Tag Archive for: Matthew

If you sat down with any group of people and said, “Today, our subject for discussion is temptation,” someone would quote Oscar Wilde, “I can resist anything but temptation.” The discussion would go from there to stories of pranks, parties, and pies. Each story illustrates some form of temptation. But the point of our reflection today is not to reduce the temptation to a few harmless activities. 

You, as a Jesus follower and a leader, are tempted, in one way or another, to be successful. Being successful, by itself, is not a bad trait. But how you get there can be. Whether you are a pastor, a parent, a small group leader, or an executive, the temptation to be someone other than who God created you to be is always present and sometimes overwhelming. 

To discover the key to becoming a hope-filled leader in the midst of temptation, let’s use the pattern of READ, REFLECT, RESPOND, RETURN as a lens to look at Matthew’s story of the temptation. 

1. Read Matthew 4:1-11 

Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.” 

 Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” 

 After that, the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.” 

Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.” 

Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.” 

Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, you will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him. 

2. Reflect

Immediately following his baptism where he has been claimed by God as “my beloved son in whom I am pleased,” Jesus entered a time of fasting. This was a time for Jesus to come to terms with who he was as “God’s beloved child.”

I find it fascinating that Matthew tells his story of Jesus like the story of Israel. Israel passed through the waters into the wilderness, was tested, and failed. They were disobedient and worshiped other gods. Jesus, the true Son of God, repeats Israel’s experience in coming out of Egypt, is tested in the wilderness, and remains obedient to God. He refuses to worship another. In contrast to Israel in the wilderness, whose faith faltered until restored by the miraculous manna, Jesus is hungry but remains faithful without the miracle.

After fasting for forty days, Jesus is prepared to be who God has claimed him to be. The story is not about Jesus deciding whether he is God’s beloved child but about what it means to be God’s beloved child.

Question for Reflection

Here is the question for reflection. What does it mean for you to be a leader who is a beloved child of God? Keep in mind, who you are is how you lead.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, tells how Jesus overcomes the three basic temptations leaders face.

First Temptation: Please People

The first temptation is to please people. For Jesus, the temptation was to live into the Jewish expectations of the Messiah. He was challenged to use his power to not only gratify himself but to meet the human need around him. Both are good actions, but to “Turn these stones into bread,” was not who he had been created to be. Jesus replied, “People do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

It is not wrong to want to please people or to make them happy, but if you form your leadership around applause, you will soon be unproductive and fruitless in your ministry. The temptation is not to please others as much as it is to become someone other than who God created you to be. Hope-filled leaders do not always please people, but they lead courageously in assisting people into becoming followers of Jesus who make a difference in the lives of the people with whom they encounter each day.

Jesus found his identity and strength in being who God created him to be. He experienced God’s love to the point that he trusted God’s direction in loving people and giving them what was needed so they too could become who God had created them to be. He often disappointed people, but he was true to being a beloved child of God.

As a leader, you are a beloved child of God. Who you are is how you lead.

Second Temptation: Impress People

The second temptation is to do something to impress people. For Jesus, the temptation was to make some sensational demonstration to show he was the Son of God. He is challenged to do something spectacular like “Jump from the pinnacle of the temple!” Jesus resisted and said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:6-7).

It is not wrong to set lofty goals and high expectations, but if you form your leadership around unrealistic accomplishments, you will soon be burned out and cynical in your ministry. There will always be pressure to do something new, exciting, bigger, and better. There will always be people who want you to do something that is not true to who you are as a leader. Your temptation will be to feed your ego, to compare yourself to your peers, and to slip into a behavior that is less than authentic. Hope-filled leaders do not always impress people, but they lead courageously in assisting people into becoming followers of Jesus who make a difference in the lives of the people with whom they encounter each day.

You don’t have to be a hero. But you do have to love people for who they are and to teach them the very things you have been taught about loving one another, forgiving one another, and leading one another to become the people God has created them to be.

As a leader, you are a beloved child of God. Who you are is how you lead.

Third Temptation: Compromise Who You Are

The third temptation is to compromise who you are by focusing upon something or someone other than the God who has created you. For Jesus, the temptation was to control the kingdoms of the world. He could do all the good he wanted to do, by giving up who he was created to be. He responded to the temptation by saying, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only’” (Matthew 4:10).

It is not easy being a Jesus follower when you are taught to “turn the other cheek,” “to make things right with those who have something against you,” and to “love your enemy.” It is not easy to “forgive 70 x 7 times.” But to give into the temptation to control your life and relationships is to compromise who God has created you to be. Hope-filled leaders are flexible. They know to pivot to lead people to the hope they desire. But they do not comprise who they are. They lead courageously in assisting people into becoming followers of Jesus who make a difference in the lives of the people with whom they encounter each day.

Jesus didn’t use his power to build an empire. He didn’t make people serve him, he served them. He included persons no one else wanted, washed the feet of those who hurt him, and cooked breakfast for those who had given up on him. He made friends with the poor, associated with outcasts, and disciplined them to be leaders. He helped them all discover that they were beloved children of God.

This is what Matthew is teaching us. To be a follower of Jesus means to have a trusting relationship with God that does not ask for miraculous exceptions to the limitations of being an authentic human being. You have been claimed by God, gifted to lead at this time in history.

You are a beloved child of God. Who you are is how you lead. 

3. Respond

Today, be aware of the temptation to be someone other than who God has created you to be. Be aware of where you are tempted to gratify yourself? And where you might compromise who you are to please or impress others. Look for Jesus throughout the day. Be aware of how being a Jesus follower helps you make the decisions needed to help others.

4. Return

  • Give God thanks for the day, for the people you have encountered, and for the places you have encountered God? 
  • What temptation did you face? 
  • In what situations did you try to please people? 
  • Impress people? Compromise who you are to get what you want? 
  • Who are some of the people who enriched your life? 
  • Who are some of the people you need to forgive or who you need to ask for forgiveness? 
  • How have you grown to become more of who God has created you to be? 

You are a leader at an incredible time in history. You were created for this time. So, don’t give in to the temptation to be someone other than who God has created you to be. You are needed just as you are…a beloved child of God.  

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

Have you ever had someone say to you, “You are an answer to prayer?” Have you heard those words when you did something helpful with a task or listened when someone had a problem?

I have said the words, “you are an answer to prayer” when someone, unexpectedly, has given me support or encouragement at just the right time.

The Harvest is Plentiful

This week, while reading the few last verses of Matthew 9, I was reminded of a special event in my life. The scripture reads as follows:

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
(Matthew 9:35-38).

The event took place when I fourteen. I had told my Sunday school teacher and my pastor that I thought God wanted me to be a minister. I think the words I used were, “I think God wants me to be a preacher.”

On the Sunday after I had made my “big” announcement, my pastor stood and told the congregation that God was calling me into ministry. But he said it this way, “God has answered our prayers and has raised up another worker for his harvest, Timmy Bias.”

Send More Laborers

Since that time, this scripture has been special to me. In fact, in response to what my pastor said, I started praying, “Jesus, send more laborers into your harvest.”

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. I can see it in my imagination. A flock of sheep milling around in a pen. Frightened and confused, stumbling blindly, bumping helplessly into one another, because they don’t know which way to turn.

Can you think of a better description of the day in which we are living? In the midst of this pandemic, we are wandering aimlessly, looking for a leader we can trust.

When Jesus saw the people, he was moved deeply. Out of his compassion he asked his followers to pray, “…ask the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.”

Jesus, I pray that you send more laborers into the harvest.

What is your motivation?

The motivation is compassion, and most specifically the compassion you and I have experienced and received in and through Jesus. As much as we need to know and understanding some business principles, we are not a business enterprise. Our motivation is not an impressive bottom line. Our goal is not to enhance institutional pride. Our aim is not to be the biggest and the best.

Our motivation is compassion. There are people outside the walls of your church, people in the community in which your church building is located, who are lonely, confused, hungry, angry, hurting, dying. There are families who are disintegrating, young minds being destroyed by drugs, older people feeling forgotten. The need is almost overwhelming. Truly the harvest is plentiful.

In our scripture, Jesus sees the need and has compassion upon the people. He turns to his followers and says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest.”

Your Next Step

Take just a moment to name someone in your mind right now. Someone you know who is lonely or homebound or in need of care or a listening ear? It could be someone young or someone trying to find his/her way? It might be someone who is struggling with substance abuser or is a victim of a broken family? Who do you know who is down and out or even up and out? Someone who needs compassion and care. Get that person’s face in your mind and their name on your lips.

Jesus, I pray that you send more laborers into the harvest.

Catherine Marshall, in her book A Closer Walk, tells the story of Mary and Harold. They had moved to Chicago and were alone. Even though they had each other, they had no other friends. They were so lonely; they became irritable and unhappy with each other.

One thing they still did together was to read the bible. One night they read the words of Jesus from John’s gospel, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16). Somehow the light of that passage penetrated their darkness. They realized that much of their unhappiness was caused by their self-centeredness. They asked themselves, “has Jesus chosen us for some kind of service? And what would it be in a city as big as Chicago?”

The first person they encountered after this discovery was the waitress who served them in a nearby restaurant. She appeared to be frustrated and Mary asked her if she were okay. The waitress said she had just moved to the city and was miserable. Mary and Herold said they would meet her after her shift, and they would be her friends.

A neighbor who was a widower became the second person they befriended. Soon a dozen people were meeting once a week for conversation and prayer. Out of those meetings grew a project called “Adventures in Friendship.” In less than a year, they had people gathering for prayer and conversation and involved in visiting the lonely and homebound in their apartment buildings and neighborhoods.

Mary and Harold became so absorbed in the needs of others that they soon forgot their own troubles. My guess is that they never thought of what they were doing as an answer to prayer. In the name of Jesus, they were simply showing compassion to people in need.

Be An Answer to Prayer this Week

Now, do you have a person in mind? Name on your lips? Someone who needs compassion and care?

Jesus had compassion on the crowd, He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.”

Okay. Jesus, I pray that you send more labors into the harvest.

Will you be an answer to my prayer this week?

Emmanuel

God disrupted all creation as Emmanuel. In the midst of all the chaos and crisis, in the midst of the violence and pain, and in the midst of despair and grief, God came to be with us. God came to be with us with true peace and love.

Emmanuel means “God with us.” God came to us. God left God’s place and came to our place. When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife…she gave birth to a son.

Joseph called him Jesus. Jesus means “Savior” or, “saves his people.” Together, the names Emmanuel and Jesus help us see in the birth of Jesus, God has come to heal us and to make us whole.

A New Year

What would happen if this new year, you and I think differently about ministry? In addition to inviting people to worship, what could happen if we invite the people in our congregations to serve in the community?

What would happen if we disrupted the community by leaving our places and going into the community to be with the people? What would happen if we took the love of God, the special music, the light of the world and became holy communion in the communities in which we live? God did not say “come to my place and I will give you peace.” God came to us with peace and love.

Disrupt our Communities

I will be in worship every Sunday in 2018. But in every church I worship I will be thinking of how you and I might disrupt our communities. Not for the sake of disruption. But disrupting our communities by bringing love and peace into every situation and circumstance we find ourselves.

I’ll sing the hymns, the praise songs, and listen to the music. But I will be thinking about how you and I can bring a kind, caring, encouraging word into our communities. I’ll be thinking about being God’s Word in the places we live, work, and play.

I look forward to celebrating holy communion with God’s people. But I will be thinking of how you and I might enter our communities, come alongside our neighbors, both friends and strangers, to include all people in God’s love in Jesus.

The Word became flesh and lived among us. How will you and I become part of God’s love that brings peace to our communities and goodwill to all people…whether we like them or not?

I hope you will make worship a regular part of your spiritual discipline through 2018. But even more, I hope your worship will be a true celebration of disrupting the world in which you live. Why? So that you might become more the person God created you to be.

I’ll be praying that your worship will lead you into the community with the God’s peace and love. So let it be!

disrupt our communities transforming mission

Prayer for Today

O God, disrupt my peace so that I may experience your peace. By your grace fill me with so much of your shalom that I have to disrupt the world in which I live to share your shalom in all places with all people. I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

When we seek deep spiritual change in our lives, there is always God’s invitation to walk by faith, not by sight. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus say’s, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Deep spiritual change is what is needed to lead the church today into the future.  So, why do so many of us hesitate to embrace deep spiritual change?

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I celebrate a birthday this week (Editor’s note: Tim’s birthday is today, April 6). As I often do, I took an assessment of my life and ministry. Although I am generally pleased with my life, I decided I must be more focused if I am to make the difference in the world I believe God created me to make.  I realized that I have a few years of active ministry left in and through the United Methodist Church (10 years before I have to retire). I believe I must be more clearly focused if I am to make that difference.

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There is a gospel hymn that says, “Like the woman at the well I was seeking for things that could not satisfy…”

Have you ever had an inward emptiness? I have. My life was filled with activity and busyness. Most all of it good, but I was not satisfied. Like empty calories that filled my stomach but failed to nourish my body, my heart, mind, and spirit were not being nourished by the good activity of my life.

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Be light

 

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.

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In every generation there are those who say, “We have never been this way before.”   But at no time in recent history have we faced the enormity of change we are facing today.  When the ground starts moving under our feet, and when we feel we do not have a firm foundation upon which to […]

Read Part 1 God Sent Jesus to Teach Us How to Live the Holy Life Holiness is a major part of Matthew’s gospel.  Matthew calls it “righteousness” or “holiness.”  The word “holiness” comes from a Greek word which means “set apart” or “different.”  For Matthew, being a Christ follower means that you and I are “set […]