Friday, October 26, 2007

Matthew 3

The Ministry of John the Baptist

Matthew is showing us here that John is the fullfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, "The voice of one shouting in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight.'" He is refering to a verse in Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries out, In the wilderness, clear a way for the LORD; construct in the desert a road for our God. Matthew is giving the reader a clear picture of what John's message was all about. John was announcing the coming of the Lord. He was saying, you guys need to get your lives in order. Stop sinning against God. Quit serving other gods and serve the one true God. Quit serving yourselves and serve God instead.

Here we can see a glimpse of Israel's past. Wandering around in the wilderness, being constantly reminded to love God and obey his commands. All the while, serving other gods and being disobedient to the one true God. God was once again giving an exhortation to his people, this time through John the Baptist. God was exhorting them, just as he did in the wilderness prior to the crossing of the Jordan River, REPENT - turn from your wicked ways. I am about to heal your land. This sets the stage for Jesus to come onto the scene and become Israel in person. To do what Israel had failed to do. To be a light to the nations.

Next we see the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the Jordan River. I don't know if these men were just coming to spectate or to truly repent and participate in the baptism. Based on John's reference to them being an offspring of vipers fleeing from the coming wrath, I suspect John recognized their lack of desire to truly repent. John told them to produce fruit that proves your repentance. What does that mean? How does one produce fruit that proves repentance? Take a look at this passage of scripture. John 15:1 The key to understanding this question is to know what the fruit represents. I believe the fruit, John the Baptist is refering to in Matthew 3, is Love. Love that leads to obedience. You see, the Pharisees and Sadducees were not too interested in doing much other that helping themselves. Read what Jesus had to say about them here. To be continued. Let me know what you think so far.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Going the Extra 8.8 Miles!

What in the world is that supposed to mean? Going the extra 8.8 miles. It is best understood by telling this true story. This story has really encouraged me and I hope it encourages you as well.

There is a lady in my church whose family currently shares one vehicle. So when the husband is at work the only way for her to get around is by walking. Recently, a problem arose and her daughter, who goes to school approximately 4.4 miles from her home, forgot her school project. The daughter called to inform her mother, if she didn't have it turned in by the end of the day her grade would be significantly affected. She told her that she was sorry, because she had no way to get it to her. The mother's response, due to the current dilemma, would be considered appropriate by most standards. However, she remembered a scripture in John 15:3, and then decided to take the project to her daughter.

According to the mapping program I use, it is about an 8.8 mile round trip. By way of foot, not the most desirable means of travel, this would truly be a sacrifice. Man, what an awesome account of selfless love! What a sacrifice she made? What a witness she was, not just to those involved but to everyone who will hear this story? What a blessing she was to her daughter through this selfless act?

It is amazing how many people are positively affected when we respond in love, especially if it costs us something. The more the cost, the more the witness. Jesus said in John 15:13 "No one has greater love than this — that one lays down his life for his friends". For more on this topic, I urge you to read my previous entry on The True Vine.

Who has Believed Our Message?

Who has Believed Our Message? by Russell A. Roberts

We, the church, find ourselves in the same position as that of Caleb and Joshua as they wandered through the desert after their report was soundly rejected by the people. The cluster of grapes borne between two of the spies had served as a foretaste of things to come if only they would believe the message. Like the cluster of grapes, the Holy Spirit, the new wine that bursts the old wineskins has been poured out and serves as a foretaste, a witness of things to come. The land is good, flowing with milk and honey. Like their ancestors in the desert, ethnic Israel soundly rejected the message announced by the one crying forth in the wilderness and by Yeshua Himself, just as Isaiah had said she would. Yet the Kingdom has come and the promise remains open to those who will simply believe.

This stubborn and obstinate generation is not just a historical people, nor are they limited to the modern State of Israel. They are the cashier at McDonald's, the garbage man, your first cousin. Will you, like Joshua and Caleb, bear the fruit?

Thanks Russell for the permission to post this. I pray that we will bear much fruit as we remain in the "vine", of Christ.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Matthew 2:13:23

Sorry it has taken me so long to post the rest of Chapter 2.

I want to begin by saying this. Thank you for visiting this blog. Thank you for your interest in learning more about the Word of God. It is of utmost importance that we flood our minds with the Word of God. So that we might be equipped for every good work. I pray that as you continue to be faithful to the studying of Gods Word, that it will become something so addictive, that you just can't live without it. I know you are just as busy as I am, but lets not let our business be an excuse for not spending a few minutes in the bible everyday. Thanks again for your commitment.

Matthew 2:13-23

It appears in reading these verses that there was an urgency being conveyed to Joseph from the angel of the Lord. This urgency was because of Herod's desire to capture and kill this small child, Jesus. Jesus sure did pose a big threat, even as a small child. Don't be fooled, Herod was surely being influenced by Satan himself. You see, Satan understood what a threat Jesus would be in overcoming his power, the power of sin that had prevailed and wreaked havoc on God's people since the fall.

Remember in the Garden of Eden, when Adam disobeyed God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - something changed. Man was banned from the garden, this very garden where God and man walked together was now off limits to God's precious creation. Also, there became enmity between man and animals, the very creatures that man previously was given dominion over. All this happend because of Adams disobedience. When there is disobedience judgement is sure to follow. Think about how tragic this would have been, not just to man, but to God, who loved his creation so much. God had put everything under the sun at his disposal. Well, everything but the fruit of one single tree.

At this point, God had a plan to restore man back to his original position. To bring man back into fellowship with himself. This plan would be executed by none other than himself, in the person of Jesus Christ. What a loving father we serve!

Well, just as God had a plan to save man, to rescue him, to deliver him from the power of sin. Satan also had a plan, and believe me he will use anything or anyone that will let him. In this instance it's Herod that is being used in an attempt to disrupt God's plans. But God was ready and able, so he sent his angel once again to deliver a message to Joseph. This time the message was one of relocation to Egypt.

Matthew records in the fifteenth verse of this passage that this is to fulfill the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son. This is actually the second part of Hosea 11:1. Where God is referring to Israel as his son that he loved. This son that he called out of Egypt. Hosea was actually looking back to Israels Exodus from Egypt, by the hand of God, under the leadership of Moses. It appears that Matthew's use of this verse is to point ahead to Jesus who would take on the role of Israel. To become Israel in person, and succeed where Israel had failed. See Matthew 4:1

The next prophetic quotation in verse 18 is from Jeremiah 31:15. Tom Wright believes that it provides a "prophetic backdrop" to Herods slaughter of the Bethlehem children. To quote Tom Wright "The passage in Jeremiah (31:15) is all about God's renewal of the covenant, bringing Israel back from exile at last. Though Israel must weep and mourn, rescue is on the way. Again, Matthew is hinting that Jesus is bringing deliverance even when everything seems bleak and hoplelss."

At last Matthew links the settling of the family in Nazareth with the prophecy of Isiah 11:1. In Isaiah 11:1 . The word nazir means 'branch' or shoot'. Isaiah is saying, 'A shoot will grow out of Jesse's root stock. Which means, a new beginning will be made for the royal house of David. To quote Tom Wright again" In Jesus, not despite the frantic and tragic events that happened around his birth but because of them, God is providing the salvation and rescue that Israel longed for, and, through that, his justice for the world".

In summary, this small child, that was born such a threat to Herod, was in fact the true king of the Jews. And now has been introduced by Matthew as the one who bears God's salvation, as well as his personal prescence. Remember we learned that Jesus means - he will save us from our sins. And also, Emanuel means - God with us. So there you have it. God with us - will save us from our sins.

Please don't miss the upcoming Power Group meeting this Wednesday @ Starbucks on Riverwind Drive in Pearl @ 5:30. You will be glad you came.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Matthew 2

I thank God for Tom Wright who has labored over the scriptures and history for years. He has learned to read the bible, quite possibly, from the perspective of the first century Church. I can't stress enough how extremely important it is to consider what the early church might have understood when reading scripture. If you think about it for a minute, I believe you would agree, there has been a lot of events; time, philosophy, historical events etc... that have occured since the text was written. If not careful we can let these events shape our worldview and our interpretation of scripture. Thanks to people like Tom Wright, we can now approach the Word of God from a historical perspective in order to get a more accurate interpretation of scripture. No longer will I read the bible from the ego-centric perspective that has so subtly crept into the Church today. I encourage you also to remove yourself from the equation when reading and ask this question. What is the author saying to the original recipient? Then and only then will we have something worthy of applying.

Now with that being said, lets move on to our study of Matthew 2.

We see here in chapter 2 after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the time of King Herod, the Magi from the east came to Jerusalem looking for one that was born king of the Jews. These men were quite possibly astrologers and astronomers, who recognized, based on the alignment of the planets, that a king had been born to the Jews. When King Herod caught wind of this he and all Jerusalem were alarmed. You see old King Herod had become very powerful and along with his power came paranoia. He was extremely jealous of anyone that threatned his rule. So he assembled the chief priests and experts of the law and asked where the Christ was to be born. In Bethlehem of Judah, they said, "for it is written this way by the prophet: 'And you are in no way least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.' " After learning of this Herod privately called the Magi to himself and found out from them when the star had appeared. He then sent them to Bethlehem to find the child. He lied to them and said let me know when you find them so that I might go and worship him. They left old Herod and followed the star until they found the child with Mary his mother. They bowed down and worshiped him and gave him gifts fit for a king. After being warned in a dream not to return to Herod they left and returned by another route.

In this passage we see, the Magi who were not of Jewish descent and were quite possibly from Persia, even though they were not his people, God gave them knowledge of the birth of the promised King. They chose then to seek him out and worship him. I believe Matthew includes this in his story so that the Jews of his day would understand God's intentions. And that is, that He desires all men, not just Jews, to know him.

Since the beginning, God wanted to be revealed to all the World, and Israel was supposed to be the people to do just that. However, due to Israel's dereliction of duty, God himself became man in the person of Jesus, and assumed the duties of Israel, to become light to the whole world. Because of this, we might now become salt and light to the world. This reminds me of the verse in John 12:32 "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." This could very well be why Matthew included this in his story. To show God's desire to draw all men to himself.

More to come on this later...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Matthew 1:18-25

This past week in our bible study we discussed Matthew 1:18-25. This passage of scripture is about the birth of Jesus. It is important to note, as Tom Wright points out, that this story is the story of Jesus' birth through the eyes of Joseph. In the gospel of Luke we see it through Mary's eyes. No attempt is made to bring the two into line. The central fact is the same; but instead of Luke's picture of an excited Galilean girl, learning that she is to give birth to God's Messiah, Matthew shows us the more sober Joseph, discovering that his fiancee is pregnant. This is the same story from two different perspectives. There has been much debate and discussion on the subject of the virgin birth. For the sake of time and space we will not go into that at this time. However, it seems that Matthew and Luke both saw that it was important enough to mention it in their gospel. Maybe they were just trying to set the record straight - Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and not by a less reputable means.

Notice how the angel addressed Joseph - "Joseph son of David". Upon first read one might think that Joseph dad's name was David. As we see in the genealogy of Jesus that was not the case. Joseph's dad was Jacob. So why did the angel address him as Joseph son of David? I believe that this title had Messianic implications. Any good first century jew could tell you that the son of David or "the Messiah", would be the true heir of David through whom God would rescue Israel from pagan enemies. Basically, the angel was saying this. Joseph, don't be afraid to get married to Mary. She is pregnant by the holy spirit and the baby is to be named Jesus. This Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Did you know that names mean things? Well, at least they did to Jews back in the day. You see, Jesus had a special name or names and Matthew would surely not expect this to go unnoticed. Jesus was actually a very popular boys name at the time, being in Hebrew the same as 'Joshua', who brought the Israelites into the promised land after the death of Moses. Matthew sees Jesus as the one who will now complete what the law of Moses pointed to but could not of itself produce. He will rescue his people, not from slavery in Egypt, but from the slavery of sin, the 'exile' they have suffered not just in Babylon but in their own hearts and lives.

By contrast, the name 'Emanuel', mentioned in Isaiah 7:14 and 8:8, was not given to anyone else, perhaps because it would say more about a child than anyone would normally dare. It means, 'God with us'. Matthew's whole gospel is framed by this theme: at the very end, Jesus promises that he will be ' with' his people to the close of the age (28:20). The two names together express the meaning of the story. God is present, with his people; he doesn't 'intervene' from a distance, but is always active, sometimes in most unexpected ways. And God's actions are aimed at rescuing people from a helpless plight, demanding that he take the initiative and do things people had regarded as inconceivable.

This is the God, and this is the Jesus, whose story Matthew will now set before us. This is the God, and this is the Jesus, who comes to us still today when human possibilities have run out, offering new and startling ways forward, in fulfilment of his promises, by his powerful love and grace.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Kingdom of God

I just wanted to add this article written by a friend of mine. I hope you enjoy.

The Kingdom of God
Ed Hauser, my pastor, stopped by the office earlier and we briefly discussed the Kingdom of God. Jesus spoke and acted as if the Kingdom of God were breaking into the present through His ministry. Luke 11:20 quotes Jesus as saying:"But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you."What on earth, I ask, does the Kingdom of God look like?Scripture provides some tantalizing clues.Matthew records the following conversation between Jesus and the mother of James and John.Mat 20:20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling down she asked him for a favor.Mat 20:21 He said to her, "What do you want?" She replied, "Permit these two sons of mine to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom."Mat 20:22 Jesus answered, "You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?" They said to him, "We are able."Mat 20:23 He told them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right and at my left is not mine to give. Rather, it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."Like Jesus said, she had no idea what she was asking. So who obtained this 'honor'? Luke notes that Jesus was crucified between two criminals where the following conversation took place.Luk 23:38 There was also an inscription over him, "This is the king of the Jews."Luk 23:39 One of the criminals who was hanging there railed at him, saying, "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"Luk 23:40 But the other rebuked him, saying, "Don't you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?Luk 23:41 And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong."Luk 23:42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom."Luk 23:43 And Jesus said to him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Bolding is mine.)Truly, the Kingdom of God has come. Today it looks like a cross. Tomorrow it will look like a crown. Please refer to your spiritual map in Romans 8, I Corinthians 15, and Revelation 21 & 22 for a discription of the final consummation

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The True Vine

Today, I ate lunch with my dear friend Rusty at the Waffle House. If you have ever eaten there, then I shouldn't have to tell you how cold they keep the temperature. Anyway, poor Rusty almost froze to death. It occured to me as I looked across the table at him and noticed that he was shivering. Rusty is suffering because of me. I asked him if he wanted to go eat somewhere else, but he said no, this is just fine. I beleive that If I had not told him earlier that I really wanted to eat there, then he would have gladly gotten up to leave. Thanks Rusty for suffering so that I might enjoy my lunch.

This brings to mind a passage of scripture (John 15:1-17). This passage of scripture is about remaining in Jesus the "true vine". If we remain in Jesus, he will remain in us, and we will bear much fruit. You see Rusty was living this out through his unselfish act of kindness (or his fruit). No matter how small or insignificant you think your acts of kindness (fruit) are. I can assure you that through Gods eyes they are no small acts. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, ...Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me. You see, acts of kindness directed towards your brothers and sisters in Christ, are in fact doing it unto Christ.

Who is the body of Christ? We are!!! I know this seems like an elementary question, however it would serve us well to ask it every now and again. We need to be reminded that we are the embodiment of Christ on this earth. We are the ones that will share the love of Jesus to everyone we come in contact with. Sometimes this love will look like mowing the grass of your elderly friend that can't do it for himself. Other times this love will look like, going out of your way to shake the hand of the person that has been talking about you. The first scenario is representative of the way we share love to our brothers and sisters and in actuality are loving Jesus. The second scenario is how we share love with our enemies and through it are bearing witness to the love of Jesus.

(John 15:12-14) My commandment is this — to love one another just as I have loved you.
No one has greater love than this — that one lays down his life for his friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.

I believe that this fruit that he is talking about in this passage, this fruit that will remain, is love. And to be more specific, love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

In summary, as we remain in the vine, which is Jesus, these fruits(love) will be present in our lives. This fruit (love) will show that we are his disciples (John 15:8).

I pray that as we examine ourselves today, that we find ourselves bearing fruit in theTrue Vine. Fruit that will remain. Amen