Archive for November, 2010

Part 17 – Matthew 12:46-50 – JESUS CELEBRATES MY BIRTHDAY!

 

Jesus Loves Me!

My daughter, Rachel, is pregnant! Woo Hoo! Another little boy will soon be born into our family. What a gift!

Christmas of course celebrates the gift God gave in the birth of a baby boy, our Saviour, Jesus. We gather around the manger or decorated Christmas trees to sing carols, and exchange gifts, laugh together, enjoy each others company, and express our love for eachother as a family, peace, goodwill to all mankind and all that.

I wonder if Jesus and His family celebrated His birthday (maybe not with a tree and star or Christmas angel on top, but you know, have a bit of a birthday party, special food etc?). Did He play with His other younger brothers and sisters or where they ESTRANGED from Him? (And yes, Jesus has brothers and sisters. Mary and Joseph had other children).

Once in the world did Jesus merely TOLERATE His Mum and his brothers and sisters? When He went into ministry did Jesus DISOWN them, acknowledging only that they were a necessary means to an end, a kick start in being human, increasingly DISASSOCIATING Himself from them as the years went on? Kind of like a step-Mum and step brothers but not a “REAL” family. Always an awkwardness in calling her Mum? Who is she really? Who were they really?

I have read some ridiculous comments concerning Matthew 12:46-50 this week about Jesus’ relationship with His family – His mother and brothers. They almost imply that Jesus comes from a dysfunctional family!

As Jesus is speaking to the crowd, His mother and brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to Him. Jesus takes the opportunity to use this as an illustration. He asks the crowd, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look, these are My mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother!”  

Now why is this mentioned? What is Jesus doing here? REJECTING His family? Brushing them off? Is Jesus trying to stop His family from speaking with Him because He thinks that secretly they are AGAINST Him (Matthew 12:30)?

I have read interpretations of this passage stating that Jesus family are INTERRUPTING His ministry and OPPOSING Him, and how His family has become a RIVAL to His ministry. Hang on a second. WHERE IS THAT?

Jesus wasn’t REJECTING His family! Jesus isn’t ASHAMED of His family. He isn’t ridiculing them, disowning them, disassociating Himself from them, or belittling them. He wasn’t ANNOYED that they were being too familiar with Him. To me, none of that is said or implied!

They just wanted to speak with Him! NO BIG DEAL! And I don’t see any great picture of UNBELIEF here! Jesus’ Mum and brothers aren’t in COMPETITION with Jesus, vying for attention. We aren’t told WHY his family wanted to talk to Him but why assume the worst. This isn’t an awkward moment for Jesus.

Jesus loved His family. He obviously loved His Mum. Even on the Cross He was concerned for her well being. She wasn’t an interruption to Him when He was being crucified. While He died on the Cross His concern was for her welfare. He wanted John to look after her (John 19:27). Why would He regard His Mum and brothers as an interruption now? Jesus died for His family too!

So what is this passage all about? Jesus is speaking of the priority of a FAMILY RELATIONSHIP with God. Jesus is using His loving family relationship as an ILLUSTRATION of how we can have a SPIRITUAL family relationship with God. It’s all to do with coming under God’s authority and doing His will.

In Luke 8:21 (NLT) Jesus says, “My mother and My brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.” In John 14:23-24 (NLT) Jesus says, “All who love Me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make Our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love Me will not obey Me. And remember, My words are not My own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent Me.” 

To have a family relationship with Jesus depends on being a disciple of Christ. It is based on an eternal relationship, a relationship with God Himself.

We will celebrate the BIRTH of Christ this Christmas as a family. He celebrates my NEW BIRTH (John 3:3) into His family. Luke 15:10 (NLT) says “…there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” JESUS CELEBRATES MY BIRTHDAY! John 1:12 (NLT) says “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become CHILDREN OF GOD.” What about you? Will Jesus celebrate your birthday this Christmas?

God bless you as you respond to the invitation Christ gives you today to become a CHILD OF GOD, born again, into the FAMILY of God.

Pastor Ross

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Part 16 – Matthew 12:43-45 – PLAYING WHACK-A-DEMON!

Whack-a-Demon!

Many years ago I worked in an organisation called SCILS – Sunshine Coast Independent Living Skills. We worked with people who had mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.

David (not his real name) was helped to find a place to rent in the community. He had been in danger of living on the streets and had already made some questionable friends. He cleaned up his life and we taught him some independent living skills – buying food on a budget, paying rent and keeping the place clean.

David wanted his new life but not at the expense of some of his old habits. He invited his so-called friends to visit him. When they saw that he now had an apartment, with plenty of room, with leechlike intensity, they used David to provide them with free rent and a place where their bad attitudes and lifestyles could thrive in relative anonymity. Even when confronted they were abrasive and uncooperative, malevolent. It took some time to EVICT them, and there was always the danger that they would RETURN.

When Jesus speaks to the religious leaders who confront Him with malevolent intent He says that they are part of an “evil and adulterous” generation that “refuses to repent” and “refuses to listen” (Matthew 12:41-42). As if that’s not enough to get offside with them, He then goes on to associate them with those who are DEMONIZED. Nice! Who said Jesus was meek and mild?   

In Matthew 12:43-45 (NLT) Jesus says “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”  

What is this about? I think Jesus is saying something like this. “You can clean up your life, get rid of your demons, get all religious and reform your life with rules and regulations and good works, but you won’t find real rest. You will still feel dry and empty inside. You will still be restless and crave that which you thought you had evicted from your life until it takes up control again, only this time several times worse.” 2 Peter 2:19 (NLT) says “For you are a slave to whatever controls you.”

An evil spirit can evidently be BANISHED but NOT DESTROYED, just as evil in our generation cannot be destroyed in this lifetime. We live in a world of PEACE-KEEPERS trying to keep evil at bay, but it will not be eliminated at the point of a gun.

Let’s face it, we know that no matter how much the United Nations or any government seeks to LEGISLATE righteousness, they are merely shooting RUBBER BULLETS. The mass of evil will be dispelled for a time only to raise it’s ugly head elsewhere like the game at shows and fairgrounds where you use a mallet to “WHACK-A-MOLE”. We could call this variation “WHACK-A-DEMON!”

We know that a REFORMED lifestyle won’t work. I can clean up my life, scrub the floors of my soul, throw out the garbage, but an empty house is designed for a TENANT, not just to stand there as a sanitised, disinfected empty shell. What I need is a new tenant who will look after the place, not just a empty apartment that will attract all kinds of UNWELCOME GUESTS.

We know that RELIGION won’t cut it either. Jesus is speaking to very religious people (the Pharisees) who advocate a list of “Thou shalt not’s” to remain clean. They even have a few rules for Jesus, including “Don’t heal anyone on the Sabbath”. Substituting religious evils in the guise of good intentions for what God really wants to do in my heart will not change me (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Evict the evil spirits by all means but REPLACE the bad tenants with a good tenant. A life is not transformed by the absence of EVIL SPIRITS but by the presence of THE HOLY SPIRIT (2 Timothy 1:14, Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit indwells my life when I believe in Christ and then I have a chance of a life of VICTORY OVER SIN (1 John 5:1-5).

God bless you as you believe in Christ right now, and as the Holy Spirit comes to lead you into all truth and take up residence in you (John 14:16-17), you will have the opportunity to obey God (1 Peter 1:2) rather than play games of WHACK-A-DEMON.

Pastor Ross

Hunger and the Hunt

Part 15 – Matthew 12:42 – THE HUNGER AND THE HUNT

“She was not beautiful but her eyes were magnificient. They were piercing and caught the light as jade shards and occasionally as she passed into shadows you could catch glimses of the hunger betrayed in the depths of their opalescent gaze.

As the inquisitive marvelled at her entourage, she walked with poise towards the door, her femininity couched in trained self assurance. No-one saw the dissonance of heart and mind as the huge doors opened and she was ushered into his presence.

She entered without hesitation as befitting a queen, her eyes adjusting to the light and her mind alert, enquiring, curious. She thought she heard a voice whisper her name as the doors shut behind her and the muted echo of it’s thud sounded within the hall, but surely no-one knew her name here.

It was beautiful, the curtains and tasteful articles of furniture, and as she met his gaze, she could see that her hunt was at an end. She would find the elusive treasure that would satisfy her soul, her mind, her heart?”  

Jesus speaks of this visit of the QUEEN OF SHEBA to Solomon’s court many years later. He describes her as one who came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. He says that as a result of that visit she will “stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it.” He says, “Now someone greater than Solomon is here-but you refuse to listen” (Matthew 12:42 NLT).  

I don’t know a whole lot about the Queen of Sheba but it seems as if she comes on a QUEST. She has an OVERWHELMING DESIRE to seek spiritual wisdom and her quest for truth leads her to SOLOMON. In 1 Kings 10:1 (NLT) it says “When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, which brought honour to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.” 

This isn’t just a cursory visit on the way home from a royal holiday. This is an INTENTIONAL SEARCH to discover spiritual reality. She leaves her kingdom responsibilities behind and enters into Solomon’s territory and sphere of authority. She comes PERSONALLY and travels a great distance to get there. There is a HUNGER and questioning thirst after the things of God. She is WILLING TO LISTEN. Surely when a woman is willing to listen that says something (and of course when a man listens it is no less amazing).

Jesus says that if I am to discover spiritual wisdom and truth then the queen of Sheba is an example in the INTENTIONALITY of that search. Proverbs 2:2-6 (NLT), written by Solomon, puts it this way “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” 

Deuteronomy 4:29 (NLT) speaks of our search for God and assures us that “if you SEARCH for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.” 

Jesus claims to be GREATER than Solomon. Not only does He HAVE THE TRUTH but He claims to BE THE TRUTH. He says in John 14:6 (NLT) “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” He goes on to say that it is only “…the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” (John 14:16-17 NLT)

God bless you in your spiritual quest as you search for Him, listen to Him, respond to Him today. Solomon expresses the timeless response of God to your quest in Proverbs 8:17 (NLT) as He speaks to you today “I love all who love Me. Those who search will surely find Me.”

Pastor Ross

Part 14 – Matthew 12:38-41 – THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL!

3 Days and Nights

A few days ago, my good friend Joe (not his real name) was taken to hospital after the antibiotics that he was taking didn’t appear to be making a discernable difference. He deteriorated quickly and after a few days, he was just a skeleton lying in bed, fighting for each breath.

I drove to work on Thursday still pleading to the Lord for a MIRACLE of healing but Joe had died around 2 am that morning, Thursday 5 November 2010 at only 91 years of age. I know that seems OLD to you, but he wasn’t. Good mates are AGELESS. He was someone I loved, a man with a deep faith, a good friend. Heaven rejoices and I am happy for him too but there is an empty space inside which tugs at my heart because I will miss him. Where was my miracle?

When the Pharisees challenge Jesus to show them a sign in Matthew 12:39-40 (NLT) it is NOT in order to see someone they LOVE HEALED, or to see people they CARE ABOUT RESTORED. They want theatrics, a circus show, for Jesus to jump through a hoop at their bidding. They have NO COMPASSION for the healing of a demonised blind man who has been unable to speak and NO CONCERN for the man with a deformed hand who was totally restored. They want DEATH to their enemies – a bolt of lightning to DESTROY the Roman oppressors or at the very least someone to lead an UPRISING. Where was their miracle?

Jesus sees right through them. He says “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet JONAH.”

What on earth has JONAH got to do with the Pharisees asking for a sign, or for that matter Joe? Well, Jesus goes on to explain, “For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” His powerful words in Matthew 12:41(NLT) still ring in my ears – “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they REPENTED of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone GREATER than Jonah is here – but you refuse to repent.”

The Pharisees want a SIGN, a miracle, to prove that Jesus is from God. Jesus seems to be saying “You have all the signs you need in the Old Testament Scriptures already and they all lead to Me!” He doesn’t mess around with their bad attitudes or get DISTRACTED from the essentials. He leads them to the GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL.

When I think of the story of Jonah I think of the miracle of him being SWALLOWED by a fish and surviving for 3 days and nights. And since that is a picture of the RESURRECTION of Jesus, I want to get into working out the details of how these 3 days and nights fit in with when Jesus’ died. How was it 3 days AND 3 nights?

But it seems to me I can miss the forest for the trees if I’m not careful. The MATHEMATICS of the resurrection is not the REAL EMPHASIS of this passage. Jonah’s resurrection from the fish was a great sign, but the GREATEST MIRACLE, however, according to Jesus, is the MIRACLE OF REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS! A whole generation of Ninevites REPENTED because of Jonah’s message. That’s the intention of God. To see people FORGIVEN AND RESTORED to Him! Jesus, on the other hand, is faced with people who “REFUSE to repent” (Matthew 12:41).

My friend Joe knew THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL. He knew the forgiveness that comes from believing in Christ as Lord and Saviour. He leaves a LEGACY OF FAITH. His legacy is a family who has come to love and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jonah says “I knew that you are a MERCIFUL AND COMPASSIONATE GOD, SLOW TO GET ANGRY AND FILLED WITH UNFAILING LOVE. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.”

God hasn’t changed. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord …does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” He loves us as we are but loves us too much to leave us that way. He wants us to respond to Him, to trust in Christ, to experience THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL – FORGIVENESS and a life changed forever. The invitation He gives is to us; to participate in the MIRACLE OF REPENTANCE.

Pastor Ross

Part 13 – Matthew 12:38-42 – LIFE BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE!

Beyond the Trampoline

I fell through a trampoline once. It was totally unexpected! One minute I was airborne and the next I was standing on the ground, wearing the trampoline like a giant torn tutu, and all my helpful family could do was laugh at me! I mention this because my granddaughter, normally so cooperative, sent a very clear message to her parents the other day. She said “NO! I won’t go!” She had been playing on the trampoline with her cousins, laughing and having such a great time that when it was time to go home, she simply refused. She was more interested in having FUN than in OBEDIENCE. She was more interested in playing games than in the implications of a world that existed beyond jumping on a trampoline. I fully understand, although my experience with a trampoline was a little more traumatic.

No doubt the Pharisees and other people around Jesus in Matthew 12:39 are also surprised and discomfited when he calls them an “EVIL AND ADULTEROUS generation” and affronted when He accuses them of “refusing to REPENT.” (Matthew 12:41-42). I mean this seems to be such a SWEEPING STATEMENT. Surely there is no need to be so CONFRONTING, so DEMANDING!

So what am I saying? Is Jesus trying to TAKE AWAY my fun? Give me the toys and the desires of my heart, Lord, but don’t demand anything from me,? How can a loving God be so judgmental and insistent? “After all I’m not a bad person. I am just having fun on my trampoline with my playmates and not bothering anyone. And I’m NOT GOING TO REPENT!” (Well, OK. Maybe not the bit about the trampoline, but you get the idea.)

Bumper sticker – “Jesus loves me just as I am, and He loves me too much to have me stay that way”. It’s not about taking away our fun. It’s about living life to the full. THE WORLD BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE. There comes a time when our rebellion and our wanting to play games with God demands REPENTANCE! John the Baptist preached the same message (see Matthew 3:2) and so did many others who paved the way for Christ.

DENIAL – “The world isn’t all that bad!” Have you followed world news lately or walked around a video shop? We have movies that justify homosexuality, adultery and murder as entertainment and world leaders who justify their corruption as a normal part of their governance. It would seem that an “EVIL AND ADULTEROUS generation” (Matthew 12:39) is actually quite a fitting description of our world. DENIAL – “I am not all that bad.” Have you read your Bible lately? Romans 3:23 (NLT) says “…everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” And I don’t see a whole lot of REPENTANCE taking place in the lives of our generation. Lots of denial. Very little repentance.

So what is this “REPENT FOR THE END IS NEAR!” T-shirt that Jesus seems to be wearing? What is this placard He is holding? It isn’t exactly a message that stirs my heart and makes me feel good. It’s UNCOMFORTABLE to be confronted with my sin, and sometimes I want Jesus to take a much SOFTER approach. Then again “REPENT PLEASE” isn’t going to cut it with me or in an evil world. Perhaps SEARED CONSCIENCES (1 Timothy 4:2) need the encouragement of ELECTRIC SHOCK treatment!

Paul seems to sum things up. When he preached at Athens in Acts 17:30-31 (NLT) he said “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now He COMMANDS everyone everywhere to REPENT of their sins and TURN TO HIM. For He has set a day for JUDGING the world with JUSTICE by the man He has appointed, and He proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”

When Peter preaches to a crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2:37-38 (NLT) they responded to the message. It says “Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said …”What should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must REPENT of your sins, TURN to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received FORGIVENESS for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Somehow Jesus’ message is clear. There’s LIFE BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE! It’s meant to be lived to the full. The invitation to real life, abundant life is there before you. Jesus hands it to you. You open it up and you look down to what it will cost. It says “REPENT AND BELIEVE! TURN AND RECEIVE! LET ME DIRECT YOUR LIFE”. Am I willing to pay such a price? Now that’s the choice.

God bless you Church as you affirm the message of Christ and show the fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8), the example of a life which is responsive to the touch of God, rich and full, giving hope and incentive for repentance for others in our evil and adulterous generation.

Pastor Ross