RSS

Category Archives: Scripture

9:38

We started the first two days of my Harmony of the Gospels class in Elista at 10:00AM. On the third day, we began at 9:00AM so as to finish by noon and get on the road back to Krasnodar. At 9:38, everyone’s phone started ringing. I was annoyed because they were all to turn off their phones so as not to be distracted during the class. I soon learned that their phones were not ringing but rather sounding an alarm as a reminder to pray.

The church in Kalmykia has taken Matthew 9:38 literally. In that verse, Jesus tells his disciples, “therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” At 9:38 each morning, the Christ followers in Kalmykia pause to pray about their outreach efforts.

I paused my teaching and one of the brothers led the class in prayer.

Perhaps I should learn from their example and encourage the folks in my church to do the same.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 21, 2019 in Evangelism, Prayer, Russia, Scripture

 

Russia 2019 Ministry Trip – Week One Update

Praying friends,

The Russia 2019 ministry trip began on Sunday, April 28, when the elders of First Central Bible Church laid hands on me and prayed for me during our morning worship service. I count it a privilege to be sent, prayed for, and supported by my church, as well as by supportive and encouraging friends around the world.

I left Boston on Monday, April 29, and flew overnight to Amsterdam where I had a four-hour layover. I connected with John & Naomi Musgrave, the missionaries I work with, in the KLM Business Lounge on Tuesday morning. I have known and worked with John & Naomi since the early 90’s when I was on staff at Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA, and John was one of the elders. We were able to reconnect and get caught up with one another during the layover.

From Amsterdam, we flew to Moscow and arrived Tuesday afternoon. We spent the night in Moscow and then flew to Anapa on the north coast of the Black Sea Wednesday morning. Since John & Naomi had meetings in Anapa on Wednesday afternoon, I relaxed in my room and read. We connected later for an early dinner.

My class on the Harmony of the Gospels took place on Thursday & Friday. The class met at Pastor Vanya’s home. There were 20 people in the class, counting my translator, Lena, and myself. On Thursday, I taught from 9AM – 5:30PM, with breaks in the morning and afternoon as well as for lunch. On Friday, we went from 9AM – 4PM. John asked me to condense the class into two days rather than three since the church leaders had a meeting scheduled for Saturday morning. That meant I needed to be selective on how much depth and detail I added as I went through each section and which ones I skimmed through.

We began the class by discussing the preclass assignment I had given them. They were to read through one of the four gospels and identify how that author portrayed Jesus. They were also to write down the questions they had as they went through the book. In addition, they were to answer two questions: (1) What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth? (John 4:23) and, How do we do that today? (2) How did Jesus fulfill the Law? (Matthew 5:17-20) and, Do Christians need to follow the Law today? It was a good time of discussion.

Prior to the class, I used several resources to compile a chronological outline of the four gospels. It listed each event of the life of Christ and the reference where you would find it in the respective gospel. Lena was able to translate it into Russian and we gave copies to the class members so that they could follow along. In previous classes I went verse by verse through a book (Romans, Revelation, etc.) and followed my detailed notes. For this class, I simply followed the chronology and taught directly from the Scriptures without referring to my notes. (It helped that I had read through my notes at least four times, and that I had previously preached through the gospel of Mark and am in the gospels each year for Palm Sunday, Easter, and Advent.) It felt good to be able to teach without notes. In addition to explaining the story of Jesus, I also added short applications of how we could put the principles into action in our lives today.

At the end of the class, the group was very complimentary and appreciative of my teaching. Vanya said it was good to have the church in his home studying the gospels together. It brought greater unity to the church. I commented that that was one of the benefits of studying the Scriptures together. Viktor said he had never read through the gospels chronologically before. Nadia commented that it was hard on their bodies to sit for two days, but when she was rested, she was filled with joy from hearing the Scriptures taught. Another said that while she had read through the gospels previously, she still learned many new things.

Vanya’s mother presented me with a Thank You gift from the group. It is a piece of tree bark that has a scene painted on it. It carries the inscription of Matthew 11:28, “Come to me.” I found it especially meaningful since that is the theme verse of the SonScape Retreats that Carol and I attended in Colorado a few weeks ago.

As a closing assignment, I encouraged each one to use the outline to read through the gospels chronologically to help deepen their understanding of the flow of the life of Christ. I also encouraged them to use the outline in their personal studies as it would help them see what comes before and after each event in the life of Christ.

On Saturday morning, John & I met with the Anapa elders and leaders of the EXMS denomination, which Holy Trinity Church is part of. Part of the discussion revolved around the qualifications for elders and whether or not they need to be ordained. A second discussion focused on an issue of shepherding related to their church. It was a long and challenging discussion which we continued with some of the leaders over lunch.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast with Viktor and Luda Semukhin, and their son, Vanya. Viktor was one of John’s students at the New Life Bible College in Moscow and is a church planter. They are going through a difficult season and we were able to offer some words of encouragement. After breakfast, we worshipped at Holy Trinity Church in Anapa and then had lunch with Pastor Vanya and his wife, Tanya. In the afternoon, we drove to Krasnodar. On Monday, we will continue driving to Elista, where the second class will be held.

 

Thanks for praying.  Mark Wheeler

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 5, 2019 in Ministry, Missions, Photos, Russia, Scripture

 

Of root canals, pressure washers, and soul care

What do root canals and pressure washers have in common? On the surface, not much. But both were reminders this past week of my need to care for the health of my soul.

One month ago, I was fighting a cough and cold. When I woke up one morning with my teeth hurting, I assumed it was because I was grinding my teeth while struggling not to cough. Later that morning, I almost went through the roof trying to drink a cup of coffee. One side of my lower jaw was extremely sensitive to hot and cold. Realizing I had a bigger problem than I earlier suspected, I called and made an appointment to see my dentist.

Sitting in the dentist chair, he confirmed I needed a root canal. The root was dying and had become infected. He put me on a course of antibiotics and made an appointment to see me in a month. (I left town the next week for 10 days and then he was gone for a week after I returned.) We met this past week to have the offending tooth drilled out and filled in.

My failing tooth reminded me of the need to make sure the roots of my faith are firmly planted. Matthew 13:1-6 contains that parable of the sower. Some seed fell on poor soil and withered under the summer heat because they had no root (6). I don’t want a weak, rootless faith.

My root canal also reminded me of the need to fix and heal broken relationships. Hebrews 12:14-15 explains that a broken relationship or a wrong priority can lead to a “root of bitterness” which can lead to trouble and defilement. The infection of sin can easily spread if it is not rooted out.

Root canals remind me that on the one hand, my faith needs to have a healthy growing root in good soil. On the other hand, I need to guard against the infections that can come in to cause my soul to become diseased.

On Saturday, I rented an electric pressure washer to try to clean the deck on the back of my house. The last time it was done was prior to when we moved in seven years ago. Seven years’ worth of dirt, grime, and grease takes more than a bucket of soapy water and a brush to get rid of. You need extra pressure and force to strip away the layers.

In Psalm 51:2, David wrote, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!” 2 Corinthians 7:1 explains that we are to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Rather than allowing sin to build up on my soul, I need to keep short accounts and confess my sins and seek God’s cleansing on a regular basis.

If I ignore the health of my soul, I may need to undergo a spiritual root canal to heal a diseased root or a spiritual pressure washing to cleanse my soul deeply. How much wiser it is to maintain a healthy soul.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 1, 2019 in Personal growth, Scripture

 

Hebrews 4:12-13 – Preview

 

Is the Resurrection too good to be True?

There are some things that sound too good to be true. Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. The Tooth Fairy. Fat free food that tastes good. Guilt free chocolate. Healthy fast food. Sasquatch. All of these things fall into that category. Some people, including some of Jesus’ disciples, would place the resurrection of Jesus Christ into the too-good-to-be-true category. They have a hard time believing it actually took place.

In Luke 24:36-53, Jesus presented his disciples with three types of evidence to convince them that he actually rose from the dead. Rather than continue in our skepticism and disbelief, we need to consider the evidence closely. There is more than enough evidence to believe—physical evidence, biblical evidence, and personal evidence. When we believe the evidence for the resurrection, our lives will be transformed.

Physical Evidence: Jesus Christ had a physical body (36-43). The disciples were meeting in the upper room trying to process the stories they were hearing that Jesus had risen from the dead. Suddenly, he appeared in their midst. Needless to say, they were stunned and shocked. Jesus asked them two questions—Why are you troubled? and Why are you doubting? He stretched out his hands and offered them as evidence that he was not a ghost. Like a sports fan marveling at a last second winning goal, home run, or three-point shot, they disbelieved with joy. If they still weren’t convinced, Jesus asked for some food and ate some broiled fish. Add up the evidence and you conclude that Jesus Christ had a physical body that could be seen and touched.

Biblical Evidence: Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies of Scripture (44-46). Jesus took them on a journey through the three major sections of the Old Testament—the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms or Writings—and demonstrated that he is the central focus of Scripture.

 

Messiah would Suffer

Messiah would Rise from the dead

Law

Exodus 12

Exodus 3:6

Prophets

Isaiah 53

Hosea 6:2

Psalms

Psalm 22

Psalm 16:8-11

Add up the evidence and you conclude that Jesus Christ is the focus and fulfillment of Scripture.

Personal Evidence: The disciples were transformed (47-53). Jesus gave his disciples a mission to accomplish. They were to tell of what they had seen. Rather than being a change in direction, this too was spoken of in the Old Testament.

Mission

Law

Genesis 12:2, 3

Prophets

Isaiah 49:6

Quoted in Acts 13

Psalms

Psalm 22:27, 28

Before setting off on their mission, they were to wait for the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. As the book of Acts testifies, the disciples were transformed and were never the same again. They went from cowardice to confidence, from fearful to boldness, from hiding to public, from worry to worship. Add up the evidence and you conclude that the disciples were transformed by the truth of the resurrection.

How should we respond to this account? Let me encourage you to examine the evidence. Ask God to answer your questions. Believe the message. Receive the gift of forgiveness. Let God transform your life.

When we believe the evidence for the resurrection, our lives will be transformed.

The Lord is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 21, 2019. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Before & After the Cross

After reading Romans 5:6-11, I constructed a chart that paints a before & after picture with the death of Christ being a hinge.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Before

 

 

Christ died for us

(6, 8, 10)

After

Weak, powerless (6)

 

Ungodly (6)

Justified (9)

Sinners (8)

Saved (9)

Enemies (10)

Reconciled (10)

 

Rejoicing (11)

This is part of the devotional I shared during our Good Friday service at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 19, 2019.

 

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.