Archive for May, 2010

 

Part 1 – Matthew 11:2-6 – JESUS-IN-A-BOX!

Jack-in-the-box Jesus

I get the privilege and opportunity to speak to many old people in the course of my day. Being a chaplain and Pastor in an aged care facility (fancy name for old people’s nursing home) I am fascinated by the amazing lives that they have led.

Last week I spoke to a woman in her 90’s who said she felt like she was in a PRISON. She has dementia and so there are locked doors and people she does not know. “Why has my family put me here? What is wrong with me? Who are you? Will you help me?” What can I say when I am asked these things? I’m not the one who has come to give them deliverance! I’m just visiting their prison, (I mean home). All I can do is to assure them that they can trust in Jesus and wonder if I will be the one asking those same questions one day?

In Matthew 11:2 John the Baptist is LANGUISHING IN PRISON (don’t you just love that word “languishing”). He does not have dementia. Far from it! Nevertheless he is confused and asking similar questions. He sends some of his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Behind this question, he is probably asking “Why am I here …LANGUISHING… in prison? What is wrong with me? What have I done to deserve this? Why doesn’t the Messiah, if He is the Messiah help me? I need deliverance?”

My grandchildren sometimes play with a Jack-in-a-box. Sometimes we want a JESUS-IN-A-BOX too. We want Him to fit into our pre-conceived ideas of who He should be and how He should act. One woman said to me on Friday “If there is a God then why does He allow all the bad things to happen in this world?”

John is confused about Jesus? Why? I think He expected that Jesus would come to overthrow the Romans and deal then and there with all the bad things in the world. When Jesus said “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 NLT), John would have loved that! He thought the Messiah would come to judge the world and reign as king immediately! Instead John was thrown into prison! He still believes the Messiah is coming but he doesn’t want to mess around in a prison cell so he asks, “Are you Him or do we look for someone else?”

There’s absolutely no harm in asking God questions when I feel confused. After all James 1:5 (NLT) says “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” It’s the A.S.K. principle – Ask, Seek, Knock.

John prepared the way for Jesus to come and if John lacks understanding of Jesus then I sure can. I mean he grew up with Him! Cousins! Family!

I am not going to understand everything about Jesus. Besides, He keeps taking me by surprise. He takes John by surprise. Things aren’t going to get any better for John. When I experience great difficulties in my life as I serve God, that’s a great time to come to Jesus with my questions.

John says “Are you the Messiah or do we look for another?” I love this question for another reason. HE IS IN PRISON BUT THE PRISON ISN’T IN HIM, and knows that he is here to prepare the way for the Messiah to come. Even in prison, the call on his life has not diminished.

“Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen- the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.'” (Matthew 11:4 NLT)

Jesus didn’t say, “Yes, I am the Messiah!” He seems to want John and me to come to our own conclusions by the works He does. The testimony that these guys give John is a first hand witness of miracles and good news being preached. Jesus says in effect “You want proof that I’m the Messiah. You saw Me raise that guy from the dead. Go and have a talk with him and tell John about him. See what he thinks about me then.”

John would have understood exactly what Jesus was getting at. He was fulfilling an ancient prophecy about the Messiah. Isaiah 35:4-6 (NLT) says, “Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when He comes, He will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”

Despite the many questions about Jesus I may have, I have totally committed my life to Him and look back to a myriad of miracles He has done in my life so far.

God bless you Church as you commit yourself totally to the Lord Jesus Christ today, despite your questions. God blesses those who do not turn away because Jesus doesn’t quite fit into their box.

Pastor Ross

Advertisements

 

Becoming a Christian

Part 18 – Matthew 10:37-42 – MY FAMILY IS ACTING LIKE THEY BELONG TO A CULT!

We came to Sydney to live from the beautiful Whitsundays. Why would anyone leave the Whitsundays and come to the big city? We were Pastors of a great Church of people we had come to love. We had been there for 10 years.

Our primary reason for moving was that we were too far away from the grandchildren. We wanted to play a part in their lives, rather than have to commute every 6 months for a week here and a week there. We had the conflict of whether we stay with a Church and in a location that we loved or whether we move closer to the FAMILY. Family won. We knew that wherever we lived we would serve the Lord, so that wasn’t an issue.

For some Christians in the world today, the choice concerning family is a different one, especially in some parts of the Muslim world. Battle lines are drawn and it becomes a CHOICE BETWEEN FAMILY AND CHRIST. Becoming a Christian means certain OSTRACISM by their family (see part 16 of Matthew 10).

Unbelieving family members can become like a CULT applying pressure in the form of PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE. A family member who gives his or her life to Christ can face the possibility of death, and the certainty of rejection. One woman family member demanded that I change her husband back after he had become a Christian.

A spiritual war ensues and a choice needs to be made concerning allegiance in this spiritual battle. I must answer the question, “What will I do now? l love my family but I also love Christ! To whom do I owe my allegiance!” What an awful choice, but it is one that every person must make! Our love for our family will not diminish but the question comes down to “Who and what do I love the most?”

In Matthew 10:37, 40 (NLT) Jesus says “If you love your father or mother more than you love Me, you are not worthy of being Mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than Me, you are not worthy of being Mine.”…”Anyone who receives you receives Me, and anyone who receives Me receives the Father who sent Me.” The choice is clear, though heartbreaking for some. Having your family reject you is not easy. MY ALLEGIANCE AND LOVE AS A CHRISTIAN IS TO CHRIST. My love for my family is given a new perspective as He becomes PRE-EMINENT in my life.

In order to become a Christian I need to reason, think critically, and pray for God’s help, and then be willing to step out in faith, but when it all comes down to it, there is NO SITTING ON THE FENCE. It involves a CHOICE. What is your choice?

In Matthew 10:32-33 (NLT) He says “Everyone who acknowledges Me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven. But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven.

Being ACKNOWLEDGED BEFORE GOD THE FATHER sounds pretty good to me! NOT BEING THROWN INTO HELL sounds pretty good too (Matthew 10:15, 28). Philippians 1:29 (NLT) says “For you have been given not only THE PRIVILEGE OF TRUSTING IN CHRIST but also THE PRIVILEGE OF SUFFERING FOR HIM.” Matthew 10:22 (NLT) “And all nations will hate you because you are My followers. But everyone who endures to the end WILL BE SAVED.” Hey, it’s worth it! SHORT TERM PAIN, LONG TERM GAIN – peace with God now despite my circumstances and eternal life as well.

Persecution and rejection! A Cross, death, family turned against you? Doesn’t sound all that rewarding, Lord!

I’m not trying to be a MARTYR but I’m also not trying to give the impression that in becoming a Christian there is not a sacrifice or that it guarantees an easy life. The rewards of trusting in Christ will not guarantee that my life will be a breeze, no tough situations to deal with, everything easy.

When I became a Christian it wasn’t because I thought I would be immune to living life in a sinful world. I may not be immune but with the sword that Christ came to bring (not a literal sword) I can CONQUER the world’s influence (Matthew 10:34). And I can only have VICTORY over it because I have Christ in my life to wield that sword. He tells me to “Take heart for I have OVERCOME THE WORLD” (John 16:33 NLT). He says I am more than a conqueror in Christ (Romans 8:37).

In Matthew 10:39 (NLT) Jesus says “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it.” The key to living life on earth is receiving Christ as our Lord and Saviour. The key to handling pressure in this life is not compromise in terms of your allegiance. It is standing firm in your resolve to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and come under His authority and direction no matter what the world throws at you. It is finding VICTORY over every circumstance in this life IN HIM.

The invitation is to live for Christ today without compromise, no matter what the circumstances.

Pastor Ross

 

Part 17 – Matthew 10:34-42 – GIVE ME MORE THAN A BLOW-UP SWORD!

My youngest grandson had a birthday party not too long back. It was a pirate party so all his mates came dressed in pirate gear – eye-patches, head scarves, etc. At the door we presented every pirate with a plastic blow-up sword, which looked good but caused no damage at all. They wielded their plastic blow-up swords with a distinct lack of dexterity. The nimble adroitness needed for sword fighting seemed severely limited by the floppy handles and fat blades filled with air, but at least they were safe. High adventure with ABSOLUTELY NO DANGER. Every parent wants this for their children. Every child went on to more dangerous pursuits.

That’s the kind of spiritual warfare we as Christians have preferred to wage at times – to go at it with our blow-up swords filled with hot air, waving them around with no skill and causing no harm to the enemy, rather than wielding the sword of God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17) with the skill of one who has studied it to show himself approved, a swordsman who needs not to be ashamed (see 2 Timothy 2:15).

Jesus shocks me with His purpose in Matthew 10:34 (NLT) when He says “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came NOT TO BRING PEACE, BUT A SWORD.”  

If you’re a pacifist, you have to cut this verse out of your Bible because it doesn’t portray Jesus as MEEK AND MILD. He doesn’t fit the mould of pacifism – one concerned with the peace that the world brings, anymore than He does that of a warmonger – a person who advocates war.

Yes, Jesus’ offers peace with God that comes from knowing Him personally – peace on the inside that works it’s way outside to those around you. But the fact is that while sin remains on the earth, there will also be SPIRITUAL WARFARE – He wields a A SWORD and there is CONFLICT. Jesus claims VICTORY over sin and death and the evil one. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:7 (NLT) “We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the WEAPONS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS in the right hand for ATTACK and the left hand for DEFENSE.” 

John 16:33 (NLT) says “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have OVERCOME the world.”

After all Jesus has gone through, He has EARNED THE RIGHT tell me that there is VICTORY for me in Him if I endure to the end. He of all people knows what it means to OVERCOME! Romans 8:37 (NLT) says, “…OVERWHELMING VICTORY is ours through Christ, who loved us.” We are “MORE THAN CONQUERORS in Christ” (NIV).

What sword is Jesus speaking about that overcomes the world? Hebrews 4:12 (NLT) says “For the WORD OF GOD is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest TWO-EDGED SWORD, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”

God bless you Church as you enter into battle with more than a blow-up sword. We are in a spiritual battle and there will be conflict! We are “MORE THAN CONQUERORS in Christ” (Romans 8:37 NIV).

Ephesians 6:10-18 says it all! “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:10-18 NLT)

Pastor Ross