Posts Tagged ‘John the Baptist’

Matthew 17:10 – LOOKING FOR A FOOTHOLD ON THE MOUNTAIN 

Foothold. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Foothold. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

They are bewildered. They are reeling, trying to find some perspective, something to help them come to grips with all this; something in their experience of the world that relates to this event that will help them; a clue, any clue. 

They only have one small trace; one small hint of understanding that might start to unravel this mystery mountain tour. They have heard some talk of how a man, a great leader, would one day come to bring justice to the world. They are now convinced that Jesus is that man. Is this the beginning of the end? 

Jesus tells them to keep quiet about what they have just witnessed but a flailing question searches for a tiny crevice that would provide them with a foothold. What question could possibly give them enough purchase on this mountain? 

Surprisingly they don’t ask about the sudden appearance of Moses who had been dead for over 1000 years. They don’t ask about the voice that came from the cloud leaving them prostrate on the ground, frozen with fear. They don’t ask Him about His face, though it shone like the sun? It seems they only want to know about one thing. 

They ask “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” (Matthew 17:10 NLT). I mean, that’s the first question that came into my head too. NOT. 

All they can think about after such a dramatic appearance on the mountain is the nagging possibility that this might be the beginning of the great and dreadful day that will bring judgment and justice to the earth. If I had just been introduced to the prophet Elijah on a mountain 900 years after his sudden disappearance from the earth and if I knew about the prophecy about him, then perhaps I would ask that question too. 

The prophecy the teachers of religious law have been speaking about was written in the book of Malachi, “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6 NLT). The question could be rephrased. “Since Elijah has just appeared on the mountain with You, Jesus, is this the beginning of the end of the world as we know it?” 

Jesus replies “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready for the Messiah” (Matthew 17:11 NLT). Now here’s the opportunity for the disciples to really get a handle on the end times, but they don’t ask anything more. The conversation could have gone something like this… 

“Hang on. Did You say Elijah is COMING, as in HASN’T ARRIVED YET? He was just on the mountain and You are saying that he is STILL YET TO COME? 

So let me get this straight. Moses and Elijah were talking to You about Your death. That doesn’t sound like plans to bring justice to the world. 

Is Elijah going to COME AGAIN and intervene with fire from heaven to stop You from being executed by the religious leaders?” 

“Has Elijah gone ahead to Jerusalem to fulfil the Malachi prophecy, to preach and get people ready to receive You as the Messiah? Lord, I need Your help here. Could you elaborate just a little more? I’m confused.” 

Jesus says “…Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer” (Matthew 17:12 NLT). 

“Slow down a bit. You just said Elijah is YET TO COME and now you are saying Elijah has ALREADY COME? Not on the mountain but sometime BEFORE the mountain, incognito?” 

Then it clicks. He’s talked about this before (Matthew 11:14). And there was a prophecy about John. “I get it! You aretalking about John the Baptist’ (Matthew 17:13 NLT). It was once said that John ‘will be A MAN WITH THE SPIRIT AND POWER OF ELIJAH. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly’ (Luke 1:17 NLT). He fits the prophecy about Elijah. Right? John the Baptist was really Elijah the Baptiser?” 

“So Elijah was just on the mountain to talk about the death of Jesus, not to usher in the end of the world (Luke 9:31). The prophecy of Malachi was fulfilled by John the Baptist who ALREADY CAME with the spirit and power of Elijah, but was rejected.” 

“But Elijah is still YET TO COME and when he does he will get everything ready by preparing the way for Jesus and a generation of rebellious people will repent and be saved. Stop me any time here, Lord, if I’ve got this wrong.” 

Elijah gets Fathers to have a heart for their kids by teaching them to accept godly wisdom. This is a generational blessing that comes to those who repent of their rebellion against God and trust in Jesus. That’s the foothold for the question. That’s the secure place that will lead us down this mountain experience. 

“2 Kings 2:11 tells us that Elijah was taken up into heaven and didn’t die. Did he go on living in heaven as an immortal man until he returned to the mountain? Where did he and Moses go then? Back to heaven? Will they return again? Will Elijah be one of the “two witnesses” described in Revelation 11. TOO MUCH INFORMATION! I NEED THAT SECURE FOOTHOLD AGAIN!” 

What I do know is that at the bottom of the mountain a father’s heart is turned toward his son and he brings him to Jesus (Matthew 17:14-18). A generational imprint will be left upon this family as Jesus heals him. The spirit and power of Elijah is already at work as we bring our families into relationship with the Lord, preparing the way for Jesus’ return. 

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 14:1-2 – BREAKING THE CHAINS OF MY LIMITATIONS

Breaking the Chains of My Limitations

One hundred and one years have passed and he still believes in a SUPERSTITION that once haunted Herod Antipas almost 2000 years ago. The centenarian I spoke with yesterday doesn’t like the idea of the afterlife, of heaven and hell, of continuing to live on past death, nevertheless he clings to a belief in REINCARNATION, that the soul is recycled. It is recorded that Herod Antipas also believed you could return and inhabit a different living person (Matthew 14:1-2). Reincarnation with a twist.

In delivering a series of messages based on The Truth Between Us, Erwin McManus, founder of Mosaic, recently said that true atheists and followers of Christ both want to rid themselves of SUPERSTITION. Thankfully, both atheists and followers of Christ ask us “Is that really the truth?” and if we were honest sometimes the answer is “No, it’s more connected with superstition and rituals and our own biased desires.” It may even be based on our self imposed limits for discovering half truths.

Religion especially can be the hive of superstitious nonsense. But then again science and rationalism can also limit our ability to discern truth by relying only on our senses. Allowing for a multiplicity of ways to discern truth and not simply restricting and limiting discernment to the five senses allows me to exercise faith as a valid system of perception. When science refuses to acknowledge that we know things beyond our senses it becomes scientism. It cuts us off from the possibilities of discovering a more holistic range of truth for our lives.

No-one should be more committed to pursuing truth than a follower of Christ, who says He is the way, TRUTH, and life and that the TRUTH will set us free (John 14:6, John 8:32). Sometimes the only verifiable truth I have is the truth evidenced by a changed life. It isn’t Jesus who is responsible for leading me to believe in superstition. He will never take me anywhere where truth is not.

When Herod hears that some people think that Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead (Luke 9:7-9), with superstitious fear and a guilty conscience, he readily grasps at this explanation (2 Timothy 4:4). This is weird because he claims to be a Sadducee, and Sadducees don’t believe in life after death.

Years later Herod meets Jesus face to face when Jesus is on trial to be crucified (Luke 23:8–12) but even then He misses his opportunity to discover who Jesus really is and examines Him as a curiosity.

Strange that all the conclusions about Jesus that people come up with don’t include what John has been telling them all along. God has promised to them a Redeemer. Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Saviour. Instead they come up with a quasi reincarnational theory.

Where does imagination stop and truth start? Children mix imagination and truth, but discerning that which is imaginary and that which is a possibility is the process that allows me to discover truth.

If I was not willing to accept Christ for who He is I guess I would be forced to come up with some fanciful explanation that allowed my atheism or superstition some credence and would not obligate me to come under God’s authority. Scientific or religious. It wouldn’t matter much which. There’s a downward trend here in Herod’s life that must tear him to pieces inside. He can’t explain away the miracles of Jesus and he desperately wants to maintain control of his world, so he must grasp at staws.

The invitation that both Herod and John the Baptist gives to us is to seek the truth. In the palace Herod entertains the truth but allows superstition and pride to reject Christ for who he really is. In the dungeon John the Baptist speaks the truth and though he is beheaded by Herod, it is the Truth about Jesus that sets him free.

Perhaps the questions worth asking are “What superstitions am I willing to embrace when it comes to seeking for the truth about Jesus? Am I simply applying limited constructs in a desire to eradicate Christ and His authority in my life? Am I really willing to seek the truth about who Jesus is? Am I willing to act on truth that I perceive beyond my senses and beyond my superstitions?”

John 16:13 (NLT) speaks about God the Holy Spirit as “THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH” who “will guide you into all truth” John 16:8 (NLT) says “… He will convict the world of its sin …” of unbelief. Am I willing to look beyond myself for the answers I need in life?

Pastor Ross

Matthew 14:1-12 – BRAVEHEART VS THE MAFIA

Braveheart vs the Mafia

He is drawn to the MAN IN THE DUNGEON. Beliefs are tested in the dark dungeon experiences of my life where everything is ripped away to expose who I really am. A dungeon is that place where everything is pointless without the purposes of God. Yet when all I have to offer to God is a dungeon it becomes a place of His presence, a throneroom, a place where His authority and intentions overrule my circumstances. A place of FREEDOM.

 The Godfather is dead. “Herod the king”, psychopathic mass murderer who killed the baby boys of Bethlehem in a last ditch attempt to destroy Jesus is now gone (Matthew 2:13-18). Long live the Dons. Long live “HEROD THE TETRARCH” who has survived to rule a quarter of his fathers kingdom. His tetrarchy extends from the Sea of Galilee to the northern part of the Dead Sea. Ambitious and just as deadly as his father, HEROD ANTIPAS has now been ruling about thirty-two years. In the luxury and excess of his kingdom he is imprisoned by a dungeon of his own making, far more oppressive than John’s. What a mess.

Meet his comare (mistress). Granddaughter of the late great “Herod the King”, HERODIAS is niece to both her husband PHILIP, and her lover. Herod and Herodias? Days of our lives! She seeks to justify her relationship with Herod but the man in the dungeon DENOUNCES it saying that it is against God’s law (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21). He is anything but politically correct and his influence is far-reaching with the people. He lives out Ephesians 5:11 (NLT) which says “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, EXPOSE them, even in the presence of a Godfather figure like King Herod. He may be in a dungeon but the dungeon is not in him. He declares that sin separates me from God, that genuine repentance is needed and that I need to come under the authority of Jesus whose way he is preparing.

With a heart as black as a dungeon wall, Herodias tries to rid herself of the irritation, but what mother would involve her own daughter in such a quest? What kind of trauma will result from such a gruesome plan?

Herod doesn’t hold back when it comes to his birthday party or in celebrating the anniversary of his accession as king. He holds a magnificent banquet. Good food, questionable entertainment. He lives a life of debauchery.

Salome dances seductively before Herod. She is the daughter of Herodias and Herod is not so much seduced by her dance as he is obligated to her mother to give her whatever she desires. He makes a foolish oath to grant her any wish, up to half his kingdom, but her heart too is imprisoned, and she too is drawn with malicious intent to the man in the dungeon. Salome consults with her mother.

Herod is deeply grieved by her request but doesn’t want to lose face. So, with only a moments hesitation, he grants her desires and orders John the Baptist to be BEHEADED. This is quite a table that has been set. Adultery, incest, debauchery, seduction, murder and the macabre all sit together at the kings table as John’s head is brought in on a platter.

Why did John have to die? The key to understanding this is found in Acts 20:24 (NLT) – “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

Courage. Humility. Faithfulness. Selflessness. Reformer. Servant and Ambassador for Christ. Martyr. Who says it’s easy being a follower of Christ? Would I be willing to stand boldly with the message of repentance and faith in Christ that God has give to me in the face of death? In the words of BRAVEHEART “You have come to fight as free men. And free men you are! What will you do without freedom? Will you fight? …Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!”

Galatians 5:1 (NIV) puts it this way – “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Philippians 1:20-21 (NLT) could well be used as John’s vision and his epitaph – “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, TO LIVE IS TO LIVE FOR CHRIST AND TO DIE IS GAIN.” 

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

 

 

Part 1 – Matthew 11:2-6 – JESUS-IN-A-BOX!

Jack-in-the-box Jesus

I get the privilege and opportunity to speak to many old people in the course of my day. Being a chaplain and Pastor in an aged care facility (fancy name for old people’s nursing home) I am fascinated by the amazing lives that they have led.

Last week I spoke to a woman in her 90’s who said she felt like she was in a PRISON. She has dementia and so there are locked doors and people she does not know. “Why has my family put me here? What is wrong with me? Who are you? Will you help me?” What can I say when I am asked these things? I’m not the one who has come to give them deliverance! I’m just visiting their prison, (I mean home). All I can do is to assure them that they can trust in Jesus and wonder if I will be the one asking those same questions one day?

In Matthew 11:2 John the Baptist is LANGUISHING IN PRISON (don’t you just love that word “languishing”). He does not have dementia. Far from it! Nevertheless he is confused and asking similar questions. He sends some of his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Behind this question, he is probably asking “Why am I here …LANGUISHING… in prison? What is wrong with me? What have I done to deserve this? Why doesn’t the Messiah, if He is the Messiah help me? I need deliverance?”

My grandchildren sometimes play with a Jack-in-a-box. Sometimes we want a JESUS-IN-A-BOX too. We want Him to fit into our pre-conceived ideas of who He should be and how He should act. One woman said to me on Friday “If there is a God then why does He allow all the bad things to happen in this world?”

John is confused about Jesus? Why? I think He expected that Jesus would come to overthrow the Romans and deal then and there with all the bad things in the world. When Jesus said “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 NLT), John would have loved that! He thought the Messiah would come to judge the world and reign as king immediately! Instead John was thrown into prison! He still believes the Messiah is coming but he doesn’t want to mess around in a prison cell so he asks, “Are you Him or do we look for someone else?”

There’s absolutely no harm in asking God questions when I feel confused. After all James 1:5 (NLT) says “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” It’s the A.S.K. principle – Ask, Seek, Knock.

John prepared the way for Jesus to come and if John lacks understanding of Jesus then I sure can. I mean he grew up with Him! Cousins! Family!

I am not going to understand everything about Jesus. Besides, He keeps taking me by surprise. He takes John by surprise. Things aren’t going to get any better for John. When I experience great difficulties in my life as I serve God, that’s a great time to come to Jesus with my questions.

John says “Are you the Messiah or do we look for another?” I love this question for another reason. HE IS IN PRISON BUT THE PRISON ISN’T IN HIM, and knows that he is here to prepare the way for the Messiah to come. Even in prison, the call on his life has not diminished.

“Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen- the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.'” (Matthew 11:4 NLT)

Jesus didn’t say, “Yes, I am the Messiah!” He seems to want John and me to come to our own conclusions by the works He does. The testimony that these guys give John is a first hand witness of miracles and good news being preached. Jesus says in effect “You want proof that I’m the Messiah. You saw Me raise that guy from the dead. Go and have a talk with him and tell John about him. See what he thinks about me then.”

John would have understood exactly what Jesus was getting at. He was fulfilling an ancient prophecy about the Messiah. Isaiah 35:4-6 (NLT) says, “Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when He comes, He will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”

Despite the many questions about Jesus I may have, I have totally committed my life to Him and look back to a myriad of miracles He has done in my life so far.

God bless you Church as you commit yourself totally to the Lord Jesus Christ today, despite your questions. God blesses those who do not turn away because Jesus doesn’t quite fit into their box.

Pastor Ross