Archive for February, 2011

Matthew 13:24–30 – SMOKING WEED – Part 10

Smoking

The world is amazed as a corrupt president is removed from power in Egypt. The people who protested on the streets of Cairo are hailed as heros. In the midst of their jubilation we hear of a reporter being raped and beaten as she seeks to cover the story on the streets of Cairo. Like the parable in Matthew 13:24-30, the world is full of WEEDS. So is my garden at the moment but that’s not the topic of this parable.

Amidst the devastation of flood waters in Australia heros are born. SES workers rescue people from rooftops, Churches open their doors of their meeting places as evacuation centres and send out work parties to clean up homes from the mud and debri. Yet looters thieve the pickings of people who have lost everything. WEEDS AMONG WHEAT?

Rapists among the heros. Looters, like vultures among those trying to help the weak and helpless. Child traffickers among those who build orphanages to protect the children of Cambodia. Self righteous hypocrites among genuine followers of Christ. WEEDS AMONG THE WHEAT. “Why does God allow evil people, hypocritical people and people who apathetically look on while evil happens in the world to exist?”

Why doesn’t God force everyone to believe and to honour one another and Him? Way back in the Garden of Eden why didn’t God snuff out Adam and Eve the moment they sinned and start again? In the parable Jesus tells, even the angels don’t quite know what to do. “Should we pull out the weeds?” they ask (Matthew 13:28). 

I’m with the angels in this parable. I just want to get rid of all the evil in the world. I’m not sure where to draw the line with this, but there’s some obvious people who deserve to be UPROOTED first. Let’s get rid of all the religious hypocrites while we are at it. But Jesus says “‘No, …, you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.” (Matthew 13:29).

Jesus identifies the fact that we have an ENEMY who works against God’s kingdom purposes. We CO-EXIST with all kinds of evil people (sin has tainted our world) and to make hasty, malicious, unfounded judgments about them and try to uproot them would damage us. The reason is that I am tainted with sin too. I am hardly equipped to judge without taking the log out of my own eye (Matthew 7:5). How do I know who is righteous and who isn’t? My flawed judgment is likely to pull up the wheat with the weeds.

Besides, ALL of us deserve to be uprooted and thrown into the fire (What a horrible picture that is). Romans 3:23 (NLT) says “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” But in God’s grace He let’s “both grow together until the harvest. Then” He says “I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” (Matthew 13:30 NLT). It puts a whole new slant on smoking weed.

Of course the intention of this story is not to say that God wants to BURN THE WEEDS – those who don’t know Christ! The intention of the story is to show that He is allowing plenty of time BEFORE He judges the world. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord isn’t really being SLOW about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being PATIENT for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” It seems even weeds have a chance to be transformed (Now that’s the kind of miracle I need in my garden at present).

Jesus is saying that the only hope for an evil world is found in a holy God and because of Him we have an ancient invitation, a time capsule rediscovered again and again in John 3:16 (NLT) “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that EVERYONE who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” He is still the only Way, Truth and Life we have (John 14:6).

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:24-26 – Part 9 – TOXIC OR TRANSFORMED?

Wheat and Tares

He didn’t look much like a missionary to me. He was built like a tank in terms of muscles. Not the way I pictured a missionary should be. He should have been skinny from lack of support from his home church, with an old brown cardigan. He should have had an expression that indicated that he was near to a breakdown or had experienced one already.

This man however spoke without the pious tones I expected and without trying to make me feel guilty for not packing my bags and taking the next plane to deepest darkest Africa to preach to a lost tribe of pigmy cannibals for the rest of my life. “Here I am Lord, send me” wasn’t even his theme.

What he did do was to open up God’s truth in a way I had never heard before and I found myself inspired to study my Bible and apply it’s truth to my life. I found myself wanting to go into the world and represent Christ. I was shocked! I think I had Bangladesh in mind at the time.

I was reminded of this incident when I read Matthew 13:24-30. Jesus tells another simple parable about a farmer. He has already shared a story about sowing good seed on different types of soils in Matthew 13:3-9. The farmer in this parable is also sowing seed, but this time the seed doesn’t represent the MESSAGE of Christ but the SERVANTS of Christ. Jesus the farmer is sowing FOLLOWERS of Christ into His field – the world.

Even before the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus was sending disciples into the world. In Matthew 10:5-18 (NLT) “Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: “… Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received! …Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. … this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about Me…” 

Someone said that the greatest mission field we have today is in the Church. Matthew 13:25 (NLT) says “But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.” WEEDS sown amongst the wheat. Apparently there’s plenty of weeds in the Church. Titus 1:16 (NLT) says that “Such people claim they know God, but they deny Him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.”

It is called “Bastard wheat” because in its early stages it cannot be distinguished from real wheat. “When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew” (Matthew 13:26 NLT). I’m sure Jesus was looking at the Pharisees when He told this parable.

According to Matthew 13:39 Jesus says that the weeds are those who are not followers of Christ, and He lays it on the line by describing them as belonging to the devil. Prophetically they are people down through the ages who have not given their lives to Christ. They have not believed in Him and His work on the Cross for them. The Kingdom of heaven, Christ’s rulership, is not present in their lives. They therefore belong to the other kingdom. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) says “If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, 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.”

The miracle is that any seed that Jesus touches is wheat, born again, a new creation with all the potential to make a difference despite the opposition we may face in the world. The invitation of this parable is to assess from whose hand I have been sown into the world? Is what I contribute going to end up being toxic. Weed or wheat? Pharisee or follower of Christ? God bless you as you respond to the touch of Jesus today. Are you TOXIC or TRANSFORMED?

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 13:24 – I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE! – Part 8

Dethroned!

He has ruled Egypt for 29 years and has no intention of resigning. Mubarak and his family are incredibly rich. Apparently they have $70 billion due to corruption, kickbacks and some legitimate business activities. His kingdom is vast. Money, prestige, power, an army.

Huge numbers of demonstrators gather in Cairo and throughout the country demanding his resignation. 18 long days of protests, millions of people, chaos in Cairo, bloodshed in the streets.

Mubarak has survived six assassination attempts, but his dictatorship has brought the wrath of Egypts masses against him. They are shouting “We don’t want to live like this, anymore!” For many days Mubarak refuses to step down. Finally on the 11th February, 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigns. Afterall, what use is a kingdom without the authority to rule over your people?

In Matthew 13:24 Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. What has heaven got to do with this discussion? A true kingdom is where the king has the authority to rule over his people. The kingdom of heaven stands in stark contrast to the kingdoms we try to build for ourselves on earth.

That term, the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, comes up a lot in the Bible, especially in the gospels. What is the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God? And what on earth does it have to do with Mubarak?

My freedom depends on which kingdom I seek and no, by seeking the kingdom of heaven I am not speaking about suicide, euthanasia or death. Seeking the Kingdom of Heaven has nothing to do with dying (except perhaps dying to selfish ambition) and much to do with experiencing life to the full, HERE AND NOW. In John 10:10 Jesus says (NIV) “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”      

Sure, heaven, the Kingdom of God, is a LITERAL place, but Jesus said something interesting. He said “The Kingdom of Heaven has come” (Matthew 4:17). In fact we pray that way whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that the will and authority of the Kingdom of Heaven will be translated into the everyday things of earth, here and now.

What makes it heaven is the fact that God is RULING AND REIGNING. His kingdom is His SPHERE OF AUTHORITY, so in reality, if I come under His authority, I can receive heaven or ETERNAL LIFE here and NOW as well as in eternity. The kingdom has come! It begins now!

But it doesn’t just happen! It demands protest. It demands me declaring “I don’t want to live the way I am living anymore!” It demands a resignation of the present ruler over my life. Hang on a minute – that would be me!

When God’s Kingdom, His rule and reign, is a reality in my life, then things change on the INSIDE. The UNSEEN aspects of my life are now directed by the Lord. My life becomes His throne. He calls the shots so that the kingdom functions as it should. I am no longer bound up with my outward circumstances but with serving Him.

What good to gain the whole world and build my own kingdom on the outward trappings of this world, like Mubarak, only to lose my own soul (Luke 9:25).

Matthew 6:33 says I am to “…Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and His righteousness, and He will give you everything you need.” Romans 14:17 tells me that “…the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The invitation is to be dethroned from the throne of my own making and from building my own kingdom. It is saying honestly to God, “I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE!” and accepting Christ as my Saviour and King. God bless you as you come under His authority as the Ruler of your life today.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:1-23 – Part 7 – A RETURN ON THE INVESTMENT

Investment Return

Vehicles being thrown around like toys in the rushing waters and heartbreaking stories of lives lost have filled the news reports. The damage to bumper harvests was also devastating, probably in the billions of dollars, as the states of Queensland, NSW and Victoria in Australia have been inundated with floods. As I speak a new cyclone is threatening to devastate Queensland even further.

In the midst of this devastation a harvest of another kind is ripening and producing an incredible return. Christian Churches right around Australia open the doors of their buildings as evacuation centres, feed the hungry, send volunteer teams to help clean houses, and give millions of dollars in aid. Scores of Christians giving not only practical help in a coordinated way, but emotional and spiritual help.

Jesus speaks of that kind of harvest in Matthew 13:23 (NLT). He says “The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”  

HARVEST is important. What comes to mind when you think of being GOOD SOIL? Some kind of SICKLY SAINT who whines about the evil in world and tries to impress God with good works to gain points, right? That’s not it! Surely? Please Lord, not that.

It is interesting to me that even when Jesus speaks about the good soil (Matthew 13:23), that some produce a harvest of only 30% AND 60%. Is He saying that even though I have responded the message of His Kingdom authority in my life that I can still live BELOW MY POTENTIAL and fail to produce a harvest of 100% RETURN? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not beating myself up over this when I fail, but apparently God has designed my life to be 100% PRODUCTIVE, not dormant, limited or underlived. It’s as if God is trying to say “Don’t give Me excuses! Give me a RETURN! Go! Make a difference in the world for Me with what I have already INVESTED in your life. You can do it!”

But what is this FRUIT OF THE CROP that every genuine Christian produces? The parable doesn’t say! I guess it speaks of all kinds of things.

When Colossians 1:10 (NLT) speaks about producing fruit. It says, “…your lives will produce EVERY KIND of good fruit. ….”

Whenever someone responds to the message of Christ then that is a potential harvest. The harvest does refer to my influence in helping people come to Christ. The harvest is plentiful and the labourers are few (Matthew 9:38), but it is much MORE than that!

The context of this Colossians 1 indicates that fruit is a CHANGED LIFE after receiving the message of Christ (Colossians 1:6). This in turn produces an active LOVE for others (Colossians 1:8), a KNOWLEDGE of God’s will, spiritual WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING (Colossians 1:9), GROWING and LEARNING to know God more (Colossians 1:10), ENDURANCE, PATIENCE AND JOY (Colossians 1:11), and finally SHARING the message of the gospel with others (Colossians 1:12). A harvest of thoughts, words and actions that HONOUR and PLEASE the Lord.

Galatians also speaks of personal fruit that is evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in a person’s life. “… the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). The very CHARACTER AND INFLUENCE OF GOD produced in my life. Imagine the kind of return in the world there would be if leaders and nations took hold of the message of Christ!

In the gospel of John Jesus says producing this kind of return is dependent upon my relationship with Him. “…you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. …apart from Me you can do nothing. …When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father.” (John 15:1-8 NLT)

So the invitation Jesus gives us is to bear fruit. I am to make a difference in the world because Jesus has made a difference in me. I am to PRODUCE something worthwhile in my life because of what God has INVESTED in me.

God bless you as the fruit that is developed on the inside of a changed life becomes obvious to others. Through the fruit of your thoughts, words and actions others will also have an opportunity to respond to Christ.

Pastor Ross