Last week I was having dinner with a friend and my Biblical illiteracy was embarrassingly made apparent to me. She was making connections and drawing parallels and I was just like, “I don’t remember reading that… Have I ever read that?” I realized that I needed to get back to basics and study my Bible.
Here’s my confession: For the past few months, I’ve been subsisting off of sermons and songs to get the Word into me (i.e. what I like to call “second hand revelation” or “digested meat”) because I was frustrated with God, and, to be quite frank, I had lost interest in the Word of God. I wasn’t interested in what He had to tell me, I didn’t think the Bible had anything new to tell me that could help me in my current situation, and because I felt disappointed by Him, I closed off myself from Him.
In my last post, I proclaimed, “I choose Jesus,” but I realized I couldn’t choose Jesus and pursue deeper spiritual intimacy without actually hearing from Him. I was watching some videos of Priscilla Shirer online, and I was reminded that God has a message for us each day, and because I hadn’t been opening up my Bible I wasn’t getting my messages and my assignment for the day. I was missing out! I decided that I really needed to get back into the Word.
But where to start? I’ve been at this point so many times — fervent and consistent reading, and then something happens and I stop, only to have to pick it up again several weeks (or months) later. Starting and stopping and starting again at Genesis each time was getting a little frustrating. I told the Lord all about my desire to start, but not knowing where to start this time around.
The next day, I was Facebook stalking Pastor Lola Moore, and I found that she was hosting a Gospel Bible Challenge.
I’ve always really appreciated Pastor Lola Moore’s teaching and preaching, so this sounded like a great way to get back to Bible study.
For 30 days, Pastor Moore is guiding people from around the world through the Gospels. She sends e-mail devotionals and she hosts a Periscope Bible study each evening. There is also a Facebook group. You can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/USFT5. For the past devotionals, see here: http://www.lolamoore.org/gospel-challenges/.
Now, I signed up a little late (I signed up yesterday). They’ve already gone through Matt. 1-6. They are currently on Day 3 (Matt. 7-9). I’ll post my thoughts on Matt 1-6 once I read them (hopefully sooner than later), but I wanted to post what I think God has revealed to me from chapters 7, 8 and 9.
I’m reading from the Amplified version, so some of my thoughts are a result of how the Amplified Bible tells the story. Of course there’s probably so much more if I did a little digging, or come back to this a few months later, but here is what I have gleaned at first glance:
- Matt 7: 1 – 5 are relevant reminders of the need not to judge anyone, especially since we are often worse off than the person we are judging. I’ve always believed that God is the Judge, so I leave all of the judging to Him. That said, there is a difference between judgement and discernment…I’ll talk more about this below.
- Matt 7:7-11: I’m not gonna lie. I have a problem with this whole, “keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking…” idea. Truth be absolutely told, some of us have been asking God for stuff for years, and we still haven’t seen anything. There comes a time when you get tired of asking. So I have often struggled with the question of, “When do I stop asking?” or “Can I stop asking now?” because it’s frustrating not to see prayers answered. Plus, as some may argue, doesn’t continually asking God for something show a lack of faith, as if God hadn’t heard you the first time?
- Somewhere in my drafts folder, I have a post I’m working on about how God is a Giver personified (see John 3:16) and how He only gives good gifts, and that when He it seems that He is withholding something, He actually is giving something. I’ll post it as soon as I’m done.
- Matt. 7:12: The Golden Rule. I’m wondering how and why doing for others what I want done for me is the culmination and summation of the Law and the Prophets… Which law? The Ten Commandments? I have to study this further.
- Matt 7:14: Interesting that the Amplified says that, “…the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life…” Going through the narrow gate puts you in a situation of pressure. To get through the narrow gate, you’re gonna get squeezed. That’ll preach. If you’re under pressure, chances are you are going the right way.
- Matt. 7:15-16: Remember that point I made about judgement vs. discernment? Discernment and discrimination (in the sense of being selective) is okay and necessary. Judgement is not okay. The two are not the same. What’s the difference? Well, when we judge, we judge according to our own standards (Matt 7:2). When we use discernment, we rely upon heavenly wisdom and a more objective standard. I also think the purposes of judgement and discernment are different.
- Matt. 7:17-20: These are the verses that have often come to mind when I talk about women’s ordination. To quote Sarah Bessey,”You can’t really argue with the anointing. God anointed some to preach, be careful not to stand in the way of that. I’d think long and hard before silencing someone speaking words of life and fire and Spirit… Women are preaching and, did you know? Chains are being cast off. Fear is running away. Deserts are blooming. The Gospel is being proclaimed. The dead are coming to life. People are being born again and set free.” Women pastors are bearing and showing good fruit. How then can we say God has not called (in other words, ordained) them?
- Matt 7:21: Confession and profession are not enough; God wants obedience. Those who enter the kingdom of heaven are those who not only profess but also perform.
- Matt 7:22 (cross reference to Luke 11:9-13): This verse has often gotten me upset. I find that it’s one of those “check yourself” verses. Fruit is not enough. You may show fruit (Matt 7:18-20) but do you know Jesus? More importantly, does Jesus know you? The thought that I can be spiritually fruitful, and be working in Jesus name but Jesus could still say, “Depart from me; I know ye not” makes my stomach churn. Yikes. That would hit me like a dagger. Here I am blogging about Him, telling people about Him, sticking my neck out for Him, becoming a lawyer only because I think He wants me to be one… if I were to see Him and he told me He didn’t know me and never knew me — and say this publicly — I would feel so dry. I’d be hurt.
- This verse underscores to me the necessity and primacy of having an intimate relationship with God, and how that is more important than the works I do in His name. Many pastors or preachers will tell you that it is important for them to read the Word for themselves, and not just to search it for sermonic material only. The Word is for the pastor too. I ❤ what Pastor Moore said during tonight’s Periscope chat: “Are we forging His name on our ministry?” Are we doing ministry that perhaps we weren’t called to do? Are we claiming Christ’s ministry and His works as our own?
- Matt. 24:27: Remember that point above about obedience? How many of us, especially us Christians, have repeatedly heard the Word but refuse to obey? How many of us have heard about the Sabbath, or returning tithes, or the need to stop fornicating, or lusting after people or whatever else? I count myself among those who have heard but still refuse to do. Lord, help me not only be a hearer of the Word, but a doer too.
- Matt 8:1: I was listening to a TD Jakes sermon yesterday, and he mentioned that people follow you if you inspire them. This verse is the continuation of what Jesus did in Matt 7:29. Jesus taught with authority and inspired the people around Him, so, in turn, people followed Him. Note to self: If I want followers, I need to be inspiring and preach/write/speak with authority (God-given authority, actually knowing what I’m talking about).
- Matt 8:3: Jesus is willing!!!! I’ve talked about this before — how I know that God is able, but sometimes I’m not sure if He’s willing. But praise God that He is not only able, but He is willing.
- Something interesting jumped out at me here. The leper said, in effect: “Lord if you are willing, You are able…” He didn’t question His ability, He only questioned His willingness.
- Contrast that with the situation of the man with the demon-possessed son (Mark 9:22-23): “Lord if you are able…” The father, admittedly well acquainted with disappointment, questioned Jesus’ ability.
- Note who Jesus got mad at.
- Jesus is more incensed when we question His ability than when we question His willingness
- Matt 8:5: That time when Jesus was so bad and so boss that He healed a boy remotely. Didn’t even have to touch Him. Didn’t even have to be near Him, but still healed Him. Remote healing. If God can heal someone far way, imagine what He can do for those in His presence?
- Matt. 8:8-13: The centurion is a Roman citizen. Jesus is a Jew, and therefore despised by centurions, and yet the centurion still recognized His authority — not just His healing power but all power in general. The centurion believed Him when His own people — people who had heard and read and studied for centuries about the Messiah — did not (Matt 8:10). The Word lost its potency for them, they were anesthetized. Makes me think of the people who have more faith in Jesus than I do. I’ve come across such individuals. Maybe I’ll go into detail in another blog post, but I have friends who don’t even go to church and who don’t believe in God, and I’d tell them about my problems and they’d say something to the effect of: “Well, God did it last time so He’ll do it again” or “You’ll get through with the help of God.” And I’d be like, “What?” What a rebuke to me — when non-believers have more faith than I do in my God.
- Matt 8:14-17: Jesus as healer and fulfilling the Word of the prophets. There is a particular pastor who, every time he prays for me, I see an immediate, life-changing answer afterwards. I want that kind of anointing. I’m tired of praying prayers that “don’t do anything.” I want prayers that “avail much.”
- Matt 8:19, 21: So many times we say things, not because we actually mean it, but because they sound right and good and holy and it’s what we think we should say to Jesus. I’m talking about stuff like, “I’ll follow you! I have decided to follow Jesus!” Or, in my case, “Give me more faith! Help me be more patient! Get me to heaven!” And then when Jesus says that you can’t take care of your dying father, you feel some type of way… But for real though, reading verses like verse 21 or the story of the rich young ruler make me wonder if I’m cut out for this. Sometimes, to be quite honest, I’m like, “Lord, this is too hard. You’re asking for too much.” And then I remember the cross… and I shut up and ask for Him to help me.
- Matt 8:23-27: “With Jesus in the vessel you can smile at the storm…” I’ve written about that here.
- Matt 8:29: Even demons recognize Jesus, but His own people do not. *smh*
- Matt 8:30-32: It’s interesting that the demons cause the pigs to commit suicide. It makes me wonder if suicide has demonic underpinnings… I’m not demonizing people who are suicidal — I used to have suicidal ideations in my teenage years. I’m in no way insinuating that people with mental illnesses are demon-possessed — I don’t know enough about either to make such a claim. But when I read my Bible, I wonder if the devil does take advantage of mental illness…
- Matt 8:34: Two people just got free from demon possession, but the people are mad because Jesus caused too much collateral damage. The loss of the pigs was more important than the freedom of two individuals. I wonder if we have our priorities straight — if we are more concerned about what we will lose than what we could gain.
- Matt 9: 2: Jesus doesn’t heal in response to pain or illness. He always heals in response to faith.
- Matt 9:2: There seems to be a connection between the sins of this person and his illness… Jesus reworked (dispelled?) the idea of sin as the cause for all sickness (John 9). We have sickness in our world because we live in a world marred by sin. Sin is in our world, therefore we get sick — not necessarily through our own fault, but because of the world in which we live. But perhaps some sicknesses are directly caused by sin.
- Matt 9:4: Jesus can read my thoughts. Good to know. So when I wonder if He’s heard me, or if I have to pray out loud to be heard, I need only remember that He can read thoughts. I can stop being extra and doing the most to be heard.
- Matt 9:9: The Lord will use anyone who is willing — even a low-life tax collector. So it doesn’t matter who you are — He can use you too. Also, Jesus called Matthew, and Matthew just followed Him — just like that. No questions, no caveats… He just left everything to follow Jesus. How many of us would have responded like that?
- Matt 9:11: When you are doing good and stirring up your surroundings, there will be those who try to find a chink in your reputation. Oftentimes, they will be people who should know better, people who, because of their education, should be on your side — like the Pharisees.
- Jesus is always found among people who need Him. He’s never around people who don’t need Him. He’s not into being and staying among His own kind, all the time. We, as a church, should take note here.
- I thank God that Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners. ‘Cause if He’ll be chummy with them, then He’ll be chummy with me.
- Matt 9:13: This verse was on our bathroom wall.
- Matt 9:14: The Pharisees are always trying to test the religiosity and orthodoxy of Jesus. Don’t we do this too? We try to guess how spiritual someone is based on their religious practices or lack thereof? I know people who fast on Sabbaths, or fast on days that they have to preach. It seemed like these people were always fasting. I started to wonder if I needed to step up my game because I wasn’t fasting with such frequency. Then I realized that there is a time to fast, and Sabbath is not one of those times (I think Ellen G. White says something about this — I’ll have to find the citation). I concluded that I was okay. There is a time for everything, including fasting. You fast for a reason and not just to be religious (Isaiah 58).
- Matt 9:15-17: Jesus likes to use parables. He’s a master storyteller, and He knows his audience. I find that the most effective preachers use illustrations that their audiences will understand.
- Matt 9:18-26: This is the story of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood. I’ll write more of this when we get to the more detailed accounts in Mark 5: 22-43 and Luke 8:41-56.
- Matt 9:28: Remember that point I made about Jesus being concerned with belief in His ability? Interestingly enough, that’s the first question that He asks these blind men. I’ve noticed that Jesus never asks a question just for kicks. He always asks questions for emphasis, or to make the person realize their infirmity and need for Him. And of course, Jesus heals according to their faith.
- Matt 9:34: The Pharisees are haters.
- Matt 9:36: I serve a God of compassion. That’s a comforting thought.
- Matt 9:37, 38: Is the harvest still plentiful? Does God still need labourers? Do I love and trust Him enough to enlist?