Showing posts from June, 2023

The Blessing of a Changed Life

The Blessing of a Changed Life Matthew 5:1-12 “Blessed  are…”               The Sermon on the Mount remains one of the central passages of the teaching of life in the Kingdom of Christ. It has been often referred to as the rules of Christ’s kingdom.  Christ came to establish his kingdom and sovereign rule, a kingdom where righteousness is the standard of conduct.  The Sermon anticipates the coming of Christ, the establishment of his kingdom when he returns, and the behavior required of those living in his kingdom.  However, these words are more than just the law of the future kingdom; they set forth Christ's expectations of what it means to be his disciple in the present.  Christ demands his disciples to think and live differently from the world.  We are to live contrary to the world’s behavior and attitudes.  We are to live a life that is transformed, both in our relationship with God and his requirements and also in our relationship with others.              Christ begins with th

REsponding to Christ's Call

Responding to Christ’s Call. Matthew 4:18-25 “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”               The day started like any other day for Peter, Andrew, James, and John.  For them, their livelihood was fishing on the Sea of Galilee.  Like all fishermen, the day would have consisted of fixing nets, preparing the boat, and rowing out upon the water in search of the day’s catch.  It was often challenging work that involved working in the hot sun during the summer and risking the harsh storms in the winter.  It required them to cast their nets during the day or drag nets at night as they rowed their boats about the lake.  It was a hard, strenuous job. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus states that more than 230 fishing boats were working around the Sea of Galilee.  Typically, when fishing, five men would work in the boat to catch haul in the daily catch. In Luke 5:10, we find that James and John were partners with Peter and Andrew, the four of them working together to make

The Hope of Christ

The Hope of Christ Matthew 4:12-17 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned.”                   In preparation for the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus went from Galilee to the region of the Jordan River.  After his baptism, the then was led by the Spirit into the southern parts of Judah, to the wilderness area.  It was here that Satan confronted him, and it was also during this time that John was arrested for preaching against the Marriage of Herod.  After Jesus’ temptation and the arrest of John, Jesus then went back to the northern region of Galilee.  However, he went to Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee, rather than settling in Nazareth.  It is here that he would establish his base for ministry.  This was to fulfill the words of Isaiah that from one from the region of the sea of Galilee, one would arise to bring deliverance to his people.  In quoting Isaiah

The Victory Over Temptation

The Temptation of Christ Matthew 4:1-11 “Jesus said to Him…it is written…”               Theologians have long debated whether or not Jesus could sin.  As we look in the Bible, we see two essential truths about Christ.  Jesus is fully God, and, as God, he cannot sin for God is holy in nature and untainted by sin and the lure of sin.  Jesus is fully human, and part of humanity was the ability to choose to sin.  While theologians have long debated this puzzle (I believe that Jesus was incapable of sinning because he was God), we can easily miss the point of the passage.  There are two critical truths presented in the event of Christ’s temptation.  First, because he was fully human, the temptation was real, and because he fully resisted the temptation, he felt the total weight of the temptation.  We never experience the total weight of temptation because we give him.  But Christ stood firm.  Therefore, he felt the weight of temptation to an extent we can never experience.  Having felt the

The God Who Identifies with Sinners

Identifying with Sinners Matthew 3:13-17 “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”               John the Baptist was perplexed.  Throughout his ministry, he had been calling people to repentance and to demonstrate the genuineness of their repentance through baptism. During this time, the Jews priced water baptism for those who were coming from a pagan background and desire to become part of the Jewish faith.  Furthermore, the Jews often used ritual bathing to symbolize the cleansing of Sin.  However, John's baptism was unique in that John called for baptism as an outward act to demonstrate one's repentance for sin.   Through baptism, they acknowledged that merely being a jew was not enough for a person to stand favorably before God.  Salvation could only come through repentance, and this repentance was symbolized in baptism.             Because of the association of baptism and repentance, John is surprised that Jesus came to

The Coming Kingdom

The Coming Kingdom Matthew 3:1-12 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”               Isaiah 40-66  set forth the prophetic announcement of Israel's final restoration that will occur at the end of the age when the Messiah will establish his millennial kingdom. In 40:3, he announces that the event will be proceeded by the coming herald to prepare the way.  Often in the ancient world, before royalty would travel on the roads, the road would be repaired before they arrived.  However, John, the Baptist’s message calls the people to rebuild the road of holiness and righteous living in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  John’s message is both a call to repentance and the announcement of the arrival of the kingdom of heaven.             Throughout the gospel of Matthew, the proclamation of the kingdom of God is a central theme woven throughout the message of John the Baptist and the preaching of Christ.  The Kingdom of God points to both a present and future kingdom, a

The Divine Orchestrator

The Divine Orchestrator Matthew 2:13-23 “This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet.”               The threat was real, and the fear, apprehension, and anxiety were genuine.  The joy of the visit of the Magi was short-lived, as Herod’s political paranoia brought death and destruction.  If we were in Joseph’s and Mary’s shoes, we would have wondered how a God who is infinite in power could allow Herod to threaten the life of the Messianic king.  If God brought about the birth of Jesus by altering the laws of nature, how could God remain silent when Herod plotted to put Jesus to death?  We glimpse their apprehension and fear of Joseph when Joseph hears that Archelaus, Herod’s son, reigns over Judea.  He had planned to return to Bethlehem after the threat of Herod passed at Herod’s death.  But when he found out that Herod’s son, who was equally as paranoid, Joseph’s mind was apprehensive and fearful. Again we are confronted with the question:  How could an o

The Unwise Men

The Unwisemen Read Matthew 2:1-12 “they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for his is what has been written by the prophet.”               We all know the story of the Wisemen who visited Jesus and Mary at the birth of Jesus.  Having seen his star in the east, they came to worship the newborn king of the Jews.  While we sing songs of their journey at Christmas and celebrate their testimony of the Messianic king, we often overlook the Unwisemen.  These men knew and even anticipated the birth of the Messianic King.  They were careful students of the Old Testament prophets, and they knew the prophetic passages that foretold the coming of the King.  While they had not discerned the exact time of the arrival of the Messiah, they were anticipating that his appearance was soon.  They even had identified the exact town where this hope of Israel was to be born.  Yet, for all their knowledge and insight into the prophetic anticipation of the king, they completely missed it when he arrived.  Th

Believing in the Unbelievable

Believing in the Unbelievable Matthew 1:18-25 “And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife.”               Surprisingly Joseph plays a little part in the gospel narratives. He is only mentioned in Matthew and Luke's gospels and only briefly. Despite the brevity of his appearance, we do see, a man of impeccable faith and trust.  In verses 18-19, we find Joseph is engaged to Mary, and before the wedding ceremony, it is revealed that Mary is pregnant.  We cannot fully appreciate how devastating this announcement must have been to Joseph.  It would have turned his world upside down. We can only imagine the thoughts and confusion that must have captured his feelings.  The one to whom he had pledged his love and commitment had been unfaithful and committed adultery! Yet even amid the betrayal he must have felt, we see the character of Joseph.  It would have been easy for him to be angry and bitter.  When we experience such bet

When God uses the ordinary to accomplish the substantial.

When God Uses the Ordinary to Accomplish the Substantial Matthew 1:1-17               Reading the genealogies is like watching a documentary on the lifestyle of snails.  It must be important, but somehow it seems irrelevant to us.  However, when we look closely through the names of individuals that became part of the Messianic line, what captures our attention is not the names of the people who played an essential role in the Old Testament (e.g., Abraham, David, Solomon), but the number individuals whom we know nothing about.  They are individuals such as Azor, Achim, and Matthan.  People we don't know anything about other than the fact that God, in his sovereign outworking of history, placed them in the lineage of Christ.  They lived their life without renown and accomplishment.  They were ordinary people who lived ordinary lives.  While they may have recognized that they were part of the line of David, little did they realize that they would be part of the most important genealog

The Unchanging God

God’s Unchangeable Nature Malachi 3:1-6. “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore, O sons of Jacob are not consumed.”               Malachi 3:6 is a critical statement in our understanding of God’s character.  In this verse, we find an affirmation of the immutability of God.  When we speak of the immutability of God, we are referring to the biblical doctrine that God does not change in his nature, purposes, or promises.  The word in Hebrew for change comes from the word which means to be different and refers to the changes of the seasons.  This is one of the aspects of the nature of God that is difficult for us to grasp since we are constantly changing as individuals.  I am not the same person that I was when I was twenty.  Not only have I changed physically, but I have changed my perspective and outlook in life.  My character, values, and morals have changed over the year.  But this is not the case with God.  Because he is perfect, he does not change his being and character, and bec

God's View of Marriage

God’s View of Marriage Malachi 2:10-17 “Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.”                          According to Webster’s dictionary, marriage is defined as: “The state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.”  Our modern view of marriage involves two individuals willing to be joined in a legal commitment.  Thus marriage is determined by the laws of society as defined by the society. Therefore, marriage is defined by cultural traditions and legal rulings.  For our culture, marriage is a human institution governed by human law. Society sees it as a two-way contractual relationship between two individuals.  When one or both parties decide they no longer want to be married because they no longer “love their spouse,” they cast them aside through divorce. However, God provides a different perspective.

The Measure of a Pastor

  The Measure of a Pastor Malachi 2:1-9 “True instruction was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and righteousness, and he turned many back from iniquity.”:               Visit churches today, and you will find plethora of preachers teaching all types of messages.  Some preach expository messages where they explain the scriptures verse by verse.  Other preach messages that are topical, addressing felt needs to encourage the audience and appeal to the masses.  Others proclaim that God loves everyone regardless of their religious beliefs, lifestyle, or behavior; everyone will reach heaven. No matter what we believe today, we can find a church and preacher who will affirm what we desire them to teach.  However, in our evaluation of preachers today, we are not to base our evaluation on their popularity, how they make us feel, or if they affirm how we choose to live. Instead, we must ask: How God evaluates the preachers that claim to spea

Giving God our best or giving God our leftovers?

Giving God Our Best or Giving God Our Leftovers Malachi 1  “A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  Then If I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?”               Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets.  He arrived on the scene 100 years after Israel had returned to the land and rebuilt the city and temple.  Even after 70 years of exile for their sin and God graciously and miraculously restoring them to the land of Israel, they still had not learned their lesson.  One hundred years after their return, they were reverting to their habit of living without consideration of God.  The priests were more concerned about their status than they were about fearing the Lord and living in obedience to him. When God brought economic and social troubles upon the land, instead of turning to God, they blamed God and accused him of bei