Who Makes the Rules?

Matt 16 13

Matthew 16

In Matthew 16:13-16, Jesus asks his disciples a very important question: “Who do you say that I am?” While others had been calling Jesus by different titles, Peter comes up with the correct answer. He says, “You are the Messiah (Christ), the Son of the living God.” This is a powerful statement that Peter makes here. He is declaring that Jesus is the King and the Savior of the whole world!

Now the same question needs to be asked of us each day; “Who do you say that I am?” Many people claim that Jesus was just a very good moral teacher. Others claim that he was a prophet of God, but not God’s Son. Who is Jesus to you? And how does that impact your spiritual life?

If Jesus truly is the promised ruler of God’s kingdom from 2 Samuel chapter 7 and Daniel chapter 7, then that means that Jesus “makes the rules” for our lives, not the other way around. Accepting Jesus as the Messiah does not simply mean we are forgiven of our sins; it means we have agreed to walk the path that he has set before us. Are you willing to follow Jesus? Even if it is difficult? Who is Jesus to you?

-Talon Paul


True Worship

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Matthew 15

In a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees over traditions that the Pharisees held to, Jesus quotes a passage from Isaiah 29: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” (Matthew 15:8,9 NASB) This is critical for understanding what it truly means to worship God our Father. We cannot merely offer “lip-service” to our God, but need to be truly devoted to Him with our whole hearts.

How many times have we gone into church on Sunday morning, sang songs about God and Jesus, listened to a sermon, and then went home as if nothing has really happened? We have all done this at some point, and we pretend like we have truly been worshipping God by doing this; unfortunately, this is not what God desires. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5, we see what God truly wants: “Hear, O Israel! YHWH is our God, YHWH is one! You shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Jesus himself quoted this passage when someone asked him what the greatest commandment is in Mark 10:29-30. We can see that God does not just want us to say we love Him; He wants us to honestly have a deep relationship with Him as a father. The challenge for us this week is to not merely go to church because we are expected to go every week; let’s go to church because we honestly want to develop a deeper relationship with our God and His Son, Jesus.

-Talon Paul

Talon Paul is a pastor at the Maple Grove Community Church in Kokomo, IN. He is married to Rebbecca Massie from Ohio, and is originally from Oregon, IL. He has a deep love for God, his church, wrestling, and Pokemon Go.

Sinking in Our Circumstances

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Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

After sending his disciples into the boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and after dismissing the crowds, Jesus goes up onto the mountain alone to pray (vv. 22-23). The disciples were attempting to sail across the sea but were having trouble because they were facing a head wind and waves (v. 24). In the “fourth” watch, which corresponds to our 3-6am, Jesus came walking to the disciples on the water (v. 25). This is Roman reckoning of time as they divided the night (6pm-6am) into four watches while the Jews divided it into only three. As the scene is set, it is the middle of the night and the disciples are in the middle of the sea, and Jesus comes walking on water in the middle of the storm.

The terror of the disciples is immediately noted as they thought Jesus was a “ghost,” meaning an “apparition” (v. 26) The Master speaks calmly to them and reassures them that it is indeed he who they are seeing (v. 27). Peter, wanting to know if it truly was the Lord, requests that he be allowed to join Jesus upon the water (v. 28). Jesus’ simple response indicates the simplicity of the request: “Come” (v. 29). However, once outside the boat, Peter’s perception of the wind and the waves caused him to falter in his confidence and desperately cried out for the Lord to help him (v. 30). Jesus reached out his hand and picked Peter up, entered the boat, and calmed the storm (vv. 31-32).

What is surprising is that Jesus reached out his hand to help his sinking disciple rather than giving him verbal exhortation or encouragement. Jesus’ address to Peter comes in the form: “O you of little faith” (v. 31). What we see in this record is Peter allowing the surrounding circumstances to affect him and his focus upon the Lord. Peter exited the boat and began to walk toward Jesus. But when he looked around and saw the wind and the waves, his progress was impeded, for he began to sink.

I think that this illustration is quite comparable to what we encounter in our lives. We have our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and are serving him in the kingdom, but at times we look around and become more focused on what is happening around us and allow that to affect our perception of ourselves so that we begin to sink. We lack that confidence and assurance that we once had as we were walking toward the Lord. But the good news is that the Lord has not left us helpless and is not far from us. He will reach down and help us if we will but call out to him. Jesus isn’t looking for perfect disciples, but faithful followers. And faithfulness means a continued reliance and trust in the one who we call our Master.

-Jerry Weirwille


The Kingdom Treasure

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Matthew 13:44-46

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

In this section of the Gospel (13:44-49), Jesus presents three parables that deal with the kingdom. All of them begin with “the kingdom of heaven is like….” But the first two deal with the value of the kingdom (vv. 44-46), while the last one deals with the judgment that will happen at the end of the age (vv. 47-49). Let’s focus on the first two that describe the value of the kingdom.

First, the kingdom of heaven is like “treasure hidden in a field” (v. 44). In the biblical times, there were no such things as safety deposit boxes. People would hide their wealth in the ground by digging a hole and burying it. In the parable of the talents, this is what the individual who received one talent did (cf. 25:25).

Jesus describes the kingdom as “treasure” that has been buried in a field, but which was discovered by someone and then “covered [back] up.” The person who discovered the treasure, reburied the treasure. That seems odd. Why didn’t he or she just keep the treasure they discovered? To make a long explanation shorter, the owner of a property owned everything both on top of and within the ground of the property. So in order to legally claim the treasure, the person had to buy the land. But Jesus’ point is not this technicality. His emphasis is upon the value the person estimated the “treasure” to be worth. The person sold “all that he has” in order to buy the field (v. 44). The man was filled with “joy” and because of the recognition of the treasure’s value, the person deemed it worth more than all their other wealth combined.

In the next parable, Jesus uses the imagery of commerce with a merchant who found a “fine pearl” (v. 45). In the biblical culture, “pearls” were among the most prized jewelry since they were very rare (no scuba equipment yet to dive deep enough to easily capture oysters…lol). And like the person in the previous parable who found buried treasure, the merchant also esteemed the pearl to be more valuable than all his or her other possessions. Therefore, the merchant sold everything he owned in order to buy the one pearl (v. 46).

Ok. So we get that Jesus is driving home the point about how valuable the kingdom is. But I think what is most important about these parables is the attitude depicted by the two individuals who were willing to get rid of everything else they had in order to obtain this one precious item. I sometimes wonder if I have that attitude. Intellectually, I can rationalize why it is completely true. But practically speaking, I think about whether my life truly reflects that disposition in my heart. Do I see the kingdom as the “hidden treasure” or the “fine pearl”? Am I willing to forsake all else in order to seek the kingdom?

Obviously, the parables are a hyperbole for emphasis as Jesus is not literally instructing his disciples to dispose of all their physical wealth and belongings. Rather, Jesus is touching on the attitude of one’s heart. Where do we prize the value of the kingdom in our life? Have we put anything else in front of it and added the kingdom on to the side of our pursuits in life.

Let’s not forget Jesus words: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (6:33).

-Jerry Wierwille


Why Mercy?

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Matthew 12:1-8

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

This passage deals with an incident that happened on this most holy day of the week. The Sabbath was everything to God’s people under the Old Covenant. The Jews had extensive regulations for how to properly keep the Sabbath in order to abide by God’s commandment to keep the Sabbath holy and dedicated to him. The encounter is between Jesus (and his disciples) and the Pharisees over the meaning and significance of the Sabbath. Jesus and the Pharisees saw the purpose and observance of the Sabbath in completely different ways.

After being critically questioned by the Pharisees when Jesus’ disciples picked grain and ate it on the Sabbath as they were walking through a field, Jesus responds by explaining their misperception in what the Sabbath truly was. Jesus did not dismiss the appropriateness for Sabbath observance; that was good and necessary according to the law given by God (cf. Exod 20:10).  However, the Jews had the wrong idea altogether about the significance and meaning of the Sabbath. For them, the Sabbath was about never doing anything that would violate the commandment to not work on the seventh day of the week—no exceptions!

But Jesus offers them two exceptions straight from the writing of the law that they were trying to follow so strictly: David (1 Sam 21:1-6) and the priests (Num 28:9-10). But Jesus then affirms that “something greater” is now here, something even beyond the hunger of David and his men, or the necessity of the priests to offer sacrifices. These reasons to set aside strict observance of the Sabbath pales in comparison to the coming of Christ to bring salvation to all people.

Therefore, Jesus says, “if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’” (v. 7; cf. Hos 6:6) to point out that the Pharisees, while intently reading the law and desiring to follow its every command, had failed to realize the heart of the law. It is not that sacrifice was not important, for it had also been commanded by God, but that “mercy” (or compassion) was MORE important. Mercy and compassion are what truly characterize a servant of God, not external and outward actions only. Strict mechanical obedience to the law is not what God desires; God desires to care for people and to see to their needs.

Are there times when you are challenged to not act as a Pharisee, to not be quick to judge or claim being right? Is our heart the same as God’s heart? Is “mercy” more important than “sacrifice”? Our fallen humanness will tell us to make sure we are doing what is “right” and are not at “fault” or culpable of any criticism. We don’t want to be viewed as an accomplice or advocate for unrighteousness. But compassion isn’t about tolerating sin; it is about reaching out and helping someone where they are at, so they know that someone else cares about them. That is God’s heart. Let’s not miss it like the Pharisees did.

-Jerry Weirwille


The Wisdom of the Kingdom

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Matthew 11:16-17

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’”

After his disciples depart from him, Jesus turns to the crowds and begins to address them and tell them about the ministry of John the Baptist (v. 7ff). He chastises them for their dismissal of John’s ministry and their false expectations for who John was as a prophet. Jesus praises the ministry of John and acknowledges his preeminent place as the greatest prophet, yet this is not the way the people viewed the ministry of John.

Transitioning into a caricature of the crowds to whom he was speaking, Jesus says, “to what shall I compare this generation?” (v. 16). This “generation” was Jesus and John’s contemporaries who heard them preach and who should pay attention to them. But Jesus describes them as “little children” who are in the “marketplace.” The similitude with which Jesus draws upon is how children play with each other in public and respond to each other by playacting. They engage with each other and are influenced by what each person is doing.

But the people Jesus is speaking to are not like that. Instead, they are like children when their friends call to them and play the flute, do not dance; or when their friend sings a sad song, they do not mourn (v. 17). What this analogy is pointing out is that the present generation surrounding Jesus does not care to respond to what John and he are doing. They are not interested in the kingdom or the message of repentance. Their reluctance to embrace the ministry of John demonstrated their unreasonableness and refusal to hear his words.

Our generation today is not much different than in the time of Jesus. Even though we have a message of grace and truth that exceeds that of John, people will still be disinterested in those words. We might play a flute or sing a dirge, but by and large, our generation still resists the wisdom contained in those words. Not our wisdom, but the wisdom coming from the one who the message is about—Jesus.

Jesus concludes this section by saying “Wisdom is justified by her deeds” (v. 19). The wisdom that Jesus taught and which we proclaim today is something not aimed at competing with what is so called “wisdom” but is proved right by the results it produces when it is lived. The wisdom of the kingdom is not to be found in the eloquence of the message but in the actions that accompany the one who follows it, for wisdom is shown to be right according to the deeds that she accomplishes. If our deeds demonstrate the wisdom of our Master, then even if no one dances or mourns, we can be confident that we are not failing to fulfill the mission given to us. We must remember that this generation too will resist the message that brings hope and delivers people from the darkness of this age. So don’t be dismayed at the world’s refusal or their ridicule of you but be encouraged knowing that you are bearing the light in a dark place, and there are few who are willing to carry that torch.

-Jerry Wierwille


How to Find Life

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Matthew 10:37-39

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

After commissioning the twelve apostles, Jesus proceeds to teach them about what this commissioning entails. First, they will be persecuted (vv. 16-25), but they don’t need to be afraid because God will be with them and cares for them (vv. 26-31). Then comes a section that deals with the seriousness of the need to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, which can be a controversial subject (vv. 32-39). Jesus says that he did not come to bring peace but a sword (v. 34). This proclamation is not Jesus’ war cry as though his intention is to bring violence, but rather, it reveals that Jesus recognizes and discloses that he will be a point of contention and disagreement for many people. In other words, the truth that Jesus came to bring (and which he represents) will inevitably cause disunity and conflict.

It is on the heels of this declaration by Jesus that we read of the even more severe nature of this conflict—it may happen even within one’s own family. Jesus assumes the natural love of one’s family as a premise and then moves to identify that as a lesser priority in life than love for him. When he says that a person who loves him less than their family is “not worthy” of me (v. 37), he is making a value claim upon himself as more important than them. To be “worthy of me” means to “be fit to be a disciple.” It is important to clarify that Jesus is not advocating that his disciples not love their families. Instead, he is simply stipulating that the value attachment of a person to their family must not exceed their value attachment to him. To be Jesus’ disciple is to prize him above even one’s own flesh and blood.

The implications of this statement are far reaching. Who would say that loving a brother, sister, child, or parent should be subservient to the love of another? But this is precisely the demand that Jesus is making of his disciples. It is a declaration of discipleship that calls for absolute devotion. This extreme requirement is extended as Jesus also says that those who would follow him must “take [up] their cross” (v. 38). This is an expression referring to being willing to self-identify and endure the shame and suffering of one who is crucified.

Jesus elaborates by uttering one of the most interesting paradoxes: Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (v. 39). In essence, Jesus is saying that the life that matters is the life that is lived for the sake of Christ. To take the road of self-denial and live for something other than one’s self is to “find life.”

From these three criteria of discipleship, where do we find ourselves? Are we willing to follow Jesus no matter what? Does our love for him exceed our love for anything else? Are we willing to take up our cross? Are we will to die to self in order to find that which may truly be called “life”? Such a price is the price of being a disciple. Are we willing to pay that price? What might be stopping us from wholehearted devotion and service to the Master?

-Jerry Wierwille