

As people we tend to miss the point and stay on an earthly plane but Jesus points us to eternal truths even as walk here,

We must begin to know the scriptures ourselves and not rely on others to teach us,  Remember John 14:6  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Please pray about taking advantage of the ministries at Ashland church that are provided for you through Sunday morning classes. Small groups, Journey discipleship to help you get on the path of “knowing the scriptures”.

Written by Darrell Proctor

 

28 Days Through Matthew – Chapter 21 Reading with Devotion

Read Matthew 21 

Personally verses 12-17 hit home the most.  I was raised in a Catholic family.  My parents weren’t strict about religion.  My older sister had her first holy communion and was confirmed, but I did not have my communion or confirmation.  Around 5th grade, we moved to a new town and my new friends all went to CCD so I asked my mother if I could go.  I think I made it a month before I dropped out.  I couldn’t follow along and didn’t understand any of it.  I really only went to church for Easter and Christmas as a child and stopped going all together once I became an adult.  I remember my parents’ church being cold, unfriendly and I was so confused, I never understood anything that was being preached.  All the while the catholic church always seemed to ask for more and more money.  In my mind it wasn’t the “house of prayer” that Jesus wanted it to be.

When I met my husband, he was the last person I’d expect to wake up early on a Sunday, grab a bible and go to church.  Humbling himself, singing, praising a God I had once lost.  It was uplifting.  Underneath the earrings, tattoos and loud music was a God fearing, warm hearted, Christian who finally took the time to answer my questions and help guide me onto a more righteous path.  Quote a chapter and verse, he will most likely know what it is.  I would ask him, “Well, who’s this and what did they do?”  He helped put things in layman terms for me and showed how situations from the bible can relate to real life circumstances.  When I first began to attend Ashland, I specifically remember Jamie’s sermon on Doubt and it was like he was speaking directly to me.  It was exactly what I needed to hear at that particular time in my life.

I never received communion until I officially became a member of Ashland EPC.  Once I became a member, then I finally felt like part of a family and with my church family, I feel like I’m home.  Now I am truly able to understand and accept communion while I confess my sins to God and thank Him for so many wonderful blessings in my life.  I have a peace that comes over me when I’m here.  It’s warm, welcoming and definitely a place I look forward to raising my children.  I look forward to bringing them up with the understanding of what it means to be a Christian and know the sacrifices Jesus made for us.  My life has changed since Matt has spread the good word and I can only hope my children learn to do the same.

Written by Billie Machinsky

 

28 Days Through Matthew – Chapter 20 Reading with Devotion

Read Matthew 20

After reading Mathew 20, I have been reminded of something that I feel too often I take for granted. Jesus, Son of God… God himself, came to serve us. He came to die for us. He did not come as a GOD to fix everything with power and glory, but as a little baby, and a humble man. Jesus speaks of the vineyard owner who goes out into the marketplace through out the day to find workers. At the end of the day he pays each worker the same no matter how many hours they have spent working. To me, this represents the gift of eternal life God has given to us. No matter how much we sin, all we need to do is believe that Jesus died for our sins and trust in him. Everyman falls short of the glory of God. No man can get into heaven by their own merit. It’s only through trusting in Jesus. Therefore, some men spent an entire day working and believed that they should earn more than those who have been working only mere hours. But do any of us really earn anything. Do we deserve even a week in heaven? Yet God has given us life. ENTERNAL LIFE. God says here you are. He loves and cares about us  THAT much. Imagine a guy whose found an ant hill in his backyard. Everyday he sits by it for hours upon hours watching the ants. He’s spent thousands of dollars trying to shield the ant hill from natural destruction, and eventually brings all the ants into his house to live and roam freely as they please, to share his meals and to sleep in his bed. This doesn’t even begin to describe how much God,  master of the universe, loves us.

Written by Ian Pasquale

 

28 Days Through Matthew – Chapter 19 Reading with Devotion

Read Chapter 19

This book is divided into three parts, seemingly focused on Marriage (Divorce), Children, and Riches.  At first glance, this chapter has nothing to offer me as I have “none of the above”.  How am I supposed to provide meditative thoughts, words of wisdom or inspirational devotion on these three issues?    None of this applies to me…or does it?

Look at this book again and you realize that the entirety of Matthew 19 is a series of “tests” or challenges and we need to don those t-shirts and rubber bracelets made popular a few years ago:  “WWJD?”

In the first part of the book, Jesus is being challenged by the Pharisees on the laws concerning divorce.  Jesus acknowledges that there are “loopholes” but they are very limited.  I know so many people whose marriages have ended or who are contemplating divorce.  Their particular circumstances are personal, complicated and painful.  I can’t counsel them nor provide guidance, but have to trust that they sought God’s help for their situation and resolution.

In the second part of the book, Jesus is teaching, but parents are trying to bring their children to him to be blessed.  The disciples are annoyed and trying to prevent this interruption.  But Jesus says, “let the children come to me…”  We now have that iconic scene of Jesus blessing the children.  What’s the challenge or test here?  Make time for our kids?  Well, of course.  That all kids are important and need to be cared for?  Obviously.  But it’s the parallel that Jesus uses when he says “…For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children”, that we should be focused on.  Children being brought to Jesus who were coming to HIM with nothing to offer.   They are from poor families.  They are weak.  They are sick.  All they wanted was His loving arms wrapped around them and they needed His blessing to help them to make it in a hard, sinful world.  Jesus game them His love and His blessing with open arms.  He will do the same for us…if we come to Him with nothing.  Nothing in our hands.  Emptied of self.  Asking for that blessing.  Having child-like faith.

The last section includes a confrontation between Jesus and a rich young man, and the teaching of Jesus on the subject of salvation.  Jesus has been with the people and sees in them the kind of humility and faith that he is looking for, like the parents and the children in the second passage of this book.  But he does not find that in the rich young man.  This guy is insistent that he is following the law and doing everything he is supposed to do.  He is disappointed when he realizes that it’s not enough.  Salvation is not based upon what we do.  He doesn’t have faith and all his hard work is not going to cut it.  And he walks away. (Has he failed a test here?)   But there is a second test from the disciples.  They are also challenging what Jesus had to say.  They ask “Who then can be saved?   Jesus’ answer:  “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”

As Christians, we have accepted Jesus as our Savior and Lord.  We have decided to follow His footsteps and live by his examples.  His life, death, and resurrection have saved us.  His teachings are formative for us.  Whatever our life’s circumstances, whatever challenges we face, whatever tests we are given, we should be looking to God and seeking Jesus’ guidance.

What Would Jesus Do?

Written by Deb Ford