Monday, June 26
The harvest mentioned in yesterday’s blog referred to those thousands of people who needed to be brought into the kingdom of God. In Mt. 9:35-38, Jesus had compassion on the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd, “harassed and helpless.” That searching crowd was the harvest. The O.T. is a record of the sowing and cultivating of that Jewish crop. They were now ready for saving grace. The Lk. 10:1-4 passage is the next step. The disciples had been taught back in Galilee and now were ready to do the reaping. As Chief Reaper, Jesus said to his disciples “The harvest is plentiful . . .” That would remind the disciples of what they had been taught back in Galilee. So the Luke passage shows that the disciples—not just the twelve, but 72 of them—got the message. They were ready for action. The John passage taught the disciples that the reaping was not limited to the Jews. The crops included the Samaritans and the entire Gentile world. They were ready to harvest, too.
Sunday, June 25
Please read these three short passages: Mt. 9:35-38, Lk. 10:1-4, John 4:34-38. What do they have in common? Matthew records Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and healing in Galilee—with the disciples observing on the side line. Luke records how Jesus sent 72 disciples into the towns of Judea to teach, preach and heal the sick, just as Jesus had done back in Galilee. John records Jesus’ ministry among the Samaritans at Sychar. In the first two passages, Jesus says “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” The third (Sychar) is a bit different, but with a similar conclusion. Repetition of this analogy means that Jesus considered the message very important. Let’s take a closer look. The analogy comes from a common occupation—farming. It suggests a huge farm that requires a lot of hired workers to plant the seed, to water and cultivate the crop, and protect it from birds, animals, and thieves. The harvest will be lost without more workers. What can the landowner do? So why did Jesus use this analogy? What was he trying to accomplish? To whom was the message directed? What response did he look for? And was there a response?
Saturday, June 24
Most Bible scholars divide Jesus’ ministry into three parts, teaching, preaching, and healing. The healing part is distinct enough, but what is the difference between teaching and preaching? I researched in vain for an explanation. Whether or not correct, I have some thoughts to offer. I see teaching as disseminating knowledge or information. The other end of teaching is learning, the acquisition of information. Part of teaching is role modeling. The disciples learned a lot just by observing what Jesus said and did in public. And Jesus often got them off to one side to teach them privately. On the other hand, I think of preaching as teaching that expects a specific response beyond gathering information. If effective, preaching results in change, a change of mind-set and/or a change of conduct. Preaching is generally associated with the propagation of the gospel, but is probably not limited to that. In terms of Jesus’ ministry, one might think that he taught his disciples and preached to those who were not committed to him. It’s probably not that simple. I think he was looking for a response from both groups
Friday, June 23
Israel was despised by their surrounding nations in O.T. times. And they were also hated in succeeding generations under four different Empires. They are still hated in our world today. Why is that? It’s much more than leaving Egypt devastated when they left there c. 1400 B.C., and more than displacing Canaanite nations. There are several significant reasons why they were hated. Probably most important was their view of God. There are four unique things about God that would be very disturbing to other nations. 1) Israel’s God created the universe as well as the entire human race. That voids all other views and elevates Israel’s status in the world. 2) There is only one God, which makes God not just superior to other gods, but relegates them to false gods, or idols. 3) God is sovereign and all nations are subject to him. 4) God is holy, can’t tolerate sin and will judge it. All unregenerate men hate that. Besides being the recipients of revealed truth—or because of it—the Jews became proud. By magnifying themselves, they usurped God’s glory. Nor did they hesitate to let the rest of the world know of their special status with God. They missed the point that they were recipients of grace and were expected to share that good news with the rest of the world. The net result of all this should not be surprising. The world hated them. To add to that they were further persecuted for killing God (Christ).
Thursday, June 22
Human nature remains the same. The sin nature continues to plague us. And it’s not limited to the secular world. The Church has succumbed to worldly standards. Egotistical titles proliferate—monsignor, prelate, Vicar of God . . . Power politics contend for secular recognition. “Saints” are revered. Televangelists with their “miraculous powers,” vie with one another, each one seeking personal acclaim—and financial gain at the expense of the gullible. A pet peeve of mine is the robes and trappings of clergymen in many of our churches, all of which elevates the status of the preacher. Rather than glorifying God, it stokes the egos of pedantic speakers—not exactly the epitome of humility, which is no longer a high priority. Then there’s this title “Reverend.” What a travesty! Reverence for a man instead of reverence for God. Immorality is acceptable even among the clergy. Just as homosexual politicians are elected to public office, so can popular preachers continue to minister following a sexual scandal. If Christ, the head of the Church, was so sick of the Laodicean church that he wanted to vomit them out of his mouth (Rev. 3:16), how do you think he would describe the churches of today? I think it would be more scathing than “you’ve lost your first love.” OK, I recognize that there is still a core of godly men (and churches) that honor God. They are faithful by the way they live their lives and by their vocal witness. It’s a “remnant,” a small, faithful group, just as it has always been throughout history. God is still at work. The truth is making an impact throughout our world. The true Church is growing. Our little lights have the same illuminating power as they always did, but they stand out as more brilliant in an ever darkening world.
Tuesday, June 20 Dormant Egos
Titles are important, but they can corrupt. There are not many titles used in the O.T. Probably the first was priests, established in Israel during the exodus from Egypt. Moses had no title, nor did Joshua. Other titles were added when the nation fell into sin. God used prophets to set them straight, and later on, used judges to restore order. Then kings became prominent. There were problems with all three of these leadership roles. There were true prophets—and hordes of false prophets. God used judges to defeat idolatrous invaders, and then the judges failed miserably (Gideon and Samson), or compromised (Eli and Samuel). Some kings started out well and then blew it (Saul and Solomon). Others were corrupt from the beginning (Ahab). Throughout the O.T., it was obedience or rebellion, God or false gods, blessing or cursing. There were faithful priests and corrupt priests, true prophets and false prophets, strong judges and weak judges, good kings and bad kings, The sinful nature of man doesn’t change—even with God’s chosen leaders. God knew this all along; it didn’t catch him by surprise. So titles were not the main issue; it was the sin nature. Titles, however, exacerbated the sin nature. Dormant egos came alive.
Monday, June 19
Jesus said that the disciples would bear fruit. And we are to bear fruit. Everyone knows that to be an analogy. But did you notice that “fruit” is a generic term? We are not told to bear apples or oranges or plums. God made each of us unique. Each of us is born with different abilities. Besides these natural traits, we are given spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Paul puts it in terms of kinds of gifts, kinds of service, and “working.” Gifts are to meet the spiritual needs of others. Service focuses on using the gifts. “Working” has to do with the power of the Holy Spirit to exercise the gifts. The Greek word is “energeia,” from which comes the word “energy.” So God has given each of us both physical and spiritual gifts that vary from one person to another. Together, we meet the needs of the church body, as is described in the rest of 1 Cor. 12. Since your gifts are different than mine, your ministry will be different. That truth surfaced when Jesus met with his disciples after his resurrection (John 21). Peter was concerned about his future as compared to that of John. Jesus said “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” Peter was not John. Our Bible includes a 1st Peter and a 2nd Peter. And it also includes a 1st John, a 2nd John, and a 3rd John. Providentially, that doesn’t mean that there are two Peters and three Johns. God wanted one of each. And each one had a different assignment. It’s a relief to know that I don’t need to be another Billy Graham. But I need to produce fruit.