The 10th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is intense. It has some serious implications. Jesus is sending the 12 disciples out on a mission. The scene Matthew sets up reminds me of a very important briefing to a police unit or soldiers before an important special operation. Their leader is giving them logistical, tactical, and missional instructions, as well as motivation.
Some of what Jesus says to them was probably hard to understand at the time.
He warns them to beware of many dangers, but also to use those situations to share the gospel without anger if need be. He says to be shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. He tells them not to take any money and rely on the generosity of those who give it. A great task is laid out before them with many challenges and specific instructions, and He lets them know that if they claim to follow Him they will be treated with great hatred…that they may be overtaken, arrested, beaten, or even killed. In verse 28, he says: “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
I can only say at that point, if I had been in their shoes (or sandals), I would have been very afraid of the possibilities that lay ahead.
But that is something for us to consider…
The same God that sent them out has sent us out for the same cause. We could see a day when the dangers that met them find us out as well. In fact, so many brothers and sisters in Christ around the world meet similar challenges every day. The prevalence of the Christian Martyr in our world is staggering.
Not only must we pray and stand with these fellow believers, but we must take up our cross as they have theirs. Jesus tells His disciples in verse 38 and 39: “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”
Many who claim Christ will not live this calling out. If mild American persecution is too much for us, then we can safely say we wouldn’t do too well with this same mission given to the disciples. If we get offended by Facebook posts to the point of disengagement, then getting arrested and beaten while loving the captors would probably be too much for us to handle.
I pray that we are ready to meet peril for the cause of Christ, as many are every day. There will probably be someone being slain for the Christian mission they chose to accept as I’m writing this. Let us pray with and for them, and be ready to follow Jesus at any cost as they have.
This is our calling as Christians, and when we accept the highest calling, we will realize how unimportant some of our past personal crusades have been.
To what and where may God be calling you today? We all have to explore that our lives today. We may not have tomorrow to do it.
So, I have been thinking a lot about this idea that since we’re Christian we do certain things and don’t do certain things. Why is this a broken idea that we have seemly grasped with all of our strength?
So, here is the problem that I have been seeing in my own life, that since I have seemingly tamed the external behavior in my life I have succeeded…
We know that since we are followers of a Risen Savior that Jesus attacks the idea that external behavior is the goal. Jesus is relentless when it comes to matters of the heart. He rebukes the Pharisees for their seemly flawless external behavior and the weight that they cast on others as they try to obtain it. We also see in Proverbs 4 that the heart is the central issue for all things in our lives.
So, here is the question. How do we obtain spiritual growth that is not motivated by external evidence?
I feel that our motivation has to be growing in the new heart that we have been given (Ezekiel 36:26). This must be motivated by our love for Christ and what He has done for us. Not the idea that Sunday morning appearance is the goal. Projecting the idea that we have made “it”, to whatever we as churchgoers deem to be the “it” that we are after. We must realize that our effort isn’t ever going to be enough, or even for what we should be striving. That there has to be a sincere love based off a desire to grow closer to the One who has given everything to be able to engage into a relationship with us.
Which leads us to the question how do we make this happen? For me it has started to look like this, I don’t claim that this is the only way or even a good way, it’s just becoming my way. I have seen in my life that prayer has to be a living and active element on a daily and hourly basis. I must be consumed with prayer. If you look at King David and his relationship with God and the way he would continually run to Him, their relationship developed to one that I have a great desire to obtain. Prayer is a must.
I have also begun to re-realize that I have to stop seeking the approval of men. This is something that I struggle with but as we evaluate common traits of men and woman of God in the scriptures, we see that they are consumed with this idea that Gods approval is enough. This is a goal of mine.
Lastly I am starting to understand true growth is something that can’t be portrayed. What I mean by that is we can only put on the act for so long before our cover is blown away. We have to put in the time; growth doesn’t happen overnight but over time, day by day everything can change, put in the time! It will be worth it.
Philippines 3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect but I press on…. to make it my own, because Jesus Christ has made me His own.
Chris Smith, Youth Pastor
It is the last day of VBS and I kind of feel like how my own kids, Eli and Emma, must feel when I tell them they need to write a thank you note. “I don’t know where to start!”
My heart is so full of many thoughts and feelings as I am finishing the end of three weeks of Awesome July Fun—Girls’ Camp in Hartville, MO; Kids’ Camp in Stoutland, MO and Vacation Bible School right here at home.
So many people (you!) have made these events successful through prayers, generous gifts of time and money, sharing of talents and just plain hard work.
While these weeks were super fun—encompassing everything from synchronized swimming competitions to game show contestants to scuba divers—the MOST IMPORTANT PART is that our kids have had giant foundation stones placed & cemented on their spiritual lives during these weeks.
In both camps and in our VBS week, we have strived to not just teach kids about being “good people” but CHRIST FOLLOWERS, and we have given them TRUTH, HOPE and LOVE straight from God’s word.
I am so glad that we offer TRUTH, not just good citizen traits or nice qualities and that it is REAL and evidenced by how we saw God work these weeks in both the kids’ and the workers’ lives who were involved in these camps and VBS.
What we have been a part of, and what you’ve helped support, these weeks can make the difference between an abundant, purposeful life of meaning, fulfillment & blessings with Christ versus an insecure life spent searching and wondering.
Even though these events are now over, I’d like to challenge all of us to continue praying for our camp and VBS kids and that the seeds of truth which were planted will continue to grow and now flourish.
Thank you again to every person who has been involved in any way—especially all of you fish and sea creature cutters and your prayers.
Becca Hungerford, Children’s Ministry Director
How do we respond?
Last Sunday in our church we asked how we should respond to the violence that has taken place in our nation in the past days. We need to keep asking ourselves this question and continue to respond in a way that honors God and serves the people around us. I am grateful to men like Russell Moore of our Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission who has encouraged and helped me and countless others to be more Christ-like in the wake of multiple tragedies which have become the flashpoint of racial tensions in our nation.
First of all, will we pray? And will we pray specifically for the families of the dead? Will we call them by name and lift these families to God? Regardless of the circumstances of each death, there are families who are devastated today. Pray for the families of Alton Sterling, Louisiana; Philando Castille, Minnesota; Lorne Ahrens, Dallas Police; Michael Krol, Dallas Police; Michael Smith, Dallas Police; Patrick Zamarripa, Dallas Police; Brent Thompson, Dallas Transit Police.
Will we lament the condition of our nation and our hearts? Will we ask God to lead us to a godly response to the oppressed around us and the authority over us? Here are a few places in Scripture to begin: Romans 1:28-32; 3:9-18; Psalm 74:19-23; Romans 13:1-5.
Will I recognize my response to the shootings of the past week? Anger? Fear? Defensive? Judgmental? Apathetic? Are the struggles of minority ethnic groups of any concern to me? What is my attitude toward people who look different than me? What is my response to authority in my life?
Do we value what God values? Do we value life (Matthew 5:21-22)? Do we value justice (Proverbs 17:15)? Do we value unity (Revelation 7:9)?
What is our role as the church? Will we bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)? Will we walk in unity (Ephesians 4)? Will we love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22, Luke 10)? Will we pray (Ephesians 5:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17)?
Will we answer bad news with Good News? Isaiah said, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61). In Ezekiel 36:26 God promises to His people, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” In Ephesians 2, Paul writes about being made alive in Christ even when we were dead in our sins. This indeed is good news and we need it more than ever today.
How will you respond?