A Momentous Change
(Missional Teaching)

As a little boy, I knew what I would be asked when I was met by my parents after school, including Sunday School. Most of my friends were asked the same question. Here it is:

“Joel, what did you learn today?”

As a young adult, I became the Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teacher. I also did some substitute teaching at a private school. I noticed a momentous change in the after-school question kids were asked. Somewhere along the line, parents had been reprogramed. Here was the new question:

“Honey, did you have fun today?”

As an older adult, I direct a summer Bible camp for teens. This involves intense teaching and teacher training. It also happens to involve a lot of fun. This enables me to interact with many of the best parents out there, by far. Yet, when camp concludes and the parents arrive to reclaim their kids, it’s usually the “fun” question I hear them ask. Okay, maybe the “learn” question comes during the drive home. One can hope. In an y case, I am generalizing (fairly, I think) to spark reflection.

It’s like millions of parents got the same memo and follow it to a tee. There are exceptions but most kids today anticipate the “fun” question. After a quick ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ the process of forgetting what they just learned is s underway.

I had no trouble having fun as a kid, although it got me into trouble a few times. I am grateful for the freedom I had to have fun. But “fun” was never promoted to me as a mission in life. Learning was.

I lived in a world that needed to be explored. That was fun. Still is. I also lived in a world that needed to be understood. That became a mission. Sometimes it was fun but most times, it was hard work. Still is. But the mission remained.

Today, I am grateful to my parents and all those old fashioned adults who wondered what I had learned and then listened. Now I recognize their wonder as love. While picking up a few facts along the way, I learned the value of learning and the importance of finding meaning behind the facts. My teachers at school fed me valuable facts and helped me with their meaning, but it was mainly my parents who taught me my mission.

Memo to parents: No matter how many schools you send your kids to, you are their primary teachers (for good or ill). Take up that role in earnest and for good! Ask good questions and listen well. Give your kids a mission in life beyond having fun. Tell them:

“If you love to learn, you’ll learn to love.”

The Days of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus

    “These are the days of Elijah, Declaring the word of the Lord;
    And these are the days of Your servant Moses, Righteousness being restored

    Robin Mark, songwriter, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

In the days of Moses, the enslaved children of Israel suffered under an Egyptian Pharaoh who made their lives miserable. It took ten powerful plagues to make Pharaoh listen to reason and let the Israelites go free. Moses delivered this message and God delivered the results. Once free, it took 40 years for Moses to lead God’s people through a barren wilderness to the Promised Land. Many times, they wished they were back in Egypt and blamed Moses for their troubles. They were a rebellious and ungrateful lot who desperately needed guidance, especially moral guidance. So God revealed His will to them through the Law which Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai and labored to implement.

In the days of Elijah (9th century BC), Israel was reeling from endless civil wars leaving her dangerously divided between North and South. Elijah lived in the North under the rule King Ahab who sold himself to evil. Ahab married a devout and ruthless Baal-cult evangelist named Jezebel. Elijah began his ministry declaring that God would use a severe drought to turn the land of milk and honey into a desert. Elijah delivered the message and God delivered the results. This angered Ahab forcing Elijah to flee for his life. Jezebel began purging the prophets of Yahweh from the land. Elijah escaped her religious cleansing leaving him quite lonely assuming he was the only faithful one left. He lived much of his life in the wilderness far from courts of nobility and luxury.

In the days of Jesus, Moses was a 1,400 year old memory and Elijah came 900 years before Christ. So, when all three met on the Mount of Transfiguration “in glorious splendor” (Luke 9:30), they had a lot to talk about.

The transfiguration defies explanation, but it is described in each of the first three gospels. Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his clothes were dazzling white. Yet, he was standing in the looming shadow of the cross. In fact, Jesus’ imminent death was the topic of conversation between Moses, Elijah and Jesus (Luke 9:31). Then, a cloud enveloped all three and a voice declared, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).

Why Moses and Elijah? Perhaps it is it was because these two humble and powerful agents of Yahweh had so much in common already:

  • Both confronted arrogant kings, boldly!
  • Both were sustained by God with bread and meat in a wilderness (1 Kings 17:6).
  • Both journeyed to Horeb (it took Elijah 40 days and nights, 1 Kings 19:8).
  • Both got aggravated over Israel’s faithlessness.
  • Both were reduced by self-pity to death wishes (Numbers 11:15 & 1 Kings 19:4).
  • Both practiced intercessory prayer and saw God answer them.
  • Both were mentors who commissioned their successors (Moses mentored Joshua and Elijah mentored Elisha).
  • Both miraculously parted bodies of water (Exodus 14:21 & 2 Kings 2:8).
  • Neither had a marker to identify a burial place (important to Jews).

Moses was God’s agent of freedom and righteousness! He was called to deliver God’s people from slavery and establish God’s gracious law for His free people through the Sinai covenant. Elijah was the archetypal Hebrew prophet, a bold and blunt man of God who in evil times declared the word of the Lord to earthly powers at great cost to himself. And Jesus, well, He was God’s beloved Son, sent into a sinful world as an agent of divine forgiveness at great cost to himself.

Strangely enough, the bodies all three (Moses, Elijah and Jesus) were not to be found after they accomplished their respective missions on earth. There was apparently some sort of dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil over the body of Moses (Jude 1:9). That baffles me. A chariot of fire swung low in a whirlwind to sweep Elijah up into heaven (2 Kings 2:11), leaving Elisha in awe. And we all know what happened to Jesus’ body.

THIS Marriage Will Last!

In the Bible Jesus loved (the Old Testament), the chosen people of God were often described as His beloved bride. Their relationship became quite rocky due to her serial unfaithfulness. This inspired many prophetic calls for repentance and a remnant remained. God’s steadfast love for her endured.

In the New Testament, the church becomes the bride of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote of Jesus and His church in synonymous terms with husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22-33). The book of Revelation rejoices over the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) with His bride who is clothed in “the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:7-8). Speaking of this bride, John relates that “they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” (21:3). The Bible ends with an invitation from the Spirit and the bride saying to everyone who hears, “Come” (22:17). Indeed, offering God’s gracious invitation to the thirsty, the needy and the lost has always been the mission of Jesus’ church, His glorious bride.

Sadly, a rising crusade of professed Christians today are calling for a divorce. They seek this divorce in Jesus’ name, presuming that His followers can cut off His church and still have Jesus. Others want the divorce presuming that the church is theirs and they can play church without Jesus. Sorry, but Jesus stands with his faithful bride, now and forever.

Slipping and sliding toward a divorce between Jesus and His bride is facilitated in two unwise ways:

  1. When a so-called “church” releases her grip on Jesus to become merely a social club or entertainment center that ignores the call to repent and shuns the message of the cross, she is slipping and sliding on a steep slope leading to the ultimate divorce.
  2. When professed “Christians” claim to follow Jesus while cutting themselves off from Jesus’ bride, individually or as a group rebellion, they are already living as if the divorce has occurred. People who bash Jesus’ church with cheap stereotypes and self-righteous smears gain popularity quickly in America today—even among idealistic “Christians.” Many claim to do this to save Christians from the church. Don’t follow such people.

The faithful bride of Christ is called out in this world to love God and others just as Jesus did on His way to the cross. Abandoning this narrow path means divorcing yourself from Him. Jesus’ church has a table where the Lord’s Supper serves as a proclamation of His death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). She also has a pulpit where God’s word is faithfully proclaimed. Actually, the table, the pulpit or any other furniture we use (and the building itself) are not the point. Jesus is.

So, some want the church to leave Jesus because they prefer popularity and self-promotion to service and sacrifice. Others want Jesus to leave the church because they confuse church with utopia. They prefer their ideal of Jesus over against the real flesh and blood people who make up His imperfect church—the same church Jesus died for (Ephesians 5:25). Such notions are folly and will end in divorce.

Let’s stop clamoring for an end to a marriage made in heaven. If you get nothing else from the book of Revelation, get this: the marriage of the Lamb and His bride will be standing in the end. You can cut yourself off from Jesus or His church or both, but that marriage will last, with or without you. Let it be with you!