Saturday, October 20, 2018

"Virgil Wander" by Leif Enger (Book Review)

Virgil WanderVirgil Wander by Leif Enger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fulsome, toothsome, and gentle.

This is my first experience of “Virgil Wander,” and I hope he’d appreciate these adjectives.

View all my Goodreads reviews.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

[Matt's Messages] “Like Sheep Among Wolves”

“Like Sheep Among Wolves”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
October 7, 2018 :: Matthew 10:16-31

Today, we’re picking back up and Following Jesus in Matthew chapter 10.

Matthew 10 is often called the “Mission Discourse” or Jesus’ “Major Teaching on Missions” in the Gospel of Matthew.

It’s the second of five major blocks of teaching in the Gospel of Matthew.

The first was Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which we spent several months this year studying together. Jesus’ teaching on the upside-down, inside-out, already-but-not-yet coming kingdom of God.

And when Jesus came down from the mountain, He started demonstrating His authority. His authority over sickness and demons and creation and even over death and sin. Jesus has all authority.

And in Matthew chapter 10, Jesus delegates some of His authority to 12 special agents that He is preparing to send out to the nation of Israel on a mission.

At the end of the chapter 9, Jesus saw the crowds, and He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless like...what? Sheep without a shepherd.

And just like we prayed before the Good New Cruise.

And just like we prayed this morning for Church Multiplication Sunday.

And just like we’re going to pray every day this week at 9:38, Jesus told His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field.

And then He turned around and answered that prayer. He commissioned these 12 workers to go into the harvest field.

“Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

First, He called them to Himself. And then He sent them out for Himself. As representatives. We called them “special agents” to represent Him and preach about the coming kingdom of God.

Do you remember this? Verses 1-15?

These 12 had a unique mission. They were to preach, but also to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons.

For this mission, they were to travel light and live on the hospitality of others.

And only stay where they were wanted.

If they were received, then Jesus was received.

But if they were rejected, it was really Jesus they were rejecting, and it would have been better for those people to have lived in Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment.

And then we ended with verse 16 which is where I want to pick things up today. Let’s read it.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

That’s quite a statement, isn’t it?

Have you been thinking about that the last few weeks?

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

There’s four animals for you.

Sheep, wolves, snakes, doves.

And the disciples were supposed to be like 3 of them. Sheep, snakes, and doves.

They were not supposed to be like wolves. There’s going to be enough of them around! Don’t need any more.

What does this mean?

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.”

Well, that’s a dangerous mission right there, isn’t it?

He isn’t send them out like wolves among wolves.

They aren’t supposed to attack the world.

They aren’t supposed to “fight fire with fire.”

They aren’t supposed to be violent or self-serving a like wolf would be.

They were supposed to be like sheep.

In what way?

Well, I think, at least, as vulnerable as sheep.

Jesus is saying that this mission will be dangerous. It’s not a walk in the park.

You are a sheep, and there are wolves out there.

Which is interesting because these guys were just given authority to do miracles, right?

But they aren’t given authority to blast their enemies to kingdom come.

They can do miracles that signify the blessings of the kingdom to come, but they are not given the authority blast their enemies to kingdom come.

No, they are sent as sheep among wolves.

Which, by the way, is how Jesus came, isn’t it?

What did Isaiah say?

“...he was led like a lamb to the slaughter...”

Jesus said to the apostles, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves...”

Now, I also think that the analogy with sheep reminds us of how they trust their shepherd.

Sheep are very trusting. They trust their shepherd.

So, they are vulnerable, yes, but they are also dependent and trusting.

It’s interesting when you think about the Great Commission which this whole book is leading up to in chapter 28, Jesus says that all authority has been given to Him, and He is now sending us, not just to the lost sheep of Israel, but to all of the nations. And He promises as He sends us TO GO WITH US. The Shepherd goes with the sheep! I think that’s significant.

Especially when we consider all of the wolves out there! There are wolves out there!

But we have a Good Shepherd, and we go with Him.

Now, I don’t think that Jesus means for the apostles to be sheepish. To be frightened or scared.

Or dumb!

Like sheep often are. I don’t think He means that they ought to be exactly like the sheep that are harassed and helpless and lost along the way.

That’s why He gives the second sentence.

“Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

The apostles weren’t supposed to be as shrewd as sheep. They wouldn’t last very long if the were!

But they also weren’t supposed to be as innocent as snakes either.

Do you catch that? They aren’t supposed to be like a snake in the grass. Sinful, conniving, wicked.

They are supposed to be like snakes in just one: smart. Shrewd. Wise. Skillful. Strategic.

But as for their character, like a dove.

I love this verse!

There is so much to chew on here.

“I am sending you out [on a dangerous mission] like sheep among wolves. [So be careful.] Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Now, the rest of this passage unpacks these ideas.

Jesus is preparing His disciples for this mission, and He’s making sure that they know that it’s going to be very dangerous, so they need to be very careful.

But at the same time, He’s telling them to not worry or be afraid because ultimately they belong to Him.

Now, at verse 17, it feels like things change a little bit.

It feels like Jesus is not just getting the Twelve ready for their short-term missions trip around Israel, but also getting them ready for what it’s going to be like in the Book of Acts.

It seems like He begins to describe things that are going to happen much later even including today.

I’m not always sure where He’s getting them ready in particular and when He’s talking to all of us. I think it’s all relevant for us and our mission either way.

Let’s listen in. I’ll read a little bit, and you tell me which animals you hear. Okay?

Sheep, wolves, snakes, doves. Ready? Verse 17.

“Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.”

Do you see what I mean?

This sounds like the Book of Acts to me, not just their mission to the lost of sheep of Israel, but also when they end up witnessing to the Gentiles.

Which animals do you hear?

Sheep? Yep. In danger.

Wolves? Oh yeah. Being handed over. Flogging. Brought before governors and kings. That does not sound like fun.

So how about snakes?

Yes. Jesus says, “Be on your guard.” That’s being shrewd. Know that this is coming and take appropriate action.

How about doves?

Yes. Why are they being drug before these authorities?

Is it because they are bad guys? Because they are doing bad things?

No! Verse 18, “On my account,” for My sake, Jesus says.

Because you are following me, you will get in trouble.

“Make sure you get in trouble for following Me. Not for following anybody else!”

But when you do, don’t worry.

Verse 19.

“But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Oooh. Doesn’t that sound good?

I think this section could be summarized like this:

Beware, but don’t be scared.

Be wary, be careful, be shrewd.

But don’t be afraid. Don’t be worried. Don’t live in fear.

Is that an easy balance to maintain. No, I don’t think so.

I don’t know about you, but I’m much better at doing the exact opposite.

Often, I’m not careful, but I am fearful.

I don’t exercise shrewdness and strategy and wisdom. And I fall into worry and anxiety and vexation.

But Jesus says that we should do the exact opposite.

Beware, but don’t be scared.

You’re going to get arrested. But don’t worry. The Spirit will give you the words to speak.

By the way, this is not an excuse for pastors to not prepare for preaching.

This isn’t about the Sunday morning gathering. This is for when you can’t prepare because somebody drug you before the authorities.

Don’t worry then! Because the Spirit will have your back.

Isn’t it interesting that He’s called, “The Spirit of Your Father?”

This is the only place that He’s called that name in the Bible, but it’s precious.

The Holy Spirit who is so intimately bound up with your Heavenly Father that He’s called, “the Spirit of your Father,” and here He is giving you the words to say.

Did this happen in the Book of Acts? It sure did!

Let’s read the next section and look for the four animals. V.21.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Do you see the four animals?

Sheep? Yes. This following Jesus thing is very dangerous. Some people are going to die following Jesus.

Wolves? Sadly, yes. And where do some of these wolves come from? From your own family. Brothers betraying brothers. Parents betraying children and children betraying parents TO DEATH.

Snakes? Yes. Jesus is getting them ready to be on the move. They aren’t supposed to  just stay in one city until they are eradicated. They are free to move on. Be shrewd about this. He’s not giving them the option of quitting, but He’s not telling them that they have to stay in one location until they are wiped out either. Be sent, but be shrewd.

How about doves? Why do all men hate these disciples?

Is it because they have done something wrong?

V.2 “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Do you see that the whole point is Jesus?

This is a good paragraph to ask ourselves hard questions about whether or not we love Jesus more than we love our families.

If you had to choose between loving Jesus and loving your family, which one would you choose?

Let me put it another way to get closer to it.

If you had to choose between pleasing Jesus and pleasing your family, which one would you choose?

Throughout history, disciples of Jesus have had to choose Jesus over their families and sometimes paying for it with their very lives.

In some cultures in the world today, if you come to trust in Jesus, your family will hold a funeral for you and treat you as if you are dead.

And in some cultures in the world today, if you come to trust in Jesus, your family will actually try to kill you so that your funeral is real.

Now, most of us in the West don’t have to worry about that right now.

But we still can make an idol of our family.

We can put family first over following Jesus.

Jesus says that the blessings of salvation come to those who keep trusting and following Him, standing firm on His promises to the end.

Beware! But don’t be scared. Trust in the Shepherd.

By the way, I’m not sure about the correct interpretation of verse 23.

I’m not sure what Jesus means when He says that the disciples wouldn’t “finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

There are about 6 or 7 common interpretations of that and a few of them make just as much sense to me as others.

Perhaps, He meant that He would come to them on this short term mission that they are going out on. That makes sense. Though it’s not clear why He’d emphasize it.

A lot of it depends on how much of this teachings was just for that particular mission or for the Great Commission mission. And I’m just not sure.

He could mean that they wouldn’t finish their mission to Israel before His death and resurrection.

Or it could be talking about how the church must continue to try to reach the Jews throughout the world until the Return of Christ.

I’m not exactly sure.

Any way about it, He’s promising to take care of them.

He’s promising that He won’t leave them or forsake them.

Even when it gets hard.

Does this chapter scare you?

All of this talk about flogging? Persecution? Fleeing from one city to another?

It’s kind of scary.

“Sheep among wolves” is a very uncomfortable metaphor.

I’m glad that Jesus tells it like it is!

I’d rather that He only told us the happy things. Psalm 23. Lots of grass and still waters.

But if there are wolves out there, I want to know.

And there are wolves out there!

In the next section (verses 24-31), Jesus gives the disciples several good reasons to beware but not be scared. The first is simply that we should expect trouble because  we belong to Jesus. V.24

“A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!”

So who is who in this illustration?

Who is the master? Jesus Himself.

Who are the students? You and me and the disciples.

They call our Master the Lord of the Flies. The Lord of the Dung Heap. The top dog demon.

What do we expect to be called?

What do you expect to be called?

I don’t like to be called bad names.

But should I expect if my Lord was called Beelzebub?

If the wolves call you bad names because you belong to Jesus, CONGRATULATIONS! You are doing something right.

You are being a true disciple.

Beware if the wolves are happy with you all of the time!

Blair Murray died 3 years ago this week.

He often told me over 17 years to beware when all men speak well of me.

He would say, Pastor Matt, if you aren’t making some enemies because of Jesus, then you are doing it wrong.

Now, don’t forget that we must be innocent as doves.

Some of us make enemies, not because of following Jesus, but just because we are numbskulls. Innocent as doves. Innocent as doves.

But if you are following Jesus, expect to be maligned for it. And even wear it as a badge of honor. And don’t be afraid. V.26

“So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.”

They might call you names now, but someday, everything will be made right and made clear.

Everything will be clear for what it is.

Jesus will not be called Beelzebub. He will be called King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

And you will be called by the name that He has given you!

Don’t be afraid.

Now is the time to speak up. To speak the gospel. To be bold.

The gospel message should be proclaimed from the rooftops!

Are we doing that?

We are we proclaiming the gospel from the rooftops?!

What you doing to proclaim the gospel these days?

Who are you telling?

I’ve had some neat opportunities recently to share the gospel with people.

I haven’t actually stood on a rooftop and yelled it.

But I have gotten to tell people the good news.

How about you? Are you sharing the gospel with others?

Or are you too afraid? V.28

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Who is that?

That’s the Lord.

Jesus says to not be afraid of those who can only kill you once.

Beware of them! But don’t be scared of them.

They can only kill you once!

I don’t know about you, but that’s not especially comforting to me.

I don’t want to be killed even once.

But Jesus is worth it.

This gospel message is worth it.

It’s worth dying for.

Jesus is worth dying for.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid [fear, worship, revere] of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Think about God! Fear God. Worship God.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

Don’t focus on people. Focus on God.

But notice how that fear works out.

It’s not slavish fear. It’s not quake in your boots fear.

It’s joyful fear that the Lord has you in mind.

The Lord sees you.

Remember last week–“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere; keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” v.29

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? [How many sparrows could you buy with the money in your pocket right now? Almost valueless.] Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. [He must consent. YOUR FATHER. There’s that Father language again that Jesus brought us in the Sermon on the Mount. Don’t miss that. That’s amazing. Your Father.] And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

This is not hyperbole. This is not an exaggeration.

God is that sovereign. He is that in control. Every sparrow!

And He cares for His children with that kind of great attention!

Every hair on your head.

Yes, some of us have more than others.

But the point is that our Father knows how many.

Why would they be afraid?

Why would these disciples heading out on this mission be afraid?

Well, they would have every reason to.

They are going out as sheep among wolves.

There are wolves out there!

But there is also a Good Shepherd out there.

And there is a fearsome loving Father up there!

So beware, but don’t be scared.

Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

It’s true. There will be people who HATE you and call you names and don’t like what you are telling them about Jesus.

And they might be in your family.

And you might even die. Like sheep among wolves.

But don’t be afraid. Not of them.

Focus on your Father and follow Jesus and proclaim from the rooftops what He has done for you.

***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?

Saturday, October 06, 2018

"She Waits" by the Gray Havens

The newest album by our friends, the Gray Havens, is now out!

"She Waits" is like but unlike all of their previous work.

There is plenty of the explorative, imaginative, cinematic, narrative-based songs we've come to enjoy with Dave Radford lyrics, vocals [lots of falsetto!], and keyboards and Licia's distinctive counter-point voice coming through. But there are also more instruments here than ever before, fewer guitars or folk-sounds, and some spoken-word poetry from Propaganda (see video below). Now, that's different!

Dave explained some of the development of their music in this interview about the song God's Storehouse (which almost sounds like a 50's do-wop, but it doesn't really).

My favorite track is "See You Again" which is the most fun funeral song I've ever heard.

The whole album is worth listening to on repeat.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "Everywhere"

“Everywhere”
September 30, 2018
Proverbs 15:3

I fully intended to get us back into the Missions Discourse in Matthew chapter 10 this morning, but I did not reckon on being locked out of my office all week due to the mold clean-up!

By the way, I am so thankful to all of you for working together so well last week to get the mold cleaned up. From Cindy discovering it, to Marilynn running the communications, to Bob leading everything, and the Elders and the Facilities Team and the whole congregation being unified. I am so grateful to God for all of you.

I’m sorry I missed the meeting last week. Everybody told me that it was awesome. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

So, if I couldn’t get to my office to study Matthew this week, what should I preach on?

And about Thursday I decided to preach to you the same text that I preached last Sunday to the Hope Evangelical Free Church of Fertile, Minnesota.

By the way, I bring you greetings from that church. They are not a Swedish Evangelical Free Church. They are full of Norwegians! When they found out I came a historic Swedish EV Free church, one of them said, “Oh them?!” We had some fun with that.

Of course, they are pastored by an old seminary buddy of mine who used pastor in our district, Dennis Wadsworth. And Dennis is Italian, not Norwegian!

This Summer the adult class at Family Bible Week studied the Proverbs together. And we looked briefly at this one. Some of you will remember.

And my youth boys’ class knows all about Proverbs, too. And we’re going to get into Proverbs chapter 14, the chapter right before this one this coming Wednesday at 7 at Family Bible Night. So this should whet your appetites for that, guys.

Today’s message is on just one verse, a proverb.

What is a proverb?

A proverb is a special kind of biblical writing. It isn’t like other kinds of writing in the Bible. It’s not like an epistle. It’s not like Law or History or a Psalm or a Gospel.

A proverb is its own thing.

A proverb is a short statement of wisdom.

A proverb is a pithy saying in just a few lines, often just one two-lined sentence, that gives wisdom for living skillfully in God’s world.

A proverb is a short saying that is meant to make a person think about biblical living in the world that God rules.

And here’s a real key to reading and understanding and using the Proverbs:

Treat them like a piece of gum.

[Take out Wrigley’s Doublemint.  Invite everyone to start chewing.]

Some of you will remember when the adult class did this with some Lifesavers.

The way to really understand a Proverb is to chew on it. To meditate on it.

Proverbs 15:3

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

It’s best to memorize a proverb and then to just chew on it all day long.  It actually won’t lose its flavor!

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

King James:

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”

Let’s chew on this for a while.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

How does that make you feel when you first hear it?

How does that make you feel when you hear it the second time and the third?

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

The first thing I think about are these eyes.

Does God really have eyes?

No, not in the sense that there are these great big heavenly eyeballs with divine retinas and corneas and pupils and optic nerves.

Saying “The eyes of the LORD” is using anthropomorphic language to help us to understand God.

“Anthropomorphic” is just a big word that means to use human (anthropos) traits on our level to explain some facet of God’s traits on His divine level.

And we have to stretch our human categories up to understand His categories.

He sees.
He looks.
He knows.
He has vision.

What we do when we look with our eyes, on our own level, He does when He looks with His “eyes” on His level.

“The eyes of the Lord.”

He is the God Who Sees.

“El Roi” in Hebrew (Genesis 16:13).

The God Who Sees.

Where are these eyes?

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere [or in every place], keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Everywhere.

Let’s chew on that for a little bit.

Everywhere.

Right here in this room.
And outside.
In every room in this building.
In every room in your house.
The living room.
The TV room.
The kitchen.
The den.
The bedroom.
The bathrooms.
In the medicine cabinet.
The closet.
The laundry room.
The porch.
The garage.
The shed.
In the smithy.
The chicken coop. 
The dog house.
Back in the woods.
In your neighbor’s house.
At school.
In the lunchroom.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

At your locker. Students?
In your desk.
In your backback.
On the football field, in the gynasium.

Sometimes we say, “The LORD must have been watching me!”  And He was.

But not just then and not just there.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

On the school bus.
In the backseat.
In the corner.
In the principal’s office.
In the computer lab.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

When I was chewing on this, I had this image come to mind of turning on the computer and seeing these big eyes looking back at me through the screen!

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Everywhere.

At work.
In the boardroom.
At the reception desk.
In the shop.
In the truck.
In your office.
In the hallways.

At the doctor’s office.
At the restaurant.
Out on the open road.

In the halls of power.
In the back rooms where things really get decided.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Have you ever used Google Earth?  Do you know what I’m talking about?

There is this computer program attached to Google that allows you to go just about anywhere on the planet and view composite satellite pictures of just about any spot on God’s green Earth.

Now, it’s not in real-time, so you don’t see people walking around and everything, but it’s pretty amazing how you can zoom in and see millions of places in the world–firsthand! Like something out of science fiction.

But there are places you cannot see.  And rightly so!

But God sees it all.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Does anyone here know where ROBERT WILLIAM FISHER is hiding?

Probably you don’t know who that is.

ROBERT WILLIAM FISHER is the man at the top of the FBI’s ten most wanted list.

(I know this because I looked it up on Google!)

“Robert William Fisher is wanted for allegedly killing his wife and two young children and then blowing up the house in which they all lived in Scottsdale, Arizona in April of 2001. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading directly to the arrest of Robert William Fisher.”

No one knows where he is.

This man has outwitted the FBI since 2001.

No one knows where he is.

But the Lord knows where Mr. Fisher is. God is watching him right now.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Is that mind-blowing?  It should be.

It should lead us to worship God.

The theologian-word for this is omniscience. God is omniscient. He knows everything.  He sees everything.

Nothing is hidden from Him.

Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

This should cause us to worship. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And it’s the beginning of worship, too.

To realize that God is God-like-that, should direct our hearts to revere Him.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Now, remember, this is a proverb.

It’s not just a statement of fact.  It’s a statement of wisdom.

Now the boys in my class on Wednesday nights know one of my mantras for Proverbs. What is it?

“The Proverbs are not just informational. They are transformational.”

Proverbs 15:3 is not just here to inform us, but to transform us–to make us wise.

It’s not just “Oh that’s interesting. God see everything. How factual!”

No, we are supposed to be changed by reading Proverbs 15:3.

How are we supposed to be changed by Proverbs 15:3?

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Let’s chew on that for a little bit.

Notice that in the B-line, Solomon divides people up into two categories: the wicked and the good.

The ad guys and the good guys.

The black hats and the white hats.

The people who are against God and the people who are God’s people.

There are two paths, two ways to live.

That’s a common theme in the wisdom literature.

Now, we all know that there is a little good in all bad people (we call that common grace), and that there is still a good deal of bad in all of the saved people (we call that indwelling sin).

But there are, ultimately, just two paths, two ways to live, two kinds of people.

And God “keeps watch” on which one?

Both of them.

So, I think that meditating on Proverbs 15:3 will probably create a least 2 different applications, depending on which path you are on, or which path you are acting like you are on.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

How you encounter this verse may say something about your conscience.

For many of you, you had very happy thoughts when you first heard it.

When I first read it, I was made uncomfortable by it.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere...”

Even when I’m 225 miles from home, taking doctoral classes in Philadelphia?

I've told this story before, but it’s a good one.

About ten years ago I was a doctoral student at Westminster Theological Seminary where I did my doctoral project on gossip, and for four weeks over two years I took classes on campus there in Philadelphia.

I drove 225 miles away from home and stayed in a “foreign city.”

Almost nobody there knows me.

I can order 2 suppers at Chik-Fil-A and nobody need to know!

When I came home, Heather went through my receipts for me and put them in order and in our envelope for receipts, and she clucked at my little forays into gluttony.

Two chicken suppers?  Two sandwiches at McDonalds?  A late night snack of a PapaBurger meal at A&W?

I’m glad that she kept me accountable. [She probably needs to do that for last week’s meals, too....]

Because I felt at the time like nobody was watching.

One of my professors told a story in my classes about heading off to an airport in a foreign country and being accosted by the pornography in the bookstore of the airport while he was waiting for his plane to take off.

He said that there are no plastic wrappers, no fences to keep the porn away from people to make it hard to buy.  It’s just right there beckoning you to take it.  And here he was in a foreign country, done with teaching his classes, nothing to do and no one anywhere that knew him to keep him from doing something that he shouldn’t.

My professor reminded himself that God is everywhere. And he walked right on by it and found his seat by a window to wait for his plane.

And then, you know what happened?  The class he had been teaching had decided to all come to the airport to find this professor and see him off.

What a terrible thing it would have been for them to find him leafing through the pornography in the bookstore instead of quietly reading his book at the gate!

But whether or not the class came by, God was there!

And God is the most important person in the universe!

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

This proverb is meant to build some of the fear of the Lord in us.

Especially if we are being wicked.

We like to think that we can hide, that we can “get away” with something.

But the Bible says that we can be sure that our sins will find us out.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Friends, there is no such thing as secret sin.

Perhaps, there is something you have done that nobody but you knows about and you hope it stays that way.

But there is at least One other who knows.  He watches.  He sees.

And there will be accountability.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

The more that I chew on this proverb, though, the more I realize what good news it is!

At first it felt intrusive. That was my sinful first response.

But it’s becoming more and more comforting to me as I respond in faith.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Keeping watch on the righteous.
Keeping watch on God’s chosen.
Keeping watch on God’s children.

These are my heavenly Father’s eyes.

These are the eyes of the LORD.  Capital L-O-R-D.

Whenever you see those capital letters for LORD, what you have untranslated is the covenant name for God–YHWH.

This is God’s special name to declare His covenant faithfulness to His people.

"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

That’s Whose eyes are everywhere!
My heavenly Father’s eyes.

They are caring eyes.
They are loving eyes.
They are concerned eyes.

They are eyes that are fixed on my good!

That changes things doesn’t it?

For His children, He’s watching to help.

Are you afraid right now?

Are you attacked by all kinds of fears?

Worry, anxiety, panic attacks, spousal attacks, attacks at work–fears for yourself, your family, your job, your financial security, your health, your church, your country?

Hear this proverb:

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Maybe you’re under a heavy load right now.  Maybe you’re experiencing some persecution.  Some trouble on the job.  You’re being hurt by someone.

1 Peter 3, quoting Psalm 34 says: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.  He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’”

He sees. And He hears. And He will act.

It might not look like the kind of action that you want or expect, but it will be right on time and best for you and me.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Maybe what you are struggling with seems small.

Maybe it’s a little decision that you need to make and you don’t think it’s worth God’s time to bring it up.  So you’re just going to worry about it instead.

He knows. He sees.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Nothing is too small for Him.  He’s watching things on the microbe level. At the sub-atomic level right now.

“The eyes of the LORD are [at the subatomic level], keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

This last summer my two oldest children got driver’s licenses.

Robin and Andrew are road legal! Stay off of the sidewalks.

And now they can get in a car and drive really far away from me, and I can’t see them.

And that’s not been that easy for dear old Dad!

I want to keep my eye on them.  I want them to back to bicycles where I could yell their names out the front door, and they would come back into view.

But they’re getting old enough that I need to allow them to spread their wings.

And this helps me as I chew on it:

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

I can’t be everywhere.

I can’t keep up with everything.

I can’t see it all and control the information and the context and the setting and the details.

When I found out about the mold last week, I got to worrying. I worried about the mold, about my books, about how the meeting back here would go.

And I had to remind myself of this very verse! Even when I was preaching it to the folks at Fertile!

I can’t see it all and control the information and the context and the setting and the details.

And that’s right. I’m just a man.

But God can. And I can trust Him with them.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Let’s put this into 2 direct points of application this morning.

Two take-homes:

#1.  REPENT.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

So, repent.

If you and I are wicked or are acting like the wicked, we need to be called up short and turn from our wicked ways.

He sees us. And we won’t get away with it.

Sometimes, we like to pretend in our vain imaginations that there are places where God does not show up!

But “The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

If you have been giving in to secret sin, this proverb is a call to repentance.

It is wisdom!

Turn.

And turn to Him.

Don’t just turn away from secret sin.  Turn to the Savior.

Confess your sins to Him.  He knows them already. You’re just going to be agreeing with Him about what they are!

And ask for help.  Ask for grace to cut off your love affair with your secret sin and live righteously!

He’ll give it!  He delights to give it.

This require faith in Jesus.

If you have not yet placed your trust in Jesus as your Savior and your Lord, now is the time to do so.

You see, God’s eyes were on Jesus, too.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

And everything God saw Jesus do was GOOD!

Jesus lived a perfect life before the face of God!

And then, God laid upon Him our sins, our transgressions, our iniquities, our secrets, our wickedness.

And, then He poured out His punishing wrath on His One and Only Son–in our place!

Jesus absorbed the justice that we deserve.

So that everyone who turns from their sins and puts their faith in Jesus are forgiven and made righteous in God’s sight.  They become “the good.”

So that the eyes of the LORD keep fatherly watch over them.  Not storing up wrath for them on the day of judgment.

But, make no mistake, if you do NOT trust Jesus as your Rescuer and King, then that’s exactly what the eyes of the LORD are doing.  They are watching your life and preparing the justice that you deserve.

Repent!

#2: TAKE HEART.

If you belong to Jesus, then Proverbs 15:3 is gospel-goodness for you.  It’s good news.

Your Heavenly Father is watching over you.

You are not an orphan.

You know, sometimes we act as if we’re all alone in the universe.

I felt alone a number of times when I was away in Philadelphia ten years ago and a few times last week in hotel rooms in Minnesota.

I’m used to 5 other inhabitants in my life–my family, especially my wife.

But was I really alone?  Ultimately alone?

No.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Take heart, believer!  Your Father is watching.

Chew on that.  Turn it over in your mind, again and again and again.

Let it sink into you.

One my favorite Old Testament verses is 2 Chronicles 16:9 which Marilynn put on the cover of your bulletin. Where God tells King Asa, “The eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

I get this picture of these eyes ranging through the year, searching, looking into every nook and every cranny, every heart.  And then strengthening those whose hearts who are fully committed to Him.

Let that be you and me!

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

And that’s proverbially good news.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"Grief: Walking with Jesus" by Bob Kelleman (Book Review)

Every person you know is grieving right now or soon will be. Think about it. The experience of loss is universal–not a matter of if but of when. The real question is how we will process our grief when it inevitably arrives. Will we be crushed? Will we be comforted? Will we make good choices in our grief? Will we walk with Jesus through the dark valley of loss?

My friend Bob Kelleman has written an excellent 31 Day Devotional on this very topic in the brand new series from P&R Books on biblical counseling themes [on sale right now at WTSBooks]. In Grief: Walking with Jesus, Bob has created an unique resource for followers of Christ to process their grief in a biblically thoughtful way. The daily readings are each substantive yet short enough to read in a brief sitting even with the brain fog that often descends in times of heartbreak.

Bob’s book on grief was full of good surprises. I expected a book about comfort, but what I found was a book about Jesus. This was, of course, very comforting–but also very challenging. Bob crafted the book as a study of the life of Jesus progressing from His preexistence in eternity past to His glorious return in the future with a particular application of Jesus’ life to the experience of grief. This unique approach led to many unexpected places, not only for me but even apparently for the author!

For example, there was an emphasis on sacrificially loving other people while experiencing loss. On Day 11, Bob writes:
Time after time, Jesus refused to stop at comforting hope. He kept pushing me not only toward comforting others, not only toward loving others, but toward forgiving and loving those who caused my grief! Consistently, directly in the context of grief and loss, Jesus gazed on my soul and through his Word said, ‘Bob, ‘love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you' (Luke 6:27–28).’ Remember, these verses come just five verses after Jesus tells us, ‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh’ (Luke 6:21). In the context of mourning and weeping, Jesus calls us to a life of forgiving and loving. That's costly discipleship.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised because that’s exactly how Jesus loved even as He suffered, but it helped me that Bob was pointing it out.

Another surprise was pondering the emotional life of our Lord–especially in some of the raw emotions that come with grief. I expected to read about how Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus (and that’s in there), but I didn’t foresee thinking about what Kelleman calls Jesus’ holy disappointment when His friends let Him down when He needed them most. On Day 26, Bob leads us to the Garden of Gethsamane saying:
Jesus models holy disappointment. He asked Peter and the two sons of Zebedee to watch with him. He wanted and needed them to be on emotional sentry duty with him. But they went emotionally AWOL. And it disappointed Jesus. ‘He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour?’‘ (Matt. 26:40). Can you hear the emotional disappointment? Can you feel the emotional fatigue? Jesus does not lash out, but neither does he minimize or deny the reality that they have let him down. 
We have said previously that shared sorrow is endurable sorrow. We’ve painted pictures of climbing in the grief casket with each other. Jesus longed for his disciples to climb into his casket of sorrow, but they fell asleep on their watch. And it hurt Jesus.
Insightful! That was really helpful to me because it helps me to think about how negative emotions can be processed in God-glorifying ways such as confrontation and lament. If Jesus could do “holy disappointment,” so can (and should!) we.

Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of comfort in these pages, too, especially as we watch the Man of Sorrows grieve Himself and as we contemplate our hope that is still to come. But this book offers hidden depths and not just the usual tried and truisms. Each daily entry also ends with a few prompts for personal reflection. Someone who is hurting could go through it profitably several times in a row.

I will be buying Grief: Walking with Jesus by the caseload to give out liberally alongside Grieving with Hope by Samuel Hodges and Kathy Leonard as a invariably helpful resource for those who are experiencing loss. In fact, I’m ordering one this minute to send to a friend whose mom died yesterday.

Loss is unavoidable in this life, but Jesus has gone through it before us and promises to walk with us every painful step of the way.


[Read the first chapter at Bob's blog and his reasons for writing it at the Biblical Counseling Coalition.]

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Making a Hunting Knife - Anuron Ironworks

WOW!

If you have 18 minutes, you can watch my son Andrew create a hunting knife all the way from the initial drawing to the finished product.

I'm just the dad, but I think this is the coolest thing to come from Anuron Ironworks yet. Sharp in every sense of the term!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "Special Agents"

“Special Agents”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 16, 2018 :: Matthew 10:1-16 

We’ve reached a new section in this book.

Matthew chapter 10 is what is often called the “Mission Discourse” or “Jesus’ Major Teaching on the Mission.” And we will quickly see why it’s often called that.

Jesus is going to send out His disciples on the first ever Christian short term missions trip. And He’s going to give them a bunch of instructions.

And many of the instructions were specific to just that trip. We’ll see that in a second. But a bunch of the instructions have an ongoing long-term application to us today.

This is the second major block of teaching in the Gospel of Matthew.

What was the first major block? The Sermon on the Mount, right?

I promise you we won’t take 5 months to get through this one!

We won’t do it all today. We’ll just make it to verse 16. But I don’t see us taking more than 3 weeks to get through all of the Mission Discourse in Matthew chapter 10.

I could be wrong, of course. There’s a lot of good stuff here to digest.

“[Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”

Up until now, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus disciples don’t do much of anything except listen.

They are called by Him. They sign up to be fishers of men. They drop what they are doing. They leave their jobs. They begin to follow Him.

But now, Jesus is going to hand pick 12 of them and bestow special authority upon them and send them out.

This is a commissioning passage.

Now, how much authority does Jesus have?

Authority has been the key word ever since the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

“The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had...authority!” Chapter 7, verses 28-29.

The centurion was a man under...authority with soldiers under his authority, and he recognized Jesus’ authority over sickness. “Just say the word.”

But not just sickness.

The storm, right? “What kind of man is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Chapter 8, verse 27.

Or the demons? One word, “Go!” and they had to go.

What else?

Jesus has authority over death.

Jesus has authority, chapter 9, verse 6 “to forgive sins.”

How much authority does Jesus have?

All authority, it appears.

And now Jesus is delegating some of that authority.

To these twelve special agents.

That’s what I’m going to call this message today, “Special Agents.”

Because that’s something we know about these days, unlike “Apostles.”

What are apostles?

Apostles are authorized representatives.

They are people sent on behalf of someone else with some of that person’s authority delegated to them to represent that person to others.

Kind of like an ambassador?

Of course, we don’t know that much about what it’s like to be an ambassador, either.

But a lot of our favorite TV shows have special agents in them!

So, let’s run with that.

Jesus is commissioning twelve special agents to go on a mission for His kingdom.

At the end of chapter 9, Jesus pointed out the harassed and helpless crowds. He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

And He told His disciples to pray. He told them to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest field.

And guess what?

Chapter 10 shows the Lord of the harvest answering those prayers!

“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”

We don’t know exactly what that looked like, but it sure sounds exciting!

Jesus has been doing this sort of thing. Now these 12 special agents will be doing it, too.

I’ve got two headings for today’s message. Here’s number one. These special agents were:

#1. CALLED TO JESUS.

Did you see that in verse 1? “He called his twelve disciples to him.”

Now, I don’t want to make too much of that. As if Matthew was making a big point about it, but I do think it’s helpful to point out that before Jesus sends anybody out for Himself, He first calls them to Himself.

Remember, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

First, we come to Him. Then we are sent by Him.

Here, of course, they are just being gathered around. Twelve special agents given special authority. V.2

“These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

There’s a lot there in those 3 verses! I thought about preaching a whole message just on that list.

How many apostles were there? Twelve.

How come?

We don’t know. Many Bible scholars suspect that there is a connection here with the twelve (what?) tribes of Israel, right?

Twelve sons of Jacob, therefore twelve tribes of Israel. Now a new community is being birthed and there are twelve leaders of that.

I think there is something to that. I don’t want to take it too far, but there’s obviously something about the number twelve.

Notice that they are bunched into groups. What kind groups? Well, there are clearly pairs. Two by two. Simon and Andrew. James and John. Philip and Bart, etc.

There are also 3 groups of four. And every time these guys are listed (which is 4 times in the New Testament) even though the order is different each time, Peter is always first and Judas is always last and there are 3 groups of four. Probably teams within teams.

Now, what else do you notice about these special agents who were called to Jesus?

One of the things I notice is how different they are from one another.

Jesus calls different people to Himself. Jesus loves diversity.

I mean some of these guys have nothing in common with each other.

Some do. Some are brothers. There’s at least two sets of brothers. How fun is that?

And some of them did the same job. There are at least 4 former fishermen.

But then you’ve got this tax collector in there. Or at least a former tax collector.

We saw that the last two weeks.

What kind of men were they?

Traitors, right? Sell-outs. Extortionists. In bed with the oppressors.

They were in league with the Romans!

Is there anybody on the other side of the political spectrum in this bunch?

Simon the what? The Zealot.

What does that mean?

That means he hated the Romans. And was, at least before he came to Jesus, a nationalist who probably supported insurrection.

He was anti-Romans. He wanted to overthrow the Romans.

How do you think those two got along?

My guess is that they got along just fine. Because they were both called to Jesus.

They probably had some interesting discussions. Maybe some heated conversations.

But the important point in both of their lives was that they had been called to Jesus.

Let me ask you. Is that the most important thing in your life? That you have been called to Jesus?

And can you love and work together on the mission that Jesus is sending us on even with people who are very different from you in significant ways?

The people in this room are not all the same. In fact, there are a lot of differences in this room. Politically. Economically. Racially. Vocationally. Educationally. Physically. And the rest of Jesus’ church in America and worldwide is even more diverse!

Can we work together? On mission?

Some of you here are “Make America Great Again” red cap Trump supporters. Some of you here are “I sure miss President Obama” folks. And there are lots of people here somewhere in between.

Can we love each other?

Can we fulfill the Great Commission together?

We can, if we think of ourselves as first and foremost called to Jesus.

One of these men betrayed that calling.

He saw himself as primarily called to serve himself.

And his name has now forever been linked to treachery. V.4

“Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

You know it’s interesting. Something else I noticed is that none of these guys were rabbis before. None of them had been to seminary.

Nobody had previously trained for the ministry.

There were no “Pastor Matts” in there.

Jesus called men from the workplace, from the marketplace, from everyday walks of life.

Jesus loves to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

He trains them as they need it.

He loves to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things because He loves to get the credit.

Because it’s His authority. Because we are called to Him.

By the way, most of these guys, we don’t really know what happened to them after the book of Acts.

I mean Peter and John, sure, but how about Thaddaeus?

I’ve got a really good book called After Acts by Bryan Litfin that explores the lives and legends of these apostles. You’d be welcome to borrow it if you’d like to know what we know and how much we know about them after the Bible was completed.

We could note more in verses 2-4, but let’s move on.

These twelve special agents were called to Jesus and then they were:

#2. SENT FOR JESUS.

I was going to say “sent FROM Jesus” because that’s true, too. But I didn’t mean that he was sending them away from Him like in a punishment. And there’s something here about being sent FOR Jesus, as if they were sent in His place.

They are representing Him.

Let’s look at it. V.5

“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”

Let’s stop there for a second.

Those are some pretty special agents, aren’t they?

I mean look at what they get to do in verse 8!

I don’t think those are instructions for us today. I don’t think the church today has been given that delegated authority like the apostles had at that time.

“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.”

Who does that sound like?

That sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it? Doesn’t that sound like chapters 8 and 9 that we just got done with?

Jesus is telling His special agent to replicate His ministry.

And it’s the same message, too. Isn’t it?

“As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'”

John the Baptist said it. Chapter 3, verse 2.

The Lord Jesus said it. Chapter 4, verse 17.

Now the apostles are to say it. “The kingdom of heaven is near!”

Why?

Because the King has come.

That’s good news, isn’t it?

The promised kingdom has drawn close.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Of course that means repentance is called for.

Jesus doesn’t say it in verse 7, but that was the upshot of it before, and I’m sure it still is here.

The King has come, turn away from any other kingdom!

You see how these special agents were supposed to represent the King?

To whom were they to go?

At this point, just to the Jews. To the Jew first. V.5 again.

“Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.”

Does that mean that Jesus doesn’t love the Gentiles? Or that He didn’t love the Samaritans?

Of course not. He’s already reaching Gentiles and Samaritans by this point in His ministry.

But see that word “sheep” in verse 6? I think that ties into the “sheep without a shepherd” in verse 36 of the previous chapter.

Jesus has a heart for those crowds of Jewish men and women harassed and helpless.

He is their Messiah, and for THIS TRIP, He is sending His special agents to tell them about the kingdom and to prove that it has come through miracles.

Later, the instructions will change. By the end of this book the mission will be to go to the whole world and make disciples of every nation. Even people in Central Pennsylvania!

But for now, they are to go specifically to Israel, and announce the kingdom.

And they are not to charge anything for it. “Freely you have received, freely give.”

These special agents didn’t pay any fees to receive this kingdom, they don’t charge any fees to give it away to others.

In fact, they are called to travel very light. V.9

“Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.”

Again, I think these instructions are just for this particular missions trip. I don’t think that missionaries today are not supposed to take money or bags or a change of clothes or anything like that.

Jesus envisions a short trip that won’t require a lot of long-term resources.

And He expects the people they will talk to will provide hospitality. Not a fee. Not a salary. Just these people who get to hear about the kingdom will want to provide food and room and board for the special agents of the King. V.11

“‘Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. [A worthy person is someone who receives the message of the kingdom.] As you enter the home, give it your greeting. [Shalom!] If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

Now, again, I don’t think that this gives us timeless instructions for how to do missions or how to do ministry today.

Though maybe we ought to think our way through it.

There may be principles here about frugality and generosity and supporting those who do missions work. And principles here about total dependence on God and about looking for those who are receptive to the message of the gospel.

But what I notice most of all is that these special agents are sent FOR JESUS. They represent Him.

They take His message about His kingdom to people.

And if they are received, then He is received.

But if they are rejected, then He is the One who is really rejected. Look at verse 14 again.

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words [where did they get those words? Those are Jesus’ words! That’s the gospel of the kingdom! If they will not listen to your words...], shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

Who brought judgment to Sodom and Gomorrah?

God did.

Jesus is saying that if these special agents are rejected, it will be as if they rejected God Himself. Because they are.

That’s really helpful to me.

I mean when I think about being rejected when sharing the gospel. I tend to think about myself.

But if someone hates me for following Jesus, it’s really Jesus they hate.

Because it’s all about Him, right?

So that should make us bold, shouldn’t it?

I mean, here we are tasked with being His own representatives!

Special agents for the King.

We may not have the authority that the apostles did.

But we are called to share the gospel with the last, the least, and the lost.

And if we are received, then so is Jesus!

And if we are rejected, so what? They are really rejecting Him.

Do you need to hear that today?

Do you need to see yourself as a special agent of King Jesus?

Not a secret agent!

We should be known for following Him.

But we should be representing Him to the rest of the world.

Does that make you bold?

Notice again just who does He think He is?!

If the special agents of Jesus are rejected, what does He expect will happen to those who reject them?

It will be worse than Sodom and Gomorrah for those who reject Jesus.

That means that Jesus sees Himself as equal with Yahweh, the God of Israel.

And now, He’s sending out His apostles. Look at how they are supposed to see themselves. V.16

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

We’re going to start there next time.

The next section talks about how dangerous it’s going to be for these apostles and for many other agents of Jesus throughout history.

Sheep among wolves.

So therefore, they (and we) need to be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.

Wise and strategic and shrewd like a snake.

And at the same time, loving and holy and pure like a dove.

Chew on that for the next couple of weeks.

And commit to being like yourself.

As you represent Jesus to the world.

Called to Jesus by faith to be saved and to be His disciple.

And sent for Jesus to represent Him to the rest of the world.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem

Monday, September 10, 2018

Book Review: "A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs" by Ellis Peters

A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs (Felse, #4)A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs by Ellis Peters

I love this book.

I just re-read it for at least the fourth time--I’ve lost count. And yet I felt tears of joy well up at the triumphant end.

Edith Pargeter, the real name of Ellis Peters, was a mystery-writing genius of the first order. Very few are the authors who can create a whodunit that a reader might want to re-visit so often and with such pleasure. Come for another adventure of the Felse family, stay for the boldly drawn character development of the coast of Cornwall cast, and hang on for the twisty plot of at least (?) three graves with unexpected contents! Delightful.

View all my Goodreads reviews.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

[Matt's Messages] “Who Does He Think He Is?”

“Who Does He Think He Is?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 9, 2018 :: Matthew 9:14-38 

I’ve said a few times during this series on Following Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew that we could entitle many of these messages with the same title, “Who Does He Think He Is?”

So I just went and did it for this message. That’s the title, “Who Does [Jesus] Think He Is?”

Because it strikes me, especially in this section right after the Sermon on the Mount that everything Jesus does highlights Who Jesus is. Everything Jesus does is kind of like an argument for Who Jesus is.

Like last week when Jesus healed the paralytic and at the same time forgave his sins. Remember that? Who does Jesus think He is going around forgiving sins?

Or the week before that when Jesus spoke to the storm and it had to obey or when He spoke to the legion of demons and they had to obey?

Or when He was healing all kinds of diseases. All of these miracles, all of these actions are great big signposts pointing at Jesus and saying, “Look Who He Is!”

And all that time, Jesus continually keeps calling people to follow Him.

And live a life of discipleship.

Now in the middle of all of those miracles and invitations to discipleship there is a little story that is kind of different from all the rest.

Some friends, some allies, disciples of John the Baptist who was, if you remember, in prison at the time, [these disciples of John the Baptist] come to Jesus and have a question for Him.

And I don’t think it’s an attack. It’s not a trick question or a trap. At least, I don’t think so. It’s not like the kinds of tricky questions that the Pharisees ask to try to trip Him up.

They ask Jesus (v.14), “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

Fair question. And Jesus chooses to answer their question by telling us all just Who He thinks He is.

If you remember, last week, we left Jesus at a party.

There was a big party at the house of Matthew who had just recently been a filthy rich tax-collector/extortionist.

And at that party were a bunch of current tax-collectors and notorious sinners.

And Jesus was eating with them. He was spending time with them. He was enjoying their company and loving them. He was extending mercy to them. He was calling them to repentance and faith and salvation and discipleship.

Because they needed it. He was a sin-doctor, and they were sin-sick.

But they were doing all of that over dinner. Feasting and eating and enjoying a big meal together.

And then Matthew tells us that John the Baptist’s disciples were scratching their heads.

Remember, John the Baptist was famous for eating locusts and wild honey.

He wasn’t big on lavish dinners at the Golden Corral.

In fact, his followers had been taught how to fast.

So they come to Jesus in verse 14.

“Then John's disciples came and asked him, ‘How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’”

“Are we missing something?

We are known for fasting.

The Pharisees (who tend to know their Bibles) are known for fasting.

You guys? Not so much.

What’s going on?”

Before we see how Jesus answers. Let me you ask you how you would answer that one.

Do you ever fast?

If so, why?

And if not, why not?

It’s not like Jesus never fasted, right? I mean He holds the world record. 40 days and 40 nights. We watched Him do it back in chapter 4.

And He’s taught His disciples how to fast. We read about it in the Sermon on the Mount chapter 6, verses 16 through 18.

And He doesn’t say there to NOT fast. Just don’t do it wrong. Don’t do it to impress other people. He says, “WHEN you fast, do it in secret so that your Heavenly Father Who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

But fasting was definitely not what Jesus was known for.

Or His disciples.

Instead, they’re eating. They’re drinking. They’re feasting.

And they don’t have somber looks on their faces. They’re not all sad and fasting and depriving themselves.

I mean they probably did it on the Day of Atonement like the Law said to.

But that was about it. Most of the time, they were enjoying themselves.

And WITH SINNERS!

What’s going on here?

How would you answer that?

I mean, the Pharisees were probably fasting for all of the wrong reasons. They were the poster children for doing it the wrong way.

They were fasting to be seen by others. They were the targets of Jesus’ critique in the Sermon on the Mount. They already had their reward for other so called acts of righteousness.

But the disciples of John were good guys, right?

They probably fasted out of repentance and sorrow for their sins.

John taught people to repent for the king was coming and the kingdom of God was near.

That’s probably a big part of why they were fasting.

But here’s Jesus, and He’s like, “Pass the chicken nuggets. Umm. These are good. Is this your potato salad? Can I have another helping?”

So they ask Jesus, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

And Jesus answers by telling them Who He thinks He is.

#1. THE BRIDEGROOM.  V.15

“Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”

Jesus liken Himself to a bridegroom at a wedding.

Do you get his analogy?

His question is should everybody be all sad at a wedding?

Have you ever been to a wedding? How do people act around the bride and the groom?

Are they all like, “It’ll be okay, man. It’ll be okay.”

Or “Man, I hate this stuff. I wish we didn’t have to be here.”

No. If they are, that’s not the kind of wedding I want to be at!

No. Everybody is insanely happy for the couple. Aren’t they?

Big smiles. Break your face smiles. Ear to ear grins.

And lots of feasting. Lots of joy and rejoicing.

Jesus says that’s what it’s like to have Him around.

We aren’t living in the John the Baptist days where the king is coming.

We are living in the Jesus days when the King has come!

Do you know who also talked like this?

John the Baptist, right? In the Gospel of John chapter 3, John the Baptists basically says that he’s the best man at the wedding. But Jesus is the groom.

He says, “You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' The bride [which is the church, right? The people of God.] belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less” (vv.28-30).

It’d be pretty inconsistent for Jesus and His disciples to major on mourning when they are announcing the inbreaking presence of the kingdom of God!

Now is the time to rejoice. Because Jesus is the Bridegroom.

However, Jesus says (v.15 again), “The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”

When will that be?

Well, at least at the Cross. That was a time when the bridegroom was taken away. Isaiah 53:8, “By oppression and judgment he was taken away.”

But I also think it’s true right now when the bridegroom is in heaven and we’re waiting for His return.

So rejoicing is appropriate because we have the King and we have the kingdom.

But right now lament is also appropriate. Because the King suffered and knows our suffering.

And right now LONGING is also appropriate. Because we don’t have the King right now. He’s not here right now in all of His fullness. We are WAITING for His return.

When we get to the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is going to use this language again to talk about watchfulness. He’ll liken Himself to a Bridegroom who may come at any time, and how we need to be ready for Him.

That’s Who Jesus think He is.

The Bridegroom.

And you know that’s a big deal?

Because do you know Who the bridegroom is in the Old Testament?

God Himself. Read Isaiah 62 this afternoon. Read Hosea chapter 2 this afternoon.

God refers to Himself as a bridegroom.

A bridegroom is full of love.

A bridegroom comes to get His bride.

And wherever the bridegroom is, there is JOY.

So should we fast today?

Well, we shouldn’t fast like the Pharisees. Nobody should fast like that.

And we shouldn’t fast like John the Baptist’s disciples. Because we don’t live in that era of anticipation in the same way they did before.

But we are free to fast today because we have the Bridegroom and yet we are also still  waiting for the Bridegroom.

So we have joy but we can also lament and we should also long for the return of Christ. If that’s what our fasting means, then we probably should do some of that today while we wait for the bridegroom to come.

The best book I ever read on fasting is called “A Hunger for God” by John Piper. He calls this passage, Matthew 9, “the most important words on fasting in the Bible.”

And he says, “In this age there is an ache inside every Christian that Jesus is not here as fully and intimately and as powerfully and as gloriously as we want him to be. We hunger for so much more” (pg. 38).

And that’s because Jesus is the Bridegroom.

Now, in verse 16 and 17, Jesus uses switches things up and uses two different metaphors. V.16

“‘No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.’”

The picture is pretty clear. You don’t use the old with the new or things break and go wrong.

A new piece of cloth will shrink and re-tear the mended garment. They don’t go together.

New wine will ferment and rupture a brittle old wineskin. That’s not a chemistry experiment you want to watch.

You need new for the new.

I think that Jesus is saying that the old kind of fasting (like the John the Baptist’s) doesn’t work now that Jesus has come.

The Pharisees fasting certainly doesn’t work these days. If they thought that they were impressing God with their acts of righteousness.

It don’t work that way. And never did.

But the new has come. Jesus has come. The king has come. The Bridegroom is here.

If we’re going to fast, it needs to be a new kind of fast.

One that keeps all that mind.

Does that make sense? V.18

“While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, ‘My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.’ [Notice his faith! Just like the centurion from chapter 8. Just like the paralytic and his friends at the beginning of chapter 9. This guy believes. And it’s rewarded. V.19] Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.”

What do you think is going to happen?

Do you think that Jesus can raise a dead girl to life?

Well, we don’t get to find out just yet. V.20

“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’”

Can you imagine?

For twelve years she has had this recurring problem. And as uncomfortable as it was, it also made her UNCLEAN. Right? Ritually unclean.

She might as well have been like the leper in chapter 8.

Unclean.

And she risks everything.

And she has faith!

It comes out in her courage.

“If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” v.22

“Jesus turned and saw her [notice that. “Saw her”]. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment.”

Amazing power! Amazing faith! She never had that problem again.

But that’s the not main story. Remember where Jesus is headed.

He’s going to a funeral, and He’s going to do something about it! V.23

“When Jesus entered the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, he said, ‘Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at him.”

You would, too.

You don’t call in the professional mourners unless the person is totally dead.

She wasn’t just mostly dead. She was totally dead.

But Jesus says that her death is just like sleep to Him.

She’s going to get up again today.

Who does Jesus think He is?

#2. THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.

He thinks He’s the resurrection and the life, doesn’t He?

I mean He doesn’t say that here. Like He will at the tomb of Lazarus.

But that’s what He’s saying, isn’t it?

Jesus is saying that He turns death into something just like sleep.

That He can wake someone up from death.

And this ruler guy, the other gospels tell us his name was Jairus, He believes it.

Do you believe it?

Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?

That Jesus can wake people up from death?

I love that Jesus does this not for some bigshot. I mean Jairus might have been a bigshot, but this is his daughter.

It wasn’t his son. In that culture there was a big difference.

Jesus is healing helping the last, the least, and the lost.

And the unclean.

There was nothing more unclean than a dead body.

Uncleaner than leprosy.
Uncleaner than an issue of blood.

This girl was dead. V.25

“After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.”

In John 11 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (vv.25-26).

Verse 27.

“As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith will it be done to you’; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’ But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.”

Who does Jesus think He is?

He thinks the same thing that these blind guys do.

He thinks He’s the Son of David.

#3. THE MESSIAH.

He thinks He’s the Messiah.

They want Him to heal their blind eyes.

This afternoon when you’re reading Isaiah 62, look also at Isaiah 35 and see what things will be like when the Son of David, the Messiah comes.

When God comes and makes everything beautiful again.

Isaiah 35:5 and 6, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.”

What does that sound like?

It sounds like what happens when Jesus comes to town.

And the same question, “Do you believe?”

Well, do you?

These guys did! And they couldn’t keep it a secret. Even though Jesus told them, too!

Jesus didn’t need the extra publicity, but they couldn’t help but tell others that they had been blind but now they could see!

They had to talk about the Messiah’s amazing grace. V.32

“While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. [Sounds like Isaiah 35 again to me!] The crowd was amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.’ But [listen closely] the Pharisees said, ‘It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.’”

“Shots fired” as they say.

They couldn’t argue with the miracles.

They miracles were there.

They were facts.

But they could dispute the meaning of the facts.

They had to dispute the meaning of the facts or they would have to put their faith in Jesus as the Messiah!

Instead they said that Jesus was a tool of the devil.

Can you imagine?

Jesus is asking the same question of us today.

“Do you believe?”

The Pharisees did not.

These kinds of interactions are going to lead to arrest, trial, and crucifixion of our Lord. Jesus will have more to say about this in chapter 12.

Right now, what’s important is to see that Jesus is asking us to believe in Him as the Messiah.

Do you?

Because He’s what we need.

He’s the good shepherd.

#4. THE GOOD SHEPHERD. V.35

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

We just looked at this passage a few weeks ago before the Good News Cruise. So we won’t over it again.

But we can see Who Jesus thinks He is.

He thinks He’s the answer to these poor people’s problems.

He thinks He’s the shepherd these sheeple need.

Is that how you see Him?

Is He your shepherd?

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

And here He says, “As the Lord of the harvest” to send people out to bring them in.

Jesus is everything we need!

If we have Him, we shall not want.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem