treasure seeker

always looking below the surface

They Get the Kingdom November 25, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Devotional,Matthew — rjfleming @ 3:50 am

Today we’re looking at the first of the “beatitudes” that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.


We talked last week about what the word “blessed” means in these verses . . . and it’s a lot more than you would think.


In today’s passage we learn about one group of people who, according to Jesus, are not only REALLY blessed . . . but the kingdom of heaven is given to them.


It sounds like they won the lottery! But before you head out to buy one of those tickets, you may want to hear what they did to be so blessed.


They became poor in spirit.


That’s not how you’re typically told to get ahead in today’s culture, right? I know in today’s business world you’re told to stand out from the crowd, make connections with the right people, and make sure everyone knows what you do and how well you do it. You’re taught that if you don’t promote yourself first, no one else will.


But in this Upside-Down Kingdom that Jesus is training his disciples for, He takes a different angle.


The Amplified Bible says that “poor in spirit” means “the humble” and those “who rate themselves insignificant.”


I think “humble” in this context means not feeling superior to any other person, willingly putting other people ahead of yourself.


I don’t think whose “who rate themselves insignificant” have self-esteem issues or a self-image problem. I believe they view the King’s mission as more important than their individual life. In other words, they are willing to lay down their preferences in life to help fulfill the King’s mission. As a result, they don’t live small lives. They live LARGE. Because they have a compelling purpose that focuses on the King and the expansion of His Kingdom on earth–our life’s purpose that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.


I think we can look at this principle of “poor in spirit” from two aspects.


1. I believe recognizing that you are poor in spirit is the first criteria for salvation. You have to realize that your soul is bankrupt. That you are in need of a savior.

2. And after we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, I believe it’s talking about purposefully not focusing on yourself, but instead recognizing that without God as the central focus of your life, you will still be poor in spirit–that HE is the one who gives your life value, meaning, and purpose.


Recognizing your desperate need for God and then focusing on Him and His mission sets you up for EXTREME BLESSINGS.


And that’s even BETTER than winning the lottery!


Matthew 5:1-3 / Amplified Bible

Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him.

Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!


How Blessed! November 18, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Devotional,Matthew — rjfleming @ 3:37 am

Matthew 5 is the beginning of what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. It’s one of Jesus’s most famous teachings and is very well known. I’m sure you’ve heard parts of it quoted in multiple sermons and talks.


It’s also been the basis for several books . . . one title calls these principles the Be Happy Attitudes.


When I started reading and meditating on the first several verses, there was one thing that caught my attention.


I typically read the Amplified Version because it gives the expanded meaning of words instead of the typical one word to one word translation. And that really comes into play in this passage of scripture.


The word that is translated “blessed,” “happy,” or “fortunate” in other translations is also translated as “blessed” in the Amplified Version, but with a lot of expanded meanings. Here are a few:

- happy

- to be envied

- spiritually prosperous

- with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions

- enviably happy

- with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace

- blithesome

- joyous

- fortunate

- in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation

- possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions

- enjoying enviable happiness


I don’t know about you but that’s the kind of “blessed” life I would like to experience! It goes beyond being happy or feeling “blessed” when things are going your way or when someone says, “Have a blessed day!”


This kind of “blessed” life is knowing way down deep inside your soul that you have something that everybody desperately needs and no one can attain–it’s a “grace” gift. You are loved unconditionally. You are accepted just as you are. You are forgiven. You are a spiritual ka-jillionaire. You lack nothing.


But this kind of “blessed” life isn’t enjoyed by every believer. It’s experienced based on your heart attitudes.


And some of those necessary attitudes seem to be the exact opposite of the “blessed” life you’re trying to attain.


Which is one of the reasons it’s called the “upside-down kingdom!”


Good News for Galilee November 11, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Devotional,Matthew — rjfleming @ 3:18 am

In these few verses (Matthew 4:23-25), we clearly see Jesus’s priorities. Teaching and preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease. That’s what He spent His ministry years doing.


I love that it says He proclaimed the good news of the kingdom. It’s not bad news. Jesus’s message THEN AND NOW is GOOD NEWS! It’s not another 10 commandments we can’t keep. It’s not more rules to try to remember and follow. It’s not another law we’ll be punished for breaking. It’s not another tithe we have to pay.


The message of the Kingdom is GOOD. According to Jesus in Luke 4:18-21:

- It’s captives being set free.

- It’s the blind receiving their sight.

- It’s the oppressed being delivered.

- It’s salvation and God’s favor in abundance.


And Jesus doesn’t just talk about it in church. He goes into the streets and carries it out . . . literally!


Jesus came to earth on a love mission. Yes, He was here to live a perfect life so He could die a sacrificial death for our sins. Yes, He was here to show us how life is SUPPOSED to be lived. Yes, He was here to die and then rise from the dead and go back to the Father.


But it was all because of LOVE. It was all because of how much the Holy Trinity LOVES each and every one of us.


It was because of His love for the people in Galilee that He hated seeing them weighed down by the hundreds of laws religion had imposed on them. It was because of His love for them that He hated seeing them living oppressed and depressed and broken lives. It was because of His love for them that He wanted them whole and He wanted them free.


Because that’s how He created them to live.


So He offered wholeness and freedom to the people who came to Him in Galilee. That’s what they needed. And that’s what they got.


He feels the same way about you. He loves you and wants you to be whole and free.


And He has provided everything you need to live the life He created you to live.


What are you going to do with it?


Matthew 4:23-25 /  Amplified Bible

23 And He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news (Gospel) of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every weakness and infirmity among the people.

24 So the report of Him spread throughout all Syria, and they brought Him all who were sick, those afflicted with various diseases and torments, those under the power of demons, and epileptics, and paralyzed people, and He healed them.

25 And great crowds joined and accompanied Him about, coming from Galilee and Decapolis [the district of the ten cities east of the Sea of Galilee] and Jerusalem and Judea and from the other [the east] side of the Jordan.


First Disciples November 4, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Devotional,Matthew — rjfleming @ 3:59 am

Jesus has begun his earthly ministry and in today’s passage He chooses His first four disciples.

The first two are Simon and his brother Andrew. They’re casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee as Jesus walks by.

Jesus uses the phrase, “Come, follow me,” the phrase used in that time when a rabbi selects the students he has chosen to be his disciples. But in that culture, the rabbi’s disciples weren’t ordinary students learning from an ordinary teacher. The disciples practically lived with the rabbi, following him everywhere, learning every detail they could, emulating everything he did. They didn’t just want to learn everything he knew. They wanted to BE him.

So that’s the life these brothers are expecting when they make the decision to follow Jesus.

- How much of your life are you willing to spend with the Teacher?

- How committed are you to the lifestyle of a true disciple?

I love it that Jesus relates what they’re doing now to what He will teach them to do. Now they fish for fish. Jesus says He will teach them to fish for men. This reinforces for me that Jesus doesn’t waste any of our experience. And He wants to use all our talents and gifts in the Kingdom work He calls us to.

- What experience do you have that you’re not sure Jesus can use?

- What gifts and talents do you possess that aren’t being used for the Kingdom?

And I love that Simon and Andrew were hungry for something more than status quo. They weren’t willing to settle for what they had always done. They responded immediately when this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was offered.

- In what ways are you satisfied with status quo?

- In what areas of your life have you settled?

- What is Jesus offering you now?

- How long is it taking you to accept His offer?

As Jesus continues walking on the shore (joined now by Simon and Andrew), He comes up on a father (Zebedee) and his two sons (James and John) sitting in their boat preparing their nets for their next fishing expedition. Jesus calls these two brothers and they also respond immediately, leaving their father, their boat, their nets, their lives . . . just like that . . . to follow Jesus.

- What all have you given up to follow Jesus?

- Who have you had to leave behind in order to be a true disciple?

- How long did it take you to decide to drop everything and go?


Matthew 4:18-22 (NIV)

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.


There’s a New Preacher in Town October 21, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Devotional,Matthew — rjfleming @ 3:08 am

There’s been a shift. And Jesus knows that it’s time for Him to take over where John left off. That was the plan all along. John’s role was always temporary. He was never to be the main attraction.


None of us are the main attraction. As bad as we want to be some days. At our very best, we’re an entertaining warm-up act that gets people’s attention and whets their appetite for the real STAR.


That’s what John did. And now his job is quickly winding down.


How well are you doing your job? Are you getting people’s attention? Or are you shrinking back because you’re fearful or you doubt you’ll know what to say?


When Jesus first learned John was in prison, He went back home to Nazareth. We’re not told why He went there or why He was just there temporarily.


I wonder if He went there to silently say good-bye to the quiet life He had led. To his workshop and the tools He had learned to use instead of just speaking things into existence. To His humble earthly home that had housed the humans He loved so much, filled with memories of family triumphs and tragedies, of laughter and tears.

To his childhood neighborhood. The local temple. The trees He used to climb. The homes of His friends.

To His Mother. Knowing the agony she must eventually endure as His earthly mission comes to an end in a few years. To just enjoy a few more days as mother and son . . . before He is catapulted into the life of a celebrity. A status not much unlike that enjoyed by those in the spotlight today: loved and adored one moment; hated and reviled the next. A life that can so easily derail the best of men. But not Him. Jesus’s perspective is too eternal to allow a few moments–or years–of fame to distract Him.


I love the understatement of all understatements in verse 16. “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”


The Light of the World has left His cocoon and moved into the neighborhood, uncovering His true identity for those who recognize and admit their desperate need of Him.


Today’s world isn’t much different, is it. People are walking around, living their lives, being “successful” . . . not having a clue they’re living totally in darkness.


You and I are not The Light of the World. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But we “house” Him. And when we’re connected to Him properly, and living out that connection, people in the dark can’t help but notice His Light in us. I mean it would be kind of impossible NOT to notice a flashlight walking around in a pitch-black cave a mile below ground.


One of our main jobs is to carry His light into dark places. And in today’s world, we don’t have to look very far to find some very dark darkness. Instead of being afraid we’re not a good enough light, remember that the darker it is, the brighter the light in you is going to shine. And if you’re connected to Jesus, you won’t be able to stop yourself from shining.


When has your light attracted attention lately? Where was the darkness? How did you feel about shining there? What was the outcome?


As soon as Jesus moved into His new neighborhood, He hung out His new shingle. He was no longer Jesus, Carpenter of Nazareth. He is now Jesus, Itinerate Preacher.  And He carries the same message John did: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”


The message of the gospel has always been simple. Not easy. But simple. Not cheap. But simple.


By the time Jesus was on earth, the Jewish religious leaders had added hundreds of laws and rules to the original ones God gave the Israelites. Jesus came and basically reduced all of them down to two: Love God; love people (my very simplistic paraphrase).


The “Christian” religion hasn’t done much better. It’s amazing the number of rules different denominations have . . . a lot of them not even written down — but expected to be observed nonetheless. For some reason, humans aren’t satisfied with simple. But God is. In fact, I think that’s something He really loves: a person living a life simply focused on knowing God and pleasing Him.


How many rules do you follow to try to please God? Do they help you know Him better? What exactly do you need to do to please God? What does He want you to do now that you’ve surrendered your life to Him? Do you think the answer is the same for everyone? For everyone in your denomination? For everyone in your family? For you in every season of life?


Jesus Begins to Preach / Matthew 4:12-17 (NIV)

12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
    the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
    Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
    a light has dawned.”[f]

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”


Temptation in the Wilderness October 14, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Devotional,Matthew — rjfleming @ 3:16 am

The fourth chapter of Matthew starts out with Jesus’s temptation. I’m sure it’s familiar to you, so I won’t recap it. Here are the main points I see in this passage.

- Sometimes the wilderness is God’s idea. This time it definitely was. It clearly says the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. But just like in this situation, there is always a good reason for the trip. This particular time it was necessary to secure our salvation. Other times (like with the Israelites), it’s to ‘break off’ things we don’t need or can’t have if we’re going to enter our Promised Land. It can be to change our mindset before we face something we’re not prepared for yet. Whatever the reason, if God takes you there, it’s for your good and His glory. You can always trust Him.

- Jesus fasted. So it’s probably a good idea. Fasting is a great way to hear God more clearly. Choosing to do without food or possibly something else you’re used to consuming regularly, creates a ‘hunger’ that grabs your attention throughout each day. And every time it does, you have to choose whether or not you’re going to surrender that appetite to God and whether you want to know God and His will for you MORE than you want to satisfy your appetite.

- Satan tempts us by getting us to doubt God’s love for us.

—- 1) One of the main ways is by trying to get us to meet our unmet needs in ways that are outside God’s will. I can just hear him now: “But, Jesus! You must be starving! You haven’t eaten in 40 days! You don’t really think God wants you to suffer like this, do you? Just do what you do and fix your problem.”

—- 2) Another way is by getting us to doubt and/or misuse our position in God. “If you ARE God’s daughter/God’s son, just go ahead and do this crazy thing you know you want to do. He’s not going to let anything bad happen to you! He’s your all-powerful Heavenly Daddy. He can clean up any mess you make.”

—- 3) And Satan’s ultimate goal is to capture our praise. He wants us to worship him. His goal hasn’t changed since he was kicked out of Heaven. And he’ll promise you the world . . . or whatever little piece of it he knows you want really bad. And if you’re really following after God, he’ll promise you the piece of the world that God has set as your purpose here on earth–your destiny. But Satan’s way is a shortcut. Or so he says. It’s really a trap that’s extremely costly. The cost is your heart.

- Satan uses God’s word (which he knows very well) — with just a little twist — to try and trap you. Remember in the Garden of Eden when he asked Eve, “Did God really say . . . .” He knew exactly what God said, but he wants us to doubt what we heard. If he can just plant a little seed of doubt, he knows it will grow.

- Speaking God’s word aloud is one of the best ways to escape Satan’s traps and to fight temptation. This means we have to spend time in the word so we know what it says and can recognize Satan’s distortion of it. And we have to know what it says so we can use appropriate verses that speak to our most common temptations.

- If you put up a good WORD fight, Satan will eventually leave you alone — at least for a while. Satan came back and tempted Jesus again. And he’ll come back for you, too. But you can be prepared and you can successfully fight him again.

- One of the jobs of angels is to minister to people on earth. Angels are God’s messengers and He’s still using them today.


Application Questions:

- When did you last spend time in the wilderness? Did God lead you there or were you there because of your own choices? What purpose did your time there fulfill? What did you learn? About God? About you?

- When did you last fast for spiritual purposes? What did you hear from God?

- How does Satan tempt you to get your needs met outside God’s will? How often is he successful?

- When has Satan tempted you to do something crazy and expect God to rescue you? What was the outcome?

- What shortcut has Satan offered you? What has he promised you?

- When has Satan tried to get you to doubt what God has said to you?

- When have you spoken God’s word aloud to fight temptation? What verses did you use?

- What do you need to do to be prepared for your next battle with Satan?

- When do you think you may have “entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2)?


Matthew 4:1-11 / NIV

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.


Jesus’s Baptism October 7, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Devotional,Matthew — rjfleming @ 3:24 am

In this section of Matthew 3, Jesus comes to be baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan River. John “protests strenuously” according to the Amplified Bible, stressing that he (John) needs to be baptized by You (Jesus).


But Jesus asks John to do it so that He (Jesus) can “perform completely whatever is right.”


When Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened and John (according to the Amplified Bible) saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him (Jesus).


And then God HIMSELF spoke from Heaven and identified Jesus — “This is My Son, My Beloved, in Whom I delight!” (Amplified Bible). Wow!


Here’s what caught my attention:

- Jesus is all about doing what’s right, doing the Father’s will. He talks about this a lot during his ministry.

- Arguing with Jesus is futile. It’s not that He always wins (because He NEVER forces His will on any of us), but He’s always right. Obey Him and you’ll have peace and contentment. Disobey Him and you’ll lose your peace and end up discontented. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.

- Making the decision to obey God, especially when it’s not an easy choice, comes from having a different perspective, a perspective of trust–believing that God loves you and wants what’s best for you–and KNOWS what’s best for you.

- Sometimes obeying God brings revelation that allows you to see things others can’t and helps you hear and recognize God’s voice more clearly.

- Your obedience brings God joy.


Questions to think about:

- Where does God’s will for you fall on your list of priorities when making decisions?

- When was the last time you argued with God? What did you decide to do? How did it affect your life?

- What do you believe about God’s love for you when choosing to obey Him is not an easy decision?

- When has an act of obedience resulted in a new revelation or perspective? What did you start to ‘see’ differently? When has it brought a clearer recognition of God’s voice?

- How does it make you feel to know that your decision to obey God in a particular instance brought Him joy?


Matthew 3:13-17 / Living Bible (TLB)

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized there by John. 14 John didn’t want to do it.

“This isn’t proper,” he said. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you.”

15 But Jesus said, “Please do it, for I must do all that is right.” So then John baptized him.

16 After his baptism, as soon as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God coming down in the form of a dove. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am wonderfully pleased with him.”



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