MI 2: Trust during Trouble – Matthew 10:16-39

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Mt 10:16

Jesus’ teaching and miraculous works summarized in the first 9 chapters of Matthew’s Gospel point to a greater mission for God’s people. The mission which every Christian must accept, is to proclaim the good news that Jesus has come into the world to save us from the consequences and power of sin through His atoning death and triumphant resurrection. In chapter 10, Matthew seems to have systematically collected the teachings of Jesus related to mission. We have seen in the first 15 verses of chapter 10, the source, staff, and specifics of the first mission given to the twelve apostles of Jesus. Next week we will pick up with verses 16-39 which reveal the peculiar danger of the mission as it is carried out by the apostles and subsequent generations of the church in a hostile world.

Trouble is the habitat of Christian mission. It seems that Jesus purposefully sendsHis people into a hostile world as “sheep among wolves.” Rather than an unfortunate side-effect of our mission, it seems Jesus intends for His disciples to carry on His mission through suffering. The cross is not the exception, but is the rule of a disciple’s life; we will lose many battles in our effort to carry our our mission. Though we are sent out as vulnerable sheep, we are not “stupidly vulnerable;” we are also called to be “wise as a serpent,” even while being “innocent as doves.”Christian disciples are not fighters; hatred and retaliation are not options for us; we are not revolutionaries; we are likened to sheep and doves – the gentlest of animals. And we carry out our mission in the midst of arrests, beatings, confrontations, hatred, mockery, and persecution, even at the hands of those closest to us. These were the experiences of our Lord, and we cannot expect to be exempt from them ourselves. However …

Trust is the habit of Christian mission. As “sheep among wolves,” we have no hope, save One. On judgement day God will vindicate us and our message. We do not need to fear “those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” So go boldly on your mission, knowing that you have a Heavenly Father who cares and is sovereign over everything that happens to you on this impossible mission. In fact, He ordains even your trouble. So fear God, and do not fear anything or anyone else. Though He makes no promise that you will be delivered from trouble on earth, He promises something much greater – to be rescued from eternal death and judgment.

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Three Tests in the Wilderness Part 1: Bitter Water – Exodus 15:22-27

This Sunday we return to Exodus Ch 15:22-27. Last time we left the Israelites they were praising and worshiping the Lord for His great victory over both Pharaoh and Egypt and also their salvation. In our text, which is part of three trials they face in the wilderness that covers Ch 15:22 to Ch 17:7, we see the Lord leads the people to bitter waters after three days journey in the desert. While this was a trial from the Israelites perspective we find out in v 25 that the Lord tested their faith. The people failed that test by grumbling to Moses. Moses then intercedes and the Lord turns the bitter waters to sweet waters. Our text in Exodus is full of God’s grace to His people. It speaks of salvation, sanctification, and even a foretaste of glorification of Israel all done by our loving God.

When we fail, as we often do, we can be assured the Lord has a purpose and that purpose is that we would grow more into His image. We, like Israel in our text, are in the wilderness called the world. In this world we also face trials of various kinds, some we fail and grow, and some by His grace we pass and also grow. Through these trials and valleys we are slowly conformed into His image. Brothers and sisters where would we be without trials? It’s through these trials we learn to depend on the Lord and not on our own merits.

Please meditate on our text this week and pray the Lord would bless His word.

22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.

The LORD our Mighty Warrior – Exodus 14:1 – 14

The Israelites were rescued from their Egyptian oppressors by God’s mighty hand; but as the exodus narrative continues in chapter 14, we again witness the Lord’s judgment and salvation, as for one last time Pharaoh and Egypt come against Israel and her Lord. While chapter 14 is one story, we will look at in two parts – first, chapter 14:1-14 and next time, verses15-31.

The narrative begins with the Lord saying to Moses, ”turn back and encamp facing the sea.” The Israelites were heading northeast when they were instructed to turn around and go south to the sea, thus hemming them in. The Lord’s purpose for this instruction is expressed in verse 4: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.”

Meanwhile back in Egypt we learn of Pharaoh’s remorse for letting the Israelites go, as he employs the best of his chariots and men to pursue the Israelites one last time (14:5-9). When the Israelites see the greatest fighting force of their age in pursuit, “they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord.” While crying out to God is an appropriate response under such circumstances, we find that their cry is actually a complaint. “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”  (14:10-12). One might marvel over the fact that, after they had been miraculously delivered from their oppressors by the mighty hand of God with such great signs and wonders, their faith would so quickly fail. In reality though, most, if not all of us, would have acted in the very same manner. In fact, we act this way every time we fear life’s trials after having been delivered from the power of sin and death.

Finally Moses gives the Israelites and us what we need to hear: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (14:13-14). The Lord is a mighty warrior who will fight for you, brethren. So fear not! Stand firm! And see the salvation of the Lord for the Lord will fight for you! The Lord will be glorified in the defeat of the Egyptians and Satan, for salvation is of the Lord!

 

 

Anointing Prayer for Serious Illness – James 5:13-18

As we are near the conclusion of James’ very practical epistle, James returns to the topic that he began in chapter 1 verse 2 – facing “trials of various kinds.” This final section also includes the topic of right speech, which he has been addressing throughout the letter. He addresses both topics first with a call to prayer.

To begin, James’ first exhortation for prayer is directed toward the individual, as seen in verse 13: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Here James contrasts two spectrums in a believer’s life. The first is trouble or suffering, something that both his original hearers as well as believers throughout all ages, know all too well. Every one of us experience trouble and suffering in our lives to some degree. James says is anyone suffering “He should pray.” While trials and adversity present a Christian with the conditions wherein he is most likely to pray fervently, James continues to contrast this, saying that we should also rejoice, singing songs of praise when we are happy. In other words, it’s not only in suffering, but in joy, that believers are presented with an appropriate occasion to turn to God.

In verses 14 and 15 James moves to a second group, the church elders, again calling for prayer. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. This is one of the most controversial texts in James’ epistle, often used by the “faith-healers” to support their teachings and aberrant practices. The word sick in the original can have various meanings. One way it is used (18 times in the New Testament) is to refer to physical illness; but it also is translated as weak (14 times) and can refer to spiritual weakness. However we understand the meaning of the word sick, James says we are to call the elders of church, not the local “faith-healer or anyone else for that matter,” to pray and to be anointed with oil! The verse concludes in verse 15 with the ultimate healing – salvation manifested in forgiveness of sin.

The third section on prayer in verse 16a is directed to the congregation: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. At times it is very difficult to confess your sins to each other, but this practice can set you free as you confess your sins to one another before God, and to pray for each other. Prayer for one another in the local assembly is one of the most unselfish and beautiful aspects of the church. Knowing that your brothers and sisters are praying for you is a beautiful and humbling experience that ought to characterize our local church.

James concludes this section generally, with the prayer of a righteous person. This ought to encourage both elders and Christians in general, that intercessory prayer is necessary and effective. James does this by appealing to Elijah as an example. Overall, this section of James instructs us that the trials and joys that we face in this life should lead us to the throne of grace in prayer – individually, through the elders of the church, and together with our church.

Brethren, please pray that the Lord would be pleased to use this message so that we all would grow in our dependence on Christ through prayer.

Our Great Salvation – 1 Peter 1:10-13

“In this world you will have trouble…” Jesus spoke these words to his disciples right before he was betrayed and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew that as soon as the Shepherd was struck, they would soon be scattered about in fear for their very lives. Right before this Jesus told them that many men would seek to kill them thinking that they were doing the will of God. In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 10, Jesus said to His disciples that they would be hated by everyone because of His name. Yet in all this, He told them to have peace and not to fear these men. He reminded them of His overcoming power in salvation, and He exhorted them to have faith in the midst of these trials.

The apostle Peter, in writing his epistle, picks up on this very same thought, as he writes to his brothers and sisters in the Lord who were going through great suffering and persecution in the region of Asia Minor which at the time was under the reign of Nero. In verses 3-9 of 1 Peter chapter 1, Peter bursts forth with his glorious doxology wherein he reminds them (and us) of what God’s great grace and mercy has produced in our lives – namely, a living hope, a promised resurrection, an imperishable inheritance reserved in heaven , a “divine guard” of our faith, and a faith in these promises that must produce an inexpressible joy in our lives, even in the midst of these great trials.

Peter’s exultation in God’s great salvation doesn’t stop here. This week as we look at verses 10-13, we will see how Peter wants us to know that this amazing salvation was: 1) long awaited. The prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Zechariah searched diligently into what God was revealing about the coming Messiah, for they longed to know who this Messiah was and when he would come. 2) prepared for you. The prophets knew that they were instruments of God to “prepare the way” for the Messiah which we now have full revelation of in the person and work of Jesus Christ. 3) anticipated by the angels. This salvation which you have received by grace and the power of the Holy Spirit is one that even the heavenly angels know nothing of; yet they long to know of it.

Brothers and sisters, if we are going to be prepared to serve the Lord in these last days in the midst of persecution and trials, we need to “set our hope fully on this grace to come”.

In preparation for next Sunday, read: Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Daniel 9, Psalm 69

Genesis 1:26-28 Made in His Image

 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. …
 
This week on January 22, back in 1973 the Supreme Court issued its landmark Roe v. Wade decision that set the stage for the slaughter of upwards of 55 million babies in the United States since then. In total it is estimated that an astounding 1.3 billion babies have been killed in the abortion mills and hospitals of the world since 1980. Think about that number you consider that there are only 7 billion people in the entire world – that’s close to 20% of the world’s population who are now dead as a result of this horror!
 
What can be the cause of such devastation? Certainly lies abound in both the scientific and medical communities. This should not surprise us because anything that Satan is ultimately behind necessarily is supported by lies, as he is the father of lies and a liar from the beginning. There has been so much misinformation and lies spread to and through the media and given to prospective parents, which has paved the way to make such carnage palatable to the eyes of the public.
 
But there is one truth that lies at the heart of understanding abortion rightly. There is one truth that must be ignored or denied for this level of violence against humanity to continue unchecked. This truth is found in the book of Genesis chapter 1 verse 26; and it is that God created man in His own image, and after His likeness. Surely if we would slow down long enough to consider this truth – that the murder of an unborn infant, whose inward parts are formed by God, who “knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13), destroys the very image of God, there could no longer be any debate. This truth, that we has human beings bear the imago Dei – the image of God is what causes the Psalmist to exult, “ I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Ps 139:14) And if this truth is believed and embraced by society, surely abortion would come to an end! So let us go and fight the devil’s lie as we proclaim the glorious truth of Genesis 1:26 – that all men are created equal – as we are all image bearers of God!

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Proverbs 1 The Beginning of Knowledge

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

About 125 times in the entire book of Proverbs, the words wise and wisdom are found. Closely related to the concept of wisdom is the term knowledge. Knowledge is the correct understanding of God, self, and the world whereas wisdom is the skill of applying knowledge rightly. The goal of the book of Proverbs, then, is for us to attain true knowledge and know how to use it.

The unbelieving world also values knowledge, but true to his usual ways, Satan devises counterfeits. The wisdom of this world is really just foolishness in God’s sight (1 Corinthians 3:19). In fact, Paul warns against those who would take us captive by philosophy (literally, “love of wisdom”) and empty deceit that are based on worldly spirits and not on Christ (Colossians 2:8). So while many facts and figures can be attained through our lives, we are told that knowledge and wisdom cannot come from the world.

Where, then, does knowledge come from? Knowledge begins with the fear of the LORD. God is the ultimate source of all knowledge and wisdom, and having a proper reverence for God is the starting place for us. Of course, our sinful nature keeps us from pursuing God on our own accord. Thankfully, God pursues us! God has chosen to reveal himself to us so that we may know him! Without his revelation, we would know nothing.

Every Christian who confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, gained this understanding just like Peter did: not by flesh and blood, but by our Heavenly Father (Matthew 16:16-17). Likewise, all wisdom comes as revelation from God – we cannot conjure up knowledge by our own intellects. God must first change the heart. Understanding this principle is quite humbling, because it keeps us from trusting in ourselves or in the world. We must trust that God changes hearts and causes the blind to see. When we see that God is the one in control, and properly fear him, we find ourselves in the right place to attain knowledge and wisdom.

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