Matthew 14.3–11 - Behind Closed Doors

Matthew 14.3–11 - Behind Closed Doors

We don’t know who exposed the bawdy birthday bash in today’s text. It’s doubtful any of the Gospel authors were invited. But somehow the whole world now reads this infallible record of men behaving badly, millennia before social media. What happened in Herod’s palace did not stay there. It rarely does. Despite the father of lies seductive assurances, these words of Moses always come true, “be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32.23).  And afterwards we wish that we behaved agreeing with the truth we instinctively know - closed doors are not barriers for His Sovereign gaze. The Risen Jesus easily entered the “locked room” to meet those scared disciples on Easter night. Better plan? Live, as the brethren of the East African revival exhort, “in a house with no roof and no walls.” Joyful and unashamed, pursuing holiness in fellowship with our Great King.

Matthew 16.21 - Wimps behind a Warrior

Matthew 16.21 - Wimps behind a Warrior

I’ve read Matthew over 40 years and not appreciated him enough. But now he’s my new favorite Gospel. (That happens with every book I get to preach!) My soul has been stirred by this fresh reading about my Valiant King. What kind of King plans a systematic campaign to achieve His own grisly demise? His name is Jesus. His march to the cross was fully orchestrated and accomplished. Every necessary Truth for His followers’ life and faith is boldly and clearly articulated – even in the face of oppressive authorities – and preserved in Holy Scripture. He never ‘conveniently forgets’ to speak hard truth to those He loves like I do. He’s willing to ‘challenge the friendship’ to call people to real Life. He is never ashamed of the Father. He makes no alliance with evil. The standard is set high and He will die to achieve it.

Matthew 16.24 - Called to Serve

Matthew 16.24 - Called to Serve

Alfred Robert Tucker served in Uganda from 1890 to 1911, becoming the first Bishop of the Church of Uganda (Anglican) in 1908. He was a contemporary of Roland Allen and John Livingstone Nevius (both served in China). All three believed foreign Christian workers should call people to salvation and service.  They urged new believers to quickly take responsibility for the governance, support, and propagation of their churches. (Nevius advanced these “3 Self” principles of Henry Venn and Rufus Anderson.) They offered Biblical teaching and encouragement to local leaders who reached out to their own people. The Blair’s joined the faculty of Bishop Tucker Theological College in their 75th year. (They celebrate 100 this year!). Their motto “Called to Serve” captured Tucker’s hope - an African church led by African leaders. Now, thousands of graduates later, the once ‘Dark Continent’ shines its Gospel-light even here in far-away China.

Matthew 18.15-17 - Righting Wrongs Rightly

Matthew 18.15-17 - Righting Wrongs Rightly

We get a bizarre glimpse into a dysfunctional church in our text today. The “early” church was not the “perfect” church some people idealize, neither is our church, or our families, workplaces, and schools. Jesus knows our human dilemma and outlined three simple steps to maintain peace and purity in the community of faith.  First, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone…”  Jesus wants us to face people, not Facebook them, humbly and sincerely. Most conflict among Christians ends quickly when we communicate directly, quickly, and kindly. “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you…” --- rarely we’ll need mutually trusted friends to help us make peace. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church...” --- very rarely, we may need arbitration from church leaders. (Matthew 18.15-17)

Matthew 22.9 - Call the Chosen or Confirm you’re Not!

Matthew 22.9 - Call the Chosen or Confirm you’re Not!

“Go…and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find” (Matthew 22.9). As I read this parable I too often seem more like the invited guest who blows off the King, than the zealous servant who fills the wedding hall. James Boice asks, “Is it possible that the King of the universe could ever be dishonored by having no one at the wedding supper of his Son? That no one would be saved?...Can Jesus have died in vain?...To ask questions such as these is to show the impossibility of such an outcome. God must be honored. Jesus must be effective in his work” The chosen will be called, no question. Yet, the personal question is, “Will you and I be calling the lost or crying because we are? Will we work to fill the wedding hall, or forfeit our place in it?”

Matthew 22.37-39 - Double Duty

Matthew 22.37-39 - Double Duty

A recent visitor summarized God’s mission to International Students with two succinct ideas – share what only you can give, and what they can find anywhere. Only you can sit next to that visitor, care for their particular needs, ask about their family, invite them into your home, and help them settle in practical ways. Yet our loving concern should point them to the Savior of the World who reigns globally. Our aim is not to forever enlist them into BICF, bind them to our form of worship, or demand their adherence to our ministry styles. Rather, our prayer is for them to eternally love and serve the Head of His Church, who is praised through many cultures and styles, revealed in Holy Scripture now translated into over a thousand languages, and declared by brothers and sisters on every continent by ancient creeds - “one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church.”

Matthew 22.37-39 - Two Little Words

Matthew 22.37-39 - Two Little Words

Perhaps as you hear the familiar two commands Jesus gave to summarize God’s law – love God and neighbor – you nod your head with a sense of confidence. I do. Check! Been there, done that! Safe! If that is what lets me squeak into Heaven, I’m in. But there are MANY things wrong with this thinking. Biggest error is the common notion, that even we Christians slip into, thinking we can earn favor with God. Not gonna happen. We’re too messy and messed up to earn heavenly reward points. Also, we miss the two little words, “all” and “as.” Do we truly love God with our “all?” – undivided, uncompromising, laser-focused devotion, untainted by self or sin? Do we really care for neighbor – using Jesus’ broad definition of the group – with the same absorbing self-infatuation as we pamper ourselves? Yikes! Jesus double command spells our doom! Double deserving death.