April 5, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Need more missionaries? Got a quota to fill? Other agencies getting more than their share?
No problem. This is the age of wisdom and insight when it comes to recruiting and persuading We have videos and DVDs. And when the prospects seem close to signing, we can arrange a short-term trip. As for arrangements, salary, insurance, we can be flexible. The goal is to sign them.
And that may work. But it is not the way of our Lord.
He looked over the field that was ready for harvest and immediately drew the connection. The world is a field ready for harvest. As there were few workers in the field Jesus was walking near, so He said that the workers for the Lord are few
Then came the strategy: “Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest that He would send workers into the field. Pray earnestly.” That is a strategy, one that the Lord honors.
What every field needs is a prayer focus team. What every people group needs is a prayer team. What every agency needs is a group of faithful people who will pray earnestly for the Lord of the harvest to send people to that field, those people.
March 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
A piece of the Sermon on the Mount connects the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel with prologue to the Bible’s Great Commission.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
That passage looks forward to the final charge from our Lord, “Make disciples of each and every nation.” And it connects with the original Great Commission. A paraphrase would go like this: “Go and make yourselves known among the nations of the world. Shine with the blessings that I put upon you. I will bless you and will bless all those who bless you.” Genesis 12:1-3
This is a command. We who have been shined upon are to shine before others. They will examine us and conclude that something more than our cleverness has been at work in us. We will point to the heavens and, with prayer, will see some new disciples come in faith to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
March 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In this passage Matthew tells us of the location Jesus chose for His training. Judea, of course. But what part of Judea? Matthew gives two references. First, its historic significance – “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Second, by specific location––“the Way by the Sea.”
Of course, remembering Matthew’s prism for interpreting his Gospel at the end, this makes perfect sense. A place inundated by Gentiles. Isn’t that what Jesus wanted – His disciples sent to the nations, the non-Jews? So – Galilee of the Gentiles. at the very place where the major North-South road and the East-West road merge. They would be “The Way by the Sea” and “The Great Silk Road.”
Think of it another way. If the apostles went fishing every other day, how would they dispose of their catch? Answer – in the B&Bs of Capernaum. And whom would they find there? Travelers from the four points of the compass: traders from Kabul going to Egypt; refugees from Assyria going to Turkey; you get the idea.
Doesn’t this make perfect sense? Wouldn’t Jesus want His disciples to become at ease with the nations of the world, if He wants them to be evangelists to the nations? Where else could the Twelve be exposed to the varied cultures of East and West, of North and South?
March 20, 2013 § Leave a Comment
When Matthew presented John the Baptist to his readers, he did it very carefully. As a Jew, Matthew was an insider. But at the same time, he had limited capital with which to work. He had to make his point clean and sharp.
Matthew gives the message of John the Baptist in coded words that exposed the flaws of contemporary Judaism. In doing this he also opened their minds to the Messiah and the hope Jesus presented.
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Jews would not worry about the wrath to come. That was not their concern, since they were God’s chosen and therefore God’s accepted. But Matthew saw fear in response to John’s message, a fear that could be quenched by the Messiah’s message.
“Do not presume to say, ‘We have Abraham for our father.’” That was exactly what the Jews were saying. All that mattered was their lineage from Abraham. That defined them, and that defined their security. Take that away–remove Abraham from their position before God–and all bets were off. They had to find a different anchor for God’s favor.
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” The tree was assumed to be good, for its roots went back to David and before. The fruit was sound since its survival was sound. But John’s message unsettled them, because he called for good fruit, evidence of a sound faith.
“A voice came from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.’” How could the famous declaration from Isaiah 42 be applied outside of his prophecy? John heard the voice. Matthew recorded the account.
Matthew’s message was simple. Through his recounting John the Baptist’s ministry, Matthew began his depiction of the Messiah. He would take the wrath of God. By faith in Him any and all would find security of salvation. His love would course through the lives of His people brining forth signs and evidence of His abundant life. He was, in fact, the very one Isaiah saw, the only Son of God bearing the favor and blessing of God the Father.
March 19, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Matthew was stirring the pot, and he knew it. This wasn’t merely the announcement of foreigners searching for Jesus. Matthew was setting the contours of a future crisis. Skillfully, he cast the story against the larger perspective of the smaller claims of Judaism.
“Magi from the east.” Specifically a priestly caste, notable and respected, not easily dismissed. This would set Persian priests against Jewish rulers.
“Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?” That announcement struck fear and anger in the hearers. Those who were in power would not tolerate a king.
“We have seen His star in the East.” This king has control of the cosmos as well as the designated ruler of the people of God. But Herod had an army.
“We have come to worship Him.” They were there as devotees. Not to assassinate, not to negotiate, not to challenge. Armies are easier to defeat than fervent worshippers.
Matthew wanted to show how jarring this news was, how disruptive their announcement was to the religious establishment. Their hierarchy allowed no room for a royal claimant of David’s line. The power structure would not tolerate the appearance of those who could make that claim. The arrival of the magi unsettled Jerusalem.
Matthew was not just announcing the first worshippers of the Messiah. He was also giving previews of the opposition, the stonewalling, and the cruelty that the religious establishment would the life and ministry of the Son of God.
Two curious historical footnotes:
First, in his travel diaries Marco Polo gives great detail of a visit to a city in Persia named Saveh where he saw graves of three priests of the fire worshippers of Persia. The names of the deceased were Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar.
Second, behind the stonewall of modern-day Pesia, Iran, God is moving Muslims to embrace Jesus as God’s Messiah. By the thousands.
Two prayer points:
Pray for the spread of faith in the King of the Jews in the land of the Magi.
Pray for the power structures of the church to welcome and not to oppose the expansion of the reign of Christ to those who have never heard His name.
March 7, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Why does the New Testament have to open with 48 boring verses of who begat whom? What a downer for first-time readers.
Actually, it is only 16 verses, and for at least half of the world’s population, these are critical in the putting together a portrait of Jesus Christ. For these people, the genealogy gives an essential mark of our Lord’s identity and authenticity. It tells us who He is and who He came from.
One example of the importance of genealogies comes from a couple living in northern Thailand. A Christian from one of the tribes of that area, the Akkha, wanted to go into Yunnan Province, China, and see about planting a church among his relatives there. Across the border in China the tribe is known as Hani. When he crossed over and found his people, they wanted to verify that he was truly one of them. The only way to verify his authentic relation was for him show that 17 generations ago he was indeed a descendent of the father of the Hani tribe.
In Matthew’s genealogy we find the author tipping his hand about the profile of Jesus. One of his maternal ancestors was a Canaanite prostitute.
Matthew’s point? He was giving his first hint of what would be told at the end. Jesus had foreign blood in his veins, blood of a Canaanite. Those who would come to Him, those for whom He came, would not be exclusively Jewish. The Gentile nations, “each and every one of the nations” (28:20), will be represented among those who are saved. Rahab points to this in the opening genealogy.
March 7, 2013 § Leave a Comment
We should read Matthew beginning at the end. Matthew reversed the process that John used. John put his prologue at the beginning, making it clear that to understand what follows should be filtered through this opening.
Matthew reverses that. He puts his prologue at the end, as an epilogue. Unfortunately it is easy to miss the significance of what Matthew was doing.
We have put a label on the closing verses of Matthew 28–– The Great Commission. This is unfortunate because we cease to recognize it as his filter and set it apart as a stand-alone piece on mission.
That is not what Matthew intended. Reading him rightly would hear him saying, as we read through to the end of the gospel, “Well, did you get it? Did you see how these closing verses of my gospel are the filter through which you read every other chapter?”
That is the proper way to read Matthew’s gospel–– seeing his closing comments as permeating every page and chapter of all that leads up to it.
In the postings to come, I will take us through Matthew’s gospel––well, many of the highlights, as least–– showing the content of the Great Commission in the stories and teachings that Matthew writes.