VIDEO Good News!

The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Matthew 11:5, NIV

Inspirational author Orison Swett Marden believed that discouragement was one of the germs that kill “the prosperity and happiness of tens of thousands of people” every year. Everyone faces discouraging events. When our expectations or hopes collapse, it’s like a punch in the stomach. But Proverbs 25:25 says, “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land” (NIV).[1]

When we’re living for the Lord, there is always a silver lining. Somewhere there’s a Romans 8:28 moment.

When John the Baptist grew discouraged, Jesus sent him a word of Good News! So if you’re discouraged right now, look around quickly for something good from God. For why should you feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should your heart feel lonely when Jesus is your portion, your constant friend? You can say with the hymnist, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.
Brennan Manning

[1]Orson Swett Marden, Pushing to the Front (Petersburg, NY: The Success Company, 1911), 703.


Matthew 11 lesson by Dr. Bob Utley

An Unexpected Guest

[Jesus said], “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5

Zach was a lonely guy. When he walked down the city streets, he could feel the hostile glares. But then his life took a turn. Clement of Alexandria, one of the church fathers, says that Zach became a very prominent Christian leader and a pastor of the church in Caesarea. Yes, we’re talking about Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus (Luke 19:1–10).

What prompted him to climb the tree? Tax collectors were perceived as traitors because they heavily taxed their own people to serve the Roman Empire. Yet Jesus had a reputation for accepting them. Zacchaeus might have wondered if Jesus would accept him too. Being short in stature, however, he couldn’t see over the crowd (v. 3). Perhaps he climbed a tree to seek Him out.

And Jesus was seeking Zacchaeus too. When Christ reached the tree where he was perched, He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (v. 5). Jesus considered it absolutely necessary that He be a guest in this outcast’s home. Imagine that! The Savior of the world wanting to spend time with a social reject.

Whether it’s our hearts, relationships, or lives that need mending, like Zacchaeus we can have hope. Jesus will never reject us when we turn to Him. He can restore what’s been lost and broken and give our lives new meaning and purpose.

By:  Poh Fang Chia

What relationships in your life can Jesus help restore? What will it mean for you to be restored by Him?

Jesus, thank You for seeking me when I was lost in sin and for redeeming my messed-up life

The Freedom of Relinquishment

Matthew 19:16-26

We may think we have no attachments that come between us and the Lord, but He knows our heart better than we ourselves do. One Sunday as I was about to preach a sermon along those lines, God showed me something I had prioritized too highly. Then He let me know I needed to reconsider the place it held in my thinking. So I was glad when the choir’s song took a while, because I had time to come to the place of being able to say, “Lord, if that’s what You desire, I want to commit it to You. It’s Yours right now.”

It’s difficult to be obedient if we’re holding onto something too tightly. The Lord wants our attachment to be exclusively to Him so we can shine His light in the world. You may have multitudes of things that God has blessed you with, but the moment any of it controls you, His work is stunted. When you open your hands, however, you allow the Holy Spirit’s power to flow freely through you.

Think about what captivates you, and honestly consider whether it also enslaves you. Is there anything you feel you could never give up? I challenge you to release the relationship or situation to the Lord right now so He can have your full devotion.

Confidence in Christ Alone

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8)

During the three verses prior to the text for today, Paul had listed some of the rather spectacular credits he had obtained “in the flesh” (Philippians 3:4). His family lineage and achievements were both professionally stellar and legally blameless. He had every right to be proud of himself.

Yet, in strong language, Paul values these personal achievements as the excrement of animals when he compares the gain of being given “the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). A vivid contrast indeed!

Jesus taught that if anyone would become His disciple, then he must “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Further, such a disciple must “lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s” (Mark 8:35). Owning the whole world was worthless if it meant that the price would cause one to “lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36). Hard bargains indeed!

Paul sought, as each of us should also, “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” (today’s verse). Invoking all of the triune Godhead, Paul begged for comprehension of the “love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,” so that he can be “filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19). Such knowledge brings “full assurance of understanding” (Colossians 2:2). That is a good return indeed!

“Wherefore beloved,” Peter said, “be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). HMM III

Spirituality Versus Idolatry-Psalm 115

Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your faithful love, because of Your truth. Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk. They cannot make a sound with their throats. Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them (vv. 1-8).

While heathen nations ask, “Where is their God?” our Lord is going about doing whatever he pleases.

Pagan idols are inanimate—having never possessed life—and obviously impotent. Made by man from the metals of the earth, they are unable to see, to hear, to smell, to feel, to speak, or to move about. God himself is responsible for the raw materials from which they are molded! Interestingly, the psalmist observes that the artisans who make idols, as well as those who trust in them, will be “like them”—powerless and useless.

We tend to become “like” the people we idolize, the environment we live in, even the music we hear! We absorb like a sponge the personalities and mannerisms of the people we admire. As mentors and models, they dramatically alter and influence our lives. It’s also true that our minds are somewhat like computers. If we program them with junk, junk comes out! And if any of these people or things become more important to us than God, then we become idolators!

In short, there is only one authentic, infinite, personal God of the universe. Counterfeit gods are not only disappearing, but dead. What a pathetic waste when a person bestows his allegiance on worthless pieces of junk—whether they be carved images or compact discs! We must focus on the things that are excellent (see Phil, 4:8).

Personal Prayer

O Lord, not to us, but to Your Name be the glory and honor.

Some Things Bitter to Digest

Woe to them, for they have brought evil on themselves.—Isaiah 3:9

The fifth Beatitude, when practiced, engenders within us good mental and spiritual health. Psychologists have shown that those who lack the qualities of mercy and compassion are more likely to develop physical problems. Harsh, judgmental attitudes may bring a sense of satisfaction to the person who does not know the meaning of mercy, but it is a false sense of satisfaction.

A verse that, strictly speaking, does not apply to what I am saying here, but nevertheless has some application is this: “It was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I ate it, my stomach became bitter” (Rv 10:10). That is what happens whenever we adopt any attitude that is not in harmony with Jesus Christ. At first it is “as sweet as honey”—its beginnings are apparently sweet—but it “[becomes] bitter”—it cannot be assimilated. Our human constitution is not made to function effectively on any attitude that is foreign to the spirit of Jesus Christ.

A Christian doctor says: “We are allergic to wrong attitudes just as some people are allergic to shrimps.” I am physically allergic to red and green peppers. I have tried them scores of times, but the result has always been the same—I get sick. I am just as allergic to harsh, judgmental attitudes. I can’t assimilate them. They disrupt me—body, soul, and spirit. And what goes for me, goes also for you. When we fail to practice the principles which our Lord outlined for us in the Beatitudes, then our sense of well-being is lowered, depleted, and poisoned. Goodness is good for us—spiritually, mentally, and physically.

Prayer

Father, something is being burned into my consciousness: there is only one healthy way to live—Your Way. When I break with You, I break with life. Help me always to maintain a close connection with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

Ps 23:1-6; 31:9; Ex 34:6; Gl 5:22; Eph 5:9

Goodness is a characteristic of what?

Can you make the same declaration as the psalmist?

A Mother’s Religion

Ruth 1:16

Naomi is the mother’s name and her story is told in the book of Ruth. Naomi, with her husband and sons, had been driven from her country by famine. Her husband and two sons died, leaving her bereft of kin and means of livelihood. She decided to return to Israel and advised her two Moabite daughters-in-law to remain where they were.

One took the advice. The other, Ruth, clung to Naomi and spoke the beautiful and memorable words: “Don’t urge me to leave… where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

Think of the life and faith of the woman who called forth those words. Ruth’s life-altering decision was made because Naomi’s religion had impressed her with its truth and hope.

This mother’s religion was strong. It is quite easy to be religious in a favorable climate, surrounded by like-minded people. But Naomi kept her faith in a strange land and among alien people. She lived in Moab, but she didn’t do as the Moabites did. For Naomi there was one God and she remained true to Him.

This mother’s religion was attractive. We don’t know how much Naomi talked about Israel’s God, but there is little doubt that the way she lived for Him was impressive. It was a life so attractive in its faith and works that Ruth was willing to reject previous claims of country and religion and accompany Naomi to Bethlehem. We could all do with a religion that attracts.

This mother’s religion was shared. It was strong enough and attractive enough to be conveyed from one person to another. Naomi’s faith won the devotion of a daughter-in-law from another family to herself and from another religion to her God. How deeply and broadly it was shared is expressed in eloquent words and practical deeds. It included going and staying, new relationships with people and a whole-souled commitment to God. Naomi’s faith was communicated and it became life-changing.

George Eliot is credited with saying that, “There are those whose celestial intimacies seem not to improve their domestic manners.” Naomi was different. Her life with God had a healing, helpful influence on those about her and Ruth’s words and actions are a continual witness to this mother’s religion.

Bramwell Tripp, The War Cry