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Category Archives: Gospel of Matthew

Russia 2019 – April Update

Praying friends,

Thanks to God’s grace and your prayers, my passport and visa to Russia arrived this morning. Considering I leave in 10 days, it arrived none too soon!

On this trip, I will be teaching a three-day course on the Harmony of the Gospels in two locations—Anapa and Elista, Russia. So far, 25 students have registered and the number will probably increase as we get closer to the date. Last year, 43 people from 4 cities attended the classes.

At this point, the preparations are essentially complete. My notes are ready to go. I made copies of my handouts in Russian to take along. I purchased short-term ministry trip insurance. The only thing left to do is get some dental work taken care of and then pack.

Here are some items for your intercessory efforts:

PRAISES

  • Passport and visa to Russia arrived in a timely manner without complications.
  • The trip is fully funded.
  • Carol and I enjoyed a wonderful, refreshing time at the SonScape Retreat in Colorado.
  • I am finally healthy, having gotten over a cold/cough that plagued me for two weeks.

PRAYER REQUESTS

  • The students who will attend.
  • Safe travel.
  • Good health.
  • Effective ministry.
  • Dental work—I’m getting a root canal in a tooth on Monday.
  • Good Friday and Easter services this weekend.
  • Pray for Carol as she remains at home.

While you are praying, could you also pray that God will provide the necessary funds for Carol and me to minister in Moscow this fall in October? We will be part of a team teaching a week-long seminar on leadership development—identifying and training young, emerging leaders in the church. So far, $825 has been given towards the $4,200 needed for the trip. My prayer is that God will provide the total amount by June so that we can purchase airfare and make plans. If you would like to support the trip financially, please send a check to First Central Bible Church, 50 Broadway St, Chicopee, MA, 01020. Checks should be made out to FCBC with “Moscow Conference” in the notation line.

Thanks so much for your prayers, encouragement, and support. I’m grateful.

Mark Wheeler

 

After the Confetti Settles

Each one of us experiences many turning points in our lives. They are events which paint a distinct before and after picture. Before the event our lives were headed one direction. After the event, we headed off in an entirely different direction. Before we thought one thing; afterwards we had an entirely different perspective.

Sometimes the turning points are joyous occasions. Graduations, weddings, the birth of a child are events that drastically change a person’s life. Sometimes the events are traumatic such as an accident or doctor’s appointment where we are told we have cancer. Sometimes our life changes because of someone else’s action or decision. Whether the turning point is good, bad, or indifferent, life is never the same again.

The day Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is one such event. Matthew 21:1-11 records his triumphal entry. On this occasion, Jesus presented his credentials as the Messiah/King, the Son of David. The crowds shouted his praise. But what happened after the confetti settled and the parade was over? How was life different for the disciples or the people of Jerusalem? In the same way, how is life different for a Christ follower after Jesus enters his or her life?

Matthew 21:12-22 gives us an answer to that question. (Mark 11:11-12 adds the perspective that these events take place the day after Palm Sunday.) These events help us understand that life is never the same after King Jesus arrives. Jesus will challenge our priorities (12-13), heal our hurts (14), confront our biases (15-16), and expect fruit in our lives (18-22).

The day after Jesus entered Jerusalem, he makes his way to the temple. There he observes how the temple complex had been turned into a place of commerce. There were pens of sheep and livestock available for purchase to use as sacrifices. If you could not afford those, you could buy pigeons or doves. Before making any purchase, you had to exchange your regional coins for temple money.

Jesus begins to drive the merchants and money changers out of the temple (12-13). He declares that the temple was to be a place of prayer, not a safe house for bandits. In his actions, Jesus challenged the priorities of the prevailing culture. Instead of focusing on worship, they were more concerned about busyness. By driving the merchants out, Jesus removed the weapons of mass distraction. He called for people to refocus their attention on the purpose of the temple—a place where people of every nationality could come to pray.

In verse 14, Jesus healed those who were blind and lame. Because of their physical disability, they were not welcome in the temple. They could not worship their creator. Beyond the physical healing, Jesus removed the barriers that kept these folks from entering the temple to worship.

After showing mercy to hurting people, Jesus confronted the bias of the religious leaders who were outraged that people were not worshipping in the proper manner (15-16). Ironically, they put up with the noise of commerce but cringed at the noise of praise. As he often did, Jesus comforted the afflicted and he afflicted the comfortable.

Outside of the city, Jesus saw a fig tree in full bloom (18-22). Normally, leaves meant the presence of figs. But that was not the case. The tree had the appearance of health and fruitfulness, but it was all a sham. Because of its hypocrisy, Jesus said the tree would never bloom again. Through his actions, Jesus taught his disciples that outward appearances are not enough. He expects to find fruit in our lives. Jesus also used the occasion to teach about prayer and faith. He explained that God can do what is humanly impossible.

These same lessons should be true in our lives as well. When King Jesus comes into our lives, life is never the same again. He will challenge our priorities. He wants us to pursue a relationship with him rather than settle for busyness. He will heal our hurts and remove the barriers that hinder us from approaching him in worship. He will make us uncomfortable as he confronts our biases. And he will expect us to be fruitful in serving him.

Have you given King Jesus permission to cleanse and change your life? If we’re honest, we might have given him permission to cleanse our lives. We want forgiveness and heaven. But change our lives? Many of us want to continue living by our own standards. But that is just not realistic. When King Jesus truly comes into our lives, he changes everything. Life is never the same after King Jesus takes up residence in our lives.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at the First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Palm Sunday message preview

 

Russia 2019 – March update

Dear friends,

I am grateful for your support, encouragement, and prayers for my upcoming trip to Russia. It is only through your intercessory efforts that I am able to do what I do. Thanks so much!

I hope to apply for my Russian visa in the next couple of weeks. The LOI (letter of invitation) from Moscow should arrive next week. Once I receive it, I will head for the Russian visa office in New York City to apply in person for the visa. I will be applying for a humanitarian visa for religious work, in order to be above board on what we are doing and not take a chance in getting in trouble with the authorities. Please pray that the process goes smoothly and without complications.

I completed the third round of editing my notes for the Harmony of the Gospels course. As I mentioned previously, the challenge of teaching through four gospels is deciding what NOT to say. After cutting the material in half through the editing process, I still have a bit too much. Until I teach through it the first time, I won’t know for sure. Please pray that I have wisdom to know what to include and what to leave out.

Please pray for the students who will attend the course. They are currently working on the preclass assignment. They are to read through one of gospels and write down their questions. They are also to answer two questions: (1) What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23)? How do you do that personally? and (2) How did Jesus fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17-20)? Should Christians follow the Law today?

Please pray for Carol and me over the next seven weeks—safe travel, good health, wise use of our time, boldness to share with people, etc. Next week, I will be in Atlanta, GA, for a Walk Thru the Bible faculty conference. When I return, Carol heads for the west coast to visit her parents and sisters and to see two of our children. In early April, we will attend a SonScape pastoral retreat in Colorado. It will be a time of rest, refreshment, encouragement, challenge, and planning for the future. In mid-April, we will be involved in our Easter outreach here at the church. The week after Easter, I leave for Russia. As you can see, the next seven weeks are filled with many opportunities for ministry.

Thanks for your support, encouragement, and prayers. I’m in your debt.

 

Russia 2019 – February update

Dear friends,

I was recently reading through the book of Exodus and came upon every pastor, missionary, and ministry leader’s ideal regarding financial giving. Exodus chapters 35 & 36 describe the offering for the construction of the tabernacle. Moses called for those who were willing and generous to bring their offering. People gave so much that Moses finally had to call a halt.

35:4 Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution…20 Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution …36:2 And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning… So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.

Once again, through your prayers and generosity, God has provided for my May 2019 ministry trip to Russia. Two weeks ago, I was able to purchase airfare and make hotel reservations. Thank you, Lord!

I have started the process of applying for a Russian visa. Once I receive the LOI (letter of invitation) from our contact in Moscow, I will apply for a humanitarian visa for religious work. Rather than the normal 30-day visa, I will be applying for a one-year visa. (Carol and I have been invited to come to Moscow in October to help teach a seminar on leadership development. More about that trip next month.) Please pray that the process goes smoothly and without complications.

I have been working on my notes for the Harmony of the Gospels course over the past few weeks. In previous years, I only taught one book of the Bible during the three-day course. As you can imagine, the challenge of teaching through four books is deciding what NOT to say. Please pray that I have wisdom to know what to include and what to leave out.

Please pray for the students who will attend the course. Last week I sent a preclass assignment for them to begin working on. They are to read through one of gospels and write down their questions. They are also to answer two questions: (1) What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23)? How do you do that personally? and (2) How did Jesus fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17-20)? Should Christians follow the Law today?

Thanks for your support, encouragement, and prayers. I’m in your debt.

 

Harmony of the Gospels

Next May, I will be teaching a 3-day class on the Harmony of the Gospels while I am ministering in Russia. To help me in my preparation, I have been working on an outline of the events of the life of Christ. Here is a pdf version of my work thus far.

If the statement is true that quoting from one source is plagiarism while quoting from several is good research, then my outline is good research. It is adapted from several books and websites including:

Talk Thru the Bible, by Ken Boa and Bruce Wilkinson

The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, by J. Dwight Pentecost

The Life of Christ in Stereo, by Johnston M. Cheney

https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/harmony/index.cfm

http://www.lifeofchrist.com/life/harmony/