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Fuel10-minute devotions to ignite the faith of parents and teens
By Joe White
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2003 Dr. Joe White
All right reserved.
It's fitting that the gospel account according to Matthew should lead the 27 books of the New Testament writings. Matthew records more of Jesus' teachings than any other book in the Bible. And Matthew knew Jesus personally as "King of the Jews"-the Messiah, and the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecies about "the One who is to come." In reading and understanding this book, we encounter the Savior's fundamental plan for life the way it was designed to be lived.
The Night that Was
"But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.' Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us.' "
There will never be another night like it.
Two young people, singled out by the Lord, were picked to become parents of the Messiah. God chose Mary for her purity and dedication to Him. Purity mattered to God then, and purity matters to God today. God chose Joseph because he was a righteous man. Righteous living mattered to God then, and righteous living matters to God today.
Jesus' parents were righteous, and His conception was pure. The Bible tells us He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Many people such as the late Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, believe that's just a story-there's no way Mary was a virgin. 1 But that's the human version of "truth." God is powerful. If God can turn a crawling caterpillar into a graceful butterfly, if He can create the universe with a word, then He can easily conceive a life inside a virgin's womb.
Baby Jesus, growing in Mary's womb, would transform "the law into grace" as He gave His followers forgiveness from sin and the hope of eternity. This baby would allow our biggest failures to lead to God's biggest acts of mercy. This baby demonstrated, once and for all time, that God's heart overflows with love toward His people.
Is that night significant to you? Why or why not?
Why does God value righteousness and purity?
How does God turn our sinfulness into righteousness?
How can you show God's love to one another?
Gifts to the Manger Child
"After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
We aren't much different from the wise men of Jesus' time. Like them, we have gifts to offer our Savior.
The apostle Paul wrote of some. In Romans 12:1-2, he urged us to give our bodies to Jesus as a holy sacrifice. Paul also said that we shouldn't let the world mold our minds, but instead to allow Christ to make us more like Him.
Keeping our bodies and minds pure are gifts to Jesus.
In Matthew 25:31-40, Jesus also spoke of gifts. He promised that when we give our time or money to the poor, the lonely, the hurt, or the downtrodden, we are actually giving gifts to Him. When you befriend an unpopular student from your high school, for example, sponsor a needy child, or even comfort your brothers or sisters when they're hurting, your love reveals Christ in you.
Our love for others is a gift to Christ.
Gift giving is easy. Your trip to the manger begins each day when you decide to say no to premarital sex or refuse to look at a trashy magazine. Your purity is a gift. You also give to Jesus when you consider the needy people around you. A smile and a kind word, your money, a missions trip are a few gifts you can offer the Savior. You may not have frankincense and myrrh, but you do have a gift to offer the Messiah that's even greater-your love.
How can you keep your mind pure for Jesus? Your body?
What did Jesus mean when He said, "When you give it to the least of these, you give it to me" (see Matthew 25:40)?
What is the greatest gift God has given you?
Discuss what manger gifts you (individually or as a family) can give to Christ.
"Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 'A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.'"
In northwest Arkansas beneath the Ozark Mountains lies a beautiful wilderness cave with millions of pristine crystal formations. My boys and I love to visit and explore that cave. The utter darkness of it is foreboding and cold, but when we turn on our cave lights, the underground treasure chest comes alive.
Darkness and light cannot coexist. The rays of light beaming into the cave's darkness immediately eliminate its blackness.
That's how it was with the light of Christ. His life chased away the darkness of sin and corruption among His followers in Israel. But King Herod, with his black heart, couldn't stand the thought of Jesus, the pure ray of light, coming into the world. Herod tried to destroy the baby Messiah and ended up murdering countless innocent babies. But Jesus' light prevailed-and it always will.
When you carry your Bible to school, when you refuse to join the party scene, when you avoid ungodly movies, and when your actions match your words of faith, you are a witness for Christ. As they did with Jesus, the people who live in darkness will try to put out your light. They'll laugh at you, gossip about you, and belittle you.
When it happens, continue to love those people as Christ did. As a witness for Jesus, you'll be rewarded with eternal light-heaven, where no darkness exists.
How have you represented Christ in your school? At work?
Have you ever been put down or ridiculed for representing Jesus? If so, how?
Which biblical people were mistreated because of their faith? How did they respond to their "persecutors"?
Discuss how your family can bring Christ's light to your neighborhood.
"Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?' But Jesus answering said to him, 'Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he permitted Him."
I was pretty sure my happy-go-lucky son Cooper would have a tough time keeping his foot off the accelerator of his "slightly used" Ford Explorer during his beginning months as a new driver. Sure enough, to his dismay, one of his first views in the rearview mirror was the flashing red lights of a police car.
Cooper called me immediately.
"Hey, Dad, uh, guess what I just got?" His voice sounded sheepish.
"Hmmm." (I was almost scared to ask.) "Tell me." I chuckled nervously.
"Uh, well, I sorta got a speeding ticket. I'll give you back my license as soon as I get home. I'm sorry, Dad," Cooper said, sighing.
We had prearranged a deal that his first ticket would cost him his license for a month. His second would cost him six months, etc. As crazy and fun and outgoing as he is, I appreciated his obedience that day. I knew it would kill him to give up his driving privileges, but his cooperation meant so much to me. It makes our relationship honest, open, and fun.
Jesus was a perfect Son. He was perfectly obedient.
"Why in the world," you might ask about today's Scripture passage, "is Jesus, the perfect man, getting baptized?"
Because, as a Jewish boy, Jesus had been asked by God to "fulfill all righteousness" (verse 15). Similarly, Jesus observed the Passover even though He was the Passover Lamb. He was obedient to Mary and Joseph even though He created them. He gave Himself up for sacrifice on a Roman cross even though He had never sinned.
No wonder His Dad said proudly at Jesus' baptism, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17).
Why is obedience sometimes seen as a harsh or distasteful word?
Why is it hard to be obedient to authority figures (like Mom and Dad)?
How can your family create an environment where obedience is more palatable?
"It's Tempting, but I'll Pass"
"Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Go, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only."'"
Justin, a high school sophomore in Memphis, is nervous about the party at Jennifer's house. He's deciding if he should smoke a joint with his friends before the party. Satan whispers, "It would be better to feel relaxed from the marijuana than to act tense and uncool without it."
Sarah is working the grocery store checkout line when a customer accidentally gives her an extra $20. Satan reminds Sarah, "You're in charge of the money. No one will know if you pocket it."
Eric, an eighth grader in San Diego, notices a Playboy magazine on the counter at a surf shop. Satan knows that Eric's curiosity for girls has been getting the best of him lately. Satan nudges Eric, "Go ahead. It's what any normal, red-blooded male would do."
Janelle, a 16-year-old beauty from Boston, is chatting with her friends at lunchtime. They want her to date Todd, the cute basketball player. Janelle has always wanted to go out with someone like him but isn't sure it's the best idea. Satan tells her, "So what if Todd has a bad reputation with girls? All your friends say you'd look great as a couple."
Temptation. Deception. Satan's the master of them both. He always tries to give us the things we think we want now-without giving us a clue of the consequences we'll face later.
Jesus knew that, so He dealt with Satan in the only surefire way available. Jesus didn't argue; He didn't rationalize; He didn't play around. Jesus simply put the arrow of Scripture right through Satan's heart-and knocked the devil right off his feet.
How are you being tempted this week?
What Scripture verse can you memorize to help you the next time you're tempted?
Why does Satan flee when we toss Scripture at him?
Family devotions build an arsenal your family can use to overcome temptation.
Fishers of Men
"Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'"
My gran'ma was 100 years old when the curtain between life on earth and eternal life with Jesus was raised and her new heavenly theater became her home. I always called her "Pardner" because she let me know in clear terms that she wasn't old enough to be my gran'ma.
Pardner taught me to fish when I was a young lad. We caught more fish together in my growing-up days than I could even begin to count. During the last few years of Pardner's life she was confined to a wheelchair, but her big, caring smile and the twinkle of love in her pretty brown eyes never dimmed. Just before her 100th birthday, I took her fishing, and she caught a beautiful rainbow trout in the Ozark mountain lake in front of my house.
Her 100th birthday party was the greatest, as I'm sure you can imagine. As I walked in the door to wish her happy birthday, her eyes caught mine, and she never looked away until I knelt by her side.
"Joe Boy," she said sincerely, "take me fishing."
"Aw, Pardner, I can't take you fishing today," I responded lovingly. "This is your 100th birthday, and everybody is here to see you."
Her eyes narrowed in gran'ma-style sternness as she said, "Joe Boy, if you love me, you'll take me fishing."
When Jesus spoke to Peter and Andrew in today's passage, He invited them to go fishing, too. But His call was to a different kind of fishing-"fishing" for the souls of men and women, boys and girls.
What do you think the disciples thought of Jesus' invitation as they stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee?
Their trade was fishing. Yours might be basketball, school, cheerleading, band, work, home, or family. How would Jesus tell you to witness for Him in your trade?
When Jesus wants to take you "fishing for men," what does He want you to do?
Make a list of people you can "fish" for, then follow up and keep one another accountable.
"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering."
Jesus demands radical forgiveness. But forgiveness is not easy.
Mr. Jefferson knows that full well. His son Alonzo was murdered by a teenaged gang member during a drive-by shooting. Mr. Jefferson was devastated, but then he decided to adopt the gang member and bring him into his home. The teenager who took Alonzo's life is now treated with all the honor Mr. Jefferson gave his own deceased son. That's radical forgiveness.
My close friend "Ad" Coors also knows forgiveness.
Excerpted from Fuel by Joe White Copyright © 2003 by Dr. Joe White. Excerpted by permission.
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