Right Criteria

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

“My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” James 2.1

Looks could be deceiving! When this letter was written by James, it was believed that God blessed those who were good with wealth. Apparently, there were those who showed preference for people arriving for the assembly who were dressed in fine clothes, as opposed to people dressed in ragged clothing. Woe to you if you showed up dressed in rags. You could sit on the floor or stand to the side. However, if you showed up in fine clothes, you were given attention and proper seats.

James wrote that this attitude caused one to judge a person based on the wrong criteria. Christians are to treat all people equally! One does not have the ability to know the motive or heart of another person. Just as important, we are to teach everyone that is willing to listen and not prejudge a person’s response based upon appearance. The proper criteria to use is God’s word.

#risingjoy #James #devotional

Receiving Others

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest.” Luke 10.38

Do you receive people into your home? If you do, what is your attitude toward the situation? Do you get anxious about what to feed them? Do you feel that everything has to be just right? I have been on both sides of the situation.

In the past, when receiving someone, I would do a super cleaning, wearing myself out physically. Mentally, I would worry about what to serve and what to do while the guest was in our home. Many times, I was exhausted before they even arrived, being unable to enjoy to the fullest the time they were there. I could definitely relate to Martha in the context of Luke 10.

With time, I have come to realize that the important thing is to make someone feel comfortable while in my home. That does not mean that I have to serve them a huge, special meal. It does mean that I need to give them the attention that they need. That need might be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

I am blessed by inviting others into our home. I have learned to simplify many things so that I do not allow stress to steal my enjoyment of the moment. That makes it more positive for everyone!

#risingjoy #devotional #Luke #hospitality

Urged to come

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

“A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, a God-fearing woman, listened to us. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me to be a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” And she persuaded us.” Acts 16.14-15

Paul and his companions had arrived in the city of Philippi. On the Sabbath, they had gone to a location outside the city gate to the side of the river, where they thought they would find a place of prayer.

Upon arriving, they began to speak with a group of women who were assembled there. Lydia listened to them and the Lord opened her heart to Paul’s message. She responded, being baptized, along with her household.

Lydia opened her home to Paul and his companions. They were already accommodated in another location, but she was persistent in urging that they come to her home.

Christians live in communion with one another. It is an important aspect of the life of the church. The love and service that we share is one of the attitudes that make us different from the world.

#risingjoy #Acts #devotional #hospitality


Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

But no stranger had to spend the night outside, for I opened my doors to the traveler – Job 31.32

God had allowed Satan to test Job’s integrity. Job did not understand what was happening to him, but he remained firm in his faith. He gave a defense of his actions in this chapter as he justified how he had behaved up to that time.

Inns were not as commonly used during this time. It was a practice for people to accept travelers into their home, providing food and shelter for them. Job affirms that he had been one to invite others into his home.

Many years ago, my family of three, at the time, was traveling to visit family. We were in a borrowed car. The car had given us problems since the beginning of the trip. We arrived at a town in Arkansas off the normal routes since we preferred not to take the interstate. Once again, the car began to present problems. Stopping at the building of the local congregation of the Lord’s church, we went in to seek information and help in finding someone who could look at the car.

Not only did we receive help with information regarding a mechanic, we also were offered a place to stay while the car was being fixed. We actually ended up spending the night since the car would not be fixed until the next day!

I am thankful for the family that opened their home to a young couple with a three month old baby. I recognize that we must be cautious about inviting strangers into our home. However, let us also remember that some have entertained angels without knowing it, Hebrews 13.2.

#risingjoy #Job #hospitality

Titus’s Task

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

Instead he must be hospitable, devoted to what is good, sensible, upright, devout, and self-controlled. He must hold firmly to the faithful message as it has been taught so that he will be able to give exhortation in such healthy teaching and correct those who speak against it. Titus 1.8-9

Paul wrote to Titus after leaving him in Crete. He had been left there to set some things in order and to appoint elders in every town. Paul had given him directions on what to do.

He wrote to Titus explaining the criteria for the appointment of elders. Given the responsibility of caring for the spiritual lives and growth of the church, whatever man available did not fit the need. Paul gave Titus a list of attributes to look for in those who would be considered for this role.

One of the attributes was hospitality, as well as being good, sensible, and self-controlled. These men were also to hold firmly to the faithful message as it had been taught, being able to correct those who spoke against it.

These same attributes apply today. The church needs men who will hold firmly to the faithful message. These same men must be capable of correcting those who teach differently. The Bible is one book and has one message.

#risingjoy #Titus #elders


Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12.19-21

Are you controlled by God’s spirit? Do you think before you react allowing the spirit to guide you in your thoughts to do the right thing? It is not in man’s nature to act with purpose when under fire. The natural reaction is to either say or do something that will hurt or offend the other person just a little bit more than the perceived offense.

God has instructed his children to leave vengeance with him. But, where does that leave his children? They are to continue to treat everyone, even their enemies, with kindness helping to satisfy the needs of others as best they can. Paul talks about providing food and drink, basic necessities. Christians cannot let evil overcome them. Continue to do good to all, not only by example, but also, by sharing why you act (not react) the way that you do, 1 Peter 3.15.

There is a saying, “Two wrongs do not make a right.” Paul told us to overcome evil with good!

#risingjoy #Romans #vengeance

Hospitality Brought Peace

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

He replied, “Do not strike them down! You did not capture them with your sword or bow, so what gives you the right to strike them down? Give them some food and water, so they can eat and drink and then go back to their master.” So he threw a big banquet for them and they ate and drank. Then he sent them back to their master. After that no Syrian raiding parties again invaded the land of Israel. 2 Kings 6.22-23

The king of Syria was at war with Israel. After several attempts to invade Israel had been thwarted, the Syrian king summoned his advisers and accused that someone was helping Israel. One of his advisers told the king that the prophet Elisha was the one telling the king of Israel about the attempted invasions. He sent men to capture Elisha.

The Syrians discovered that Elisha was in Dothan. The Syrian army surrounded the city during the night. Upon awakening, Elisha’s attendant saw the army. Elisha prayed that the Lord strike them with blindness. He then led them to the city of Samaria, where once again he prayed. However, this time the prayer was for their eyes to be opened. They found themselves in the middle of Samaria.

The king of Israel through a big banquet for them and they ate and drank. He extended kindness and hospitality. Afterwards, they returned to Syria to their master. The result was that the Syrian raiding parties under this king no longer invaded the land. This act of kindness brought about peace for a time.

When you extend kindness and hospitality to someone, you have no idea how the Lord will use that to his glory.

#risingjoy #2-Kings #hospitality


Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so you can be invited by them in return and get repaid. But when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14.12-14

Jesus went to eat a meal at the home of a leader of the Pharisees. He was under scrutiny to see how he would react to different situations. The Pharisees were always trying to find fault with his actions or words.

After healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus challenges their thinking regarding what they would do in a similar, though perhaps personally, more important circumstance. He teaches a parable concerning the fact that the guests were choosing the more important places to sit.

Jesus then addresses the issue of the one who had invited the people into his home. All are guilty of this situation. So often you invite those who, in turn, will reciprocate and invite you into their home. Christians are to care for those who are unable to reciprocate any action that might be made in their behalf. In this way, Christians are imitating the one who died for them. There is no reciprocal action for that deed other than dying to oneself which will put others’ needs above one’s own.

#risingjoy #Luke #Reciprocation

Love and Hospitality

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without complaining. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 1 Peter 4.8-10

Peter was writing to Christians who were undergoing suffering. Several things were mentioned in the above verses that would help in the coming trials.

Christians should love one another fervently. This includes looking out for one another. That love can be shown in many ways. Love can encourage as well as correct. It keeps you open to spiritual growth. It helps one to acknowledge and confess sin that may be found in your life. It may help to bring someone who has lost their way back to Christ.

Hospitality by definition is the generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests. In the first century, men would travel from town to town teaching and preaching. They would need a place to stay while in town. Peter wrote to show hospitality to one another without complaining. Through the years our family has received many visitors into our home and have been blessed many times by the encouragement and examples of others.

Each Christian has something to contribute to the Lord’s work and kingdom. We all have a way to serve others that is a part of who we are. As good stewards, let us use the abilities that God has given us to build one another up.

#risingjoy #1-Peter #stewardship

Positive Energy

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another. Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality. Romans 12.10-13

The Christian should not be a pessimistic person. If you look inward, it is easy many times to realize your own limitations, at least from your point of view. One should analyze where you are and how you are progressing. But, when you look inwardly all the time, you miss the opportunities that God puts in your path to serve him. When you serve others, you are serving him. When you serve others, you are able many times to forget your own problems and go about life with a better outlook. You allow God to use you for his glory.

Paul made service to others appealing when putting it in such positive and active terms. Eagerness, zeal, and enthusiastic are all words that bring energetic pictures to your mind. Contributing to the needs of others requires action of some sort on a person’s part.

Pursue hospitality. Do you invite others into your home on a regular basis whether it is to teach them or to feed them? Maybe someone needs an encouraging word and what better way to share that than over a cup of coffee! Before this year, you could already see people isolating themselves somewhat because of their busy schedules. There was no time to have people into their home to share the gospel or encouragement.

Let us remember the hope that we have, that others need, and that we can share in a loving and positive way. Get that coffee ready!

#risingjoy #Romans #service


Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands – the representation of the true sanctuary – but into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. Hebrews 9.24

Even though Christians are not under the Old Testament, an understanding of it is important, Romans 15.4-6. Today, God gives us unity in accordance with Christ. It is his testament that is valid today, Hebrews 9.15.

Moses built the tabernacle following God’s instructions and then purified it, along with all of the utensils of worship, with the blood of calves and goats. According to the law, almost everything was purified with blood, without which there was no forgiveness. This was the tabernacle on earth.

The heavenly things required better sacrifices than the blood of animals. Christ put away sin once for all by his sacrifice on the cross, Hebrews 9.12, 26. He entered into heaven itself. Now, he appears in God’s presence as our advocate. When he returns, it will be to call the obedient home to be with him.

#risingjoy #Hebrews #blood


Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2.9-11

What did Jesus do that resulted in his exaltation by God? Jesus was in the form of God. He was equal with God. However, he did not grab onto the situation and hold tightly to it. He emptied himself and became like a man, sharing in our human nature.

Now, if that were all, it would be amazing. Who do you know that would willingly demote himself or herself in importance? But, that was not all that he did. He obeyed the Father to the point of going through an agonizing death on the cross even though he was innocent of any wrong. The sins that he bore on that cross were not his own. They belonged to you and to me. Because of your sin, he was separated from the Father, for God will not remain in the presence of sin.

Due to his willingness to obey, God exalted him and at his name, all will bow. Every tongue will confess that he is Lord. The question remains if you will confess him here in this life and obey him to be received into heaven or will you confess him before being condemned for all eternity. God has given you the liberty to choose which it shall be.

#risingjoy #Philippians #exaltation


Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven. Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15.49-52

Adam was the first man that God created. He was created out of the dust of the earth. Upon his death, his body returned to dust. This is true of almost every human being with few exceptions. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, which is spiritual. Our perishable body is not compatible with the heavenly kingdom.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians to encourage them to be firm in their faith. Not all Christians will die before the Lord returns. His return will be like a thief that comes in the night, 2 Peter 3.10. Unexpected! At that time, in the blink of an eye, those who are still alive will be changed and given a body that is imperishable, one that can pass into eternity and inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul’s message to Christians was to stand firm and not be moved from your faith. For just as your earthly body was like that of Adam, you will be given a heavenly body like the one from heaven.

#risingjoy #1-Corinthians #resurrection


Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently toward heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look!” he said. “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Acts 7.55-56

Stephen was one of seven men who were chosen for the task of seeing to the daily distribution of food for the widows who were in need. He was well-attested, full of faith, of wisdom, and of the Holy Spirit. He was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. The Jews had argued with Stephen, but were unable to resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke, Acts 7.10. They instigated some men to claim that they had heard Stephen blaspheming against God. He was brought before the council.

Stephen gave his defense to the council in Acts 7. It is a brief history lesson of God’s people from Abraham to Jesus. At the end of his sermon, he charges the Jews with murdering Jesus and not obeying his words. After looking to heaven, he stated that he could see Jesus standing at God’s right hand. Reacting in fury, they took him out of the city and stoned him. He prayed for forgiveness for the Jews as they stoned him which is similar to the prayer of Jesus on the cross, Luke 23.34.

Stephen was a man that was killed because of his preaching to which others were resistant. He did not let the fury of the crowd stop him from teaching. May we be ready to follow his example.

#risingjoy #Acts #Stephen


Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

The one who comes from above is superior to all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is superior to all. John 3.31

Heaven is where God resides. It is a place that is hard for our minds to grasp. Jesus left heaven. He emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and looking like other men. He shared in human nature, Philippians 2.7. He spoke the words of God, John 3.34. God has placed all things under the authority of Jesus, John 3.35. Authority is power. Jesus has all power. It is his power that we should obey. He gives eternal life to the one who believes in him. However, just as there are two sides to every coin, the one who does not believe and rejects Jesus shall receive God’s wrath, John 3.36. It is important in whom we believe.

#risingjoy #john #heaven