Matthew and the Messiah – 2

Matthewand theMessiahMatthew 2:1-23 – The Young Messiah of Promise

A group of wise men, most likely stargazers who read the stars to predict weather patterns, seasons, and more for kings and rulers, come from east of Judea to learn more about this new start that appeared and the king born under that star. They come to Herod telling him about the star and the king. Herod is troubled and fears for his own rule and that of his children. He seeks the council of the teachers of the law, that that would know the Hebrew scriptures. They tell him about the Messiah who was to be born in Bethlehem according to prophecy (Micah 5:2). Herod sends the wise men on to Bethlehem asking them to return and give him directions so that he might also pay homage to this king.

These stargazing wise men find Mary and Jesus in a house (not a manger, by now they had moved out of the manger into a rented house). They worship Jesus and present gifts to him as tribute. A dream warns them against returning to Judea and Herod, so they return to their home a different way.

In the mean time, an angel tells Joseph to take his young family to Egypt to flee the power, wrath, and jealousy of Herod. This also would fulfill prophecy that God would call His son out of Egypt. (Hosea 11:1).

The narrative returns to Judea and we find Herod angry that these wise men did not return. We then discover Herod’s true purpose was not to worship the child, but to destroy him. Herod sends his soldiers to Bethlehem having them kill all male children two years old and younger. This fulfills a prophecy concerning mothers weeping for their deceased children (Jeremiah 31:15).

After the death of Herod, Joseph and his family return from Egypt. They settle in Nazareth of Galilee instead of Judea for fear of Archelaus the son of Herod. Again this fulfills prophecy that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. The name Nazareth (or Nazarene) means a branch as in the Branch of David. (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 6:12).

Matthew clearly demonstrates to his Hebrew readers that this child, Jesus, is the Savior of His people. Their own prophets confirm Jesus’ claim to the title of the Messiah (the Christ, the Anointed of God).

Seeing these prophecies fulfilled, they have a choice. Their choice is the same choice you and I have: What will we do about this child? He is the promised Christ. Will you choose to follow Him?

-Scott

No, Please, No. Not Again!

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No, please, no. Not again!

Those were my thoughts as I turned on the news yesterday afternoon (February 14, 2018). The news coverage was live from Parkland, Florida where they were covering an active shooter incident at a large high school.

Almost immediately social media lit up with people sending their thoughts and prayers to  and on behalf of the affected community and families. Politicians including local leaders, state leaders, national politicians, and President Trump offered similar statements. Soon after these posts began flowing others reacted with, “I want more than thoughts and prayers from people and politicians. I want, we need action.”

I live hundreds of miles from the most recent school shootings. I do live in a community that experienced an gunman holding a Christian School hostage thirty years ago. A community that also experienced a major natural disaster seven years ago when a tornado ripped a path through the area destroying homes, shopping centers, churches, restaurants, injuring many and causing loss of life.  We are a community who appreciated the thoughts and prayers offered by people all over the world.  We also appreciated the action of many who came with or sent help. We are grateful for the funds, food relief, volunteers, federal aid, and more that is apart of our continued recovery from the storm. We also appreciate the action of first responders that negotiated the release of the school children of West End Christian School in 1988 and detained the suspect without incident.

But what can we do for Mobile, Alabama, Marshall County, Kentucky, and Parkland, Florida and the fifteen other schools or colleges who are dealing with the aftermath of school shootings? What can do when we are so far away?

What can we do?

We can have civil discussions and consider legislation concerning control of certain style weapons or aftermarket modification equipment. Such legislation may or may not have an impact on criminal activity, homicides, and mass shootings. I am a legal gun owner, I don’t want to strip guns away from people, but we need to see if we can do a better job at controlling what guns are available and who has access to those weapons. At the very least we need to have real conversations.

While we are having those discussions, we also need to look at the root causes of such violence. Deadly violence comes in all forms with many different weapons.  I recall an incident where a student on a college campus injured multiple people and killed some with a survival knife. (Interestingly, I did not hear anyone call for a ban on knives.) There are also times when fireplace tools, baseball bats, or other instruments were the weapon of choice for a violent offender.  We need to ask what is triggering such violence in people? Are there societal issues we need to address? Broken families? Absent fathers? Violence in media (TV, movies, video games)? Abusive homes? Lack of respect for authority? A lack of belief in basic morality? Feelings of hopelessness? A low regard for human life? Parents who let society and media raise their children instead of being actively involved in the lives of their children? Emotional and developmental issues in children because their mothers smoke, drank, used illegal drugs, or were exposed to second hand smoke while pregnant? The list here can go on.

If we are close to the areas affected; We can offer our help. We can offer a shoulder to cry on. We can be someone that will just listen. We can offer our homes, churches, and businesses as a place of safety. We can provide meals to the hurting, to the first responders, and others at the scene of violence. We can send funds to offset the medical expenses of the injured and to help with the costs of funerals.

When we are in school, at churches, in businesses, and in public places we can be vigilant. We can educate ourselves to see potential issues. I recently heard of a few non-shootings at school. I saw news articles buried deep in papers or online where a fellow student or faculty member saw something out of the ordinary and reported it to resource officers or police. On these occasions the actions of others prevented acts of violence from occurring. We must be vigilant.

We can pray. As a Christian, prayer to God is a must and a first response when I hear about events like those in Parkland. I pray to let God know heart is hurting and to express the hurt that His creation is experiencing. I pray to calm my spirit so that I can think clearly and discuss the issues at hand rationally. I pray for His comfort to those impacted; comfort that comes from His people in ways discussed above.  And I pray that His people will be a part of the solution and not contributors to the problem.

I will keep praying. I will do what I can, where I can, and when I can to be of assistance to those immediately impacted. Will you join me?

-Scott

Matthew and the Messiah – 1

Chapter 1A few years ago, we took a Journey Through Mark spending a day in each chapter. You can revisit that Journey starting HERE.

Last week I began looking at Matthew and think we can take a similar journey as Matthew introduces his readers to the Messiah. I hope you will join me on this journey. My plan is to do at least a chapter a week.

Matthew 1: Introducing Jesus, son of David.

When Matthew writes his narrative account, he mostly writes to those with a Jewish background. The people who would through the messages of the prophets, through the poetry of the Psalms, and the promises of the Pentateuch (the Law of Moses) would be looking for the promised King, the Messiah, the anointed Son of God. Most would be looing for a king of a physical nation. Matthew demonstrates how Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic King.

Matthew begins with legal evidence (a genealogy) of Jesus to establish His line as a legal son of David. He connects Abraham to David, David to the Babylonian captivity listing Jechoniah as the last king before deportation. Then Matthew shows Jesus as a son of David through Shealtiel (legal son of Jechoniah) through Joseph (the legal father of Jesus). Through the legal record, Jesus has the right to claim the “Throne of David” to be the Messiah.

Joseph, according to Matthew’s account was a just (fair, thoughtful, righteous) man. When he discovers that Mary is with child, he knows he is not the father since they are betrothed, but not yet married. He considers breaking the engagement quietly to limit her embarrassment and the embarrassment of her family. “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.'” (Matthew 1:20-21). Joseph marries Mary, takes the child, Jesus as his own.

There a couple of things I want to point out:

  1. Look back into the genealogy. You find a few imperfect people. Abraham who lied, Isaac who lied, Jacob who deceived, David who had an affair and tried to cover it up with murder, and others. None of these men are examples of perfection. They are flawed individuals. They sinned in different ways. Yes, they had great moments of faith, but they also had times of failure. Yet, God uses them to bring about the PERFECT Messiah. A lesson for me is that even with my weaknesses, God can use me.
  2. Look at the women mentioned in Christ’s ancestry. Of all the women he could have mentioned Matthew selects: Tamar the prostitute and her child by her father-in-law, Rahab the harlot who hid the spies, Ruth a Moabite who all but threw herself at Boaz, Bathsheeba whom Matthew reminds us was the wife of Uriah, not David when she went into the king’s chamber, and Mary, an unmarried teenager who is pregnant. (The reader knows that her pregnancy is miraculous, but what would her neighbors think about her?) One possible lesson is that my family past does not determine who I am. I can be different. Another lesson is that God can use the mistakes we make and turn them into something good, if we will trust Him.
  3. Jesus’ name means salvation. Just as there is hope for the sinners in his genealogy, there is hope for all in Him. He will (does) save us from sin.

Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah. Immanuel, God is with us.

What lessons do you see in Matthew’s introduction of Jesus?

-Scott

Respect the Warnings

typorama (4)On May 18, 1980 Harry Truman died. Now, you might realize that President Truman has died in 1972.  But I’m not talking about Harry S. Truman, the president, but Harry R. Truman, the stubborn old resident who refused to leave his lodge by Spirit Lake in Washington, near Mt. St. Helens, despite orders from the sheriff’s department.

At 8:32 that Sunday morning, the volcano blew its stack with a force equal to 500 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. It devastated the landscape for miles around, and several people perished, including Harry Truman. Today a bronze and stone monument stands on top of hundreds of feet of ash and debris covering Mr. Truman’s lodge, and, presumably, his body.

Harry certainly had ample warning. A mini-eruption occurred two months prior to the big one. In addition, scientists cautioned that frequent earthquakes and the bulging mountainside meant a major eruption was imminent. But not even letters from a Clearlake Elementary School class (near Salem, OR) could persuade him to leave his home. If he saw the mountain erupting, he assured the children, he would run. When the moment came, however, there was neither time nor a place to run.

  • How many times did God warn His people through the prophets, but they refused to listen?
  • How many times did He pleaded with them to repent of their worldliness and idolatry, but they continued to serve the Baals, Dagon, etc?
  • How many warnings does God give in His New Covenant that Jesus will return to claim His faithful and punish the evil (cf. 2 Thess 1:7-10)?
  • Will we listen?
  • Will you and I make the necessary arrangements for the Day of Judgement?

-Scott

You Keep Using That Verse, Too . . .

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Monday I wrote about three Old Covenant passages that are often taken out of context. You can read about them HERE. I said then that I would share more. This time I have three from the New Covenant that are also often taken out of context and misapplied. As I said then, I repeat, “Every where I go, I hear Christians and Bible-minded people quoting passages of scripture or I see certain passages on signs, bumper stickers, or on personalized car plates (tags). At first glance these passages seem to be encouraging or seem to be full of promise. Yet, often, after a deeper look at the context of the passage, they do not say what the sign, sticker, or tag implies.

Matthew 7:1

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” Many times this verse is used when you or I do not want someone saying what we are doing or are about to do is wrong (dangerous, immoral, sinful, etc.) But that is NOT what Jesus is saying. Contextually, Jesus is saying before you tell someone about their sin, know that you will be judged by the same standard. So make sure you are aware of and admit your own weaknesses before you condemn others for theirs (Matthew 7:1-5). Other passages us teach Christians to watch out for, edify, encourage, and even to judge one another (1 Corinthians 5:12). I want you to help me become more righteous, so please judge what I am doing and offer correction when I am in the wrong. Just realize that you do not have the ability to know my motives. You can judge my actions but only God can judge my heart.

Philippians 4:13

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Many times we apply this verse to tasks, education, tests, sports and more. We use it to say we are invincible in this life and communicate that we will always come out on top when we rely on the strength of Christ. In Phil 4:10-14, Paul is thanking the Philippians for assisting him in his time of need. He shares that he is able to endure the hardships of persecution, need, hunger, as well as the joy of acclamation, abundance, and feasts. He has learned to take life in stride because his life is about Christ not about himself. If we apply this to sports then I can win graciously because my life is in Christ and I can also lose graciously because my life is about Christ not about my ability (or lack thereof) on the basketball court.

John 13:7

“What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Many use this verse in connection with Isaiah 43:19 (Behold I am doing a new thing) and claim that what hardship we are going through is from God and that although we do not understand it, we will when He gives us a new blessing afterwards. So we say, “God, I don’t know why you caused my house to burn down, but I know you have something new and better planned for me. I don’t understand what you are doing, but I have faith that everything happens for a reason.” That is not what this verse is about. This verse is about Jesus washing the disciples feet and coming to Peter who tells Jesus, don’t wash my feet. Jesus replies, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” A few verses later he explains so that Peter and the rest would know what He was doing, “. . . Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:12-17). Jesus is teaching them about humble service and servant leadership. If He, Jesus the Christ, stooped to wash feet like a lowly house servant, then His followers and the leaders of His people (the Church) are servants not tyrants. That is what Peter and we are to understand from John 13:7.

Again, I close by offering up a challenge. I challenge you not use the Bible as a book of maxims to be randomly applied to make us feel better about life. Do not look at the Word of God as a book of various promises to demand (claim) from God. Take time to learn the context of a passage, take time to learn to over-riding message of the Bible – God’s plan for redeeming man back to Himself for eternity.

-Scott

Our Hope

typorama (1)After a time of reflection this morning this passage is in my head: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Pet 3:15 ESV).” When was the last time you defended your faith? If someone were to ask you why you have hope for salvation, what would you tell them?

Why I Have Hope.

1. The order of creation shores up my faith. The universe, our solar system, this earth, and our bodies are too organized and efficient to be an unintelligent accident.

2. The text of the Bible has stood the test of time and the onslaught of attacks through the centuries. Doubters, skeptics, and opponents of the Bible as the word of God are not new. They may never go away, but in my studies and research, the Bible holds up as more accurate and better preserved than any ancient text.

3. As an historical writing, the history and science recorded in the Bibles pages stands out as true. If then the history and science are true, the rest of the text is true — including the passages about Jesus.

4. Jesus is an historical figure, and as such, the Bible claims him not to be madman, nor simply a prophet, but the Messiah of the Jews, the Christ that mankind needs. Through the sacrifice of Jesus as Christ, our loving God offers forgiveness of our sin that sentences us to hell.

5. The example of the historical figure Saul or Tarsus (a.k.a Paul) solidifies my belief. Here we have a man who was the biggest opponent of Christ and the Way of Christ than any of his peers. He was zealous to stop this movement. His conversion as recorded in Acts 9, Acts 22, and Acts 26 show his complete turn around to become one the most prominent heralds of the Good News of Jesus as the Christ.

These are just a sample of why I believe. Why do you believe?

Scott

Happy Marriage

a happy marriageIn studying for an upcoming lesson I came across the following marriage advice. A couple with a long-term marriage shared from their experience what you an I can do to have happy marriages.

  1. GIVE when you want to RECEIVE.
  2. SERVE when you want to FEAST.
  3. LISTEN when you want to TALK.
  4. SUBMIT when you want to REIGN.
  5. FORGIVE when you want to REMEMBER.
  6. STAY when you want to LEAVE.

Looking at this advice I think we can conclude that a happy marriage puts your spouse and the relationship before self.

-Scott

You Keep Using that Verse, But . . .

You keep using that verse, but I do not hink it means what you think it means.

Every where I go, I hear Christians and Bible-minded people quoting passages of scripture or I see certain passages on signs, bumper stickers, or on personalized car plates (tags). At first glance these passages seem to be encouraging or seem to be full of promise. Yet, often, after a deeper look at the context of the passage, they do not say what the sign, sticker, or tag implies. I have selected three of the more popular of these scriptures from the Old Covenant to share and explore.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. God has a plan of my welfare for a future for hope, He has a specific plan for my life. I just need to let go and let God take control. But that is not what that verse is about.  It is not about you. It is not about me.  Unless of course, I want to wait 70 years like the verse before says. Contextually, God is telling the nation of Judah, “You have abandoned me, I am going to send you into captivity for seventy years, then you will come back here and call on My name – returning to Me, Then I will lay out the plans I have for you.” The plan was to restore them so the Messiah – Christ could come.

2 Chronicles 7:14

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” If America would just pray, God will make America great again. I hate to disappoint you, but The United States is NOT God’s chosen people. The USA is not God’s nation. We are not really a Christian nation. We are a democratic-republic who elects leaders. In the context, Solomon has finished construction of the temple and God is warning Israel about becoming unfaithful and telling them He will punish their unfaithfulness, but will forgive when they repent. Any application today is not to the United States of America but to God’s chosen people today, His kingdom, His body – the CHURCH. If the church wants to grow, we need to be a people of prayer and reliance on God.

Isaiah 43:19

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. This is the one that lead me to write this post. I heard someone on the radio a week ago using this verse as a promise. Their statement was along this idea, “You are going through a tough time, but God is taking you through that on purpose. He has a plan. A plan to give you something new and better.” Then they explained how their first marriage broke apart and how devastated they felt, but God lead a new spouse into their life and it is the best that has ever happened to them. All that sounds fantastic. That is until you realize the Lord is making a comparison. He is comparing the Exodus of Israel from Egypt to a new way and a new covenant He will make through the Messiah. The new thing is salvation through Christ and the promise of eternal salvation in Him.

I have three New Covenant passages to look at later. For the moment, let me challenge you not use the Bible as a book of maxims to be randomly applied to make us feel better about life. Do not look at the Word of God as a book of various promises to demand (claim) from God. Take time to learn the context of a passage, take time to learn to over-riding message of the Bible – God’s plan for redeeming man back to Himself for eternity.

-Scott

 

 

I Owe, I Owe

typoramaTo misquote the song from Snow White, “I owe, I owe, its off to work I go . . . ”

Debt

Indebted! I do not like that word, nor do I like the idea such a word communicates. However, I admit that I am indebted to many people for many different reasons, you are too. I despise watching our hard earned money flow through my finger-tips via ink from a ball-point pen put to a rectangular piece of perforated paper that will bear a dollar amount made out to a creditor, insurer, or utility company complete with my signature authorizing the release of funds from my bank account. Such an effort reminds me that I am indebted to these people for loans, protection, or conveniences that I enjoy. Am I the only one who feels this way?

More Debt

There are other areas you and I carry debt. We are indebted to those who made us the successes we are. Your list probably includes, but is not limited too, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, neighbors, friends, and of course your teachers. All of these people had and have influence on you, the decisions you make, and the life you now live. How are you taking time to repay this debt? I challenge you to take time to thank them in some way. Send them a short note, drop them an email, give them a call, let them know that you are thinking of them and appreciate their efforts on your behalf. These people receive so much negative feedback in their lives, a little “warm fuzzy” from you may go a long way.

Even Greater Debt

There is still a greater debt you and I have to understand. This debt is bigger than your utility bill, your car loan, mortgage, credit card debt, and boat payment combined. This debt weighs heavier that the debt you owe those people who made you what you are. You and I have a debt that is greater than the national deficit. We have a debt of death!

Paul says in Romans 3:23, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Falling short of God’s glory is sin and Paul adds three chapters later that “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom 6:23a). Think about this for a moment . . . you and I owe the debt of our life simply because we sin.

I know what some of you may be thinking, “Wait one minute, Scott, what do you mean by ‘we sin?’ I am a good person, I have not committed any major crime, the worst I have done is __________________.”

OK, I understand. You are a relatively if not a highly moral person, but you are NOT perfect. I know you make mistakes, so you might as well admit it to yourself. Raise your hand if you have ever driven faster than the posted speed limit, cheated on a test or at work, lied to your parents (children or spouse), lied to a telemarketer about someone not being at home, not paid for a small item that the cashier forgot to scan, or kept the over amount of change she gave you. If you are guilty of any of these things (or things like them), you are guilty of falling short of God’s glory; you are guilty of sin and you owe the wages (debt) of death. Everybody, not just you, is guilty.

The problem with this indebtedness is that if I were to pay my own debt I would have to die a physical death and die an eternal spiritual death in separation from the Creator in a hell meant for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41). Your situation is the same. Because we are sinful we can NEVER pay this debt. But thanks be to God who offers to pay the debt for us and to freely give us eternal life (Rom 6:23b) through Jesus as Christ.

That is the essence of the Gospel (good news) of Christ. The good news is that since Jesus was sinless as a man, his death paid the penalty for my sin and your sin. Because God raised Him from the dead we have assurance of eternal life in Christ, when we are in Christ as we obey that good news. Romans 5:10 says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Romans 6:1-6 and Galatians 3:26-4:1 explain how we by faith obey that Gospel and get into Christ becoming heirs of the promises of God.

Once I understood my indebtedness of sin unto death, and realized reconciliation to God through Christ, I became indebted to them for my life and chose to live for them daily. Paul put it eloquently and succinctly in Philippians 1:21 and I leave you with his words, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

-Scott

Why Do You Show Up?

Why DoYou Assemble_I suppose there are a myriad of reasons why people assemble with the people of God. Some attend because their family expects them to be there. Some because friends expect them there.  Some attend out of guilt or shame. Some attend because they want to be with others.  There are those who attend because of a love for God. I talked with one politician who admitted he attended where he did because there were important people there from the area he represented. Maybe you have your own reason(s) for “going to church.”

What ever your reasons, I think that they fall under the influence of one or more or these motivators:

  1. Self
  2. Friends
  3. Family
  4. God / Christ

Why should we attend worship assembly? Again, there are many healthy reasons to assemble with Christians. I am not sure there is ONE best or only reason. However, a basic reason to attend worship focuses on God and Christ.  We assemble to praise the God who gave Himself for us. I believe that when we mature in our knowledge and understanding of what the Good News of our salvation in Christ is about, we cannot help but long to worship Him and to sing God’s praise among the congregation of His people. Take note of the Psalmist’s reasoning:

  • (Psa 22:22)  I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
  • (Psa 22:25)  From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
  • (Psa 35:18)  I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.
  • (Psa 40:9-10)  I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD.  I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.
  • (Psa 68:26)  “Bless God in the great congregation, the LORD, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”
  • (Psa 107:32)  Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
  • (Psa 111:1)  Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

So, why do you assemble with the saved?

-Scott