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Monday, January 28, 2019

"Don't Just Send a Resume" by Benjamin Vrbicek

I'm pleased to have my own copy of this sharp new book by Benjamin Vrbicek--though I hope I don't need to use it myself any time soon!

Benjamin's newest book is titled, Don't Just Send a Resume: How to Find the Right Job in a Local Church, and I was privileged to be one of 50 pastors he interviewed in his research and also to read an advanced copy. Here is my endorsement:

"Anyone who is looking for a 'job' in a local church will want to read this book, and all of us who already have found one will wish we had it back then. With his happy, humorous, and friendly writer's voice, Benjamin Vrbicek deftly blends the relevant theological truths with truly helpful tips for making the most of the search process from the candidate's end. I keep giving away copies to my friends." - Matt Mitchell

I've enjoyed getting to know Benjamin online and on the phone. I hope to meet him in person some time. We are both pastors in the EFCA, so hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.


More about Benjamin Vrbicek:

Benjamin and his wife Brooke have six children. Benjamin enjoys reading, wrestling with his children, dating his wife, eating at Chipotle, and riding his bicycle in the early hours of the morning.

He has written for The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, and For The Church, and is the author several books, including "Don't Just Send a Resume," "More People to Love," and "Struggle Against Porn" (forthcoming with Rainer Publishing in 2019).

He earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri and a Masters in Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary. He is a teaching pastor at Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg, PA.

He has also written several book reviews and articles for the EFCA. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

[Matt's Messages] “Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus”

“Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
January 27, 2019 :: Matthew 14:13-21

Matthew is what I call a theological biography of Jesus Christ.

That is the ultimate purpose of the Gospel of Matthew is to reveal to us who Jesus is and lead us to follow Him.

The Gospel of Matthew reveals the true identity of Jesus Christ, and when you know the true identity of Jesus Christ, you are invited and drawn to trust, worship, obey, and follow Him. You become His disciple.

A year ago, the sermon title on this Sunday was “Following Jesus,” and we learned that Jesus calls is calling us to follow Him and to fish for Him, that is to find and make new followers of Jesus. “Follow me,” Jesus said, “And I will make you fishers of men.”

Now, we know that this is not always easy. Last time, we watched how hard it was for John the Baptist to follow Jesus. He was decapitated for following Jesus.

And our Hide the Word verse right now says that we need to be ready to follow Jesus into sacrifice.

Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”

We’re going to learn more about making those sacrifices as 2019 unfolds.

But we keep coming back to the basic question, “Who is Jesus?”

Remember last time we said that in Matthew you have to always keep your eyes on the ball, and in the Gospel of Matthew the ball is the question, “Who is Jesus?”

So, today’s passage is a very short story, a very familiar story of a miracle. Anita just sang about it for us.

We all know this one.

In fact, this story is in all four of the gospels.

Except for the resurrection, this is the only miracle story that is in all four of the gospels.

It is one of the most famous Bible stories that there ever was.

I call it, “Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus.”

And you already know the whole thing.

But keep your eye on the ball.

Who does this story reveal Jesus to be?

What does this story teach us about Who Jesus is?

How should we follow Jesus because we have read Matthew 14:13 through 21?

That’s the question.

Whenever I teach somebody how to study the Bible for themselves, one of the first things I tell them to do is to get out a notebook and put a line down a page and mark out two columns.

And in one of those columns, write down the heading “God” or “Jesus.”

And the other one write down, “Me” or “People.”

And then read a passage of Scripture and write down what you see that passage teaches about God or Jesus in particular and write down what the passage says about people including yourself.

It’s that simple.

And when you put those two things together, you start to see your application to life.

This is especially true when you study the Gospels.

What does this story tell me about Jesus?

Yes, it’s about five loaves and two fishes.

It’s about a big hungry crowd.

It’s about some bewildered disciples.

But it’s ultimately about Jesus.

Today, I’ve five points of things I see here in Matthew’s gospel, that I think he’s trying to reveal to us about Jesus.

All five are things that Jesus regularly does. And they all affect us in significant ways.

#1. HE CARES.

Jesus cares.

Let’s look the setting for this miracle. Matthew chapter 14, verse 13.

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”

Wait a second. What had happened? Do you remember?

Well, it’s not clear.

I have always assumed that what happened was that his cousin John the Baptist had died.

That is what just happened in verses 3 through 12.

And had always assumed that Jesus here was grieving.

And that’s possible.

But, I remembered this week that verses 3 through 12 are a flashback to an earlier time.

So it’s possible that Jesus heard about what was happening in verses 1 and 2 which is that Herod Antipas has gotten wind of Jesus’ ministry and is worried that He is John the Baptist back from the dead.

It’s quite possible that Jesus is pulling back to regroup and pray and maybe move His ministry to a new location as a strategic withdrawal to not escalate things before it was time.

He tries to get away by Himself with His disciples.

But it doesn’t work. Verse 13 again.

“Hearing of this [His withdrawal], the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. [They really want to be with Him.] When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd [He got really annoyed that they showed up when He wanted to be alone! No? He got really irritated that these people were interrupting His plans! No? He didn’t act like you or me? No. (v.14)], he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

Jesus cared.

That word for “compassion” is the same one as back in chapter 9.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Unnn. It hurt in His gut.

Jesus cared, and it moved Him to action.

He healed their sick. (Which is amazing all by itself!)

I don’t know about you, but I sure am encouraged to know that Jesus cares.

Because this isn’t an isolated incident with Jesus.

It’s just like Him.

And it’s just like His Father.

Psalm 103 says:

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him...”

Psalm 116 says:

“The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.”

Psalm 145:

“The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

The Lord cares.

As they say at the PRC, “You matter.”

Not because you are so wonderful, but because God is so wonderful as to have compassion.

You matter to Him.

Do you need to hear that today?

I think a lot of people are hurting right now.

People are overwhelmed.
People are grieving.
People are going through hard things.

What are you going through?

It’s really encouraging to know that the Lord cares.

He sees our plight and is full of compassion.

In this case, they were not just sick, they were growing hungry.

This ministry took some time, and the day was getting long. V.15

“As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’”

And the disciples were getting worried that they were going to have a massive crowd on their hands with no food.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

They want Jesus to send the crowds off to fend for themselves.

But here’s where Jesus really begins to surprise them. V.16

“Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’”

And the disciples said, “Huh?”

#2. HE TESTS.

Jesus challenges His disciples.

He asks them to do something that they don’t think they can do.

Do you see that?

I think it’s kind of playful, “You give them something to eat.”

I don’t know if He expects them to know how to do that.

But He does expect them to trust Him and turn to Him for it. Right?

I mean, what have they seen Jesus do so far?

Heal the sick, cleanse lepers, forgive sins, cast out demons, even raise people from the dead.

All kinds of stuff.

So if He says, “You can do this,” the proper response is what?

What is the proper answer to this test, “Okay, Jesus. How do we do that? How are you going to do that? Because we do it without you. But okay.”

This is not anomaly for Jesus either.

Jesus does this.

He asks His followers to do things they can’t do, but because He is in their lives, they can.

We call it, “Trust and Obey.”

And that’s the way to be happy in Jesus.

What is Jesus asking you to do these days that is basically impossible? At least, without Him.

Evangelism?

Getting bold and speaking up and telling people the good news?

“You give them something to eat.”

How about forgiveness?

Counting up someone’s sins and offenses against you, and releasing them from that debt.

Can you do that? Probably not on your own.

But is Jesus asking you to?

How about serving? Or giving?

How about getting involved with the PRC?

Stepping outside of your comfort zone and helping abortion vulnerable women.

“You give them something to eat.”

Jesus tests.

And notice that in His tests, Jesus invites us to be a part of the big things that He is doing.

He uses us. He involves us. He puts us to work in His kingdom.

When Jesus tests us, it’s always for our good.

Satan’s tests are temptations. He wants us to fail.

But Jesus asks us to do the impossible in the power that He provides.

He wants us to succeed.

He wants us to trust and obey.

So the disciples scour the crowd, and this is all they can find. Verse 17.

“They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’

‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.”

Matthew doesn’t tell us where they got them.

We know from the other gospels that this was one boy’s lunch. Five probably hand-sized loaves, basically biscuits and a couple of little fish to wash it down with. A little bit of protein.

And here they are in the wilderness.

Did you notice that? Verse 15 said, “A remote place.”

They are basically stranded out in the desert.

Does this setting remind you of anything?

I think we’re supposed to be reminded of Moses in the wilderness, right?

All of Israel there camped in the wilderness, and they are hungry.

And God through Moses feeds them with what? Manna, right?

It’s also like Elisha in 2 Kings chapter 4.

Elisha miraculously fed some hungry people out in the desert, as well.

But all that Jesus has to work with is five loaves and two fish. V.18

“‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. [He’s acting as the host for a great meal.] Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.”

And they all got fed!

The food just kept coming and coming.

Multiplying and multiplying.

#3. HE PROVIDES.

Like Moses in the desert.
Like Elisha.

He feeds them.

He not only has compassion on them, but He provides what they need.

When they need it.

Isn’t it wonderful that our God is a providing God?

Today is our annual reports meeting.

Read Darla Kyler’s treasurer’s report. It’s on page 12 of the annual report.

She starts with this sentence, “God provides.”

And then she lists out some of the amazing ways that God provided for our church in 2018.

And then she ends by saying, “The Lord has reminded me again and again this past year that HE does indeed provide! Jehoveh Jireh!”

Amen.

That’s what was happening here with these five loaves and two fish and Jesus.

Jesus was providing.

Now, I think that calls for a response from us.

One thing we ought do because of His provision is NOT murmur.

Right? I mean that was the mistake the Israelites made with the manna.

They complained about the bread from heaven!

And so often we can get to complaining, too.

And worrying about whether or not the Lord will take care of us.

No, we need to trust in His provision.

And we need to thank Him for His provision every day.

How thankful are we?

Doesn’t it feel good to have a meal in your belly?

I know that this sermon is going to get you hungry.

All of this talk about bread and fish.

Well, don’t worry, there’s a meal back there in the Fellowship Hall.

Doesn’t it feel good after you eat?

And it’s always good to thank the people who make the food.

Thank you, Hospitality Team and everybody else who brought something today!

But do we thank the Lord?

Not just a token prayer, but a heartfelt thanksgiving for all that He has given us.

Because it’s more than provision here, isn’t it?

Jesus doesn’t just provide.

#4. HE SATISFIES. V.20

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.”

How many of them ate and were satisfied?

All of ‘em!

You know that word “satisfied” means in the Greek?

It means they were stuffed.

They had all that they wanted.

It was that feeling after Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes.

(Hungry yet?)

They all went to go take a nap on the couch.

Because they were satisfied.

Jesus didn’t just provide here. He went above and beyond and gave them satisfaction.

Many scholars have thought that this miracle points to the kingdom.

This is a picture of, a foretaste of the kingdom to come.

Just like the parables told us about the kingdom, the miracles tell us about the kingdom, too.

What is the kingdom like?

It’s a kingdom of satisfaction because of the King.

The kingdom is a party.

The kingdom is a banquet.

The kingdom is a feast.

And it’s all satisfying. It doesn’t wear out. It doesn’t wind down.

It’s a party that never ends.

It’s full of abundance.

I think that’s why there are so many leftovers here.

Verse 20 says “the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.”

It’s not just that Jesus makes something out of nothing.

But that He makes more than necessary because He is overflowing with grace and blessing.

And that’s what the kingdom is and is going to be like.

Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!”

So totally satisfying!

Now, in the Gospel of John, the crowd makes the connection between Moses and Jesus. They get that He’s like a new and maybe greater Moses.

But in John, Jesus takes it another step further.

He says that He Himself is like the Manna.

The new and greater Manna.

He is the bread from heaven.

Jesus Himself is the bread of life.

Jesus Himself is the One Who satisfies, not just our bodies but our souls.

He said, “I am the bread of life.”

Do you believe that?

Have you come to trust in Jesus so that He is the satisfaction of your soul?

Nothing else will satisfy.

Everything else will disappoint.

But Jesus will not disappoint.

He will satisfy our souls forever.

#5. HE AMAZES!

There is a reason why all four gospel writers included this miracle when they didn’t all include the rest.

It’s because it’s a stunning miracle.

Nobody else could do this.

Nobody else has ever done anything like it.

It’s miracle that takes the Creator to do.

This shows that Jesus is the Creator.

He makes matter out of nothing.

He takes five loaves and two fish, and He keeps passing it and passing it and passing until how many people are fed? V.21

“The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”

We call this the “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” but it was a lot more than that!

It’s at least 10,000.

It could be 20,000 or more!

That’s amazing!

That’s creational power!

That’s the kingdom coming!

And it’s so quiet.

Matthew doesn’t even tell us what it was like or how He did it.

He just gives thanks, “Thank you, Father” and then breaks the loaves, and then starts passing it out.

Until upwards to 30,000 people are fed.

Who does that?

Who is Jesus?

He’s amazing!


****

Questions for Group Discussion:

1. Find and read the story of the feeding of the 5,000 in all four of the gospels. What different emphases do the various gospel writers bring out?

2. Why does Pastor Matt call the Gospel of Matthew a “theological biography?” What does that mean? How should that affect how we read it?

3. What five things about Who Jesus is did Pastor Matt point out in today’s message? What difference does each one make for our lives today? (Take some time on this question thinking through each of the five points.)

4. Would you add a sixth or seventh item about Who Jesus is from this short story?

5. In what ways is the Lord calling you to respond and follow Jesus because of studying this story together today? How can our group pray for each other as we apply it to our lives?


****

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?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude

Saturday, January 26, 2019

My 2019 Annual Report for Lanse Free Church


Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God
by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ
through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

The Annual Pastoral Report
Pastor Matt Mitchell
Year in Review: 2018

Dear Church Family,

Twenty full years together?! It’s hard to believe that we reached the two-decade milestone in our pastor/flock partnership this last June, but we did. In fact, here at the start of 2019, we’re more than halfway through our twenty-first year doing ministry together, and I still feel just like Paul did when he thought of the Philippian church:

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:4-6, NIV84).

It is a joy to be your pastor.

If I had to sum up 2018 in one word, it would be “healthy.” When I look back over the last twelve months and read the other reports in these pages, I’m encouraged at how healthy our church is. We have lots of room for improvement, of course, but our church family, on the whole, is happy, holy, and healthy. There is lots of love, respect, and concern for one another. We have worked well with one another to reach out to our community. Our worship is joyful and God-centered. Our teaching is focused on the Bible and how it applies to daily life. Our leaders lead with wisdom. Volunteers serve faithfully and with joy. New people are coming. Disciples are being made of people in all ages and stages of life. One could always desire more (and I do!), but this shepherd is very satisfied with how healthy his flock seems to be.

One big example: In September, the congregation decided unanimously to put a new roof on the building (a foreseen need) and clean up the major mold problem (an unforeseen need) that threatened both our health and my beloved books. And when this momentous $37,000 decision was made, I wasn’t even there! I was on a ministry trip out of town and didn’t get to attend. (I wasn’t needed either!) I got to hear later about how joyful and loving and unified our church family was in that meeting. In other times or other places this could have a been a painful and contentious decision-making process, but the Lord has His hand on us and is doing great things. Praise God; our church is very healthy! (And thanks for saving my books!)

I’m particularly grateful for our 2018 Elder Team–Bob Gisewhite, Cody Crumrine, Keith Folmar, John Forcey, Joel Michaels, and Jeff Schiefer. They put in many quiet hours behind the scenes, making decisions, establishing policy, shepherding people, and providing wisdom, accountability, and direction for me. Their leadership is a big reason why our church is so healthy.

Another person who helps us stay on track is Marilynn Kristofits through her cheerful “ad-ministry” of details. Marilynn completed her fifth year running our church office in 2018. I wouldn’t want to know where we’d be without her!

I believe that prayer is one of the biggest reasons why we are so healthy right now. People gather to pray weekly at our Prayer Meeting on Wednesdays, people show up to pray for the lost monthly at our Harvest Prayer Times, and people pray wherever they are whenever they receive a prayer chain email. I’ll be forever grateful for the prayers of the Pastoral Prayer Team who pray especially for the things my family and I are facing throughout the year. God is answering prayer.

Our attendance at worship holds pretty steady. Our average Sunday attendance in 2018 was 132 people per week (down from 135 the previous year). The highest attended service was Resurrection Sunday with 237 people (the exact same number as last year!). The lowest attended Sunday (100 people) was July 1st when the youth group left to go to the Challenge Conference. We received three new members.

Pastoral Ministry

When I was presented as the candidate to be your pastor almost twenty-one years ago now, I explained that I envision biblical pastoral ministry as coming under three major headings: preaching, equipping, and shepherding. These are some of the highpoints from 2018.

Preach the Word

The Gospel of Matthew was our focus on Sundays for the entire year. Step by step, we progressed from chapter 2 all the way to chapter 13. Studying for and preaching through Jesus’ Sermon on Mount was one of the richest experiences I’ve had in my two decades as pastor. I look forward to continuing through the Gospel of Matthew this year.

We also went down a number of side-roads along the way with special messages on the image of God, the Holy Spirit, the life and ministry of Billy Graham, Psalm 118 and its relationship to the Triumphal Entry and the Resurrection, our twentieth pastoral anniversary, Proverbs for Family Bible Week, and the joy of Christmas.

In 2018, I also had the opportunity to share from God’s Word at the Miracle Mountain Ranch Father & Son Retreat, State College’s Oakwood Presbyterian Church Women’s Leadership Retreat, Hope Evangelical Free Church in Fertile, Minnesota, and our very own MOPS group.

Whenever I wasn’t in the pulpit at LEFC, we were served the Word from able guest preachers: Abe Skacel, Peter Bors, Donnie Rosie, Daniel Stanley, and Joel Michaels.

Equip the Saints

It’s not glamorous, but I enjoy working alongside our leaders to accomplish our ministry goals. Every month, I get to go to meetings, send lots of emails, make phone calls, and try to ensure that all of our people and programs are fully resourced and equipped. One part I especially enjoy is helping church leaders review and improve their ministry. This year, our various ministries added quarterly men’s breakfasts, updated our missions ministry policy, planned out a new children’s church class, provided for online giving, and prepared for a new “prayer corners” initiative which should begin soon.

I continue to have an equipping ministry that extends beyond our local church. In 2018, I remained the chairman of the Allegheny District Constitutions and Credentials Board, directed the district Stay Sharp theology conference, and served nationally on the EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee. I also continued as the book review coordinator for the national EFCA blog and maintained my own blog that provides resources such as sermon manuscripts, book reviews, and updates on the ongoing ministry of my book, Resisting Gossip.

Shepherd the Flock

What a sweet privilege it is to be a people-shepherd and be invited into some of the most precious times in your lives, both happy and sad (Romans 12:15). I get to visit with you in your homes, your workplaces, or maybe a local restaurant. You stop by my office. I stop by your hospital room or watch your sporting event. I love being a pastor.

In 2018, I got to help dedicate four babies: Branda, Quinn, Bowden, and Anna. I got to baptize three believers: Haylee Shimmel, Keith Hurley, and Dottie Isaacson. I had the joyful privilege to officiate the wedding of Sheila (Allen) and Benjamin Hutchinson. I also had the solemn privilege to lead funerals for my great aunt Vaughn Pierce, Donald Beveridge, and Carolyn Dobo.

Vision for 2019

Last year, our vision was drawn from Matthew 4:19 – following Jesus and fishing for Jesus. In all that we do, we are called to make disciples of Christ – first reaching and then growing followers of Jesus in every area of their lives.

This year, my vision is simply to keep it up.

Our church is healthy, and it’s my goal to keep it that way. We are headed in the right direction, and I want to continue to shepherd us to stay on that faithful path. I’m not calling for stagnation or getting stuck in our ways. Keeping it up will require change. We will continue to review all of our ministry strategies and make course adjustments as needed. There is more to be done, more than can be accomplished as the Lord leads. But I do hope for more of the same focus on bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

It may get difficult. There will be challenges, foreseen and unforeseen. We have enemies in the world, the flesh, and the devil. Keeping it up will require sacrifice and self-denial. Our Lord says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). That sounds painful. But He is worth it. May He find our church healthy and faithful.

In His Grip,
Pastor Matt

Friday, January 18, 2019

Don't Misuse "Resisting Gossip"

One of my worries when I was writing Resisting Gossip was that some unscrupulous church leaders would misuse it to silence dissent among their followers. I could foresee insecure and/or controlling pastors piously holding the book up to their people and subtly saying, "See! You shouldn't criticize or disagree with me. I'll decide what gets talked about around here and when. We're going to be a gossip-free church."

Pastors and other church leaders are often the target of a whispering campaign. But not all dissent is unloving or unhealthily pursued. In churches where the leaders seem to be hiding key things or putting a "spin" on all of the information that gets disseminated, it's often difficult for the rest of the church to discern what is going on. Followers should ask their questions openly with respect, care, and love, trusting their leaders as much as they possibly can, but leaders should also bend over backwards to extend grace to those who disagree with them or are concerned about questionable decisions and internal conflicts. If both groups are careful and loving, then the heaviest situations can be successfully navigated. But just because one side is handling things poorly doesn't give the other side a reason to take the lower road.

That's why, in the bonus chapter for church leaders, I included two points about protecting reputations of leaders both within and outside of the local church but also had a point about airing concerns:
8. Open Channels for Airing Concerns
The flip side to the last two points is that leaders must create and sustain open channels of communication in the church for those who have concerns. Sometimes when there is gossip within a church, it is actually the leaders’ fault. Those who are gossiping should not be doing it, but gossip flourishes when there is an oppressive regime and a tyrannical atmosphere of silence.
When was the last time you asked for constructive feedback? Paul told Timothy, “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (2 Tim. 2:24). That does not mean that a good church leader will agree with all the criticisms he receives or will budge on orthodoxy, but he will humble himself to solicit critique. 
Being approachable is easier said than done. I know I have failed to listen more than I have succeeded, but I often quote Proverbs 27:6 to my people: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Hurt me, friend, if I need it. That is love. (Resisting Gossip, pg. 168).
I have no way of telling if my worries have come true and if unhealthy pastors are using my book to shield themselves from accountability. I hope not, but I'm not naive enough to believe it will never happen.

I certainly didn't write it to insulate bad leaders. I wrote it to combat the real sin of gossip which can tear a church from limb to limb. I wrote it in the way I did hoping that unhealthy church leaders would not have another tool in their toolbox for mis-shepherding the flock under their care. May the Chief Shepherd protect His people from both errors and dangers (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Sunday, January 13, 2019

[Matt's Messages] “Living the Last Beatitude”

“Living the Last Beatitude”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
January 13, 2019 :: Matthew 13:53-14:12 

Verse 53 begins with Jesus’ finishing.

Matthew tells us that Jesus finishes telling the parables that we often call the Parables of the Kingdom. That’s what Matthew 13 has been all about. Parables about the upside-down, inside-out Kingdom of God which has come (much smaller than we might have expected), is coming (much slower than we might have expected, though it’s happening all around us), and will come (much greater than we can ever expect)! 

The kingdom is a treasure, and if you find it, you have found everything. If you miss it, you have lost everything, and if you know it, you should share it with everyone.

That’s what Jesus has been teaching about in Matthew 13, using parables.

But not everyone likes it.

Not everyone gets it.

Many don’t want to get it!

One of the big reasons why Jesus taught in parables was so that those who wanted to get the kingdom would get the parables and those who rejected the kingdom would not get the parables.

And from this point on in the Gospel of Matthew there is an obvious growing difference between the two.

We’ve seen it already. Some are receiving King Jesus and some are rejecting King Jesus.

But it’s going to become more and more obvious.

More and more of a stark difference.

Today, I want to look at two stories about rejection.

We’re not going to get very far today, and we’re not going to end on a high note in the Bible. We’re going to end with a death.

I propose we read and study Matthew 13 verse 53 through Matthew 14 verse 12.

It’s all about rejection.

Persecution. Unbelief. Scorn. Violence. Death.

Here’s the title I chose to summarize these two major stories:

“Living the Last Beatitude”

Which is a really a happy title!

Because that’s what beatitude, right?

Remember the beatitudes?

The statements of flourishing.

To be blessed is to be in a state that should be congratulated.

To be in a joyful position.

Do you remember the last beatitude?

They were all upside down.

Jesus keeps telling His disciples to “Good for you when...” and then follows it with things you’d never think to congratulate somebody about!

"Blessed are the poor in spirit...”
“Blessed are those who mourn...”
“Blessed are the meek...”

Do you remember the last one?

It’s in Matthew 5:11&12.

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Congratulations, if that is you because you are flourishing and you will flourish!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hear this one.

It doesn’t sound like fun, that’s for sure.

And yet, it does sound good, at least by the end, right?

If Jesus says something is a blessing, then it is, right?

Even if doesn’t seem like it at first.

Even if it’s hard.

Well, today, we have two hard stories, but I think that under and through them both, the last beatitude flows.

The headline of the newspaper says, “Local Boy Makes Good!”

Everybody in Galilee is talking about Jesus. Everybody’s excited because they know this guy. For a couple of decades, he made tools and furniture as an apprentice in Joseph’s carpenter business.

And now Jesus has come back to Nazareth, his hometown, and he’s shown up at the synagogue to teach His popular message.

And Matthew says that the local people were amazed.

But that it wasn’t a good kind of amazement. V.53 again.

“When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. [Listen to their questions. Are these questions about the kingdom of God?] ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked. [He isn’t like we remembered him.] ‘Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’”

No, those are not questions about the kingdom.

They are questions about Jesus.

They are the kind of questions the Gospel of Matthew exists to answer.

Who is Jesus?

Matthew is a theological biography of Jesus Christ.

It reveals to us the identity of our Lord.

But these folks could not see it.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

They didn’t buy it that Jesus was Who we believe He is.

Notice that they didn’t think he could be doing these miracles because they had never seen them before.

I think that’s interesting because there are some false gospels from the second and third centuries that say for example that Jesus was doing miracles when He was a little kid. I don’t think so. Not only do those Gnostic gospels not sound like the original gospels but they don’t match the picture we get here.

His hometown community did not think that Jesus was anybody special.

And after hearing Him teaching, they were sure of it.

They rejected Jesus.

That’s what this story is saying. Verse 57.

“And they took offense at him. [They were scandalized by Him. They rejected Who He was communicating that He was.] But Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’”

You know, I’ve always thought that Jesus was just kind of smiling and shaking head when He said that.

But this was serious. This isn’t just a joke that people back home never really appreciate it when their favorite son comes back and all they can see when they look at you is little old so-and-so that they used to know when you were little.

This is serious. These people basically decided that Jesus was a false prophet and a false teacher, and they rejected Him.

At some point, maybe right after this, they decided that He was truly trouble and they were going to push him of the side of cliff!

They did not have faith, and it was serious. See the upshot in verse 58?

“And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”

Because they did not believe.
Because they rejected Him.

He wasn’t going to do miracles because they weren’t interested any longer!

What’s going on is that things are progressing towards the Cross.

We all know where this story is going.

I only have two points this morning, and they’re as much from the Last Beatitude as they are from this passage.

#1. EXPECT TO BE REJECTED.

Jesus was.

And Jesus told us that we should not expect better treatment than He got.

In the Last Beatitude, He said, “Blessed are you when (not IF) people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

Expect that that’s going to happen.

The Apostle Paul said that, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...”

So if we aren’t receiving persecution for living a godly life, maybe we are doing it wrong!

Expect some rejection.

Even from family and friends.

Maybe, especially from family and friends.

These people knew Jesus. He grew up right there.

And they said, “No, I don’t think so.” Even though they had seen some miracles!

Miracles don’t convince people who don’t want to be convinced!

Do you want to live as a follower of Jesus Christ but your family and friends think you’re taking it a little too far?

“You don’t have to be a Jesus Freak!”

“You don’t have quit that!”

“You don’t have get that involved!”

“You don’t have to change that way, do you? Don’t you think that’s a bit much?”

I know that we don’t currently experience extreme persecution in the United States right now.

And I’m thankful for that. There are a lot of reasons for it in the providence of God.

We aren’t supposed to go looking for persecution in the hopes of finding it.

We aren’t supposed to be masochists.

We can pray against persecution and hope that it doesn’t come.

But we should also expect it.

If you follow Jesus, it will get hard at times. It just will.

And at some times, it will get really really hard.

Don’t be surprised.

I think that we are so used to comfortability (I know I am) that we think that if persecution comes, then something has gone wrong with the plan. That God made some mistake.

Joel Michaels has been teaching the Wednesday Prayer Meeting from 1 Peter. Peter says in chapter 4, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ...”

You are living the Last Beatitude!

It’s how they treated the prophets who were before you.

And how they are treated your own Lord.

I know that that story was about Jesus, and of course, He was rejected. But do His followers really need to prepare for that?

Chapter 14, verse 1.

“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’”

Now this can be little confusing so follow along with me here.

This is not Herod the Great who tried to kill baby Jesus after the wise men came.

This is one of Herod’s sons, Herod Antipas who is a “tetrarch,” which is like a governor of a quarter of a territory.

He hears about Jesus. It would be hard not to.

And he gets scared that Jesus is John the Baptist back from the dead.

Which is weird because we didn’t know yet that John had died.

So verses 3 through 12 are a flashback to inform us in how John the Baptist died.

But before we look at that, notice again what the big deal is.

The big deal is, “Who is Jesus?”

Keep your eye on the ball.

That’s the ball in this book.

Who is Jesus?

Herod Antipas superstitiously thinks that Jesus may be John the Baptist come back to haunt him.

Because, sadly, he had had John killed. V.3

“Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, for John had been saying to him: ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’”

Now, that takes some explaining, too.

And it’s quite the soap opera!

You see Herod Antipas had been married a first time to a princess of the Nabatean kingdom.

But he didn’t like her.

He liked his niece, a woman named Herodias, who was married to his brother, Philip.

So Herod divorced his wife for no biblical reason.

And Herodious divorced Philip for no biblical reason.

And then they got together.

And John said that this was wrong.

And John kept saying it. “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

That is wrong. Leviticus chapter 18 and chapter 20 says so.

This was adultery. This was breaking the seventh commandment.

John was speaking truth to power.

John the Baptist was being John the Baptist.

“Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near.”

And he didn’t change his tune.

Even when he was thrown into prison. V.5

“Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet.”

You know why?

Because he was one.

I think it’s really important to see that John does not back down.

He doesn’t bow to political pressure.

He doesn’t just say what Herod and Herodias want to hear.

John could have probably changed his tune and gotten out of there.

If you are careful around powerful people, you can get a lot of favor.

But John was a herald of the kingdom, and he didn’t stop.

He expected to be rejected!

And he even chose it.

He didn’t back down.

Do you need to see that today?

Do you need to be emboldened to speak the truth no matter what the consequences?

Not to become offensive by your manner or because of you opinions.

But to speak out for righteousness.
To speak out for truth.
To speak out for the coming kingdom. It’s near!
To speak out for Jesus.

Is there somebody you need to rebuke?

I hate rebuking someone.

Ugh! It’s not so bad when I can do it from up here and be generic.

But when I need to get into someone I love’s face and call them to repent.

Oh man, I don’t like to do that.

Because I don’t want to be rejected in return.

I don’t want them to put their fingers in their ears like Herod did here.

Like Herodias did, too.

They did not want to hear this.

They had ignored their consciences, and they did not want John to reawaken them.

Turn that around for a second.

Perhaps you are being like Herod and Herodias right now.

You know what is right and what is wrong, but you have chosen the wrong, and you don’t care. And you don’t want to hear about it.

Don’t go there.

Don’t stay there.

Don’t choose that.

It is not safe or good to go against your conscience.

Don’t make up stories about how everybody’s doing it.

Or how science has shown that it’s okay.

Or how you only do it a little.

Don’t make excuses and don’t run from your conscience.

“Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Herod was a very weak man.

He wouldn’t kill John (not because he didn’t want to) but because he was scared to.

But then he was given an opportunity. On his birthday. V.6

“On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias [by her previous marriage] danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.”

What kind of dance was that?

I’m trying not to imagine.

This was Herod’s niece by marriage and great-niece by blood.

And she was doing what was probably an erotic dance on his birthday, and he was loaded and had no self-control and promised to give this girl whatever she asked.

So she asked Mommy. And Mommy said, “Let’s kill John.” v.8

“Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.’ The king was distressed [and should have repented of his oath], but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.”

This really happened.

It’s gruesome and ghoulish.

And wrong.

Herod was ruled by his lust and pride and fear.

He looked like the most powerful person in the room, but he was really the weakest.

Don’t allow yourself to be ruled by your lust and pride and fear and hate.

And he had John killed and the party screeched to a halt as they brought his severed head in on a platter.

And then the band started back up, and the party went on.

And, friends, this is what happens right now while we wait for the kingdom to come in all of its fullness.

Expect to be rejected.

Choose to be rejected! Even if it means going against your friends and family and community.

And especially if it means choosing the kingdom of God over the kingdoms of this world.

Speak out for truth.
Speak out for the coming kingdom. It’s near!
Speak out for Jesus. He’s the king.

But don’t expect everybody to like it.

Expect at least at times to be rejected.

That’s how they treated the prophets who were before you.

Now, this is the end of our story for today.

And it’s a sad place to end. It ends with a burial. V.12

“John's disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.”

And it’s going to make Jesus very sad, as well.

But it’s not the end of John the Baptist story.

Not the very end.

Is it?

No, they had done their worst, and it was only a beheading.

Remember what Jesus told the disciples before their missions trip?

“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.”

That’s what John did.

John had the fear of the Lord.

So he didn’t have the fear of Herod.

That’s why he could be so bold.

And he knew the promise of God.

He knew the flipside of the Last Beatitude.

#2. EXPECT TO BE REWARDED.

Listen again to the Last Beatitude:

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven...”

We tend to think that the worst thing that could ever happen to us is that we would be beheaded.

But the worst thing would be if we weren’t beheaded because we had denied King Jesus!

One day, John the Baptist will rise again.

Herod was right about that though he was wrong to think that who Jesus was.

But one day John the Baptist will have a whole new body in a whole new world.

Right now, he enjoys living in the presence of God.

“Great is his reward in heaven” because He was faithful!

And great will be his reward in the new heavens and new earth.

We can’t wrap our minds around that, but we should try.

And we should live for that day right now.

You know, all of this prefigures, both the Cross and the Resurrection.

Jesus was rejected, not just by His hometown, but by everyone who should have received Him.

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

He died and then He rose again.

He was rejected, and then He was restored.

And, amazingly, we get the reward!

Jesus lived the Last Beatitude perfectly, and it has made all of the difference.


***

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?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom

Friday, January 11, 2019

Blacksmithing vs. Bladesmithing

Guest Post by Andrew Mitchell of Anuron Ironworks

Contrary to what some people believe, not all blacksmiths are bladesmiths. Blacksmithing is a wider category than bladesmithing, encompassing architectural and artistic work, bladesmithing and toolmaking, and a couple other categories. In fact some of the best blacksmiths in the world have never made a knife in their lives.

Bladesmithing is the art and craft of making blades, specifically, using heated metal to shape bladed objects. Despite this, making a blade usually requires a large amount of grinding. Establishing bevels, cutting in profiles, and shaping handles are often done on the grinder. There are many types of blades that the bladesmith can forge. Beyond just knives there are axes, chisels, swords, and many other tools and weapons to be made. Bladesmithing is versatile and has many purposes but is still only one subset of the expansive craft of blacksmithing.

Blacksmithing is the art and craft of shaping hot steel. Most forging is done with a hammer and anvil, beating the steel into the desired shape. Rivets, tongs, firepokers, gates, and all the blades mentioned before are made by blacksmiths. Blacksmithing tends to be more focused on the heat-and-beat aspect of metal work rather than all the grinding that goes into bladesmithing, but it’s not uncommon for blacksmiths to expand their knowledge to cover many crafts. The category of blacksmithing contains bladesmithing but is not limited to it.

The confusion among the layfolk is understandable. There are similarities. Both, for example, are metalwork. Blades are forged using techniques of blacksmithing, hot steel and hammers. Many blacksmiths are also bladesmiths and all bladesmiths are blacksmiths. If that’s confusing enough. Alec Steele, the premier blacksmith on YouTube, is known for forging everything from shelf brackets to claymores. Confusing the craft(s?) is easy. And some aspects of them are actually the same thing, and therefore can correctly be lumped under that same label.

Not all blacksmiths are bladesmiths. It may be accurate to say that someone is blacksmithing when they are making a blade, but please don’t assume that all blacksmiths also makes knives. It won’t hurt anyone to use the wrong word, but maintaining correct terminology can be important if you want to avoid ridicule and not annoy the blacksmith.

***


Editor's note: This article was originally a brief compare and contrast writing assignment. I enjoyed the cranky-old-man feel of it so much I got permission to publish it here. For more about my son the blacksmith and his work, check out his YouTube Channel and popular Etsy shop. He is both a blacksmith and a bladesmith! In this video, he makes the "Toucan" Knife pictured above.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

[Matt's Messages] “The Treasure of the Kingdom”

“The Treasure of the Kingdom”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
January 6, 2019 :: Matthew 13:44-52 

It’s been a few weeks since we were in Matthew 13 together. We were in Matthew last week for the baptisms, but we jumped to the end of the book. The week before that was Christmas Sunday. So it has been a couple of weeks since were in Matthew 13 together.

You can sum up Matthew 13 with four words: “Parable. Of. The. Kingdom.”

Matthew crams 7 or 8 of Jesus’ parables into one chapter. The third major block of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Matthew. At this point in His ministry, Jesus almost exclusively using parables–enigmatic stories, riddles, short allegories to teach about Jesus’ favorite subject.

Let me ask you a question:

What was Jesus’ favorite subject to teach on?

It wasn’t the Cross.

You could say that it was His identity. Because that pops up again and again.

But I think that Jesus would answer that question with these four words:

The. Kingdom. Of. Heaven.

The Kingdom of God was Jesus’ favorite subject to teach on.

Remember how He began His ministry?

“Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near.”

And remember the Sermon the Mount?

That was a like a Kingdom Manifesto!

He described how He wants us to live as citizens of the upside-down, inside-out Kingdom of Heaven.

And He taught us to pray to our Heavenly Father, “Your kingdom come!”

And the prayer group on Wednesday night just went back over what we are to seek first, above everything else that we might be tempted to run after. What was it?

“Seek first _____________” The kingdom!

Jesus loved to talk about the kingdom of heaven.

And in chapter 13, He has been using parables to do it.

Jesus told His disciples that He was using parables so much because parables were the perfect kind of stories to both reveal His kingdom to those who trust and follow Him and to conceal His kingdom from those who do not want it.

For those who want the kingdom, they “get” the parables, and they get the kingdom.

For those who reject the kingdom, they don’t “get” the parables, and they certainly don’t get the kingdom.

Strangely enough, these parables that Jesus taught reveal to us what is really going on in our world.

Because things are not as they might seem.

Last time, we looked the parables in verses 24 through 43, and we learned that the kingdom has come, is coming, and one day will come in all of its fullness.

This kingdom does not operate on our time schedule.

This kingdom does not operate as we might expect.

But it has come (however small at first, a small as divinely conceived embryo), is coming (slowly but surely), and one day will come in all of its fullness.

In verse 43 Jesus said, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” That’s what’s really going on!

Now, today, I just want us to look at verses 44 through 52.

There are 4 more parables here, and they go over some of the same territory as the ones we’ve already been studying so far in chapter 13.

They bring this section of Jesus’ Parabolic Teaching to a fitting conclusion.

And there is one major idea about the kingdom that is really emphasized in these 9 verses.

And that is this–that the kingdom of heaven is a treasure.

The kingdom of heaven is of supreme value.

The kingdom of heaven is unimaginably precious.

That’s the main idea especially of these first two parables.

Now, this is a crazy little story.

It’s really fun. We just studied it together in-depth a year and a half ago at Family Bible Week 2017 when we did the geocaching, remember?

It’s a very short story, but there’s a lot in there.

A treasure is hidden in a field.
A man finds it in the field.
The man hides it again in the field.
The happy man sells all of his stuff and buys the field.
End of story.

Now, don’t get hung up on the legality of what the man did in this story.

This parable is not here to teach the ethics of finding buried treasure.

Jesus is not teaching about what to do or what not to do if you find a treasure buried in a field.

It was definitely legal and depending on the situation could have been ethical, too, but even if not, it’s not the point.

It’s just a detail of the story, not the point.

The point is just how valuable the treasure was.

Did you see that?

This guy was so happy to have found this treasure, that He went and sold how much of his stuff?

All that he had.

Can you imagine?

What all do you have?

Imagine liquidating everything you have.

You go to the bank, and you withdraw all of your money.

You sell your house, your vehicles; you cash in your retirement plan.

You put every single thing you have into one cashier’s check, and you go to the realtor’s office, and you put it down on that one field.

Because it has that one treasure that’s worth it all!

That’s what this man did!

Now, what is the treasure?

Some people think that we are the treasure, and Jesus is the man in the story.

And I get why they say that. Because He gave us His all for us.

And, of course, we could never purchase our salvation either.

But I don’t think that’s where Jesus is going with this.

All of the clues point towards the treasure being the kingdom itself.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.”

Now, before we camp on the idea of the supreme value of the kingdom, I want to point out again that the kingdom is hidden.

Hidden like a seed in the ground. Remember that from the other parables?

Hidden like yeast in the bread.

This whole chapter has been about how the kingdom has a hiddenness to it.

Let me put it this way: The kingdom of heaven is miss-able.

It is find-able, but it is also miss-able.

The kingdom in its present form can be overlooked.

It can be missed.

It’s hidden in plain sight. But it can also be easily overlooked.

Think about how many people might have walked right on by this treasure in this field.

It was there all the time.

But this guy stumbled upon it.

Can you see the kingdom of heaven right now?

A lot of people don’t.

One day it will be unmistakable. When the mustard seed grows into the mustard tree and the birds of the air nest in its branches.

But right now, there is a hiddenness to it.

In the next story, the main character is actually searching.

The first guy just stumbled upon the treasure by accident.

But this guy was looking for something special. V.45

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Here’s point number one:

#1. IF YOU FIND THE KINGDOM, YOU HAVE FOUND EVERYTHING.

This merchant was willing to part with everything he had to possess that one pearl.

It was priceless.

That’s the kingdom!

If you find the kingdom of heaven, you have found everything.

Now the point here is not that we gain the kingdom by buying it with everything we have.

We cannot earn the kingdom.

That’s impossible!

Jesus is not teaching us how to gain the kingdom but just how valuable it is.

It’s worth absolutely everything.

So the point is to treat kingdom with the all-surpassing value that it truly has.

To cherish the kingdom as the treasure that it really is.

Do you have the kingdom?

Then you have everything!

Rejoice!

And don’t value anything above it.

What is your favorite Christmas gift this year?

I’m guessing that everybody got something for Christmas this year even if you have had to buy it and wrap it for yourself.

“Ooo. I’ll get myself a little something.”

Which present is your favorite? Don’t say it out loud or you might disappoint or anger your neighbor.

Now how much is that present worth to you?

Is it worth more than all of the other presents?

Is it worth more than your house or your family or your job?

You see the kingdom of heaven, the active reign and rule of King Jesus over His joyful people and over all of His renewed creation is worth more than anything else.

Because if you have this kingdom, you have everything.

The question is do we treasure the kingdom?

Do we act as if the kingdom is our treasure?

Not “Can we buy the kingdom by selling all that we have?”

If we could, we should. Because it’s worth that!

But we can’t.

But what can we do to show that we value it above everything else?

Well, one thing we can do is to live out its values.

We treasure the kingdom when we live as citizens of the kingdom.

When we live out the Sermon on the Mount for example.

Upside-down. Inside-out.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Upside-down. Inside-out.

From the heart out.

Where is your treasure?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We treasure the kingdom when we live as citizens of the kingdom.

And yes, when we give of our time, talents, and other treasures.

The question is do we live our lives as if the kingdom was our all-surpassing treasure?

Do we live as if the King of this kingdom, King Jesus, was the most important Person in our lives?

This is the first Sunday of 2019.

What needs to change in your life and mine in 2019 to show the world that the kingdom of heaven is our greatest treasure?

That we have found it?

We get it!

We’ve found it!

We have found Jesus and His kingdom, and our lives show it.

Because there is flipside to this truth, and Jesus gives it as a warning in the next parable. V.47

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Let’s put it this way.  If you find the kingdom, you have found everything, but:

#2. IF YOU MISS THE KINGDOM, YOU HAVE LOST EVERYTHING.

This parable is a lot like the one about the wheat and weeds, isn’t it?

It’s just fishing not farming.

And it’s focused on the of the story which is the end of history when the kingdom comes.

There will be a great sorting.

This dragnet goes down in the water and brings everything up.

And then there is a sorting, a judgment.

Good fish in baskets.
Bad fish (unclean, inedible, rotten, whatever, bad fish) thrown away.

And Jesus explains it very clearly.

The good fish are the righteous.

And the bad fish are the wicked.

The righteous are those who belong to the kingdom.

They are the ones who are trusting in Jesus and cherishing Jesus and treasuring Jesu and His kingdom.

And the wicked couldn’t care less.

They are the ones who have rejected the kingdom, overlooked the kingdom, didn’t “get” the kingdom, didn’t want the kingdom and didn’t live out the values of the kingdom.

They lived what seemed right-side-up to them and from the outside only.

And Jesus says that they will go into a fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

If you miss the kingdom, you have lost everything.

Don’t miss it.

Turn from your sins and trust in the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

He died for sinners like you and me.

The kingdom is given to those who know they are not worthy of it, but still want it.

And trust in the King and His sacrifice to give it to them.

Remember, the kingdom may be hidden now, but it is find-able.

And one day, it will be all that there is.

And those who have not joined the kingdom now will not be a part of it then.

One more.

Jesus asks them a question. V.51

“‘Have you understood all these things?’ Jesus asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied. [And I think they are probably overestimating how much they truly understand. But they are beginning to get it, too, I think. [Okay. Jesus says. V.52] He said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.’”

Last parable. Here’s the point:

#3. IF YOU KNOW THE KINGDOM, YOU SHOULD SHARE IT WITH EVERYONE.

Jesus says, “It’s great that you’ve got it. The mysteries of the kingdom are opening to you, but you’re not supposed to keep them to yourself.”

If you know the kingdom, you should share it with everyone who needs to hear about it.

“[E]very teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven [that’s you know. You’ve been told about the kingdom...] is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.’”

“Let me show you what I got in here!”

I’ve got some great old stuff.

I think that’s the Old Testament.

All of the promises in it are true and coming true.

All of what the Old Testament taught about the kingdom will be fulfilled.

“But that’s not all I’ve got in here. Let me show you this treasure.”

You see that word “treasure?”

“I’ve got some new stuff here. Parables. Parables that say that the kingdom may not come like you would have expected by reading your Old Testament.

It’s all that. But it’s also hidden. Miss-able. Quiet. Like a seed. Like yeast. Like treasure buried in a field. Like a pearl among a bunch of other pearls.

It’s like that, too.

But let me tell you about it so you see it, too.

Let me tell you about it so you find it, too.

Let me tell you about this treasure so you treasure it, too.”

Friends, in 2019, let’s tell the world about the kingdom of heaven.

Let’s not keep this to ourselves.

It’s too good to keep to ourselves!

Let’s pull out the old and the new and tell people about the treasure of the kingdom.

***

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?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples