Archive for May, 2011

Genesis 24 – GOD HAS AN ONLINE DATING SERVICE! – Part 2

Online Love

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…”

The most successful INTERNET DATING SITES today, according to Wikipedia, are very specific concerning those they target. To ensure compatibility many of them are advertised according to RACIAL OR RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS. That would have suited Abraham if he had been able to access the internet. Many today would accuse him of being a racist because he did not want his son to marry a Canaanite.

Abraham sent his trusted servant out to find a perfect match for his son Isaac, but he was instructed to go to Abraham’s relatives. He didn’t want a marriage where race or faith in God would be compromised.

Today the servant could have linked into JDate (which is for Jewish singles) while avoiding the local dating sites such as CanaaniteDate.com.

How do you find a person who is COMPATIBLE? Today he could have surveyed Isaac and entered the data online to find the characteristics in a woman he wanted, such as age, gender, what city she was from, height, weight, education, income, sense of humour, her interest in sports, her political persuasion and medical condition. What if she has mental problems or severe disabilities? To go one step further, Abraham’s servant could have linked into a site that used a personality test to ensure compatibility.

It all sounds like a great way to go if you are looking for a marriage partner, but Rebekah takes a huge risk in following this servant of Abraham. She has no idea whether or not she is exposing herself to ruthless predators, only to find herself a victim of fraud or of being stalked or of sexual exploitation and violence. For all she knows she could end up as a victim of human trafficking!

If Rebekah lived today she could have asked for a police check on Abraham’s family. It would have revealed a few cautions against Abraham – abandonment of his son Ishmael and attempted murder of Isaac. God acquitted him as righteous but how would you feel about having a father-in-law like that?

At least two couples I know began their relationship on the internet. Recently Sharyn Cook said “I met my husband on the internet and he is definitely God’s answer to my prayers”.

The question the servant had to ask was “How do I find someone who will be compatible?” He decided to use GOD’S ONLINE HELP, the best and most successful dating site of all, accessed by the same password Sharyn used – “PRAYER”.

So the oldest and most trusted of servants goes to find a girl willing to go with him, leave her family, come to a totally new land called Canaan, marry and live with a man she has never seen before in her life. This is a big ask. No wonder the servant prays in Genesis 24:12 (NLT), “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham.” This servant obviously has a RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD although I think he could have included a desire for a bit of lovingkindness for Isaac too. Afterall, he is the one who is going to be affected the most by this prayer. Prayer voice activates his faith and links him directly to GOD’S INTERNET DATING SITE.

God knows what He is doing as he leads the servant to Rebekah. Imagine if Rebekah was so off-line with God that she had not agreed to come. Our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ was to come through the line of Isaac. Her positive response, however, shows that she is a right person for Isaac.

Should this servant give us advice as to finding someone who is compatible for marriage, he would say “Dedicate yourself to the purpose but let that purpose be guided by your prayer.” How different might be the results should this kind of online search be conducted today. Connected to God’s wisdom, our choices make so much more sense and have so much greater impact and fruitfulness. The invitation today is to be connected to God in every arena of our lives, especially in the decision of a life partner in marriage.

Pastor Ross

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Genesis 24 – GOD WRITES LOVE STORIES – Part 1

Bench in Park

She was there in the park, sitting on the bench in the mist, this mysterious beautiful woman in my life, and I realised that I was falling in love. We met with others in that early morning prayer meeting, but I wasn’t aware of them. I listened as she prayed and knew that we were being drawn together by God Himself. Like a window into her soul, her words enabled me to see her faith, intelligence, strength and beauty. I have known and loved this awesome woman twice as long as I was without her. We have been married for 37 years and this morning as I look out on a Autumn day in 2011, I remember being dressed in my school uniform on that cold misty morning when our journey began. I was 17. Years later Julie admitted that she had secretly prayed that if I showed up on that day it would be a sign that this would be the person she would marry.

God writes love stories. He is vitally concerned with the actual lives of people as they meet, fall in love, marry. Afterall, the first miracle Jesus performed was at a wedding. Our everyday lives and the decisions have bearing upon His purposes for us, especially concerning the one we marry.

Notice I said God writes love stories. Not romance novels and soap operas. “And they all lived happily ever after” was not in our story. There were times when Julie and I had some serious struggles when happiness wasn’t characteristic of our relationship, but God has been merciful and we are here in Sydney, Australia all these years later, with children and grandchildren, amazed at how rich and full and yes, how happy and in love we are.  

In the advancing years of my life, and I am not even half Abraham’s age in Genesis 24, I watch with prayerful interest the lives of my grandchildren and pray for God’s choice of a marriage partner for each of them. The oldest is not quite marriageable age yet. He is only five!

Sarah’s laughter has disappeared in the mists of time as we look at the love story of Genesis 24:1-67. She has been gone now for many years. Abraham is an old man. Isaac, his promised son, is forty years old (Genesis 25:20). One thing must play upon his mind as Abraham approaches the end of his life. GRANDCHILDREN! God has “blessed Abraham in all things” (Genesis 24:1 NASB), and part of that blessing is the promise of becoming a great nation through the lineage of Isaac (Genesis 12, 15). And so it is about time Isaac got married!

The traumatic events where Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac to test his faith in Genesis 22 conclude with the words “Soon after this, Abraham heard that Milcah, his brother Nahor’s wife, had borne Nahor eight sons” (Genesis 22:20 NLT). Somehow they had some kind of social network happening, e-mails, facebook, or messenger going to and from the relatives he had left behind. It seems he even knew about Rebekah by name (Genesis 22:20, 23 NLT) and perhaps of her faith and beauty as she grew. Perhaps he knew that she would be compatible.

“Abraham said to his servant,… go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac. For the Lord, the God of heaven, … will send His angel ahead of you, and He will see to it that you find a wife there for my son. If she is unwilling to come back with you, then you are free from this oath of mine.” (Genesis 24:5-8 NLT)

Looking at this passage it looks like God has a contingency plan B should Rebekah stubbornly refuse to come and wipe Isaac off the e-marriage list. I know, God doesn’t have a plan B but so often WE DO. God writes love stories but so often we try to write our own chapters and do some creative adjustments to the story line. I was speaking recently with a woman who said she didn’t find the right person. He was an alcoholic and verbally and physically abusive.

God sees that marriage is a picture of Jesus and the Church. Ephesians 5:22 says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.

Seeking God’s choice in a marriage partner is important, but perspective on that relationship is found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

God is a generational God. He invites us to play a part in the lives of our descendents. Are you praying now for your children, your grandchildren and great grandchildren to find the THE RIGHT ONE” as a marriage partner?

If you are considering marriage are you willing NOT to make your own plan B? Are you willing NOT TO MARRY AT ALL until you find the RIGHT PERSON? Are you willing to trust God to help you find the THE RIGHT ONE? Big challenge!

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:53-58 – THE POWER OF STUPIDITY – Part 22

Unbelief

It’s the end of the world! Despite Acts 1:7 (NASB) where Jesus makes it clear that “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority”, recently some Christians predicted the world would end on May 21, 2011, spending millions of dollars on an advertising campaign. Christians can so misrepresent Christ and His message at times! The power of stupidity!

However, the pendulum swing away from Christ and His message in the so-called “separation of Church and state” is just as ridiculous. Those who are not followers of Christ are just as guilty of intolerance and stupidity as Christians wearing signs about the world ending on a certain day. Apparently using terms such as “conversion,  believers, unbelievers, church, the cross, crucifixion, Christ, the blood of Christ, salvation through Christ, redemption through Christ, the Son of God or the Christian life”  are considered to be more and more offensive in our society.  

In Australia, Chaplains are restricted from sharing the message of Christ in schools because such a message might affect young lives. A message of unselfish living, discipline, absolute standards, loving God and your neighbour and the very foundational principles of being human emotionally, physically and spiritually are apparently no longer welcome or only welcome in doses that don’t offend. Such intolerance draws me back to a place called Nazareth and to the nature of unbelief itself.

It seems that UNBELIEF STILL HARBOURS DEEP RESENTMENT AGAINST JESUS. “They were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him….” (Matthew 13:57 NLT). The literal meaning of offended has to do with stumbling. His neighbours and friends stumble as much over Jesus then as they do now. “Familiarity breeds contempt”. Strange that familiarity with Him can become an obstacle to knowing Him personally.

In Nazareth UNBELIEF personified, dresses in a multicoloured coat in order to please everyone, knocks at many doors but is unwilling to wait for anyone to come, asks the right questions but is averse to hearing any of the answers. Bizarre! “Where does He get His wisdom and power?” (Matthew 13:54 NLT). No, don’t tell me!

The obvious answer in neon lights only makes unbelief turn away. A worldview set in cement. Jesus spoke of hard, stony ground in His parable of the soils. UNBELIEF IS ALL TOO WILLING TO LIMIT THE PARAMETERS OF UNDERSTANDING to what I have always known or to whatever the social norms are for our society, no matter how twisted and perverse they may be.

A man declares that all he knows is that once he was blind but now he can see, but UNBELIEF remains blind and RIDICULES THE POSSIBILITY OF THE MIRACULOUS. Mark 6:5-6 (NLT) tells us “because of their unbelief, He couldn’t do any mighty miracles among them except to place His hands on a few sick people and heal them. And He was amazed at their unbelief.” UNBELIEF AMAZES GOD!

In NazarethUNBELIEF PUSHES CHRIST AWAY and embraces instead the tragic consequences of sickness, disease, death. Self-centred lifestyles continue their unrelenting and oppressive reign. I can be amazed at Jesus, astonished by His miracles of power and His wise teaching, but UNBELIEF CAN STILL ROB ME OF THE DIFFERENCE CHRIST CAN MAKE IN MY LIFE. Because of their unbelief, Jesus is only able to heal a few people inNazareth.

This is not the first or the last time that Jesus will be rejected. Most of the Pharisees and religious leaders reject Him, yet Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees gets it right. He connects the dots. He comes to Jesus and says in John 3:2 (NLT) “we all know that God has sent You to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

The ultimate rejection of our humanity was that we had the arrogance to hang Him who knew no sin upon a Cross. Even the men who are crucified with Jesus ridicule Him, until one of them recognises who He is and believes in Him (Luke 23:40-43). Luke 23:36-37 (NLT) says “The soldiers mocked Him, too” until one Centurion sees that He truly is the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

Faith has great power. It has the power to bring to bear the Kingdom of Heaven upon the earth as I believe and receive eternal life. But UNBELIEF ALSO HAS GREAT POWER – THE POWER OF STUPIDITY. Psalms 53:1 (NLT) says “Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.””

Would I be a fool not to believe in Christ? The Bible says that the “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7 NLT). Romans 1:16 (NASB) says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, …”

“WHERE DOES HIS POWER AND WISDOM COME FROM?” The invitation is to be open to, not offended by, the answer to that question. But be warned. The next dilemma ,should the answer to that question be that it comes from God, will be “What will I do with Jesus?”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:53-58 – HOW TO MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY ABOUT JESUS – Part 21

Carpenter's Workshop

“Put it on the shelf for a while. You can always revisit it later with fresh eyes.” At least that’s what I tell myself when I get stuck with a writing project. Unfortunately it takes a while for me to revisit it. Well, not this time! Before Christmas I will be finished my first book and then I can move on to other things. The illustrations will be beautiful and the storyline will be compelling. At least I hope so. How will I know when I have finished? I’ll cross that bridge later.

How did Jesus know when it was time to finish His story telling and miracles and move on? What compelled Him to revisit His home town, Nazareth? Perhaps it was an unfinished story that needed to be told.

Like the city where I grew up, Jesus’ home town is close to a major highway. The only difference is that traffic moved a little slower in those times. Traders from all over the world passed by Nazareth. Did Jesus come into contact with them as a boy? Did He meet people of different nationalities and customs? He came into the world and it seems in those early years of His life the world came to Him, yet still they did not recognise Him, passing Him by, on route to other places to make money and a living. Not enough time to get to know Jesus for who He really was. We are all capable of missing the point concerning Jesus.

The world still passes by Jesus as wars, greed, poverty, terrorism and violence continue unabated. The Kingdom of God, the authority of Jesus, the answers for life are abandoned because of unbelief. UNBELIEF pushes Jesus away and refuses God’s wisdom and power. Unbelief builds a levy bank that redirects the flood of God’s blessings elsewhere and then complains of a drought.

He didn’t go to university and or have His masters in theology, nevertheless Jesus is THE MASTER OF THEOLOGY, the only way to God. All Jewish boys were educated in the local synagogue and of course in the home. He “grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people” (Luke 2:52 NLT).

And so years later, He enters the same synagogue, only this time He comes as a Rabbi. Everyone is amazed, astonished and they say “Where does He get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” (Matthew 13:54 NLT). He gives them the opportunity to have their lives turned around and come under the authority of the Kingdom of Heaven. They do not take it. They MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY concerning Jesus.

Matthew 13:55, 56 says they SCOFF and say, “He’s just THE CARPENTER’S SON, and we know Mary, His mother, and His brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.” All His sisters live right here among us. Where did He learn all these things?” John 1:10-11 (NLT) says “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him.” 

Strange how differently you can view Jesus. They knew Him as just the carpenters son yet I have come to know Him as the master builder, creator of the world, with the wisdom and power to craft my very soul? As a carpenter, Jesus knew how to build a solid house on strong foundations, but He also knows how to build my life on the solid rock with a stability that only comes from knowing and trusting in Him. He worked with His hands, accurately and carefully according to a plan and places those same strong, skilled hands upon my heart to complete what He has begun according to the purposes of God.

Jesus knew how to place a corner stone and use it to align the components of a building but He is also my corner stone, the unchanging reference point for my life.

He probably fashioned a yoke for oxen but only He can say “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” (Matthew 11:29-30 NLT).

Yet Nazareth sees Jesus only as “the carpenters son”. Psalms 127:1 (NLT) says “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” That’s speaking about my life. Psalms 118:22 (NLT) says “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”

Why did He go to Nazareth? Romans 2:4 (NLT) says “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

It seems Jesus always brings me to the place of choice concerning Him. I either reject Him or accept Him wholeheartedly. As I hear Him speak in Nazareth this morning, the course of my life depends upon my response to Jesus. Everyone of us must answer the question “Where does He get His wisdom and power?” And if it comes from God then what is my response to Jesus going to be? God bless you as you answer that question today and respond to Him in faith.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:51 – UNDERSTAND?! – Part 19

Understand?!

Why is He asking me this question? Yes, I understand! Well, not everything but I get most of what He is trying to tell me! Actually I miss quite a lot of what He is saying. OK, OK. I admit it. At times I so don’t get it.

My teacher in primary school slammed his cane down on my desk and said “Do you understand?”

My Mum scolded me with the rules of the house numerous times with “Do you understand?”

The Commanding Officer sharing with His Senior ranking Officers about the strategies of a major battle with the enemy says “Do you understand?” UNDERSTANDING is essential, especially when other lives are at stake!

If the preacher on Sunday morning asked me directly after the service “Do you understand these things” I’d have to say “Um.. which part?” but I must admit that it would FOCUS my mind the next time he spoke.

Jesus asks me that question right now and I have to say “No Lord. I don’t understand. Please teach me more so that I can understand.” He looks at me with eyes that pierce through to the heart and says “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge…” (Matthew 13:12 NLT). There is no rebuke or condemnation in His voice, but the importance of His words cuts deep into my soul.

Jesus repeats that idea of understanding in Matthew 13 quite a bit. He says “Anyone with ears to hear should LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND(Matthew 13:9, and 43). At least five times He speaks about the importance of UNDERSTANDING in Matthew 13:9,11,12,23,43. He doesn’t want me simply to hear what He teaches me. He wants me to GET IT! He wants me to listen carefully and comprehend His Word. Not only for my sake, but for the sake of others who come under the sphere of my influence. My understanding of His Truth will have an impact on those around me and in some way the world will change. Yes, I know, maybe the impact will be small, but the world has changed each time I get it right and share His Truth.

I notice that even the Disciples don’t understand all the time. They ask Jesus a lot of questions. Listening, being honest and asking questions is OK with Jesus. He seems to like the Berean heart. They “searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (Acts 17:11 NLT). I can’t live it and share His Truth if I don’t have some kind of understanding of it.

I just praise God that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).

When I’m not on track I just have to ask for wisdom (James 1:5) and the Holy Spirit “leads into all truth” (John 14:17). 1 Corinthians 2:16 assures me that I have access to “the mind of Christ”. He’s in charge of even my understanding when I come under His authority and get to know Him better. That means that I don’t have to be some kind of GENIUS when it comes to understanding my Bible.

Jesus said that He IS the Truth (John 14:6). Fear of the Lord (reverence for Him as King and ruler of my life) is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalms 111:10 NLT).

Jesus says in John 5:39-40 (NLT) “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to ME! Yet you refuse to come to Me to receive this life.”

Jesus looks at me and you today and says “Do you understand these things?” These parables of life and faith. If I am honest I will reply “Not always.” The redeeming factor is that I have a relationship with the One who does. That makes all the difference. Every day.

Is it “what you know or who you know”? Or is it that “what you know helps you know He who knows you better than you know yourself”. Understanding = putting it all together about Christ.

The invitation to understand this morning is the invitation to come under the sphere of His influence for the answers you need in life by coming under His authority and giving your life to Him. God bless you with understanding as you take that incredibly important step today.

Pastor Ross