A plan that will work

RE Verse reading–Matthew 9:35-10:31 (day two)  “And Jesus summoned His twelve disciples. . .(and) sent  them out after instructing them”  (vs 1, 5)  Matthew 10:5-15 is a specific plan for a specific moment in time.  It is not a paragraph of timeless missionary principles.  At this moment, the disciples were to avoid contact with Gentiles.  This would later be changed in the Great Commission (“go to all the world”)  At this moment, the disciples were to “take no bag. . .or extra tunic or sandals” (vs 10)  It was a short-term mission project and the Lord did not want time wasted on unnecessary preparation.  It is a mistake to conclude that all missionaries of all times are bound by the same rule.  The timeless truth of this passage (the one bearing on all disciples for all time) is in verse 38.  When we pray, the Lord will reveal a specific plan for harvest effectiveness.  He is the “Chief Harvester”.  He knows what will work!  Now, about prayer. . .

Thy Kingdom come

RE Verse reading–Matthew 9:35-10:31 (day one)  “Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (vs 38)   Was this a trick?  Were the disciples instructed to ask God to “send workers” to soften them up for their own mission assignment?  No.  Unless we care for the whole harvest, we are ill-prepared to accept responsibility for any part of it.  Until we can pray “Thy kingdom come” (and mean it for every nation and every church)  we cannot pray “Here am I send me” and avoid the self-centeredness that sometimes cripples mission efforts.  We are part of a large and godly enterprise!  Part of our weekly worship at FBC is an invitation to pray for lost friends.  Until we earnestly desire their salvation, how can we be useful to God?  Calling us to pray for workers is no trick!  The way God brings in His harvest is to teach the church to pray.

Following Christ–what does it mean?

RE Verse reading–Matthew 8:18-22 (day seven)  “Follow me.” (vs 22)  The value of this story to modern believers will largely depend on an early interpretive decision.  Is “following Christ” a metaphor for ministry or for salvation?  What did it mean to Jesus?  What did He think was at stake for those men that day in Capernaum?  For us?  Following Christ clearly implies ministry.  “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17)  However, the larger reality (the truth out of which ministry rises) is union with Christ.  “Let him. . . follow me. For whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it”  (Matthew 16:25)  Do you notice the connection between following and finding life?  Neither Jesus nor the Scripture conceives of a soul that is safe apart from union with Christ.  He is our strong tower.  He is our righteousness.  Following Christ (staying with Him) is not an option.  It is central and synonymous with salvation.

Safe or saved?

RE Verse reading–Matthew 8:18-22 (day six)  “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head” (vs 20)  We are reminded this week by the words of Christ  to the eager scribe.  Ministry is costly.  Changing the world (are we holding on to this dream?) will cost us our lives.  Those who are unwilling to pay the price disqualify themselves.  Does this sound harsh?  It is a truth that challenges one of our deepest instincts–the desire for safety.  Ironically, to save us (rescue us from sin, restore us to God, use us as intruments of righteousness) Jesus must regularly make us unsafe (subject to uncertainty, hunger, criticism)  Only in our weakness do we discover supernatural strength.  Only in loss do we realize true gain.  Because it runs so contrary to our immature desires, we tend to forget this truth.  To save us, He must make us unsafe.  Faith means following even in the moments when this truth becomes clear.

Spiritual urgency

RE Verse reading–Matthew 8:18-22 (day five)  “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead” (vs 22)  It is something I forget about Jesus.  His calm urgency.  His awareness that spiritual opportunities pass quickly by and never return.  Ordinarily, family concerns were a high priority for Christ.  “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12)  “Woman, behold your son”, he said, taking care of His own mother from the cross. (John 19:26)  But family concerns must always come second to the call of the Spirit.  The world is too lost for us to make family first.  It was second to the Lord Himself.  It must be  second to His followers.  How else can missionaries accept assignments that separate them from normal family relationships and responsiblities?  Hard to  hear but still eternally true, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.  He who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)

First things

RE Verse reading–Matthew 8:18-22 (day four)  “Lord, first let me go and bury my father” (vs 21) What is the first thing you do each day?  What is the first check you write (for those who still write checks)?  What is your first priority when you move into a new city?  Your first prayer when you pray?  Most of us don’t pay much attention.  Like the disciple in Matthew 8, what comes first doesn’t seem spiritually significant.  We will get to everything eventually, right?  Not necessarily!   Jesus knew that the human heart is capable of self-deception.  We can say one thing and do another.  What we put first is the telling clue.  I am hearing of a new media/evangelism campaign that is coming soon.  It is called “I am second” (God is first)  Jesus affirms the statement, but only if the words truly describe our actions and choices.  What is first?  It tells me the condition of my heart.

The first shall be last

RE Verse reading–Matthew 8:18-22 (day three)  “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (vs 20)  It is ironic.  Man (the highest creature) when he accepts his highest assignment (following Christ) often becomes lower than the animals.  They have homes.  Followers of Christ have no guarantee.  Most of us need to be regularly reminded that spiritual ministry is a costly enterprise.  “Death works in us, but life in you” said Paul in honest assessment of the missionary life. (2 Corinthians 4:12)  Christ identified the same principle.  “The first shall be last” ( Matthew 19:30)  Followers are first in insight, but often last in privilege.  We are first in responsibility,  but last in recognition from the world.  Like the eager scribe, all of us are well served by being warned.   There are dangers ahead, sacrifices to be made.  Consider carefully before you decide to follow Christ!

The cost of discipleship

RE Verse reading–Matthew 8:18-22 (day two)  “When Jesus saw the crowd around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake” (vs 18)  It was a moment of transition.  Transitions are hard, inconvenient.  Jesus and the disciples needed to leave Capernaum. Were the crowds  becoming too volatile?  Perhaps the decision surprised or disappointed the disciples.  Perhaps it was something that the Lord Himself had only realized recently.  It was not, however, a new principle.  Serving God requires sacrifice.  There are things (good things, comforting things) that we will do without for the sake of the kingdom.  It was made clear when an eager scribe volunteered himself for service.  “There will be difficulties ahead”, says the Lord.  “I do not offer security as the world measures it” Those who want God must “count the cost”  in advance or be terribly disappointed along the way.  Did anyone warn you before you became a follower of Christ?  I hope so.

God first, family second

RE Verse reading–Matthew 8:18-22 (day one) “Lord , first let me go and bury my father” (vs 21)  It will not be the only time.  At several points in His ministry the Lord will make a statement that sounds unsympathetic to the needs of the family.  He will appear almost unconcerned.  He isn’t, but as He will later clarify “If your love for God is second to your love for your family.  If your love for God is not so much higher that it makes your love for family seem almost like ‘hate’ by comparison, you cannot be a disciple.” (read Luke 14:26)  Family is a good gift from God.  Family is a good gift from GOD!  If we do not put Him first we ultimately destroy the very ones we claim to love.  It will not be the only time He says it.—Thank you everyone who worked hard on yesterday’s Founders Day celebration.  Fun!  Necessary!  I am grateful.

Standing in the wind

RE Verse reading–Matthew 7:1-27 (day seven)  “And the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall” (vs 25)  I am more philosophical about problems these days.  Earlier in my life I was anxious and offended by every appearing crisis.  Now I know that storms come.  I know that God selected the path of pressure and pain for His son and for all who follow Him.  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you. . .as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12)  My prayer these days is for courage, for faithfulness.  I no longer expect every day to be sunny and calm.  I do expect  a foundation of strength that is more than a match for the challenges that come.  I expect His “grace to be sufficient”(2 Corinthians 12:9).  I expect peace and joy and resolve that will allow me to stand in the wind.  What a great gift!