Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 13’

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

Surfing the NetMatthew 13:47-50 – SURFING THE NET, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS AND HELL – Part 18

My starsign is Pisces (the FISH). I don’t read the stars so relax, but it has always interested me that the sign of the fish was used by early Christians as a secret symbol. During times of persecution, if a Christian met a stranger in his travels, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they could speak freely about their faith.

I guess it’s because when Jesus spoke to some fishermen and called them to be His disciples He said “Follow Me and I will make you FISHERMEN OF MEN”. I know He should have been POLITICALLY CORRECT and said “fisherpeople of people”, nevertheless I have to admit, I was caught well and truly by the message of Christ. I came under the NET of His authority and I am part of the network of His kingdom, the Church, along with millions of others across the earth.

But the net that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 13:47 is DIFFERENT. It speaks about the Kingdom of Heaven in terms of God’s authority exercised in the FUTURE. It is spoken of as a NET that sweeps us toward eternity and JUDGMENT. Hebrews 9:27 (NLT) says “And just as EACH PERSON is destined to die once and after that comes JUDGMENT”. 

A SWEEP NET is one huge net intentionally cast to collect everything in it’s way. Jesus says “the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught FISH OF EVERY KIND. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away.” This is surfing the net old style.

Even though this kind of fishing is now spoken of as the rape of the sea, Jesus speaks about a huge net that catches “EVERY KIND OF FISH.”

The Kingdom net He speaks of is cast over people of every race, colour and creed. It is cast over men and women, married and single, young and old, hearing and deaf, sighted and blind, speaking and mute (For those who want to be POLITICALLY CORRECT that’s matrimonially, chronologically, aurally, visually and vocally challenged).

The net is cast over those who are attractive and those who are just plain ugly (aesthetically challenged), thin and fat (gravitationally challenged), those who are well adjusted and those who are total psychopathic misfits (socially misaligned), those with hair and those who are bald (follicularly challenged), religious and atheist (spiritually impoverished).

It is cast over the good and the bad, walking and crippled, musical and tone deaf, educated or not, Australian or not, and no matter what language, religion, customs, tastes, sexuality, eye colour or blood type they may have. Somewhere in all of that I am included, especially in the follicularly challenged category. In other words JESUS DIED FOR US ALL.

But coming under the all encompassing authority of God’s sweep net is only HALF THE STORY. His Kingdom authority is very inclusive, but not politically correct because NOT ALL will be saved. This is not EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. Yes, ALL are caught in the net of Christ’s authority as a JUDGE. Philippians 2:6-11 (NLT) prophesies that “… that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, …” but that doesn’t mean that everyone who bows will somehow automatically be swept into heaven.

You may not even be aware but you are being pulled inexorably into the shore of eternity, and there is no avoiding the inevitability of being caught in this net and it’s relentless movement towards a VERDICT.

Jesus doesn’t seem to realise that it is POLITICALLY INCORRECT, discriminatory and disrespectful to speak of some people being REJECTED because they are “WICKED” (or should I say people with a “spiritually alternative lifestyle”).

Jesus just says “The angels will come and separate the WICKED people from the RIGHTEOUS, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:50 NLT).

It is so horrific that Jesus doesn’t want to water it down to sounding like it is simply an alternative eternity for the religiously challenged, some kind of spiritual waiting room for heaven.

Hell is terrifying and permanent! Jesus speaks of Hell as a FURNACE. It was originally prepared for the devil and his angels, a place of inconceivable MISERY AND TORMENT. Jesus loves you enough to warn you about it because many people are headed towards a Christless eternity. He’s the only one who has come to save you.

The invitation He gives is encapsulated in the Greek word for “fish”“Ichthus”. It is an ancient Word of Life, an acrostic used to spell out the meaning of the good news in one of it’s simplest forms. It stands for “Iēsous Christos, Theou Huios, Sōtēr” and translates into English as “JESUS CHRIST GOD’S SON SAVIOUR”

God bless you as you give your life to Christ perhaps for the first time today, come under His authority, accept His death on the Cross for your sins, and get to know Christ personally, the fisherman of men, (sorry, fisherperson of people).

Pastor Ross

PS If this post has helped you apply the lifechanging truths of the Bible, you are invited to subscribe by clicking the follow button, to make comments and to share these thoughts with your friends. It would be a privilege to share these conversations with people like you and others all around the world.

Matthew 13:45-46 – YOU ARE SO WORTH IT ALL! – Part 17

Pearl of Great Price

You are So Worth It All – Image created by Ross Cochrane with Paint.net.

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Matthew 13:45-46 NLT)

Simple parable. Or is it? I find myself wanting to ask Jesus some questions like “Who or What is the PEARL OF GREAT VALUE?” Are WE the pearl of great price and is it Christ who gives up everything to purchase us?

In his world renowned book Juan Carlos Ortiz takes a different approach. He says “CHRIST is the Pearl of Great Value and WE are the merchant seeking for happiness , for security, for fame, for eternity. And when we find Jesus it costs us everything. He has happiness, joy, peace, healing, security, eternity, everything.

So we say, “I want this pearl. How much is it?”

He goes on to say that the seller says that it will cost me everything. Not only does all my money become the property of Christ, but my house, my cars, my family, and even myself. The seller and the pearl seem to be Christ in this story. Perhaps he means that the seller is God the Father. He wants EVERYTHING! All I have and am comes under the ownership of Christ. And then Christ gives it back to me on the understanding that He is the owner and that it must be available for His use as needed. That’s the Kingdom of God – the authority of Christ to rule over my life.

I love the idea of the story – of everything coming under the authority and ownership of Christ, including ourselves. Afterall in Matthew 10:39 (NLT) Jesus says “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it.” 

What bothers me about Ortiz’s story is that the parable says that the merchant BUYS the Pearl of Great Price by selling everything He has. Last time I looked the Bible makes it clear that Salvation in Christ is NOT FOR SALE. I can’t buy what Christ has to offer from God. It is a GIFT (Romans 6:23) that comes to us as we respond to Christ in faith. It is given because of God’s GRACE. We can’t work for it, earn it or buy it, and we don’t deserve it in any way (Ephesians 2:8-9).

So perhaps I AM THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE!

Everytime I hear a message on this parable I hear how a pearl is born in great suffering and pain, when a foreign speck of sand enters the environment of the shell and causes the pearl to be formed as the oyster builds up layers of nacre to protect itself. This is used as a picture of SIN coming into the environment of our world and like an annoying, irritating foreign substance causes harm.

God deals with our sin. He becomes a man and also enters our environment and although He lives a perfect life, He experiences the SUFFERING AND PAIN that our sin has caused and He is crucified. Christ dies on the Cross for us. Like that layer of nacre that forms around the speck of sand that threatens to cause harm to the oyster, He took man’s sin and bore it in His own body (1 Peter 2:24).

Our sin was an intrusion upon Him -foreign matter. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He turns cursing into blessing. 1 Peter 2:24 (NLT) says “He personally CARRIED OUR SINS in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.” Galatians 3:13 (NLT) says that when Christ “was hung on the cross, He TOOK UPON HIMSELF the curse for our wrongdoing.”

Christ adorns us with the beautiful layer of His righteousness forming a pearl of great value. Isaiah 61:10 (NLT) says “He has DRESSED me with the clothing of salvation and DRAPED me in a robe of righteousness.” Ephesians 4:24 (NLT) says “PUT ON your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Colossians 2:10 (NLT) says “So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”

I like the analogy but I’m not so sure it was intended when Jesus told this parable. It gets a little muddled if I take the analogy too far, but I think it illustrates what Christ came to do in us and that HIS LIFE BECOMES MINE.

I don’t even like pearls but nevertheless, like the pearl of great value, Christ came to purchase me and “There is salvation in no one else!” (Acts 4:12 NLT).

God bless you as you realise how valuable you are to God and in turn how valuable Christ is for your life today. Lord, YOU ARE SO WORTH IT!

Pastor Ross

PS If this post has helped you apply the lifechanging truths of the Bible, you are invited to subscribe by clicking the follow button, to make comments and to share these thoughts with your friends. It would be a privilege to share these conversations with people like you and others all around the world.

Matthew 13:44 – 240 PIECES OF EIGHT … PRICELESS! – Part 16

Treasure!

It has taken me a year but the treasure hunt has actually paid off! Worth the wait! Two hundred and forty Pieces of Eight! I am officially rich!

Finding the Spanish galleon called the Santa Margarita was heralded as one of the greatest shipwreck treasure discoveries of all time. Over $150 million in hidden treasure just lying there on the ocean floor! A King’s ransom in gold and silver, a hidden “mother lode” now revealed. X marks the spot.

80,000 pieces of eight, 169 silver ingots weighing about 70 pounds each, 22 copper ingots, gold bullion and hundreds of unique gold and silver artefacts and a number of bronze canons are still waiting to be recovered. Captain Jack Sparrow his self would be proud.

But that’s not the treasure I have found. Sorry to disappoint you just when I stirred your imagination perhaps with pirate maps and sunken treasure. Actually I’ve found something even more valuable.

As a child I once wrote a story about an Island of treasures, and how the hero of the story found that the treasures of creation are worth far more than Spanish doubloons. But I was wrong. I still missed it.

I’ve found something greater still, more valuable than the beauties of creation and all the Spanish treasures of the sea. I didn’t see it at first but I have been one of the few treasure hunters who has found the “mother lode”.

Jesus speaks of such a treasure hunt in Matthew 13:44. He says “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.”

You are the treasure! Don’t just tell me that the HIDDEN treasure is Israel or the Church or Gentiles or potential believers. Tell me about the excitement of the hunt and how Jesus searched for all those whom He valued. Sure, the Lord has chosen “Israel for His own special treasure” (Psalms 135:4 NLT) but He has also chosen me and somehow I am valuable to Him. Treasure hunting was His intention, “To seek and to save those who were lost” (Luke 19:10 NLT). He calls me “… HIS RICH AND GLORIOUS INHERITANCE” (Ephesians 1:18 NLT).

Perhaps today you don’t think of yourself as valuable to God. Perhaps you think that the only person of any value is Christ and so He must be the treasure mentioned in this parable. Perhaps you are thinking that you must somehow purchase His acceptance by living a good life, and doing enough good works, but that’s all back the front.

To me this parable shouts out that I am loved and valued by Christ. He doesn’t value my sin but He loves me so much that He gave His life to purchase me. He paid the ultimate price. Jesus said in Mark 8:37 (NLT) “Is anything worth more than your soul?” He thinks my soul is valuable! Nothing is worth more!

Jesus sells everything He has to purchase us. Colossians 1:13-14 (NLT) “For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness (the field) and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” Titus 2:14 (NLT) says “He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people, ….” Galatians 1:4 (NLT) says “Jesus GAVE HIS LIFE for our sins, … in order to rescue us from this evil world (the field) in which we live.” He saw me as valuable when I had nothing of value to give to Him. When I respond to Him, I see just how valuable He is in my life when once I thought He had nothing of value to offer me.

The Kingdom of heaven is the rulership of Jesus in my heart, and the realisation that I am loved and valued by God through faith in Christ. Everyone around you, created in God’s image, is also a trove of rich, opulent, magnificent, priceless treasure, invaluable PIECES OF EIGHT.

Over the last year I have formed relationships with 240 lost souls from another era. Weather worn faces and palid chalky skin, ghostlike hair, fascinating hands with veins like rivulets of stained ochre, and characters that inform me of the values of another world, with ancient stories of love and faith and perseverance. They haunt the floors with measured steps and walking frames.

I am the Captain, I mean Chaplain, of Shalom, an Aged Care Facility, a “Galleon” of immeasurable worth and I have begun to recover hidden treasure, by helping people realise how valuable they are to Christ. Like the ad says “Priceless! For everything else use Mastercard.” That’s my quest today (no, not to use Mastercard) communicating how valuable be my “240 pieces of eight … Priceless!” …And by the way….So are you.)

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:34-35 – HEY! THAT’S ME IN THAT STORY! – Part 15

Hey! That's me in that story!

Back in the 60’s my parents allowed me to go to the city cinema and watch movies about Tarzan. The back yard then became my jungle and I would act out the whole movie again. I still have a tendency to be a product of the last movie I have seen, book I have read, conference I have attended? I PUT MYSELF INTO THE STORY and I find myself aspiring to the values of the hero.

Julie writes beautiful children’s stories. In each book she has written for our grandchildren, she seeks to encapsulate who they are through one of the characters and the adventures they have. She puts them into the story with the hope that one day they will be inspired to seek their God given destiny. There’s something about a story.

Why does Jesus speak in parables? Why doesn’t He explain all His stories? Matthew 13:35 says that He spoke in parables because “This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.” Surely there is MORE TO IT than just fulfilling an ancient prophecy about being a storyteller.

I tried to discover which prophet Matthew refers to. It seems it was the person who wrote Psalm 78:2-7. He says “for I will speak to you in a PARABLE. I will teach you HIDDEN lessons from our past— stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders. For He issued His laws to Jacob; He gave His instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. SO EACH GENERATION SHOULD SET ITS HOPE ANEW ON GOD, not forgetting His glorious miracles and obeying His commands.” (NLT) There it is. Stories DRAW YOU IN. I can imagine children in the time of this Psalm playing out games about Moses and other characters from the Bible, PUTTING THEMSELVES INTO THE STORY, taking on the character and aspiring to the values of the heroes. That’s the point of a parable. It’s a truth that is meant to be lived out.

What I also notice from the prophecy in Psalm 78 is that Jesus is not so much teaching something NEW but He’s explaining through parables truths that have been HIDDEN IN THE PAST. That’s what He says in Matthew 5:17-19 (NLT). “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose…”

Even Jesus has put Himself into the story. In fact as God puts Himself into our story by entering into the world and dying on a Cross for my sins, He gives me the invitation to be a part of His story, to discover His purposes and will for my life. As He lived a perfect life, I now can exchange my sinfulness for the righteousness of Christ. As He died on a Cross so too I choose to take up the Cross and follow Him. I exchange my story for His. He is my life. For me to live is Christ and die is gain. Through Christ I understand God’s Truth. He has written me into the pages of His story (History).

Jesus says “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” (Matthew 13:43 NLT). It’s interesting to me that Jesus is not trying to cater to everyone. He knows that the Pharisees are not really interested in the story except to try to trap Him or misrepresent Him. In Matthew 13:14-15 (NLT) He says “…For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.’” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) says “…Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. ….” 

Some things only God is able to reveal to us. Jesus says in John 14:26 (NLT) “…the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” When it comes to the crunch, the parables will come alive in me through my everyday experiences as I allow the Holy Spirit to apply His Truth in me.

The invitation is to have the SPIRITUAL EARS TO HEAR. Those who God gives the ability to understand will be those who actively and intentionally put themselves into the parables and see and hear how they are enacted in our lives today.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:33 – THE INCREDIBLE HULK AND YEAST – Part 14

Yeast and the Hulk

I’m thinking THE INCREDIBLE HULK! When Bruce Banner gets mad, he is transformed into a huge, out of control creature (I can’t help it. I have a grandson who loves cartoon characters and he always wants me to play the bad guy or the monstrous guy. I don’t know exactly why. I guess it’s the muscle power or maybe just the mass. To my grandson I’m incredible in all kinds of ways). I have always wondered how the hulk gets all his muscles. They just balloon from nothing. Just add a bad attitude, and you have instant bulk. TRANSFORMED!  

She leaves a lump of dough on the table as she goes about her household chores. The yeast begins to convert the sugars into carbon dioxide. The dough begins to expand and form tiny bubbles or gas pockets. Hulk type muscular formations begin to balloon from the dough. Just add yeast and it is TRANSFORMED!

When the dough has risen she breaks it into pieces and forms each loaf, leaving them to rise again. The yeast will die when she bakes the bread but the air pockets will remain. All she needs now is Vegemite and the transformation could be complete.  

Jesus also used this illustration (minus the incredible Hulk and the vegemite). He said “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough”” (Matthew 13:33 NLT). 

Many seem to have a problem with this parable? The trouble is that whenever yeast is used figuratively in the Bible it is usually speaking about “the bad guys” and the influence of sin, hyprocrisy, or their false teaching, (1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Galatians 5:9, Matthew 16:6-12, Mark 8:15-21). Yeast has been regarded this way ever since Israel was asked to sweep every bit of it out of their houses before the Exodus (Exodus 12:39).

Does the woman represent false teachers, the yeast represent their false teaching and the dough represent the Church? The IMPLAUSIBLE HULK. Just add false teaching and the Church is TRANSFORMED!

Jesus warns in Matthew 16:6 (NLT) “Watch out! … Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” Galatians 5:9 (NLT) says “… This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!” Clearly yeast is used in a very NEGATIVE way to describe the teaching and hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

Sin has certainly infiltrated our world, transforming the original dough. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23 NLT),” but Jesus says “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast…” The only way that sin and the Kingdom of Heaven are alike is in their ability to INFILTRATE AND INFLUENCE the world.

To say that yeast is ONLY spoken of as defiling would be a FALSE ASSUMPTION. Look closer. In each passage it is the PERVADING nature of the yeast and it’s INFLUENCE that is being emphasised. Perhaps this is the only place in the Bible where yeast is likened to something good.

A similar analogy is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NASB95) it says “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a THIEF in the night.” but this is not saying that Jesus is a thief. In every other place in the Bible stealing is spoken of as a sin, but here it is simply speaking about the ability of the thief to come UNEXPECTEDLY. A thief comes unexpectedly. Yeast has INFLUENCE.

Inherent in a small amount of yeast is the ability to completely transform a batch of dough. Not some flat pita bread existence.

Maybe you think you don’t have much to offer God. A small boy with some fish and bread probably thought the same way, but he offered God what he had and God made a miracle out of it. The disciples said in effect “We don’t have enough.” He said “Here, take what I’ve got!” and under the authority and rulership of Jesus it fed 5000, with some left over (Matthew 14:13-21).

When the Kingdom of God infuses my thoughts, my words, my actions, and resources then God can do something INCREDIBLE through me. He wants me to live a life enlarged by the muscles of His Kingdom purposes. Dream big! Live big for Him! “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NASB). I am “filled with all the fullness of God…according to the power that works within me” (Ephesians 3:19-20). Incredible impact and influence!

The Kingdom of Heaven transforms my life when I respond to the authority of Christ. I am changed incredibly when I accept what He has done for me on the Cross, where He paid the penalty for my sin.

The world will never be the same (Acts 1:8) as the gospel continues to TRANSFORM lives. Inherent in this parable, like yeast permeating dough, is the ever insistent invitation of Jesus to you today to be transformed, not by the kingdom of darkness, but by the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:31-32 – SMALL SEED, INCREDIBLE POTENTIAL – Part 13

Mustard Seed Potential

When I read the Parable of the Mustard seed I am left with some serious questions. Jesus just tells the story in two sentences and leaves it at that. No explanation. He just says “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32 NLT).

And I am left asking how can something so VAST like the Kingdom of Heaven be compared to something so SMALL. How could something of such immense significance be infused into the DNA of such a small seed, how could such power and authority be found in something so small, something so minute. We are talking about the SOVEREIGN RULERSHIP of God here. So what is it with the mustard seed analogy?

I’ve thought about this a lot of late, read some other scriptures and tried to figure it out. Somehow I think that this is what Jesus intended all along. He deliberately leaves us to find out what it means knowing that only those who will seek first His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) will find the answers from His Word of Truth. So here’s an UNEDITED edition of the parable and what I think Jesus is getting at…

“Once the King of a vast empire decided to become a farmer and plant a crop that would one day reap a huge harvest. He spent time preparing the soil and when the time was ripe He went out into His field and deliberately planted ONE SMALL SEED in the fertile earth.

It was no ordinary seed. It was a seed of destiny, a seed of promise, a seed of kingdom significance, the seed of the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Inherent in this one seed was the very nature and character of the King Himself and His authority to rule and reign in the lives of those who follow Him. It was destined to change the world. That’s why the soil in which He chose to plant His seed was the soil of a person’s heart and life.

At first the seed was planted into the heart and life of a young virgin girl who bore this tiny seed in her womb. And in the most HUMBLE of places she gave birth to HEAVENS KINGDOM ON EARTH. Not in the splendour of a palace. He was born in a manger, a TINY BABY. The seed became a human being. It all seemed so INCONSEQUENTIAL and unimportant, just another baby, but don’t miss this. We are talking about the KING OF KINGS and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).

An ancient book recorded His birth. Among other things it says “…Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the HUMBLE POSITION of a slave and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:7-8 NLT). Just a small seed yet heavens kingdom “…appeared in human form, He HUMBLED HIMSELF in obedience to God.”

The downside to living as a human of course is that He was destined die as a human. How could the Majesty of all heaven live His life as a human being? How could He die and be buried like a seed in the ground, yet in our story that is exactly what happened. He “died a criminal’s death on a cross.” I know I said it’s the unedited version but I can’t get into too many details here. You’ll have to read the book.

I can tell you this, however. “It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:32 NLT).

Yes, the seed began to grow into a mighty tree and all of a sudden the Cross became His throne where heavens authority and character was expressed. It would have incredible impact upon the world.

The only way I can describe what happened was that on that Cross reserved for criminals, the Divine SOVEREIGNTY of heaven chose to pay the penalty for our sin! Divine JUSTICE was satisfied! Divine RIGHTEOUSNESS became available! Divine LOVE was released forever! Divine LIFE was offered! OMNISCIENCE was articulated! OMNIPOTENCE accomplished what was impossible! OMNIPRESENCE assured us that He would never leave or forsake us! His Divine IMMUTABILITY confirmed afresh that He is the same yesterday, today and forever! His Divine VERACITY drew us into the presence of all Truth!

But our story doesn’t end at the Cross. It BEGINS.

Here’s the real miracle of the story. Unless a seed is “planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24 NLT).

He rose again! He defeated the power of sin and death! The seed grew to fulfil His destiny and so it is no wonder then that “…God elevated Him to the place of highest honour and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11 NLT).

This is a true story. You say, how do I know all this is true about the Seed? I know because as it became a tree and grew I became engrafted (Romans 11:17) as one of it’s branches, along with millions of others, His Church. When I yielded to the great authority of Christ, the life of the Seed became my life. “… It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NLT).”

One day every knee will bow, but today the invitation is in the form of a small Seed of DESTINY, PROMISE AND LIFE and it is given freely to you. It is a seed with all the authority of heaven infused into it’s DNA, the very life of God Himself. Inherent in such a small seed is all of heavens authority and resources made available for the circumstances of life, such incredible potential for those who seek and accept the gift of the mustard Seed.

Pastor Ross.

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