Chapter Three – Matthew 3: The Work of Faith


“Welcome home, you / I know you by name / How do you do? / I shine because of you today / So come and sit down / Tell me how you are / I know son, it’s good just to see your face”

  • Brian Littrell, Welcome Home (You), from the 2006 album, “Welcome Home”

I live in a city known as a leader in the hospitality industry. People come from all over the world to a little oasis in the desert in order to be well-fed and entertained. A single high-rise hotel may offer as many as 4,400 rooms for visitors. UNLV recently opened a brand-new, state of the art hospitality building on their campus to train future Strip workers. There are more diamond resorts in a 3 mile route than at almost any other place in the world. If there’s anything that Las Vegas excels at, it’s welcoming the world to it’s doorstep.

Which caused me to wonder how the church is doing in that department. If I’m honest, it seems more often than naught that the last place the world is ever welcomed is in the pews. And yet, if one were to look at the third chapter of Matthew, John the Baptist is a master at helping others to welcome Jesus. Yes, his primary message is one of repentance, but the purpose is to prepare people to receive the Kingdom of Heaven when it arrives. Which leaves me to wonder, how well am I doing this? Is every connection I make, no matter how great or small, one which welcomes people in Jesus’ name? Not discriminating. Not judging. Not throwing up hoops for people to jump through first. Just simply welcoming people in.

What would this look like on a practical scale? Maybe every church operates as a homeless shelter Monday through Saturday, pausing only to hold services on Sunday. And many of the homeless are congregants, along with gamblers, refugees, alcoholics, prostitutes, embezzlers, adulterers, illegal immigrants, and various members of the LGBTQ community. If people discover what I believe by the way I live, what does the current make-up of the church say about Christ? After all, if people can’t see my faith by the way I live, then I may not be much of a Christian.

Finally, I’m impressed by how tirelessly John worked to welcome people into the Kingdom. He completely devoted his time and energy to the pursuit of others, which leaves me to wonder: do I put all of my energy into the task God has for me? Because of John’s enthusiasm and Jesus’ submission to John when He is baptized, God says He is well=pleased with His Son. That phrase “well-pleased” can be interpreted as God expressing His great joy. And I have to ask myself, “Do I bring God great joy in how I live?” Do my words reflect Him? Do my actions reflect Him? Do my thoughts reflect Him? All the time or just when it’s convenient for me? And if not, why not? Again, people will know what I believe by the way I live, act, think; especially towards others. How am I welcoming them?

Chapter Two – Matthew 2: Giving and Guidance

One star burns in the darkness / Shines with a promise / Emmanuel / One child born in the stillness / Living within us / Emmanuel – Matt Maher, Glory (Let There Be Peace) – Single.

It’s been said that stars shine brightest in the darkness. Yet the only people who recognized a special star in the heavens were the ones looking for it. And when it appeared, they followed it to a special baby in another country, proving that divine guidance comes only to prepared hearts. It doesn’t come to just anyone or everyone. Even though the star was there for all to see, only a select few acted upon it. Just like when the time came to quickly leave his homeland, Joseph took his wife and child and went to Africa. He had been told in a dream to marry a woman who was not carrying his child, and he did so. Now he was being told to flee before that child could be slaughtered by a jealous king. His heart had proved before that it was prepared to obey, so divine guidance was given for a second time. How am I preparing my heart to receive divine guidance that I may act? Would I recognize it because I am actively looking for it?

The second lesson I draw from this chapter concerns the act of worship by those wise men. They brought gifts. Expensive gifts. Gifts that, no doubt, cost them something. And that, in a nutshell, is the definition of worship. It’s not necessarily sitting in a special building, singing special songs or hearing someone preach a special message. It is not saved for a special day of the week. Worship is the act of giving what is valuable to me to someone else whenever it is necessary. It comes in the form of a listening ear or offering to drive someone to a doctor’s appointment across town. Sometimes it involves money. Sometimes it involves time. It always involves the heart and mind working together. Most of the time, it is quiet and doesn’t draw attention to itself. I would be willing to bet that journey and act of worship was not a one-time deal for those wise men. Scripture doesn’t record it, but I suspect those individuals had made a lifestyle habit out of seeking out opportunities to worship so that when the star appeared, of course they would follow it. So how does all of this impact me? It makes worship something that can happen on an hourly basis instead of a weekly one. And it makes worship something that is not a solitary act, nor something for my benefit. It steps me outside myself so I am reaching out to others God has placed in my path. In reaching out to them, in giving to them, I am involved in the act of worship – not of them, but through them. And I can’t help but believe that touches God’s heart as much as singing a song to Him does or sitting in a church. And it proves Emmanuel is living within us.

Chapter One – Matthew 1: Breaking the Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

  • Simon and Garfunkel, 1966 From the Album, Sounds of Silence

For over four hundred years, the Jews waited in silence for God to speak to them again. For over four hundred years, all they had were the words of the prophets and leaders like Moses to give them comfort and direction. For over four hundred years, they wondered where their God had gone. Sound familiar? Have you ever turned to God only to hear nothing but silence from Him?

The first thing I notice in this chapter of Matthew is that between the end of the Old Testament writings and the New Testament writings spans four hundred years of silence, until suddenly, God proves He was working in the silence all along on His plan to redeem humankind.

An angel appears first to a young girl and then to her fiancé with astonishing news of a special baby. But His first words to these individuals are: Do NOT be afraid; the same words He says to us over 365 times in Scripture: One reminder for each day of the year. How many times in my life have I turned to God only to be met with a lengthy silence, and then to be told when that silence is finally broken: Have no fear; Be brave? As He explains His silence, I can see He has been faithfully working all along on the issue I initially took to Him. He has not really been silent; He has been working and my job is to trust that He has not abandoned me, as I fear,  during those times.

The second lesson I find in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel is that God will provide a way I haven’t thought of if I obey Him. Joseph believed he had only two options when it came to Mary’s unexpected pregnancy: 1) to disgrace Mary publicly, or 2) to break the engagement quietly. How often do I look at a situation and believe my options are limited? God spoke to Joseph in a dream and offered a way he had never thought of – to take Mary as his wife. AND HE OBEYED. When God finally explains what He has been working on, how readily do I obey Him?

The third lesson I find comes from the lengthy genealogy of Jesus. Familiarity with the Old Testament reveals the Messiah’s family tree consisted of liars, scoundrels, prostitutes, con men, and other unsavory individuals. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for holiness and godliness, which proves that God uses all kinds of people to fulfill His purposes. We may not always understand how this is possible – but the evidence is clear as Paul would write later: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT). Even the worst of the worst can be called according to the purpose of God and used for His glory. Perhaps I should refrain from judging others while I wear the blinders of limited vision as to how the Almighty is working. Perhaps I should just trust that no one is beyond His ability to use them even if they are not the godliest of examples to follow. After all, my thoughts and ways are not His.

So, the challenge becomes will I trust He is working, even in the silences? When He does provide me with a way I haven’t thought of – will I obey Him? And who am I to judge who God chooses to use for His purpose? I see with limited vision. He sees beyond the horizons with perfect clarity. That knowledge needs to be enough for me.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! This site will seek to chronicle my journey through Scripture on a weekly basis as I record what God is teaching me along the way. It is good, honest and kind conversation which is desired, if you are willing. Shall we get started? The road is long and winding…

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton