Devotional Thoughts on Matthew 16:24-17:8
February 9 – 15, 2015
Monday, February 9
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross” (Matthew 16:24).
Denying oneself is not an American tradition. American’s have accumulated the greatest personal debt in the world largely because when we see something we want we purchase it immediately. Americans are also the most overweight people for the same reason. We see something that tantalizes our taste buds and then we immediately must devour it.
Of course Jesus is talking about something more than saying, “No,” to a wide screen television, or forgoing an extra piece of dessert. He is challenging those of us who identify ourselves as disciples of Jesus Christ to get our eyes off ourselves and become aware of our neighbors and open to the Spirit’s leading. Doing this will provide plenty of opportunities to deny ourselves as we place the needs of our neighbor and the will of God above our own.
O Christ of the Cross, in obedience you gave all for all. Empower us by your Spirit to follow your example as your disciples. Amen.
Tuesday, February 10
“And follow me” (Matthew 24c).
“Follow the Leader” is a popular child’s pass time. Barry and his kindergarten friends enjoyed it a lot. Barry always wanted to lead; he didn’t like following. When he was following someone he never knew where they were going and sometimes they’d go places where they would get dirty or wet. In order to play with the other children, though, Barry knew that he could only lead part of the time.
Most of us are independent enough that we don’t like to follow. At work we don’t like micromanagers and we bristle at all of the posted signs that tell us what to do. “If you empty the coffee pot, be sure to brew another.” “Wait here,” “No U Turn.” Following, though, is an essential trait of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Jesus leads us into opportunities for service that we would not have discovered by ourselves. We encounter opportunities to grow when we allow Jesus to lead us. We also are able to share God’s love and grace, and give witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ when we walk that path that Jesus sets before us. Jesus leads us on the adventure of faith and life.
Guiding Lord, Forgive us for the times we want to lead. In faith and obedience we want to follow you. Amen.
Wednesday, February 11
“Those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25b).
The mantras in this day and age seem to be, “Do your own thing,” and “Reach your true potential.” These slogans highlight the individualism and self-centeredness that is so common today. Ironically seeking to do your own thing or narrowly focusing on your own potential will never allow you to achieve your goals. Humans were never created to live in isolation; we were created for community. Our true potential is reached when we live for something greater than ourselves and serve others.
We admire people who have done this: great patriots like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, great people of faith like Martin Luther King, Martin Luther, Mother Theresa, Gandhi and heroes like the firefighters of 9/11.
We may not be called to serve in as significant a manner as some of these people, but we can serve. Whatever capacity we serve others and give our life for others will be the depth that we will discover what life is really all about. We will discover what Jesus was speaking about when he talked about the abundant life.
Loving Lord, forgive our self-centered and selfish words and actions. Enlighten us that we may see the needs of others and discover life by serving them. Amen.
Thursday, February 12
“For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life” (Matthew 16:26)?
We each have one hundred and sixty-eight hours each week to invest. Many people invest in things. They accumulate things to play with such as ATV’s, boats and cars. Others invest in things like prestige, influence and notoriety. Still others invest in conspicuous consumption with all the admiration and acclamation that brings with it. Most of us take a diversified approach and invest in a few toys, a little prestige and some bobbles and bangles of the world.
Another form of investment is in relationships. Parents invest in their children by spending time with them. Husbands, wives and partners invest in their relationships by spending quality time together. Friendships take time as does serving others.
The “things” will never remember us, nor will they appreciate the time that we have spent with them. Through relationships, though, we can touch lives and have an impact on others. We might be able to leave an inheritance when we focus on things, but when we focus on relationships we can leave a legacy. It is important for us to be wise investors.
Gracious God, you bless us with so much. Please help us to share our blessings with others and to use them to honor you. Amen.
Friday, February 13
“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter, and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17:1).
Sometimes we complain that we don’t sense God in our lives. Our prayers don’t go very far, often bouncing off the ceiling. We feel alone, vulnerable and frightened. God continually reminds us in the Bible that God never leaves us or forsakes us. God hears our prayers and moves in our lives to provide for us and protect us.
When Jesus wanted to encounter God the Father, he and his disciples went up a high mountain. That was common in Jesus’ day, the popular thought was that mountain tops were closer to the realm of the gods. It might not have been necessary for them to go up a high mountain, but it was important that they draw away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It was when Jesus and the disciples were silent and alone that they were enveloped in the cloud, saw Jesus in shining clothes and heard the voice of God.
Eventually Jesus, James, John and Peter had to go down the mountain and re-enter life. Their experience on the mountain, though, never left them. Those moments, seeing Jesus in all his glory and hearing God’s voice, remained with them forever. Like Jesus and his disciples, we need the mountain tops and to spend time in God’s presence so that we can eventually come down the mountain and serve the people in the valley.
Glorious God, may we see you in your glory that we may be assured of your presence and love in our everyday service. Amen.
Saturday, February 14
“Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord … I will make three dwellings” (Matthew 17:4).
Peter had this great idea. He could make three shrines to commemorate Jesus’ transfiguration. He could visit them anytime and they would serve as a reminder of that fantastic spiritual experience. Building the shrines would also give him something to do and he wouldn’t have to wait for God to reveal God’s will for him.
For many of us it is difficult to sit still. We are used to running, running, running and it is difficult for us to stop. Doing something makes us feel useful and sometimes even important.
God, though, is not necessarily interested in keeping us occupied with busy work. God wants us to be faithfully obedient to God—that’s part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we need to stop, wait and be still in order to hear God speak to our hearts and direct our paths. It is then that our actions will truly touch lives and we will accomplish that purpose that God has in store for us.
Patient Lord, As you are patient with us, may we be patient and wait upon you. Speak to us that we may hear and give us obedient spirits that we may do as you ask. Amen.
Sunday, February 15
“A voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).
God’s word of affirmation came at critical periods of Jesus’ life. Jesus heard the voice of God at his baptism. God identified Jesus as the son of God, a son in whom God was pleased. God says these same words to Jesus at the time of his transfiguration—another critical time. Jesus will go down the mountain and begin his journey to Jerusalem.
As people who have been baptized, we have also heard these words. God has claimed us as God’s own and ushered us into God’s family. Our baptism has given us a new identity. There are times, though, when we need to hear those words again and be assured of God’s love and that we are children of God.
Listening for the voice of God opens ours hearts to hear God’s voice. We probably won’t be transformed like Jesus was, but we will be empowered. Secure in God’s love we are able to accomplish the tasks before us and honor God by our words and actions.
Loving God, Speak and assure us of your love then empower us and send us out. Amen.