I'm just in from a fantastic hour spent discussing the content of last Sunday's sermon with one of our church members. It was certainly a controversial passage and I would have to admit to continuing to struggle with some of its content and interpretation - especially when read literally (although please note that I do not think that this is the right approach to reading all of scripture). However even as I struggle with scripture it is my honest desire to deepen my knowledge and understanding of it - and yet not from a merely educational or theological perspective but because of the One to whom it all testifies: Jesus. I know that so often I am tempted to impose my worldview onto God and the scriptures and yet what I am seeking to do is the opposite - allowing God to change me as I seek to live faithfully within the context that He has placed me.
And so onto this week's read through. As I look back on my notes (and in the interests of honesty) there were a couple of days when I had to catchup from the previous day, but I'm on track and am praying that the Holy Spirit will continue to teach me the scriptures and point me to Jesus - after all if that isn't happening then what, really, is the point of the whole exercise?
Matthew 15: Jesus says to the Pharisees: "Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?" What do I do that goes against God's desire because "That's just how we do it."
Matthew 16: Jesus says: "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Similarly to the previous chapter this cuts straight to my heart and begs the question, "Where is my focus? God's things or mine?"
Matthew 17: Jesus says to the disciples: "Do not be afraid." Why does my life so often seem to have such a heavy element of fear attached - of results, situations, opinions etc.?
Matthew 18: Jesus says: "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin." Are there ways that I am placing or leaving the temptation to sin in peoples path? Or are there things that I say and do which might cause them to?
Matthew 19: The disciples rebuke the people who brought the children to Jesus - totally forgetting/neglecting the teaching that he had given them in the previous chapter. How often do I do the same and so quickly forget the teaching of God in my life?
Matthew 20: "So the last will be first, and the first will be last..." What does it look like to live in light of this in our get-ahead culture?
Matthew 21: Jesus said: "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." It's so easy to ignore the bluntness of this verse rather than challenging myself as to whether I really believe that God can answer the prayers that I pray. Prayer no. 1: more faith!
If you have been keeping up with the read-through then I hope that you are encountering God through it and that this encounter is impacting your life. It is my intention to put chapters 21-28 up later in the week and then from next Tuesday to be operating at the point that we've reached rather than a week behind. Please do leave comments - they would not only encourage me but also the others who I know are reading the blog but are lurking somewhere in the shadows of our on-line community...