Archive for June, 2010

Part 2 – Genesis 18:1-15 – ENTERTAINING ANGELS?

Entertaining Angels?

Jan and Darryl have always been openly generous people. They make you feel as if they are honoured to have you in their home and nothing is too much trouble for them. Which is just as well because they are our connect group leaders.

Every fortnight people in our Connect Group meet to connect with God and eachother in an authentic way. We talk about life and faith and how to apply the message on Sundays to the everyday situations each of us face during the week. It is the best time.

I noticed Jan and Darryl were hospitable people when we first met them 14 years ago, so I was surprised when we came to their Connect Group that they didn’t RUN OUT TO MEET US in their driveway and BOW TO THE GROUND. They just greeted us warmly and welcomed us in. They didn’t bring water, take off our shoes and WASH OUR FEET or even offer for us to take a shower in their bathroom. They didn’t go down to the local butcher and buy us the BEST CUTS OF MEAT FOR A BARBEQUE. We normally just bring our own supper and share it around. They didn’t BAKE BREAD for us in their breadmaker. WHAT KIND OF HOSPITALITY IS THAT? Abraham would have been shocked!

In Genesis 18:1 (NLT) it says “The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre.”

When God turns up at Abraham’s Connect Group in Genesis 18:1, all Abraham sees are THREE MEN. Who were these guys? Prophets? Angels? The Trinity in human form? He doesn’t ask them. That would be impolite in Eastern thinking. So what does he do? “he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.” (Must have been quite sprightly for his age. Ever seen a 100 year old man run? I’ve seen one with a walking frame but believe me he wasn’t running. And even bowing low has the risks of a fall and a broken hip.) 

Abraham goes OVERBOARD with hospitality. Darryl and Jan have nothing on Abraham. He calls the leader of the group “LORD” (a common greeting of respect in those times but in this case it could have been THE LORD!) and offers, you guessed it, to WASH THEIR FEET. He gets Sarah to BAKE SOME HOME MADE BREAD, and then KILLS THE BEST CALF in his herd and PREPARES A BARBEQUE. If that wasn’t enough then he WAITS ON THEM like a SERVANT rather than sitting down with them at the meal table! You have got to be kidding! He hasn’t even asked them who they are and what they are doing LOITERING around his tent!

This is HOSPITALITY GONE WILD! And these three “men” just accept it. They just sit around in the shade of a tree, while this old man and his wife go overboard with kindness. Abraham could have simply called his servants to serve these guys, but he does it himself. Even though he was a rich, influential and powerful old man (and old men were respected in his times), yet it is Abraham who shows them great respect and humility. It is getting difficult to pick out the angels in this picture.

What I notice about Abraham is that he is QUICK TO BE GENEROUS and he is AVAILABLE TO SERVE. Sacrifice and servanthood characterise this powerful man who is called a friend of God (James 2:23). I can learn a lot about how to build my RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD and show LOVE TO OTHERS from a man like this, and from people like Jan and Darryl too. Same HUMBLE AND GENUINE welcome.

God bless you Church as we are QUICK TO BE GENEROUS and AVAILABLE TO SERVE, as SACRIFICE AND SERVANTHOOD characterise our lives as we actively choose to SHOW LOVE TO OTHERS. Hebrews 13:2 (NLT) puts it this way

“Don’t forget to show HOSPITALITY TO STRANGERS, for some who have done this have ENTERTAINED ANGELS without realizing it!”

Pastor Ross

Part 1 – Genesis 18:1-15 – THE POWER OF ONE SMALL STEP

One Small Step

As a boy he was active in the Boy Scouts, and had earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He was only the second person in his family to attend college. In 1950, a week after his 20th birthday, he became a Naval Aviator and then later an ASTRONAUT.

Watching television as the dramatic pictures were broadcast to the world, I was aware that something momentous had happened and I have never forgotten the images of that man. I was 14 years old.

NEIL ARMSTRONG and his crew touched down at 20:17:39 UTC on July 20, 1969. On Television that day my family and I saw Armstrong walk down the ladder and STEP OUT onto the surface of the moon. We all remembered those famous words, “THAT’S ONE SMALL STEP FOR (A) MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND.”

That Christmas I had taken a momentous step myself as I gave my life to Christ. It was not a lunar landing, and it only seemed like ONE SMALL STEP, but it CHANGED MY LIFE from that moment on.

It is just like God to do this. He knows I am only able to receive His plan for my life in “ONE-SMALL-STEP-FOR-A-MAN” pieces. One small step in the direction He says to go is lifechanging.

Genesis 18:1 (NLT) says, “The Lord appeared again to Abraham …Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day.”

Was Abraham praying as he sat at the entrance to his tent that day? It doesn’t say but I’d like to think that he was. Wouldn’t you be praying if you were 100 years old and Sarah, your wife, is 90 and God had given you AN IMPOSSIBLE PLAN?

In Genesis 12 God gives Him the BIG PICTURE PLAN and points him to the stars. He was to STEP OUT IN FAITH, he was blessed to be a blessing. Later in Genesis 15:4 the Lord gets very specific. The impossibility of what God said that day was MINDBLOWING enough for Abraham to believe. Now the Lord appears to him again and confirms this plan with Sarah, who will also need to be an active participant and CO-PILOT in all this.

It’s not all that unusual that an old man would sit at the entrance to his home, but the point is that it is often in THE STILL MOMENTS that I am more aware that God is there to speak to me about my hopes and dreams. He wants me to serve Him and develop my relationship with Him and there will be times when He will accomplish in my life what I consider to be IMPOSSIBLE.

How did God appear to Abraham? What strikes me is that He didn’t appear a BLAZE OF HIS GLORY that knocked Abraham to the ground, like He did with Paul? (Acts 9:3-5). God can turn up in your life in so many different ways –, A BURNING BUSH to Moses (Exodus 3:2), a PILLAR OF CLOUD by day and PILLAR OF FIRE by night to the Israelites (Exodus 13:21), A GENTLE WHISPER like He did with Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13). In whatever way He chooses to appear, the most gracious of all seems to be when He turns up as A HUMAN BEING, walking in the garden like He did with Adam (Genesis 3:8) and as a baby in Bethlehem as He did with Joseph and Mary (Matthew 1:21, Galatians 4:4). What I love about God is that HE TURNS UP in ways that will have a profound impact upon my life and yet it is so personal. Abraham had already been CHANGED FOREVER from the moment God spoke with him and he took ONE SMALL STEP for a man, but ONE GIANT LEAP for mankind.

God bless you Church as the Lord continues to make Himself known to you in ways that profoundly change your life, as He points you to the stars and invites you to take one small step.

Pastor Ross

Part 8 – Matthew 11:25-30 – WITHOUT THE ENCUMBRANCE OF GENIUS

Without the Encumbrance of Genius

Perhaps it is the reason that I embraced Christianity so easily – THE CHRISTIAN FAITH DOESN’T DEMAND INTELLIGENCE. I’m not criticising intelligence.  I have an above average intelligence level. Well, actually, although it was above average according to the IQ test I completed at School, it was more tilted towards the average side than the above part. I have imagined having an intelligence level that would ASTOUND people, but unless that miracle happens I will remain who I am, without the ENCUMBRANCE OF GENIUS and I will always have to examine things carefully before I can understand them.

Jesus prayed an unusual prayer in Matthew 11:25-27. After the cities of Korazin and Bethsaida had ignored Him and rejected Him, He prayed

“O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank You for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the CHILDLIKE. Yes, Father, it pleased You to do it this way!”

Jesus says that only the childlike can understand spiritual things. He doesn’t say childish, just childlike. I must admit I can have a little trouble with distinguishing between the two at times, but I do recognise God as my Father and I know that I am in His family.

Some time ago I received a number of pocket sized Gideons Bibles with white covers to give out to the staff and residents of Shalom. Shalom is an Aged Care Facility and I work there as a Chaplain. These small New Testament Bibles are given out in Schools in Australia every few years by the Gideons. Someone gave some to us.

As I offered the aged residents of Shalom these Bibles it occurred to me that I needed to ask them whether they could read the SMALL PRINT. Few of them could. People in their 80’s and 90’s don’t often have very good eyesight for reading normal print books, let alone the pocket sized version I was handing out. It was an EXERCISE IN FUTILITY. They were literally BLIND TO GOD’S TRUTH. The only Bible many of them have now is me. Anyone want to donate some large print pocket Bibles that I can give away?

Jesus talks of a different kind of BLINDNESS. Blind due to my INDIFFERENCE to His miracles and message. Blind to His will and purposes in my life. Blind to a relationship with God because of my self sufficient attitudes.

2 Corinthians 3:14 (NLT) says “the people’s minds were HARDENED,” It is like a veil over their thinking “so they CANNOT UNDERSTAND the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ.” Ephesians 4:18 describes it as having their “UNDERSTANDING DARKENED, being alienated from the life of God”

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NLT) says that it is Satan who “has BLINDED THE MINDS of those who don’t believe. They are UNABLE TO SEE the glorious light of the Good News. They DON’T UNDERSTAND this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NLT) puts it this way “But people who aren’t spiritual CAN’T RECEIVE THESE TRUTHS from God’s Spirit. It all sounds FOOLISH to them and they CAN’T UNDERSTAND it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”

Jesus makes it clear that the only way to understand God is through Him. He says “No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:27 NLT)

Now that’s AUTHORITY! Jesus stands as the ONLY MEDIATOR between me and God. (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus does the choosing and He has chosen to reveal the Father only to those who believe and come under His authority.

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE can come to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME. Acts 4:12 (NLT) says “There is salvation in NO ONE ELSE! God has given NO OTHER NAME under heaven by which we must be saved.The only access I have to truth is to COME TO HIM and the key is faith not intelligence. It is CHILDLIKE FAITH, not genius. It is not being self sufficient but humble enough to be DEPENDENT upon Him. Nothing wrong with intelligence. I need a brain to think through these things but knowing God is not dependent upon intelligence. It demands coming under the authority of Jesus Christ.

I love the way 1 Corinthians 1:25-29 (NLT) puts it “This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans… Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes … when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. … and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”

God bless you Church as you exercise the foolishness today of believing in Christ and coming under His authority for your life, WITHOUT THE ENCUMBRANCE OF YOUR GENIUS. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Pastor Ross

Part 7 – Matthew 11:20-24 – SLOW COOKED OR CHAR GRILLED?

Degrees of Hell?

Are there degrees of hell? I asked my friends recently this question and one of them said, “I believe Hell is a place where the presence of God and Jesus does not exist so it must be a horrible place. However, if there is any fairness to life and death (and I really don’t believe there is) then there should be degrees of Hell…this scripture certainly makes you wonder if there is. Whatever – I don’t intend to find out personally!”

Some things in the Bible are just plain difficult to understand. Matthew 11:20-24 is one of them for me. I know, I don’t have to understand everything in God’s Word in order to believe it because I trust in God who knows what He is doing. It won’t always make sense to me. I’m glad that He is God and I am not. But Matthew 11:15 (NLT) says, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” Lord let me hear, listen and understand Your words today.

So what is it that I don’t understand all that clearly? Let me set the scene. In Matthew 11:20 (NLT), it says, “Then Jesus began to DENOUNCE the towns where He had done so many of His miracles, because they HADN’T REPENTED OF THEIR SINS and turned to God.” They are unresponsive to Jesus, despite His many miracles.

I have no difficulty here. It makes sense. In fact what I like about this passage is the RAW TRUTH OF ITS JUSTICE MIXED WITH LOVE. Jesus isn’t the SWEET, DREAMY-EYED, EFFEMINATE MAN with a spiritual song in His voice like a “LET’S-PLEASE-EVERYONE” kind of preacher. He lays it on the line and I detect that it’s not without emotional heart wrenching sorrow at their subborn refusal to get right with God.

His LOVE COLLIDES WITH HIS JUSTICE as Jesus says “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago…”

Now here’s what I find really difficult to understand. He says emphatically “I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be BETTER OFF on judgment day than you. … I tell you, even Sodom will be BETTER OFF ON JUDGMENT DAY THAN YOU.” (Matthew 11:22,23 NLT).

Tyre and Sidon were OPENLY WICKED and so were Sodom and Gomorrah. Ezekiel 26:7 and 28:11-24, shows that the king of Tyre was so openly wicked he was ASSOCIATED WITH SATAN HIMSELF! Korazin and Bethsaida in Jesus day on the other hand were not openly wicked. They were simply INDIFFERENT.

I’ve got to tell you, this messes with my mind. DEGREES OF JUDGMENT? DEGREES OF HELL? Sodom was a place of open homosexuality and pervertedness and destroyed in a rain of “brimstone and fire” from God (Genesis 19:24 NLT).

How can they be BETTER OFF? And if sin comes in degrees does hell come in degrees – SLOW COOK IN SHEOL, FLAME GRILLED IN GEHENNA, FAIRLY HOT, VERY HOT, MICROWAVE AND SUPERHEAT CRISPY???

When my one year old grandson takes a texta colour and draws in an expensive book, it is destructive but he DOESN’T KNOW that he shouldn’t do it. On the other hand my eldest grandson is without excuse. He knows it is wrong. He has FULL REVELATION of this rule and knows the consequences of such an action. Romans 7:7 (NLT) says “… it was the law that showed me my sin. …”

The key to Sodom, Tyre and Siddon is that despite their wickedness they WOULD HAVE REPENTED. Jesus says in Matthew 11:21 (NLT) “… For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people WOULD HAVE REPENTED OF THEIR SINS LONG AGO,… For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, IT WOULD STILL BE HERE TODAY.”  

Are Tyre and Sidon and Sodom going to be JUDGED ON A SLIDING SCALE dependent on the amount of Revelation they had? Julie spoke to some Monks in Cambodia recently and they didn’t know who Jesus was and asked all sorts of questions. Will they be judged according to their response to Jesus based on what they know? What about those who never have the opportunity? Will they be judged on a different scale? Whooh! Overload! Too much to sort out here. Leave that til another time!

Here’s the facts – Tyre and Sidon didn’t have a Bible that ended at Revelation and didn’t even know about John 3:16. It wasn’t fully revealed to them as yet. No miracles, no message. Yet THEY WOULD HAVE REPENTED. Korazin and Bethsaida had it all and THEY WERE INDIFFERENT. Is the sin of INDIFFERENCE higher than the murderous, homosexual pervertedness and wickedness of Sodom? Jesus says it is! How will you respond to Jesus? Any sin can be forgiven except for one – the sin of indifference to Christ.

Of course Tyre, Sidon and Sodom and its people will have to answer for a lot on the day of judgment, but they will NOT have to answer for being INDIFFERENT TO JESUS and His message and miracles. To reject Jesus and what He has done on the cross for us is the GREATEST SIN OF ALL!

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 (NLT) speaks about “…when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from His glorious power.” 

Are there degrees of hell? Does Sodom end up in the same hell as those who are indifferent to Jesus? Do they still suffer for eternity to the same degree? I don’t know how all that works! The Bible doesn’t get down to specifics and I’m not God. But it sure makes me say like my friend “I don’t intend to find out personally!”

Lord teach me never to be INDIFFERENT to You or Your Word. Thankyou that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

God bless you Church as you refuse to be indifferent to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Be eager to embrace all that He has to say for your life today. Allow His Holy Spirit to reveal His truth to you.

Pastor Ross

Part 6 – Matthew 11:15-19 – WHY DON’T YOU DANCE TO MY TUNE!

Dance To My Tune!

Rome, who is only 1 year old, picked up a plastic spade and began playing it, pretending it was a guitar. It has the right shape. Anything can become a guitar in his hands. He has seen guitars at Church and as he danced he made sounds like he was playing one of the upbeat worship songs. We danced and sang with him. 

Two of my grandsons had come to our house. It was a great time. Super heroes, wrestling matches and Rachel, their Mum and my daughter, reading them stories. 

Sometimes, of course, there can be tears and complaints when the brothers don’t co-operate or participate with their games and they can be very stubborn and insistent, but mostly we laughed and played the afternoon away. 

Sometimes, when the game becomes too demanding, I revert to being an ADULT and Rachel says, “Zion, don’t bother Pa. He doesn’t want to play right now.”  

So when Jesus compares His generation with children playing games I am right there with Him. I know the joys and occasionally the hassles of children and their games. What I notice is that JESUS DOESN’T DANCE TO THE TUNE OF THE RELIGIOUS EXPECTATIONS AROUND HIM.  

Jesus says, “To what can I compare this generation? It is like CHILDREN PLAYING A GAME …. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and YOU DIDN’T DANCE, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ … But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” (Matthew 11:16-19 NLT)  

What is Jesus getting at here? In the whole context of the passage, if I was to translate it into our culture I think Jesus is saying something like this… “You want Me to dance to the music you are playing, but you don’t realise that it is WAY OUT OF TUNE. I am waiting for you to ASK ME TO PLAY the music of eternity that was written for you by God Himself. I am waiting for you to dance and sing and live in harmony with Me.” 

I was speaking with a man recently who had been in a near fatal car accident and he said that God didn’t seem to care about His injuries. I asked him if he blamed God and He said something to the effect of “Yes, GOD IS TO BLAME. Why didn’t He intervene when I had that car accident, or when my friend died of cancer? How could He let something like that happen?”  

It’s kind of like this – “JESUS, I PLAYED MY OWN MUSIC. WHY DIDN’T YOU DANCE TO MY TUNE.”  

Some time ago I spoke to a man who intended to divorce his wife and marry another woman he had been seeing. When I pointed out what the Bible says about marriage and divorce he said, “I know what the Bible says but God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy!” What he’s saying is “Jesus, LET ME PLAY THE MUSIC and You dance to it.” When Jesus doesn’t dance to the tune, we get ANGRY. “Why didn’t you save my relationship? Why did you let my friend die? Why do I have to pay the CONSEQUENCES of my own actions and my own sin?”  

THERE’S SOMETHING WAY OUT OF TUNE WITH TELLING THE CREATOR WHAT TO DO WITH HIS WORLD. Maybe I need to dance to His tune instead.  

There’s a hymn that we used to sing that I never really liked. I always thought it was a bit strange, but in this context it makes sense. It is a hymn where Jesus says “I am the LORD OF THE DANCE”“I’ll lead YOU all in the dance…” and that was long before MICHAEL FLATLEY touched the floor with his Irish music and dance production. 

WORSHIP on Sunday was awesome at Hillsong Church. Tears were running down my face as we sang and danced together. Jesus simply says, “I am the LORD OF THE DANCE. Trust Me to know how to play the music of eternity in your life. DANCE TO MY TUNE.” 

God bless you Church as you acknowledge Jesus as LORD OF THE DANCE, today.

Pastor Ross 

Part 5 – Matthew 11:13-14 – IN A PREVIOUS LIFE I WAS A DOLPHIN?

Reincarnation

I asked some friends what they thought about REINCARNATION last night and got some funny responses – should have known. One of them said “once, in a previous life, I was a dolphin… lol jk.” Another one said “It’s weird to think you may have been an ant once upon a time. …”

I know that Scientologists like the actor TOM CRUISE believe in some strange things. But apparently that includes REINCARNATION? Past reincarnation, or “past lives, entering the flesh again”, is a key part of the principles and practices of the CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY. I knew that HINDUISM teaches about reincarnation but apparently many MUSLIMS also believe Jesus and some prophets may incarnate again!

I’m telling you this because I was dumbfounded to read that in a 2005 Gallup poll 20 PERCENT of U.S. adults BELIEVED IN REINCARNATION! (Wikipedia) The article goes on to say that “Recent surveys by the Barna Group, a Christian research nonprofit organization, have found that A QUARTER of U.S. Christians, including 10 PERCENT OF ALL BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIANS, embrace the idea”.

Kind of gives an entirely skewed view on 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB) which says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is A NEW CREATURE; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Forgive me throwing up my hands in horror and tearing out my hair! (well perhaps not the hair. I don’t have any to tear out!) No wonder some people in mental institutions believe that they have come back as Jesus Christ. God became a man. Why not go round again? This is not what Paul meant when he said “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NASB).

Why am I talking about RE-INCARNATION? What started me on that track was a passage of the Bible in Matthew 11 where Jesus is speaking about John the Baptiser. Let me explain…

As a child I once asked my mother “Is Santa real?” She would say “If you believe he is real then he is.” What kind of answer is that? Jesus has a different approach. It involves me accepting what He has to say before I can appropriate His message to my life.

Matthew 11:14 says “And if you are willing to accept what I say, HE IS ELIJAH, the one the prophets said would come.” If you know the story of Elijah, he didn’t die but was taken up into heaven. 2 Kings 2:11 (NLT) says “… Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.” 

Jesus always takes me by surprise, but what is this really all about? How can John the Baptist be Elijah the prophet? Malachi 4:5 (NLT) gives a prophecy about Elijah. It says “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives.” 

What makes things even more complicated is that back in John 1:21-23 (NLT) the Pharisees have already asked John the Baptiser “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “NO,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “NO.” “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”(He’s quoting from Isaiah 40:3).

One minute John says he ISN’T ELIJAH and then Jesus says HE IS? Jesus says one thing and John has already CONTRADICTED Him. Is he Elijah and doesn’t know it? And if he is Elijah, how? Why? And Whoah! That’s pretty far fetched! Is this some kind of RE-INCARNATION MIRACLE? (Inter terrestrial Alien music in the background – “do do do do, Do Do DO DO!”).

Was John ELIJAH IN HIS PREVIOUS LIFE? If he was then we have our religions mixed up here. Doesn’t Jesus realise we believe in CHRISTIANITY NOT HINDUISM? Why does Jesus say He IS Elijah? Was it a METAPHOR? Why did He say “If you are willing to accept what I say”. Is it only true if we accept it?

How can I get this in perspective? John the Baptist was ONE OF A KIND and the LAST OF A KIND. He was the last of the old HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION ENGINEERS. He joined the old highway to the new one – the OLD TESTAMENT TO THE NEW TESTAMENT.

It was the END OF AN ERA. Up until this time prophets only FORETOLD the coming of Jesus. Now John was INTRODUCING HIM PERSONALLY! Matthew 11:13 (NLT) says “For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time.” 

I love it when I am faced with a difficulty like this. Because I believe in what Jesus says and I trust Him. And in order to understand I also know that SCRIPTURE OFTEN INTERPRETS SCRIPTURE. In Luke an angel gives a prophecy about John and this clears it up for me (Here I am listening to an angel!) In Luke 1:17 (NLT) the angel says of John “He will be a man with the SPIRIT AND POWER OF ELIJAH.”

So John is A TYPE OF ELIJAH. Elijah, like John, was a prophet who spent time out in the desert places too. He condemned kings for their sin. He challenged the religious people of his time. He also had questions about God and wasn’t afraid to ask them. He was no reed in the wind at Mt Carmel (1 Kings 18:24-38). The message of old hasn’t changed. It is still the same. REPENT! GET RIGHT WITH GOD! It seems to me that Jesus is saying John is a PICTURE of Elijah who is yet to come. He is NOT BEING LITERAL! He is not talking about Reincarnation! In Matthew 11:14 Jesus says “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”

God bless you Church as you really hear the message of John 3:7 (NLT) where Jesus says to Nicodemus “You must be born again.” Romans 6:11 (NASB) says it in this way “… consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Pastor Ross

Part 4 – Matthew 11:12 – WELL HE STARTED IT!

Crescendo of Violence

Since I had nothing better to do and everyone had gone out, I decided to watch the war movie “SAVING PRIVATE RYAN”. It was some years ago now and I was at my daughter’s house and Joel, my son-in-law had just connected his TV WITH SURROUND SOUND. The movie was set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II and since it was directed by Steven Spielberg I thought it might be worth watching. THE VERY FIRST SCENES SHOCKED ME! They depicted the Omaha beachhead assault of June 6, 1944 and the intensity of the surround sound and slaughter of men brought me to the point of turning it off. I couldn’t watch or hear such a graphic portrayal.

As a Chaplain I speak with old servicemen who have encountered the horrors of war, and I can only begin to appreciate why they speak with tears running down their faces after all these years.

MURDERED! Beheaded! Violence of unspeakable proportion! And their legacy has been repeated. Those who followed their example were ruthlessly mistreated, flogged and threatened and some were never released except into the hands of God. No I’m no longer talking about World War II. I’m talking about the followers of Jesus throughout the centuries.

They were demonised by family members, beaten and bruised by the brutality of violent men, betrayed by the very people they loved the most!

But they didn’t give an inch and cut through the garbage of humanity with a message as sharp as a razor and as lethal to those who resisted as hell itself.

IF YOU’RE A PACIFIST DON’T READ MATTHEW 11:12! Although this is part of what Jesus said, the red letter part of your Bible, YOU WON’T LIKE IT! Jesus spoke of VIOLENCE AND WARFARE and said we would be in the thick of it.

“And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.” 

“Well he started it!” “No I didn’t, she did!” Sorry, I am just reminded of my childhood days when the arguments got too heated with my sister. But this is a slightly bigger battle. John started it and the repercussions of his actions have been ongoing.

Jesus has already made it clear to His disciples about the PERSECUTION that they will encounter when they go out to preach and heal. There’s a WAR THEME amplified with violence and heard through the sound system of their experience. Dare to follow Jesus and you may not get out alive.

John is in prison and soon to die because of his faith. There’s a SPIRITUAL BATTLE going on and demonic activity has spewed out volcano-like. The fault lines are moving and sin is surfacing in indescribable acts of violence. As the demonic hordes engulf them Jesus and His disciples cast them out with a force that stuns the Satanic world and disrupts ours (see Matthew 10:8 note).

You want to be follower of Jesus? It’s a breeze but the cold icy tentacles of violence may cause you to shudder. Jesus warned His disciples that they’d be tried in courts, flogged with whips, arrested, betrayed, rejected by family members, hated by nations, persecuted in various towns, called names, threatened, and even killed “because you are My followers” (Matthew 10:18). Why go through all this? Well, this was their opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about Jesus (Matthew 10:17-42). No other reason than that. NO OTHER CAUSE MORE WORTH DYING FOR. John would soon find this out at the hands of the savagery and violence of king Herod. HE WOULD BE MURDERED! Jesus Himself made it clear that He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34). When it comes down to it this sword of truth cuts through the dissenting hearts of men. He of course was also murdered and those who orchestrated His death heard the crescendo of their violence at the Cross and it’s reverberation has been ringing in our ears ever since. It seems Satan isn’t going to take this lying down but the blows inflicted upon him will prove to be fatal for his purposes.

It was all John’s doing. HE STARTED IT! Stirring people up and calling them “a brood of snakes” (see Matthew 3:7 note) didn’t help. No half hearted, lilly livered coward here! The question is “AM I?”

God bless you Church in the Spiritual battle you face today as you take up the Cross and I’m not talking about petty things we have to put up with. In Luke 9:23-24 (NLT) Jesus describes the commitment level in this way “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.”

Pastor Ross

Part 3 – Matthew 11:7-11 – THE GREATEST ROADWORKER WHO EVER LIVED!

The Greatest Roadworker

My sister and her husband Pete are on a holiday working their way through OUTBACK PLACES in Australia. Unfortunately they can’t travel on the dirt roads at the moment because of an unexpected rainy season. They have to stick to the highways because if they get off the track they will sink in the mud and never get out.

A policeman friend of mine told me how he did just that. He said he was driving along one minute and the next he was sinking into the road. He was stuck in the middle of nowhere out in western Queensland. There were no trees to hitch a winch to, just scrub. About 5 or 6 other vehicles got stuck trying to get him out. In the end it took a crane from a nearby mine to get them all out of the mud. By that time the mud was half way up the doors. Not good to be engulfed by the road you are trying to drive on. The only way to survive the wet season in the outback is to drive on the SEALED ROADS.

There’s even a sealed highway through the middle of the Nullarbor Desert in Australia. But what intrigues me is WHO ACTUALLY MAKES HIGHWAYS IN THE DESERT? I imagine road workers and crews from the outback to be no-nonsense hard-working men with skin like leather. The only people they would see for miles would be the tourists. Of course road workers are the best people to ask questions about the way ahead and their SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES would be invaluable.

Matthew 11:9 describes such a man. He was a ROAD WORKER AND A PROPHET. He knew the road ahead. Jesus described him as “MORE THAN A PROPHET”. What is he getting at? He goes on to describe him in effect as a council ROAD WORKER, PREPARING THE ROAD for Jesus to come.

Out in the middle of nowhere surrounded only by tourists who were trying to make their way through a wasteland created by their own sinfulness and self centred living, John the Baptiser was telling a HARDHITTING NO-NONSENSE STORY of how to survive such a wilderness and how to get back on the road that leads to you to God.

He certainly wasn’t trying to draw attention to himself, even though seeing a man walking around dressed in camel skin and eating locusts and wild honey is a little disconcerting. He was trying to draw attention to JESUS. In Matthew 11:10 (NLT) Jesus says “John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will PREPARE YOUR WAY before You.'”  

He is referring Isaiah 40:3 (NLT) written years before which says that John was not just a road maintenance man; he was a HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION ENGINEER, making a HIGHWAY IN THE WILDERNESS for the Lord. “Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! MAKE A STRAIGHT HIGHWAY THROUGH THE WASTELAND for our God!” The wilderness is just a wasteland without a highway that leads you to the Lord. I don’t want my life to be a wasteland.

John was a rough and ready looking character with a straight talking preaching style that would leave you wanting to jump in the water and be baptised just to avoid the heat of His fiery rhetoric.

Jesus gave him high praise. In Matthew 11:11 “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist….” Jesus always has a way of bestowing ROYALTY ON A ROADWORKER. Preparing the road for Christ and actually seeing Jesus walk on that road makes you the greatest person who ever lived. No other prophet had experienced seeing the Messiah. There was a road train of resources coming down the road John has prepared and Jesus is at the wheel. We now have access not just to a MESSAGE OF REPENTANCE and baptism, but the MESSAGE OF ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST. Anyone who accepts Christ and comes under His authority is even greater than John. He says, “…even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!” (Matthew 11:11)

In the eyes of Jesus, John was the GREATEST ROADWORKER WHO EVER LIVED. Even before his birth Luke 1:15 (NLT) says “for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.” He wasn’t a rock star or a wealthy businessman. He didn’t have a whole lot of fame and power. He was just a SIMPLE ROAD WORKER who believed in Jesus as the Messiah and who totally committed his life to that belief.

God bless you Church as you take the road less travelled. That straight and narrow highway that gives you access to God through believing in Christ. It’s a road that leads you to the Cross, to repentance, to faith in Christ, to obedience and to eternal life. It is the greatest journey you will ever take. 

Pastor Ross

 

"Wrestles with Crocodiles!"Part 2 – Matthew 11:7-10

“WRESTLES WITH CROCODILES!”

He was nicknamed “THE CROCODILE HUNTER”, and he was a unique man with a smile as wide as fun itself and Australian to the core. You couldn’t help but remember STEVE IRWIN! He and his wife Terri owned and operated Australia Zoo in a little place called Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Julie and I visited the zoo with our kids when they were young and watched the crocodiles being fed. It was the most amazing and dangerous show I had ever seen.

Steve was exuberance and enthusiasm itself with a broad Australian accent, khaki shorts, and the catchphrase “CRIKEY!” He was a great communicator who drew you in by his enthusiasm and dangerous abandon. He was a WILDLIFE WARRIOR. He died from the barb of a sting ray.

Kevin Costner apparently called him a fearless man who was BRAVE ENOUGH TO LET PEOPLE SEE HIM AS HE WAS. (CNN. 2006-09-20). I’d agree with that. While Kevin Costner starred in a movie called DANCES WITH WOLVES, Steve Irwin was wrestling with crocodiles in real life. I’m sure WRESTLES WITH CROCODILES is his Indian name or at least needs to be.

His wife Terri, thinks he had faith in God. I didn’t ever hear him speak about God but I liked the man. He seemed to be the genuine article. His personality and lifestyle made you pay attention.

In Matthew 3 I see another Steve Irwin kind of man, only more direct and real again because he paid attention to God. All of us have our crocodiles to wrestle and John considered the PHARISEES TO BE REPTILIAN. He pounced on them every opportunity he could. One time when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him he said. “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath?” (Matthew 3:7) 

He also wasn’t concerned with how he looked. He was a true WILDERNESS WARRIOR. He wore the khaki’s of his day. Matthew 3:4 (NLT) says “John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.” Rather than promoting himself, John the Baptist was BRAVE ENOUGH TO LET PEOPLE SEE JESUS FOR WHO HE WAS and his message has impacted the world. He was humble enough to say “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30 NLT)

In Matthew 11:7 Jesus begins speaking to the crowds about John the Baptist. He says “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind?” 

John was SOLID IN HIS FAITH. He was not some soft, wavering fool in the pulpit who preaches nice sermons to please the wretched wills and selfish desires of the power mongers in the Church.

He wasn’t the fancy METRO MAN preacher with expensive tastes in clothing to impress the business world and the fashion conscious.

He didn’t preach in some high steeple, few people St John the Baptist CATHEDRAL with reverse cycle, flow through air conditioning and a tourist shop in the corner selling trinkets for it’s upkeep. Or for that matter in an AUDITORIUM with all the latest sound technology and gadgets, and a light show to match.

He didn’t have a CHOIR and an entourage of SINGERS AND MUSICIANS to accompany him. As wonderful as all these things may be, John broke all the rules of Church growth.

Don’t get me wrong. Jesus went to a pretty fancy TEMPLE in Jerusalem and called it HIS FATHER’S HOUSE. He’s not concerned so much with the carpet and the sound system but with the HEARTS AND LIVES of the people who attended. He was incensed about the money changers who tried to turn the house of God into a den of thieves (John 2:16).

Our Church has a modern auditorium and sound system and band, singers, choir! That’s not the point! When it all comes down to it there must be the simplicity of the preaching of the GOSPEL AND LOVE FOR GOD’S WORD being actively applied in people’s lives.

I love Pastors who lead well and preach powerfully. I love Pastors who can BE THEMSELVES, not clones of some other famous preacher. I love it when I go home from Church changed because God has been speaking to me personally.

John just wanted to obey God and prepare the way for Jesus ministry. And he wasn’t afraid to ASK QUESTIONS. You’ve just got to love the guy. He’s the most down to earth preacher you’ll ever hear. He’ll convict you of your sin with his fiery old fashioned hellfire message so you will want to repent just to avoid the flames lapping up around you and the lashing of his tongue.

If you are looking for a prophetic word to make you feel better about yourself, you won’t get it from this prophet! He’ll EXPOSE YOUR SIN and point you to a place on the ground before Jesus. And you’ll fall at the feet of Jesus and cry out for His forgiveness for being so selfish.

I am to be WHO I AM, called of God in the simplicity of MY PERSONALITY to prepare the way for others to follow Jesus. I am to be real and ask questions when I need to about Jesus so that I don’t have a false understanding. I am not to be some “weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind?” (Matthew 11:7 NLT)

God bless you Church as you have “the guts” to WRESTLE WITH CROCODILES in your life and be who God has called you to be today.

Pastor Ross