MONDAY, 11/21
Read Matthew 7:24.
This week we will be looking at Jesus’ final teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and the people’s response to Him.  
Jesus’ primary point becomes immediately evident to us in this verse.  We must listen to Jesus’ teachings and do them.  We must do more than own a copy of His words.  We must hear His words, which includes reading them and hearing them proclaimed.  The final aim of Jesus’ teachings is that they come to life in us.  It is that they influence and shape who we are on the inside so that what we do on the outside changes as well.  
Jesus brings home just how important obedience is for His followers.  It is essential.  The reading, hearing and listening to His teachings is vital.  Without those practices, we would not know what obedience looks like for us.  We need to nurture these practices in our lives.  We must begin by being intentional about incorporating these practices into our daily habits.  They set the stage for us to thrive in our relationship to Jesus.
These practices are an essential step toward faithfulness, but they are not the end.  There are further steps to be taken.  We must consider how Jesus’ words are applied to our lives.  What does it look like for me to forgive the person who wronged me?  How do I seek to reconcile?  How can I begin to address the anger that causes me to lash out at others?  Once we encounter Jesus’ life changing words, we must consider just how it is that they can change our lives.  Sometimes this is rather straightforward, and other times it requires something of a spiritual wrestling match.
Once the message finds a foothold in our lives, then we are to be obedient to what it is Jesus has revealed to us.  This is the final and most crucial step.  We have to follow it through, whether it is easy or challenging.  The more difficult it is, let’s say stepping out on a limb to reconcile a broken relationship, the more we must seek His strength, wisdom and grace.  If we meet His words with an obedient spirit, He will supply whatever it is we need to follow through.  
Jesus’ brother James seemed to understand the significance of listening to Jesus’ words with a spirit of obedience.  James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”  God emphasizes this point at Jesus’ Transfiguration in Matthew 17.  “This is My Son whom I love.  Listen to Him!” God says.  Obedience is essential to experiencing God’s greatest blessings for us.  
So, where are you today?  Are you reading Jesus’ words with some suspicion, wondering if they are right for you?  Are you approaching His teachings with the spirit of Mary who said, “I am the Lord’s servant.  Let it be with me as you have said”?  
Sending Prayer:
“Jesus, I believe that Your teachings can unveil the greatest life I can live.  They are not always easy to follow, but they are good.  If anything in me is preventing me from coming to You with full confidence and obedience, please reveal it to me.  I want to lay that down so that I can take up a life of obedience to Your teachings.  Amen.”
TUESDAY, 11/15
Read Matthew 7:25.
In order to illustrate the blessing of obedience to His teachings, Jesus uses the image of a man who built His house on a rock.  
The image is clear.  You don’t have to be an engineer to understand that a house needs a good foundation.  Without a firm and sturdy base, the house is destined to crumble.  The man chooses to build his life on a rock.  
This ultimately proves to be the wisest choice he could make given what he encounters.  Jesus said as the rain, streams and wind beat against the house it did not fall.  Why?  It stood tall because it was built on an unshakable foundation.  
Jesus’ point is that if we too want to be wise with our life and make the most of this life, His teachings must be the foundation for the life we build.  It must be His values that shape who we are.  Just like His disciples, we place our lives under His instruction.  We do so trusting that He will lead us to a life of abundant blessing, both for us and a life of blessing for others (John 10:10).  
It is important to note that Jesus does not say that obeying His teachings will keep us from the storms of life.  Adversity in this life is inescapable.  It is inevitable given the broken state of our world and relationships.  You know that.  You’ve experienced the rain and the winds batter your life before.  I wonder what you learned in that season.  Did you find yourself buckling under the pressure, or by God’s grace, were you able to stand firm?   
One day, we will stand before the glory of the Lord in His Kingdom.  In His presence, there will be no more tears or pain, but until then we can expect some heartbreak.  However, Jesus gives us a way to victory in the midst of our vulnerability on this earth.  We can build our lives on Him and His teachings.  He give sus the wisdom, the strength and the grace necessary to overcome this world as He has overcome it.     
Sending Prayer:
“Lord, You are so very good.  I thank You for making the values of Your Kingdom known to me.  Help me as I seek to build my life upon You and Your teachings.  I want to be wise with this one life You have given me.  Teach me.  I am Your disciple.  I look forward to Your provision as I encounter the storms of life.  Amen.”  
Read Matthew 7:26.
Jesus uses another image to show us the antithesis of the wise life.  As the wise man built his life on a firm foundation.  This other man chose to build his life on the sand.  
Again, you don’t have to be an engineer to know that this isn’t a good idea.  Whereas rock is stable, sand shifts.  Sure, a house can sit on sand, but it isn’t strong enough to stand adversity.  I’m getting ahead of myself.  We’ll explore that more tomorrow.  
Jesus uses the image of the man who builds his house on sand to speak to those who hear His words but do not do them.  They do not meet His words with obedience.  Perhaps, we think we can do better, or maybe we just don’t want to do what Jesus says.  Whatever the reason for our disobedience, we do not follow through.  
As much as I am tempted to look down on this guy who built his life on the shifting sands of disobedience, I have to admit I have often been that guy.  I have come up to Jesus’ words and simply not obeyed them.  I heard them.  I knew them.  I didn’t do them.  I suspect that I’m not alone in that.  There was a time when I was younger that I thought I had a better vision for my life than Jesus.  I thought Jesus’ way seemed a little boring.  Now I have come to trust Jesus more, but at times even today, my luster for obedience wanes.  
The most important thing for us to do in the case of a disobedient spirit is consider the root of our disobedience.  Has our love and commitment to Jesus slipped?  Do we have trust issues?  Is our heart being poisoned by pride?  We have to diagnose the problem before it can be changed.  
Obedience or disobedience is a heart issue.  It must be understood as such.  Our hearts are subject to fluctuating conditions.  We must learn to become good managers of our hearts.  There is a reason the bible often says to “guard our hearts” (Proverbs 4:23).  That means have a pulse on how our hearts are doing.  We can only do this through constant reflection.  We need to ask ourselves questions like, “How is my soul doing today?”  
Let’s pick up the exercise together.  How is it with your soul?  Are you eager to be obedient to Jesus as an expression of Your trust in and love for Him?  Are you battling other impulses?  If so, what are they and why do you think you are wrestling with them?  Prayer is the vehicle through which we unpack these and turn them over to the Lord.  He can help us diagnose and heal any heart condition.  So let us turn to Him in prayer.  
Sending Prayer:
“Holy Spirit, I give You my heart.  Show me if there is any pride or anything else that is keeping me from obedience.  I want to desire obedience.  I do trust Jesus and His teachings.  I believe His way is the way that leads to life.  Heal and mend and bless my heart as I grow towards becoming the kind of person who obeys.  Amen.”
Read Matthew 7:27.
Here, Jesus brings home His point about the man who built His house on the shifting sand.  When adversity came, His house fell.  The translation is that when Jesus’ words fall on deaf ears, we too are subject to crashing down.
Jesus tells us that the test of the foundation of our lives is adversity.  We can often plod along in life when things are going relatively well.  It is when circumstances turn on us that we learn how strong or weak our foundation is.  Adversity puts pressures and stresses on us that reveal cracks that simple times mask.  It’s why when things get difficult for us, other wounds come to the surface.    
One underlying point here is that we must build our lives to withstand adversity.  Hardships will come. It is just our reality here.  No one escapes them.  Since we can expect hardships, we had better build our life on something that can withstand the adversity we are destined to face.  If we do not, our lives are a house of cards that will come crashing down at the first sign of trouble.  
I remember going to make a visit in the hospital some years ago.  I was visiting a parent of one of my youth.  She was very sick and according to her child, she was in worse shape emotionally and spiritually than physically.  Little did I know that shortly before I walked into the room, she had just received some devastating news regarding her health.  The doctors started talking about the time she had left.  She was still in shock.  As we tried to process the news together, I looked at the table besides her bed.  There was a stack of Hollywood gossip magazines.  The truth was in a stack of magazines a foot tall there wasn’t an ounce of wisdom in them to help her with the news she had just received.  In other words, the storms had hit and her walls were shaking under the weight.  
Now that kind of news isn’t easy for anyone to receive, but what was apparent in that room was the she was woefully unprepared for adversity.  The problem is there is no cramming for that test.  We don’t get to choose when we take that exam or the questions that are on the test.  It just comes.  
I think about that visit and a similar one I had just a few months later with a church member who had just received a similar diagnosis.  In spite of the news, the visit was of peace.  She said while her immediate future was uncertain, her eternal future was not.  She knew who she was and who she belong to.  She trusted in God to carry her and her family through it all.  Now I imagine there were moments along the way that her confidence waivered.  It’s a part of the journey, but she had built her life on Jesus.  When the rain and the winds hit a little harder, she buckled down and turned to Him.  The peace that marked her journey into the presence of God was one of the most humbling things I have ever witnessed.  It was a testimony to the beauty of a life that is built on trust in Jesus.  
Sending Prayer:
“Father, I am thankful that You love me.  You promise to be with me and help me build a life upon You.  Continue to orient my heart towards You and Your will.  I love You and I praise You.  Amen.”  
FRIDAY, 11/25
Read Matthew 7:28-29
Many in the crowds had only heard of Jesus and his teachings from others.  Most of them had had some sort of instruction before from scribes or others who had been educated on the Torah.  No one could have expected what they witnessed. It was clear that Jesus knew what Moses had said and done. He knew his Jewish history, the significance of the prophets, and the culture within which he was speaking. He spoke with extraordinary authority, the likes of which they had never seen before. Jesus seems almost familiar to them and yet surprisingly different. He left several communities asking: who is this preacher?
Clearly, it wasn’t just what he said but the way he said it that captured the attention of his listeners.  Members of the crowd could see themselves in His messages.  Not only did he make references to Moses’ ten commandments, Jesus spoke of a future of Hope where strengthening their faith matters most. Somehow, He was a Jew, but his message was not Jewish. He was interpreting Moses‘s law in such a way as to show that It was God’s. He spoke as one who knew what He was talking about.          
In hearing him speak, others could not help but compare his words to others who preached. The scribes and Old Testament prophets would preach by Gods authority, while Jesus spoke with authority.  Jesus insisted that his words or God’s words: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.“ (John 7:16). Later, Jesus would claim that he was the fulfillment of law and prophecies. Jesus was also a rabbi teaching the true meaning of the Torah. The Sermon on the Mount also described that Jesus knew the way to salvation and shared it with His listeners.  What a message of hope Jesus represented to the crowds that continues to reach all who will listen to Him!
I wonder what it would take for us to recognize Jesus if He began his preaching career in today’s world? What would you look for to distinguish Jesus from a false prophet? 
Sending prayer:
“Lord, reading scripture, I can see how You would be different that the other preachers I have seen and heard.  I pray I am open minded and open hearted when I read scripture, so that I  can come to know Your Authority in new ways.  Allow me to listen to sermons about You with new hearing so that my heart maybe changed by the sound of it. Guide me in Your Direction as I continue my study about You. In Your Name, Jesus.  Amen.
SATURDAY, 11/26 
Read Matthew 28:18-20 
In verse 19, hear the Great Commission as Jesus calls out to all of us “to make disciples of all nations“.  Among all New Testament theologians, it was the Easter faith that launched the church on its mission in and to the world.  By the time Matthew had written it down, the gospel had gone into many parts of the world and thousands of disciples were crowding into the Church.  As people began to gather within the early churches, something happened to the Jews and gentiles that now shared the church pew as fellow worshippers.  Both have met with the risen Lord and both are consumed with the need to go and tell others. Evangelism springs from worship among others. 
Not only were we called to make disciples, we were all called to the great commandment to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. It is this commandment that allows our evangelist efforts to become warm and inviting, thus attracting disciples to the church. This movement will embody the spirit of heaven, where love is a universal language. For this to work, everyone involved must be obey Jesus and his teaching.
Matthew’s Gospel ends having defined who Jesus is, His message, how His kingdom comes and the costs and challenges of discipleship.  The Great Commission pulls passion from the insiders outward to the unreached.  I wonder what the best way to reach the unreached is in our community?  Where would you begin? With whom?
Sending prayer:
“O Holy God, it is good to be reminded about our role in the Great Commission.  It is good to be reminded that to make a compelling case for discipleship, one has to have personally met the risen Lord and feel compelled to tell others.  My experience matters. My obedience matters. My focus on reaching the unreached matters. Guide my feet, God. Show me where I can best serve You.  In Jesus name, Amen.”
SUNDAY, 11/27
Read John 15:14
This is a clear vision of the crucifixion and exactly who do the disciples become as the end of Jesus’ life draws near.  We know that to bear fruit, to do the works of love, is a concrete sign of discipleship.  His Father God’s love for Jesus mirrors Jesus’s love for His disciples.  Jesus asks the community to mirror that love in their own actions.  Chapter 15:12-13 says, “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. “To lay one’s life down“ shines a light at what’s to come in His death on the cross on our behalf.  It also means to love as Jesus loves. Jesus’s death is the ultimate demonstration of His love for us.
We are given an opportunity in v14 to look Jesus eye to eye. And to love Him as he taught us to love. There is a new kind of love we have experienced through Christ, and we seek to experience again and again. The love we share with Jesus is unique: we are loved and have come to know God through Jesus.  To share and mirror Jesus’ love for us with someone else is something we as disciples are called to do, over and over again. 
I wonder what it takes to be open enough to experience Gods love through Jesus’ example. What kind of fruit do you bear as a disciple? How would you like to see things change for Jesus’ disciples?
Sending prayer:
“Dear Lord, I have never had anyone love me so much that they would give their life for mine. Without loss of life, how do I express a love so dear to me for someone else? Guide me on how to love someone outside my family as much as I know You love me. Show me how to live as a disciple in todays world. Show me how to love in todays world so that I glorify You? Forever Yours and in Your Name, Amen.”