Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Matthew 11:20-30


20 Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 ``Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 ``Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 ``And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 ``Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.''

This cursing of 3 primary cities contains a remarkable prophecy. Jesus is condemning them to obliteration! It was in these three prominent fishing villages that Jesus performed most of His miracles, yet they rejected Him as the Messiah sent to deliver them. Since they had more light than most anywhere else and chose to reject this light from God, they will never be rebuilt again! Throughout history, although there have been serious attempts to rebuild these cities, they remain desolate today. Capernaum is a fascinating ruins that we visit, right on the Sea of Galilee. Bethsaida and Chorazin are up the hill away from the Sea a bit. Bethsaida is virtually unvisited and Chorazin is becoming more visible with some interesting ruins of people's houses from the 1st century.

25 At that time Jesus said, ``I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 ``Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 ``All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Jesus offers up a quick prayer, speaking of how the wise and intelligent (those who think they know and have it all) have not connected with the revelation of Jesus, yet the infants (those who have little, but are trusting) receive it freely. The key is how anyone receives the person of Jesus.

28 ``Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 ``Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 ``For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.''

Jesus now offers the most simple explanation of what it means to believe in Jesus' way versus the ways of the religious. Remember the call of Matthew that illustrated how it works? The whole world is out to try to make themselves right before God by jumping through all sorts of hoops. That's religion-trying to avoid going to hell-conduct life in such a way so as to be accepted by God. Jesus only requires a personal relationship with Him-"Come to Me." It's a relationship-been to hell and don't want to go back. Much of the hell we experience in life is trying to conduct our lives in such a way so as to be accepted before God.

Jesus invites all who are sick and tired and weighed down by all of the do's and don'ts of trying to be acceptable to God, to simply come to Him. Just come to Jesus and He will give you rest. He gives you rest in two ways-salvation rest (you are accepted by God just the way you are) and rest for your soul (stop the treadmill of stress). This is the most amazing thing ever! Jesus is the only one who can make you acceptable, simply by coming to Him. He'll do the rest!

You see, when you are called to be a disciple, you are called to rest. I am just now understanding this. Although I have known the grace of God, I have been frantically "doing" everything I could do to prove that I am acceptable. I have acted more like a human "doing" rather than a human "being." Jesus wants me to simply come to Him, take on His yoke and learn from Him, so that I will find REST for my soul. This blows my mind!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Matthew 11:7-19


7 As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, ``What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 ``But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces! 9 ``But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 ``This is the one about whom it is written, `BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.' 11 ``Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 ``From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13 ``For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 ``And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. 15 ``He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 ``But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17 and say, `We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' 18 ``For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon!' 19 ``The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.''

The world conditions were ready for something different to catch their attention and turn their hearts toward God. There was much religiosity and secularism thriving at that time, but "authenticity" was woefully lacking. John's attractiveness was that he was authentic-the real deal. He took on a pose that was almost the opposite of the religious setting of the day and people were hungry for it. He didn't wear the flowing robes of the priestly or religious class, didn't operate in or around the beautiful Temple, didn't have a religious air to him, and was not playing games any longer. This authentic message of turning back to God (repentance) and looking for the Messiah was most refreshing, even if they had to travel out into the country to hear it.

NOTE that John came with a serious tone like singing a dirge at a funeral to catch the attention of those who were playing games with their faith. Jesus, on the other hand, came with more of a tone of a wedding party where music was being played for dancing. Yet, Jesus says that this generation responded negatively to both! To John they claimed he had a demon. To Jesus they were critical of His partying, calling Him a drunkard, gluttonous and a friend of sinners. "Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds" means that the actions of those who respond will speak most clearly and loudly.

One more interesting note here. Jesus says, ``Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. There is no one greater than John the Baptist born of women, yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. In the earthly sense, John is the greatest with the greatest human mission-to introduce the Messiah to the world. However, when it comes to the kingdom, even the least enjoys a greater positioning than John. John was preparing the way for the King. Those in the kingdom enjoy the king and all of its riches.

It seems we live in a very similar context today in our world-filled with religiosity, spiritualism and secularism. We are in need of a breath of authenticity like never before. In a day when the mega-church is easily made into a distant show to watch and enjoy without personal engagement and where the small church can easily be so boring with the predictable program and needs, where personal engagement leads to certain burnout. We desperately need authenticity! I believe that authenticity is to be found among those who are interested in walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting for Jesus to lead out. In other words, authenticity today must come from many Elijah-like followers of Jesus who are preparing the way for the Messiah to show up, "where two or three gather in My name, there I will be in their midst."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Matthew 11:1-6


1 When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.

2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, ``Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?'' 4 Jesus answered and said to them, ``Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. 6 ``And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.''

What is going on here? John has already pronounced Jesus as Messiah, so why the question through his disciples here? He was well aware that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:29; Luke 3:22) and had heard from prison the things Jesus was doing among the people-miracle after miracle that could only come from God, even raising the dead back to life!

There are three thoughts for your consideration: John must have been terribly disappointed with Jesus. Jesus didn't fit the mold of what John was expecting entirely. Some were saying that Jesus had a demon (Matthew 12:24; John 8:48). Others reported that Jesus was a drunkard and glutton (Matthew 11:19). Still others said that He was crazy (Mark 3:21, 31-35). We always try to fit Jesus into a mold-our mold. It doesn't matter whether God is fulfilling what He claims to be and to do, we still have our images and caricatures. Every time I think I have God figured out, He surprises me BIG TIME. It's not that He acts out of character, but that He is the God of gods and supersedes most every expectation I can muster!

John was also confused by Jesus' message. It was not quite the same approach as John. John's message was filled with truth and destruction. Jesus' message was filled with truth and love. He was filled with grace and truth. This was a powerful difference!

NOTE that John is not asking whether or not Jesus is the Messiah as much as he is asking is there another Messiah. One of the great opinions of first-century Judaism concerning the Messiah, was the idea of there being two Messiahs. The two Messiah concept was prevalent among the Jews. There was to be Messiah ben Joseph (son of Joseph)-the suffering Messiah who would fulfill the duties of priest and would be killed for the sins of the world. The other was Messiah ben David (son of David)-the victorious Messiah who would bring Israel to glory, fulfilling the role of king and would live forever. So, in keeping with the two Messiah concept, yet a bit confused about the manner in which Jesus appeared, John asks if they are to be seeking another Messiah as well. You see, when you are in a Roman prison, this is a great time to have Messiah ben David to show up-to kick the tuchus of the Romans and bring Israel to its kingdom glory. This is no time for Messiah ben Joseph-the Messiah who will be killed as a sacrifice.

Jesus does something that is fascinating to me. He quotes the prophet Isaiah as He answers the question by quoting the passage that might best be attributed to the victorious Messiah ben David and Jesus adds a curious act to the list of what the Messiah will do-the raising of the dead. There are not two Messiahs! Both of these concepts of Messiah are all wrapped up into one-His name is Jesus. The only possible way for the two messiahs to be brought into one is the resurrection of the dead. "Messiah ben Joseph" must come, be sacrificed and die as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world and "Messiah ben David" must come and reign as king forever on planet earth. The only possible way for that to happen is to have the Messiah come to be sacrificed for the sins of the world (the first coming of Jesus), be resurrected by God and someday come again to reign forever (the second coming of Jesus).

So Jesus' answer here is listen to what I am saying and watch what I am doing and then you'll know the Messiah completely! The same is true for us today! Jesus is the Messiah-our Deliverer from the sin that separates us from ourselves, others and God-and He is the only way we will ever make it out of here alive!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Matthew 10:40-42


40 ``He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 ``He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42 ``And whoever, in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.''

In this fresh and direct passage regarding being a disciple of Jesus and what it is going to cost, Jesus turns the subject toward the great reward that will come to those who receive or welcome these disciples into their lives and homes. He uses "receives" (welcomes) 8 times and speaks of "reward" 3 times.

"When Jesus said this, he was using a way of speaking which the Jews regularly used. The Jew always felt that to receive a person's envoy or messenger was the same as to receive the person himself. To pay respect to an ambassador was the same as to pay respect to the king who had sent him. To welcome with love the messenger of a friend was the same as to welcome the friend himself. The Jew always felt that to honor a person's representative was the same as to honor the person whose representative he was. This was particularly so in regard to wise men and to those who taught God's truth.

NOTE that all 4 players in salvation are present in this scenario: 1-There is God out of whose love the whole process of salvation began. 2-There is Jesus who brought the message to men. 3-There is the human messenger-the prophet who speaks, the good (righteous) man who is an example & the disciple who is the learner-who passes it on. 4-There is the believer who welcomes God's message and messengers and therefore find life for their souls.

NOTE: FIRST-We cannot all be prophets, but the one who gives God's messenger the simple gift of hospitality will receive the same reward as the prophet he blesses! SECOND-We cannot all be shining examples of goodness and righteousness, but the one who helps a good man to be good receives a good man's reward! THIRD-We cannot all teach the child or learner (young believer), but we can all serve the child.

NOTE it is the simplest of things that will be rewarded with great reward! To simply give a cup of cold water only to a little one is noticed and rewarded by God!

Although it is often downplayed, there are many who give of their time, service or money to keep a ministry going or keep a prophet, a teacher, a righteous man or keep a young one in the faith who is learning toward continuing this process. Jesus is saying that within the kingdom there are many roles to play and they will not go unnoticed, but will be specifically and specially rewarded. You will be rewarded with the same reward by which you received the messengers of Jesus!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Matthew 10:24-39


Here we come to the "fine print" of discipleship! These are the toughest words about the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. This is boot camp, pure and simple! The drill sergeant is Jesus.

I see this section as revolving around one question-"Who controls your life?"

1. Does fear control your life? 24 ``A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 ``It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! 26 ``Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 ``What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 ``Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 ``Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 ``But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 ``So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

The prophet Micah spoke of this in His day: Micah 7:6 - For the son dishonors the father, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

The Jewish Talmud (commentary on the Scriptures) connects such family disloyalty to the time of Messiah: (Soncino Talmud 49b) - In the footsteps of the messiah, insolence will increase and honor dwindle; the vine will yield its fruit [abundantly] but wine will be dear; the government will turn to heresy and there will be none [to offer them] reproof; the meeting-place [of scholars] will be used for immorality; Galilee will be destroyed, Gablan desolated, and the dwellers on the frontier will go about [begging] from place to place without anyone to take pity on them; the wisdom of the learned will degenerate, fearers of sin will be despised, and the truth will be lacking; youths will put old men to shame, the old will stand up in the presence of the young, a son will revile his father, a daughter will rise against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's enemies will be the members of his household; the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, a son will not feel ashamed before his father. So upon whom is it for us to rely? Upon our father who is in heaven.

This is an amazing observation from the Jewish point of view! YOU ONLY HAVE THE GOD OF GODS WHO CARES MOST FOR YOU TO FEAR!

2. Does your lifestyle control you? 32 ``Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 ``But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

To confess is literally to "say the same thing" about something. Here it is to confess Jesus-to say the same things as Jesus-to love, think, act and live like Jesus throughout your life. Your lifestyle is all about your identification with Jesus!


3. Do your family members and friends control you? 34 ``Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ``For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36 and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. 37 ``He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.


4. Does owning and directing your own life control you? 38 ``And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 ``He who has found his life will lose it and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

Here we are back to a familiar issue-TRUST. Am I willing to lose my life-dreams, aspirations, comforts, in order to find my life in Jesus? We're back to "ruthless trust" as Brennan Manning defines it. It's coming to the understanding that we are created to be dependent people. If we place our dependence upon our Creator, then we will experience the most fulfilling life we could ever live. Everything works best when we are plugged into the original intent of our lives-to be like Jesus!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Matthew 10:16-23


REMEMBER, this is a special time in history in which you have the long-awaited presence of Messiah Jesus, filled with the Spirit, approved by the Father, bearing direct witness to the people of Israel. The Messiah was being presented to the Jewish people as the One Who was promised. They only had a prophecy and a promise before (Sodom and Gomorrah), but now is the real deal.

The ancient Jewish writings about the time of the Messiah all included this thinking of difficult times-persecution, division of friends and family-all over a person's response to this powerful, personal witness. Jesus warns this first round of direct witnesses what they will face and what they must do. [I personally believe that this same context of trouble and therefore the same required response from His disciples will happen again just prior to the Messiah's return.]

16 ``Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 ``But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 ``But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 ``For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

We are to be as "shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves". "Shrewd" has the idea of a wisdom that sees through all that might be deceptive. "Harmless" is a unique word meaning to be unmixed, pure as with metal or wine-no mixture of deviousness. This is the same term Paul uses in his letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 2:12-16 - Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.

I love the balance! We are to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling"-work out into your behavior the salvation that is in your heart. But he doesn't leave you all on your own. "For it is God which is at work in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." So, be "harmless", unmixed, pure and single-minded as you can be as you walk among the people who respond poorly or negatively to the presence of Messiah Jesus. "Shine as lights in the world" of darkness, "holding forth the word of life".

NOTE that Jesus says not to worry about what you will say when dragged into a difficult situation, but the Spirit of your Father will give you what you must say, when you need it. I am finding this to be a more useful principle than I had thought. I think I have prepared too much many times what I am going to say and not relied upon the Spirit of my Father to "speak in me." And as I have been practicing this principle, the words that I have been speaking are so powerful, appropriate, timely and pointed at the need of the moment!

21 ``Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 ``You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 ``But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

You may not have experienced a great physical persecution, but there will be a sorts of verbal persecution and false accusations against you. This will be found among those who are followers of the Messiah to discredit the witness of His existence and presence.

The intent here is that all of Israel will be faced with the witness of the longed-for Messiah by the time He would be clearly revealed to them. This is why Jesus sent these disciples only to the house of Israel in this opening mission. All others will come later, as we will see.

Salvation is not seen as a one-time, fix and you're in! Although I believe that your salvation is secure, I also know that there are situations where people turn away from God, never to return to Him. This is not a fear tactic, but a proof of genuineness. Salvation does not come to you so much because of your faith, but because of His grace-undeserved favor from God. No one will get into heaven except through the grace of God. Jesus wants us to be faithful in our response to this great grace.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Matthew 10:5-15


Picture yourself sitting in a room with Jesus as He gives you the following instructions. NOTE what His instructions are:

5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: ``Do not go in the way of the Gentiles and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 1. Jesus gives His disciples clear direction as to their ministry target-the house of Israel.

7 ``And as you go, preach, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 2. Jesus wants you to communicate the principles of the presence of the kingdom.

8 ``Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. 3. Jesus gives authority and power to make a supernatural difference in the lives of those who are hurting-the sick, the dead and dying, lepers and freeing those bound by evil spirits.

Freely you received, freely give. 9 ``Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 4. Jesus wants you to have no agenda whatsoever, but to give of yourself freely. Don't look to get rich by doing the ministry of the kingdom. You will be taken care of while freely giving of yourself in ministering to those hurting around you.

11 ``And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12 ``As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 ``If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 ``Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 ``Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. 5. Jesus wants His disciples to be channels of His peace.

6. Jesus only requires one thing-that people be interested!

You, as a disciple of Jesus, are to be empowered by Jesus Himself. Proclaim the presence of the kingdom. Bring a healing touch to the hurting. Freely serve everyone, everywhere with the peace of Jesus--only to those who are interested!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Matthew 10:1-4


1 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Here they are, the motley crew Jesus called to be with Him. There are three sets of brothers, fishermen, a tax collector, two men who were called the "sons of thunder" and a radical zealot. All of these men had been rabbinical rejects, not selected by any rabbi to continue in religious education and therefore sent back home to take up the profession of their families. And now, these men have been personally selected to follow in the steps of Rabbi Jesus. These men give each of us hope!

This chapter gives us some terrific insight into the beginnings of the Jesus movement. This summoning triggers a line in my thinking. "Leaders are not made or born, but summoned." Jesus summoned these unlikely men into leadership that would change the world! Note what happened a few years later, when a couple of these leaders were on their own.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. Acts 4:13-14

NOTE 4 things. 1-These men were unlikely people-uneducated and untrained. 2-These men were unusually amazing and attractive to the people. 3-These men had been hanging out with Jesus and it was noticeable. 4-These men were instrumental (used by God) in bringing about supernatural healing.

The fact that the lame man was really healed shut the mouths of their potential critics. I call this the "lame man principle". I'm learning that the most important evidence that draws people to consider Jesus has to do with the "lame men" in my life. Who are the broken, hurting, addicted and damaged people in my life that I have been summoned by Jesus to touch with His healing? And where are they? How are they doing? Do others see their healing? In other words, the only really important thing in life is how I get out of the way and introduce others to Jesus.

But enough about me. Where are the "lame men" in your life? How is it going?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Matthew 9:36-38


36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, ``The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 ``Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.''

This is one of the most powerful and insightful statements Jesus ever made. It is challenging to me! Jesus wants us to allow Him to lead out, especially when it comes to fulfilling the primary mission of spreading the message of the kingdom.

Check out the words of Oswald Chambers on this matter as it relates to a "missionary": 'The key to the missionary's difficult task is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer, not work- that is, not work as the word is commonly used today, which often results in the shifting of our focus away from God. The key to the missionary's difficult task is also not the key of common sense, nor is it the key of medicine, civilization, education, or even evangelization. The key is in following the Master's orders- the key is prayer.

"Pray the Lord of the harvest." In the natural realm, prayer is not practical but absurd. We have to realize that prayer is foolish from the commonsense point of view.

From Jesus' perspective, there are no nations, but only the world. How many of us pray without regard to the persons, but with regard to only one Person- Jesus? He owns the harvest that is produced through distress and through conviction of sin. This is the harvest for which we have to pray that laborers be sent out to reap. We stay busy at work, while people all around us are ripe and ready to be harvested; we do not reap even one of them, but simply waste our Lord's time in over-energized activities and programs. Suppose a crisis were to come into your father's or your brother's life- are you there as a laborer to reap the harvest for Jesus Christ? Is your response, "Oh, but I have a special work to do!" No 'believer' has a special work to do. A 'believer' is called to be Jesus Christ's own, "a servant [who] is not greater than his master" ( John 13:16 ), and someone who does not dictate to Jesus Christ what he intends to do. Our Lord calls us to no special work- He calls us to Himself. "Pray the Lord of the harvest," and He will engineer your circumstances to send you out as His laborer.'

So our primary responsibility is to pray-to be fully aware and to follow the direction of Jesus-to get our orders from Him. This is what it means to trust Him.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Matthew 9:27-35


27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, ``Have mercy on us, Son of David!'' 28 When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said* to them, ``Do you believe that I am able to do this?'' They said* to Him, ``Yes, Lord.'' 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, ``It shall be done to you according to your faith.'' 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: ``See that no one knows about this!'' 31 But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.

32 As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. 33 After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, ``Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.'' 34 But the Pharisees were saying, ``He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.''

35 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

Each incident offers an additional picture of faith, simple, yet real faith-personal trust in Jesus and what He can do.

TWO BLIND MEN. It's interesting to note that these blind men came to Jesus with an obvious request-to be able to see again! Jesus directly asks them if they really believe He is able to make them see. As soon as He got their answer, He immediately touched their eyes saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith."

I wonder how much of our blindness has to do with our lack of belief-faith and trust. I must admit that I have not been one who ruthlessly trusts in Jesus. My spiritual stance has been to trust Jesus and do all I can do to make things happen. We are learning-slowly-to trust Jesus with everything. I want to be able to see again. How about you?

A MUTE MAN-DEMON-POSSESSED. Then a mute man (caused that way by demonic oppression) was brought to Jesus. Jesus immediately went to work and healed the man so that he could talk again.

There are two definite responses regarding this particular miracle. 1. Never seen anything like this before. They were amazed!

2. His power is from the ruler of the demons. They were annoyed!

This is one of the 3 miracles the Jewish people had always believed the Messiah would be able to perform when He showed up. The 3 miracles were: 1-The healing of a leper. 2-The healing of a man born blind. 3-The healing of a man who was not able to hear and speak.

To be amazed by this miracle was to be receptive to the possibility that Jesus might indeed be the Messiah. To be annoyed by this miracle was to be threatened by the possibility that this radical Jesus might indeed be the Messiah.

What if Jesus were to do something outside your box of expectations? How might you respond? Would you be threatened or would you simply trust Him.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Matthew 9:18-26


18 While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, ``My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.'' 19 Jesus got up and began to follow him and so did His disciples.

20 And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; 21 for she was saying to herself, ``If I only touch His garment, I will get well.'' 22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, ``Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.'' At once, the woman was made well.

23 When Jesus came into the official's house and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder, 24 He said, ``Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.'' And they began laughing at Him. 25 But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26 This news spread throughout all that land.

The 2 settings here set up an interesting comparison: Jairus' daughter was religious! The woman with a hemorrhage was non-religious!

So, the call of Matthew, who was one of the "sinners" who didn't observe the Torah, a dying girl and an unclean woman. Unclean. Everyday was a painful day for her. Every day her life was hemorrhaging away. Menstruation is a monthly cycle every woman is well acquainted with. For many women, this is a very discomforting and painful time. For this anonymous woman, her flow of blood was continuous. It had been one, long, 12 year period - and still counting. Every year, every month, every week, hour, minute and second, life was flowing out of this woman.

The medical society had failed her. Over the years, the woman had been to every clinic and hospital in the area. No success. Doctor after doctor had failed. Every day her condition worsened. She was at the point of no return. Frustrated and depressed, she was ready to give up on life.

Even her church had failed her. Adding insult to injury, the woman not only had a physical problem. She also had a major spiritual problem. From Leviticus 15:25, the Hebrew Law was very emphatic: "If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness; she shall be unclean."

Every menstruating woman could hear those condemning words ringing in their ears, "Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!" The woman's menstrual condition shut her off from the worship of God, and even from the fellowship of her friends - ostracized - segregated - an outcast from both her social and her religious community for fear of defiling others with her uncleanness.

Both the woman and the girl were in pain. One had paper thin faith-faith out of others need (Jairus for his daughter). One had great faith out of personal need.

The woman was 12 years being unclean. 12 years of disappointment. 12 years of being left out-could not participate. 12 years of being rejected-unaccepted. 12 years of feeling like a nobody! Have you ever experienced similar pain? She saw Jesus as the only answer to her problem. How about you?

Jesus shows Himself to be the physician and healer of the unacceptable, the sick and the dead. She came to THE JESUS! a. Jesus' presence/touch healed her b. Jesus made her clean c. Jesus made her a participant again d. Jesus gave her peace e. Jesus made her feel special-didn't leave her in the crowd! Jesus didn't let the woman remain as part of the faceless crowd, so He identified her! He said, 'Be continually healed!' To the only person he ever called 'daughter' he granted continuing health!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Matthew 9:14-17


4 Then the disciples of John came* to Him, asking, ``Why, do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?'' 15 And Jesus said to them, ``The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast. 16 ``But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment and a worse tear results. 17 ``Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins and both are preserved.''

Why do your disciples act differently than what we have been taught? The primary difference between that of the disciples of John and the Pharisees and the followers of Jesus.

Jesus makes it clear that those who follow Him are very different from all of the other "religious" people. Those who follow Jesus will be drinking a new wine-Jesus. And what is the new wineskin Jesus is referring to? One of my brothers pointed out that the new wineskins are those of us who believe in Jesus. Jesus is the new wine and we are the wineskins! I like this BIG TIME! We are empowered and filled with only the new wine-Jesus!

We are the containers of the new wine. He will work in and through us! We are NEW wineskins, not old wineskins that have been patched up! It's OK to be so different from the other spiritual profiling. We contain the new wine-JESUS-and this new wine is the only real significance we have!

So, we're back to square one. It's Jesus plus nothing!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Matthew 9:9-13


9 As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, ``Follow Me!'' And he got up and followed Him. 10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, ``Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?'' 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, ``It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: `I DESIRE COMPASSION AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.''

At that time there were 2 peoples-the religious (synagogued) and the sinners (non-synagogued). ALL RELIGIONS seek to bring man into a right standing with God! You must perform some religious acts-follow religious tenets. Over the centuries they used child sacrifice-human sacrifices-animal sacrifices-to pay. Psychologically-man feels the need to pay for forgiveness-for what he's done wrong.

Christianity-WE DO THE SAME! · Attach to God thru saints · Attach to God thru Mary · Attach to God thru sacraments · Attach to God thru spiritual gifts/experiences · Attach to God thru priests-pastors-rabbis · Attach to God thru church membership

The religious had been selected by the Rabbis to study under them. Those who were not selected by a Rabbi were sent back home take on the trade of their fathers. Matthew was obviously not one of those chosen to follow a Rabbi. Here he was working as a despised tax-collector on the shores of the Sea of Galilee at the seaside village of Capernaum. Jesus knew Matthew and often saw him at his tax-collector stand. Rabbi Jesus approached Matthew and invited him to follow in His steps. This had to blow Matthew's mind! Matthew was clearly on the outside-a sinner-one who had no chance of performing the right things in order to achieve a right standing with God. Yet, Jesus, this new Rabbi in town had chosen him to come alongside Him.

This certainly was in line with the theme of Jesus' approach: "I didn't come to call the 'righteous', but sinners!" All of the religions of the world and human psyche tell you that you must pay for what you do or don't do. God sent Jesus into the world to say, "You are welcome, now come and follow Me!"


Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so. You can trust His love no matter who you are or what you have ever done! This is the lesson of the call of Matthew! Jesus is saying to all sinners, "YOU ARE WELCOME, NOW COME ALONG AND FOLLOW ME!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Matthew 9:1-8


1 Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. NOTE that much of the ministry of Jesus consists of moving back and forth from one side of the Sea of Galilee to another. Here Jesus is returning from the land of Gadara back to Capernaum.

2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ``Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.'' 3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, ``This fellow blasphemes.''

NOTE the claim of Jesus to possess supernatural authority. He claims to forgive sins, which authority belongs to God only! The scribes quickly picked up on it and accused Jesus of blasphemy. Blasphemy in this case is claiming to be equal with God.

ALSO, note that Jesus "sees their faith", those who brought the paralytic to Jesus on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus pronounced the paralytic forgiven! We desperately need this sort of relational community today, men and women who bring those in need straight to Jesus, knowing and believing that Jesus is the only one who could possibly bring wholeness to their friend.

4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ``Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 ``Which is easier to say, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Get up, and walk'? 6 ``But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins''-then He said to the paralytic, ``Get up, pick up your bed and go home.''

NOTE the test Jesus sets up. So, which is it easier to say? "Your sins are forgiven." OR "Get up and walk!" Naturally, it is much easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven." You can say such a thing or make such a claim, but it is impossible to measure whether or not a person's sins are forgiven. Which is the most difficult to do? Well, the most difficult to do is to forgive a person's sins. It's the easiest to say and the most difficult to do.

So, Jesus demonstrates His authority and ability to forgive sins by healing the paralytic instantaneously! "So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So Jesus does the impossible-healed the paralytic-in order to prove to the people that He also has the authority to forgive sins.

NOTE that Jesus declared the paralytic forgiven, then this man was given the power to get up and walk.

7 And he got up and went home. 8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

NOTE the results: The paralytic got up and went home, right in front of these skeptics, Jesus healed this man. The crowds who watched were absolutely amazed! The crowds also were moved to worship and glorify God.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus makes claims about Himself and then proves that He has the authority to make those claims. Today, our responsibility is to be people of faith and trust in the person and power of Jesus for ourselves and for our friends. Then, when Jesus shows up among us, those who are watching will truly be amazed by Jesus and will be moved to worship Him.

Who are you walking with in faith so that Jesus might demonstrate Himself?

Matthew 8:28-34


28 When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.29 And they cried out, saying, ``What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?'' 30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. 31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, ``If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.'' 32 And He said to them, ``Go!'' And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. 33 The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.

Here we have the first mention of DEVILED HAM in the Bible.

Jesus entered into the country of Gadara on the East side of the Sea of Galilee. He was confronted by two men who were demonized, men with such a violent reputation that people avoided them. There are two very interesting observations here:

1. Jesus was confronted by evil and was victorious over it.

2. Even though Jesus freed the two men, He was rejected by the community and asked to leave.

Two men were freed from demonic bondage and still Jesus was rejected for what He had done. You see, not everyone is happy when others are freed, especially when this freedom begins to change those around them. I've seen this happen with alcoholics and drug addicts. When an addict gives up his drug and is freed up from the bondage, those around him become very uncomfortable.

Spiritually speaking, this happens frequently. People can watch their friends find personal freedom, but that very freedom threatens their own agendas. This is what Jesus' presence did. His security and confidence in Who He was made people uncomfortable. Therefore they persecuted Him and eventually killed Him. This is precisely what Jesus was talking about in two of the beatitudes. When you hunger and thirst for righteousness and righteousness begins to show, then you will be persecuted for it. Why? Because your new experience and example of walking in righteousness (walking with Jesus, the Righteous One) will inevitably make others feel very uncomfortable and those people will be very critical of you and what you've done.

Have you ever helped someone, only to be criticized by others for your efforts. Or even worse, have you done something good for another person and that person later turns against you for some reason. How does this ungratefulness make you feel? I've struggled with this for years. The answer to this dilemma? I am not working to please people or to win a popularity contest. I work for Jesus and only seek His approval. Just as Jesus sought to please His Father, so I am to please Him.

Jesus wants my faithfulness, not my successfulness. He wants my heart, then He will take care of what happens. You see, we work for an audience of one. His name is Jesus.

Matthew 8:18-27


18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. 19 Then a scribe came and said to Him, ``Teacher, I will follow You wherever, You go.'' 20 Jesus said* to him, ``The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere, to lay His head.'' 21 Another of the disciples said to Him, ``Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.'' 22 But Jesus said* to him, ``Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.''

23 When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. 25 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, ``Save us, Lord; we are perishing!'' 26 He said* to them,``Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?'' Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. 27 The men were amazed, and said, ``What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?''

NOTE that when Jesus sees the crowd, He departs in another direction. What is it that He is thinking when He does this? It sure is different than any church growth thinking and example on the scene today.

In the presence of the Messiah real follow-through and devotion is required. 1. Scribe-wants to be a follower of Jesus, but apparently came across as if it was going to be a great ride. Well, following Jesus is a great ride, but it is filled with some discomforts and sacrifices along the way. That's Jesus' response to his excitement.

2. Another disciple-to "bury his father" meant to handle all of the affairs of the family since his father's death seems imminent. Jesus' response was that someone else can handle those things. When you're in the presence of the Messiah, total devotion is required!

Why do you think Jesus took His disciples on a boat ride? I think it was a field trip! The theme of this mini-retreat? It was devotion again, but this time it was measured by how they trusted Jesus in the midst of a crisis. And what was their response? It was to panic and see only the negative-"We are perishing!" Jesus got up, rebuked the winds and the sea became perfectly calm. What kind of response was Jesus looking for?

As then, Jesus still is inviting His followers to trust Him. Think about it! 1. Jesus took them on a boat ride. 2. It was obviously the place He wanted them all to be in. 3. Now, what's the problem?

I WONDER if their response should have been to wait on Him rather than be in a panic about it all? You see, everywhere Jesus sends you, He is right there with you. So, don't panic. He knows and is very capable of getting you through all of the tough waters you may encounter.