Archive for September, 2010

Part 5 – Matthew 12:14-21 – HEAL ME OR KILL ME BUT NOT THIS!

Bruised Reed!

As I talked with Nancy that day she said, “I pray to God every night and ask Him why He has been so unfair to me. Why did He leave me alive?” She is an elderly woman suffering the results of a stroke. She said “My Mother died of a stroke. Why didn’t He take me too, instead of leaving me like this? It is so unfair. Why is God so unfair?” Where is the JUSTICE of God when you end up with a stroke instead of dying in the process? How am I supposed to answer that?

In obedient response to Jesus a man with a deformed hand in Matthew 12:13 reaches out and is HEALED. Nancy blames God for NOT HEALING her and then NOT KILLING her. The Pharisees blame Jesus for HEALING on the Sabbath and they want to KILL Him (Matthew 12:14). Others gladly receive healing and restoration (Matthew 12:15). It seems God can’t please anyone! TO CARE OR NOT TO CARE – that is the question.

In Matthew 12:15 Jesus HEALS ALL THE SICK among them. How cool is this! My grandson would not have had a cold or tonsillitis if he had been there. My friend Fred would not have trouble walking because his arthritis would be gone and Alice would be able to breath properly again. Amelia would stretch out her stroke affected hand and not dribble food from the right side of her face.

So WHERE IS HE NOW? Do all these people somehow happen to be in the wrong century and the wrong country and is Jesus still in the “have LIFE TO THE FULL” business or is it now the “LIFE WHICH IS CRUEL” business? Has He CHANGED His purpose? Is He now into STROKES! Perhaps a few “RANDOM ACTS OF BLINDNESS, arthritis and dementia”?

What about Nancy? She would say to God “HEAL ME OR KILL ME BUT NOT THIS!” I can’t help but take that one step further and ask why is it that Nancy can be so insistent about not including God in her life and then blame Him when things go wrong? Is God TAKING IT OUT on Nancy? Or is it Nancy who is being UNFAIR? What would it look like if God was really fair according to our standards?

In Matthew 12:20 (NLT) a prophecy from Isaiah about Jesus is given. It says “He will NOT CRUSH THE WEAKEST (or BRUISED) REED OR PUT OUT A FLICKERING CANDLE. Finally He will cause JUSTICE to be victorious. And His Name will be the HOPE of all the world.”

So let me get this right. Why did He come? He came for a number of reasons but essentially He comes to give me HOPE in a world that is BRUISED by injustice and pain. He comes to heal, not to break the “BRUISED REED”. He comes to RESTORE my life when I am hurt and crushed by life’s experiences, discouraged to the point of giving up, and depressed to the max. He comes to encourage me when I am weak and my motivation for life is a “FLICKERING CANDLE”.

And then when I see Him for who He is I can’t do anything but care for others also. I am able to put Thessalonians 5:11-14 into practise “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another … encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (NASB95)

I prayed with Nancy that day, that God would show her His purposes for her life as well as heal her. I assured her that God wasn’t into giving people strokes or into killing them. That was more the kind of thing Satan would do, not God. In John 8:44 Jesus says that Satan “… was a murderer from the beginning…” (NLT). In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL.” So Jesus makes it clear that His purpose is not to TAKE something from us that we have, but to RESTORE something to us that has been stolen.

Will Nancy be healed? I don’t know. I don’t have the full picture of what God is doing. I do know that I can experience life to the full as I know Jesus personally, whatever circumstances I face. “He will not break the bruised reed” (Matthew 12:20). I have HOPE in Him.

God bless you Church as you make a choice to respond to God and come under His authority rather than blame Him for what goes wrong. I can see a distorted picture of Him through the glasses of my circumstances and sin, or I can seek Jesus in my pain and begin to see Him for who He really is. In Him there is always HOPE.

Pastor Ross

Part 4 – Matthew 12:1-14 – ANCIENT MYSTERY UNLOCKED!

Ancient Mystery Unlocked!

Talk about SUSPENSE AND INTRIGUE! Subatomic anti-matter threatens the existence of Vatican city in Rome. Key Cardinals from the Roman Catholic church vanish. And it all points to the ILLUMINATI, a secret society that has re-emerged from history. I watched the movie by Dan Brown called “Angels and Demons” a couple of nights ago. Throughout the movie there’s a battle with science and religion.

The hero is Robert Langdon, a renowned symbologist, who has to follow a TRAIL OF CLUES left by the bad guys, the Illuminati, to find the kidnapped Cardinals and SAVE THEM from being executed each hour and stop an anti-matter bomb from wiping out Vatican City. In true suspense thriller style, no-one is who they seem to be.

In Matthew 12, the PLOT IS SIMILAR. I have been kidnapped by my legalistic thinking. Jesus is the hero who leaves me a whole lot of CLUES worth following. If I follow the clues, I begin to see a picture of WHO JESUS REALLY IS and how I can be SAVED. Colossians 1:26 (NLT) says “This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people”

It all hinges on the question the Pharisees (Illuminati) ask Jesus “Is it lawful to harvest grain and heal on the Sabbath?” (Matthew 12:2,10) and Jesus uses their legalistic lack of compassion to give me the first clue.

Clue 1 – KING DAVID – In answer to their question Jesus says that king David went into the house of God and ate sacred bread which was not lawful (Matthew 12:3-4). That’s a CLUE in itself because Jesus is a DESCENDENT of king David (Matthew 1:1). As I search through the holy books I discover an ANCIENT COVENANT made between God and David that establishes the throne of David forever (2 Chronicles 13:5). I discover that Jesus is called the KING OF KINGS (1 Timothy 6:15). And strangely enough I discover that I am also created to EXERCISE AUTHORITY over the earth responsibly as His representative (Genesis 1:28). Apparently rulership is part of the deal as I come under the authority of Christ (Revelation 20:4).

Clue 2 – PRIESTS – Jesus says that priests worked on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:5). Dig a little, and I find that Jesus is called the GREAT HIGH PRIEST (Hebrews 4:14) and if you are a follower of Christ, you and I are collectively called a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS (Exodus 19:6 and Revelation 1:6) and HOLY PRIESTS (1 Peter 2:5). I have direct access to God, no SECRET KEYS for the door required (Ephesians 3:12).

Clue 3 – THE TEMPLE – Jesus says He is GREATER than the Temple (Matthew 12:6), the place where God chooses to REVEAL HIMSELF (Habakkuk 2:20 and Acts 7:46-50). In fact if I search through the ancient document of Colossians 2:9-10 (NLT) I find that it says “For in Christ lives all the FULLNESS OF GOD in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the Head over every ruler and authority.” And something else – Christians, as they gather together are collectively called the TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1 Peter 2:5 and 1 Corinthians 6:9. Note the “your” is plural in the original Greek). It is where Christ dwells and expresses His life. The pieces are coming together.

Clue 4 – LORD – In Matthew 12:8 (NLT) Jesus gives the final clue. He says, “For the Son of Man is LORD, even over the Sabbath!” Jesus can do whatever He wants, on any day He wants. Not just Lord of the Sabbath but I discover that He is the LORD OF LORDS (1 Timothy 6:15) and He doesn’t have to go through an ENCLAVE to elect Him to that office. Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT) says “… God elevated Him to the place of highest honour and gave Him the Name above all other names, that at the Name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.”  

JESUS CHRIST IS LORD! It’s written in the ANCIENT TEXTS. It is obvious when you piece the CLUES together that He is saying that He has authority to rule and reign over every aspect of my life. I don’t obey a set of coded laws. I obey a living person who has all authority. Not a Lord who compels me to obey but One who invites me to COME UNDER HIS AUTHORITY so my life will have meaning and purpose and a hope for the future. Not a king of RITUAL, but a King of RELATIONSHIP. Not a Priest who is RELIGIOUS, but One who is PERSONAL. Not a Temple where we GO to Church, but we ARE the Church, THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

God bless you Church as you UNRAVEL THE MYSTERY (Colossians 1:26-29) and reach out to Jesus like the man with a deformed hand. All of a sudden things are no longer twisted and distorted and misshapen. The clues are plain to see and you will see Him for who He is and worship Him with all your heart and mind and soul.

Pastor Ross

Part 3 – Matthew 12:9-14 -DEFORMITIES OF THE HEART AND HAND

Gnarled Root System

Yesterday, with the encouragement of my wife, I got rid of some THORNY WEEDS growing like trees in the back garden. The thorns were now like razor sharp nails and so it was difficult to get to the roots without punctures, scratches and a bad attitude. I knew that if I didn’t get to the roots, they would just grow again so I used the MATTOCK. A mattock is a hand tool similar to a pickaxe, particularly suited for digging. Unfortunately, I am not! It took forever to dig around the roots and pull out the bulbous, deformed hand of the root system with it’s disfigured fingers reaching out insidiously in all directions.

Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) warns us “…Watch out that no POISONOUS ROOT OF BITTERNESS grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” There are some poisonous thorny people Jesus has to deal with in Matthew 12:9. RAZOR SHARP in their responses to Jesus and just as destructive. The CLAWED FINGERS of their law system are DISTORTED AND MALFORMED and particularly difficult to uproot. It is not at all surprising that Jesus uses a man with a DEFORMED HAND to illustrate what needs to be done if ever they are to be healed of their DEFORMED HEART.

I notice in Matthew 12:9-10 (NLT) that it says that “Jesus went over to THEIR synagogue, where He noticed a man with a deformed hand. “THEIR synagogue”. Nice point, Matthew. Not the place where God chose to reveal Himself, but where THEY chose to do THEIR religious rituals and make THEIR rules and regulations.

But this verse also says something about Jesus. He didn’t back away from weeding God’s garden. He meets me on my turf. He confronts me about my LEGALISM in the place where I am more DEFORMED ON THE INSIDE than this man’s withered hand, in the synagogue of my own making (Sorry but I couldn’t help but make the analogy).

The man with the deformed hand is probably not allowed to enter the synagogue because of his disfigurement, yet the fact that he is here perhaps gives me the clue that he is in some way looking to God for help. He happens to be in the place where Jesus is – a good place to be if you are looking for healing. Nevertheless healing is often appropriated in the midst of a SPIRITUAL BATTLE.

The Pharisees could see that Jesus noticed this man and so with their THORNS BRISTLING they ask Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping He would say yes, so they could bring charges against Him.) 

There’s all sorts of reasons that I can raise as to why Jesus can’t heal me when I am DEFORMED on the inside, as these Pharisees were. I can be so concerned with maintaining my RELIGIOUS APPEARANCE that I miss the fact that I need healing of my SPIRITUAL DISFIGUREMENTS. When I am so wrapped up in myself and my legalism, and I don’t even notice the needs of others, that’s when Jesus confronts me with a question to counter my MISSHAPEN AND MALFORMED thinking.

In Matthew 12:11-12 (NLT) Jesus says, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.” 

Later on Jesus encapsulated the essence of the commandments of the law by saying, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT)

What He says to me is “Do you value your religious rituals more than you value people?” Do I put some of my TWISTED AND WARPED ways of thinking in the way of showing COMPASSION to others? What are my PRIORITIES?

You can determine what kind of person I am by my PRIORITIES and by what I do with the OPPORTUNITIES I have to show compassion. I can equally see what kind of person you are by your priorities and the opportunities you use to show compassion. That day Jesus is not only wanting to heal a deformed hand but SPIRITUALLY DISFIGURED HEARTS. Instead the Pharisees look for opportunities to kill Him (Matthew 12:14).

In Matthew 12:13 (NLT) Jesus says, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was RESTORED, just like the other one!” Jesus doesn’t just give me perspective by His WORDS but also by His ACTIONS. He demonstrates the truth of loving God and loving people. He encourages me to reach out to Him and in that very act I am HEALED AND RESTORED.

God bless you Church as you reach out to Jesus and as He brings healing to the DEFORMITIES of our hearts and enables us in turn to reach out with our hands to others with a compassion that makes a difference.

Pastor Ross

Part 2 – Matthew 12:5-7 – DOES SCOTT RUSH DESERVE MERCY?

PAID IN FULL!

On the news recently a former federal police chief Mick Keelty went into the witness box to PLEAD FOR MERCY for the “drug mule” SCOTT RUSH who is condemned to death before a firing squad in Bali. Scott Rush is only 24 years old. He is one of four Australians who were arrested in Bali in 2005, with about 8kg of heroin strapped to his thighs. He was found guilty of a capital crime.

Mr Keelty is asking for mercy so that he will not be executed. Many people have said in effect, “Why should we beg for mercy for a drug smuggler to be saved from being executed? He chose to do it, knowing the risk. We should be grateful the world is rid of another drug smuggler, not BEGGING FOR MERCY to be extended to him.” DOES SCOTT RUSH DESERVE MERCY? In Australia, offenders are allowed to live!

In Matthew 12, the disciples of Jesus are plucking grain on a SATURDAY. Saturday is the SABBATH, a rest day. Picking grain is viewed as work by the Pharisees, so in their eyes they are BREAKING THE SABBATH LAW. In Numbers 15:32-36 a man was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath day. In that passage the Lord says to Moses, “The man must be PUT TO DEATH!” and so he was stoned to death by the community, just as the Lord had commanded. It was regarded as a serious offence! DO THE DISCIPLES DESERVE MERCY?

In Matthew 12:5 (NLT), “Jesus said to them, “… haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the PRIESTS ON DUTY IN THE TEMPLE MAY WORK ON THE SABBATH?” There are EXCEPTIONS where working on the Sabbath is lawful. The inference is that the disciples are PRIESTS or at the least like priests. They work for Jesus. They are allowed to eat the sacred loaves with IMMUNITY. John, writing years later, would agree. He says that those who know Christ personally as their Lord and Saviour are a “KINGDOM OF PRIESTS” (Revelation 1:6 and 5:10). In fact in Hebrews 4:14 Jesus is called our “GREAT HIGH PRIEST”.

How does this help Scott Rush? There are NO EXCEPTIONS concerning drug trafficking! He is however calling himself a Christian now, a disciple of Christ. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” It can’t hurt to receive the gift of ETERNAL LIFE that Christ offers when you have the DEATH SENTENCE hanging over you. By the way, this verse says we are all under the death sentence without Christ.

Knowing Christ personally, THE JUDGE of all the earth (2 Timothy 4:1) has some definite fringe benefits. He knows the law better than anyone and will find a way to show His MERCY. In Matthew 12:7 (NLT) Jesus says to the Pharisees “… you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show MERCY, not offer SACRIFICES.’ The full quote is from Hosea 6:6 (NIV,NLT) where God is speaking to His people saying “For I desire MERCY, NOT SACRIFICE. I want you to KNOW ME more than I want burnt offerings.”

According to Wikipedia, Mercy is a Medieval Latin term meaning “price paid, wages”. It can refer to the COMPASSIONATE BEHAVIOUR of a judge to a convicted person, humanitarian acts, or just compassion shown by one person to another. Jesus paid the price for my sins by dying on my behalf, which allows God to SHOW MERCY to me when I trust in Christ. DOES SCOTT RUSH DESERVE MERCY?

1 Peter 2:10 (NLT) says “…you have received God’s mercy.” If God has shown us mercy, “PRICE PAID”, then should we not show mercy to others? James 2:13 (NLT) says “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you.”

God bless you Church as you extend the grace and mercy of God to others. Titus 3:4-7 (NLT) says “When God our Saviour revealed His kindness and love, He saved us, NOT because of the righteous things we had done, but because of HIS MERCY. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Because of HIS GRACE He declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”

Oh and by the way, the answer is “NO! Mercy is Mercy because it is UNDESERVED!”

Pastor Ross

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PART 1 – MATTHEW 12:1-3 – JESUS BROKE THE LAW! WHY CAN’T I?

Does Jesus Speed?

Not long ago I witnessed an ACCIDENT. A car ahead of me pulled out of it’s lane into a bus lane and collected the car that had been coming up from behind him in that lane. It left a sizeable dent in each car. Each morning as I travel to the Shalom Centre I see many people use Sydney bus lanes ILLEGALLY. It’s so easy and CONVENIENT to do. The temptation to save time and zip into a bus lane obviously overrides the possibility that a policeman will pull them over at the corner. Living on the EDGE! Is it worth the risk of 3 licence demerit points and $253 fine and progressive $50 fines until it is paid? It’s not! And I should know. But doesn’t Jesus break the law when it’s convenient?

In Matthew 12:1-2 isn’t Jesus just IGNORING parts of the law that He doesn’t like? Is He walking to the EDGE of the law to explore where the BOUNDARIES really are? Is He the kind of person who would drive past a policeman just over the SPEED LIMIT or leave it until the last second to get through the AMBER TRAFFIC LIGHT instead of stopping? Or drive in a bus lane?

Matthew 12:1-2 speaks about a time when “…Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were HUNGRY, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, Your disciples are BREAKING THE LAW by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.” 

If it was me I would have said something like “What is your problem? Mind your own business! Who made you the Sabbath police?” Besides, the Law of Deuteronomy 23:25 (NLT) says “…when you enter your neighbour’s field of grain, you may pluck the heads of grain with your hand, but you must not harvest it with a sickle.” So they weren’t STEALING.

The problem is that the disciples are plucking grain on a SATURDAY. Saturday is the SABBATH, a rest day. Picking grain is viewed as work by the Pharisees even though technically the law only prohibited harvesting grain for PROFIT on the Sabbath. It’s not as if they were driving a Massey Fergusen tractor with a COMBINE HARVESTER on the back and setting up a CUT PRICE SILO SALE for the grain.

Jesus always seems to confront me with my LEGALISM and calls me to think carefully about my responses to God. There’s a difference between obeying God’s law and legalism.

“Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and they broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat.” (Matthew 12:3 NLT)

So can I break the law everytime it suits me? What about speeding because I’m late to work? I could try explaining to a policeman “Haven’t you heard that when it didn’t suit David to keep the law, he broke it? I have a genuine need, officer. Learn the meaning of the word ‘mercy'” I don’t think that this will go down well and even though it might be a genuine need, it wouldn’t stop me from getting a ticket and perhaps even a psychiatric evaluation.

So what is Jesus saying here? Where does it stop? What’s the point where I am no longer on the boundary but well and truly OVER THE EDGE? Sometimes we view the law as UNNECESSARY simply because in our sinfulness, we don’t want to obey it. That’s NOT what Jesus is advocating!

I don’t believe Jesus is saying that it is OK to DISOBEY THE LAW if you have a genuine need or if others have a genuine need, but I keep reading commentaries that say that genuine need makes it OK for Jesus to break the law!

An AMBULANCE DRIVER will speed legally in order to get someone to hospital, but he is breaking the law if he does it any other time. Same ambulance. Same driver. Same speed. Different purpose. Obeying the law depends on fulfilling the PURPOSE OF THE LAW.

Jesus is saying “The real PURPOSE or SPIRIT OF THE SABBATH LAW allows for MEETING GENUINE NEEDS without disobedience being an issue. You DISOBEY the Sabbath Law when you merely go through a ritual, perform a ceremony and adhere to a regulation. That is not the PURPOSE or spirit of the Sabbath law.”

Did Jesus break the Sabbath or did He show what keeping the Sabbath law was really all about? Matthew 5:17-20 (NLT) “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to ACCOMPLISH THEIR PURPOSE. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the SMALLEST DETAIL of God’s law will disappear until its PURPOSE is achieved. …”But I warn you-unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”  

1 John 5:3 (NLT) says “Loving God means KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS, and His commandments are NOT BURDENSOME.”   

Jesus didn’t BREAK THE LAW! He invented it! He lived by it, and fulfilled it perfectly. The Pharisees broke it by not understanding the purpose of the law and by applying it wrongly.

God bless you Church as you “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby FULFILL the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NASB95)

Pastor Ross