Posts Tagged ‘Miracles’

Matthew 17:8-9 – A DIFFICULT THING TO TALK ABOUT

In His Hand. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge.org and MorgueFile.com

In His Hand. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge.org and MorgueFile.com

I just realised I believe in the most extraordinary things. I have just read about Jesus shining like the sun, Elijah and Moses returning to a mountain and God speaking from a bright cloud. Bizarre! Even more bizarre; I believe it. All of it. I really do. I believe that it actually happened on a mountain witnessed by Peter, James and John and when it was all over, they saw that it was only Jesus that remained.

I found myself praying this morning when I read about these amazing events. “It seems a little unusual to say that “when they looked, they saw only Jesus” (Matthew 17:8 NLT). So often I only see my circumstances and not always You, Lord. But here, this morning, in my study when I look I see only You and Your glory rather than be distracted by the commonplace, the routine, the unremarkable things of my life. 

As I begin this day, I need Your touch and Your Word to empower me. Let the past fade (Moses and the law) and the future find it’s way (Elijah and the prophets) but today I would see only You. Like the blind man You put Your spit mixed with dirt in my eyes and I open them to see the Light of the world (John 9:5). Only You. 

Sometimes I find it is difficult to put my faith into words and share what has happened to me. Peter, James and John must have wanted to say something but what do you say to people after seeing Moses and Elijah returned after a 1000 years and hearing the voice of God from a cloud, in the presence of Jesus shining like the sun? 

What do you say? Do you speak about the reality of an afterlife? Of spirits of the saints returned? Of how we are eternal beings? Do you talk about resurrection one day when we will have resurrection bodies? Do you talk about the end of the law of Moses and the fulfilment of prophecies in Christ? Do you talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus? Do you talk about what it means to encounter Christ in all His majesty? Do you talk about the presence of Christ being the most important thing in your life? Will people think I am crazy? Probably. It’s difficult to talk about. 

It doesn’t surprise me that as You go down the mountain that You command them “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead” (Matthew 17:9 NLT). 

After the resurrection that’s what Peter did. He had to preface what he said by saying he wasn’t making it up. How do you start to tell of such an event? Peter did his best in 2 Peter 1:16-21 (NLT); “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw His majestic splendour with our own eyes when He received honour and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to Him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”   

Timing is always important to You, Lord. There is a right time to share the gospel message. I can only share it when the person to whom You lead me is ready to receive the truth about who You are. It’s knowing the redemptive moment. Even then the miraculous transformation that takes place in a person’s life when they come to know You is difficult to explain. And how do I explain some of the most extraordinary things that I believe from Your Word? I can only trust that the Spirit of God will reveal His truth (John 16:13)”.

As I read my Bible He speaks to me. As I pray He speaks to me. It is almost audible. And today I can’t help but think of you, reading my blog. Forget the intrusions from the past for a moment. Forget your anxieties or plans about the future. Alone with only Jesus. It seems to me that He is also speaking to you, inviting you to that place of secure trust in Him. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:1-12 – GIVE ME A SIGN! 

"Wrinkled faces I have met" Photo drawing by author Ross Cochrane June 9, 2013

“Wrinkled faces I have met”
Photo drawing by author Ross Cochrane June 9, 2013

“You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!” (Matthew 16:3 NLT).

Dusk in the park at Autumn; cold fingers on my face as the night air begins to envelop the earth; fallen leaves forming a carpet of colours muffling the sound of footfall. A fleeting feeling of abandonment fills my senses as bare branches, frozen against the sky become etchings of wrinkled faces that I have known. Wrapped up to insulate myself from the Autumn air, I am still exposed to it’s beauty and in this temporary reprieve from Winter’s harsh indifference, I am once again reminded of the seasons of my life.

GIVE ME A SIGN!

“Give me a sign!” I want a clear sign to show me the way ahead when all I find are faded footprints that beckon me to follow; half-hints of hope to convince my recalcitrant doubts about the future and persuade my flickering faith to persist. At times I turn away even though the path is cleared of Autumn leaves and debris from a storm. Summer shines it’s light but I am blinded by it’s truth and I insist on another path, well travelled; the path I know that leads in circles round the park; the path of Pharisees and Sadducees; of reason and religious leaven; of blind indifference to miracles and to the sign of Jonah. “Lord, give me a sign!” … and then You lead me past the Cross and to the empty tomb, past my fears and to the upper room, past my pride to prostrate fall in fear and love before Your throne. And there before the glassy sea in worship You renew the calls of spring in me. In chords divine Your voice like rivers flowing from my heart says “Be My sign”

(Ross Cochrane June 2013)

United only in opposing Christ, they come. The Pharisees challenge Jesus to produce a supernatural sign of their own choosing. The Sadducees, who do not believe in signs and supernatural events agree in their desire to silence Jesus; to discredit Him by asking for a sign, especially if He fails to do as they demand. Matthew Henry says “It is great hypocrisy, when we slight the signs of God’s ordaining, to seek for signs of our own devising.” Jesus paints this demand in winter colours; Spiritual adultery! Unfaithfulness to God! “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 16:4 NLT). Then Jesus leaves and if I persist in asking for my own sign, I too will remain blind and left behind amidst His miracles; the footprints left in Jesus’ wake.

Jonah the prophet preached to Nineveh, an evil and adulterous city and they repented (Jonah 3:5-10). Extraordinary! Changed lives! Is the repentance of thousands of people the sign of the prophet Jonah as Jesus brings healing and understanding to their lives? He leaves the Pharisees and Sadducees wondering about Jonah, but in no doubt that He has associated them personally with an “evil and adulterous generation”. 

What greater signs can God give than the signs of lives changed radically forever. No excuse for unbelief. What right do I have to come to Jesus and demand signs of my own choosing, instead of discerning the signs God has chosen to give. His remarkable, outstanding, astonishing, brilliant, miraculous signs! No not the sunset or the seasons but Christ alive in me! Jesus is God’s sign. My changed life is God’s sign to a fallen world. 

The ultimate sign has been given when Jesus died for my sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead. Like Jonah, He spent three days and nights in the grave. Romans 1:4 (MSG and NLT) says “His unique identity as Son of God was shown by the Spirit when Jesus was raised from the dead, by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 10:9 (NLT) says “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

Pastor Ross

If this message has been like a sign and helped in pointing you towards Christ, please pass it forward to others who need to discern the signs Jesus speaks of.

 

 

Matthew 15:29-38 – FISH AND CHIPS ON A COLD WINTER’S DAY

Cross = Love.  (Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

Cross = Love.
(Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

Midday Friday the smell of Fish and Chips wafts in through the adjoining doors as our small group sings the last song. I scan the ancient, lined faces who listen to Words of Life every week in this area of the Shalom Centre and we feel the presence of the Lord as rusty voices give substance to their faith. We ask for Dave’s recovery in hospital and give thanks for the food and then begin the slow, measured and deliberate process of getting to the meal table in the next room. Sunshine washes through the window as I collect the hymn books but the persistent seeping draught under the door leaves no doubt that winter is arriving, and my thoughts, like shadows, flicker in the cold air of another winter long ago.

Jesus leaves Tyre and goes up to Sidon even further into Gentile territory. Before leaving Jewish territory the grass was green (Matthew 14:19). Now the ground is barren; winter has come (Matthew 15:33).

Decapolis. The miraculous events taking place here are lifechanging. Jews among Gentiles, His disciples are learning that these lost, outcast, and needy people are loved by God. Intensive training at the coalface instils in them that the message of the gospel is also for Gentiles. I attend to His words and take notes.

Jesus teaches me about…

AVAILABILITY – He sits down (Matthew 15:29) with those humble enough to see their need. APPROACHABILITY – No one an outcast. He welcomes me. COMPASSION – There are times when I am so NOT “moved with compassion” as Jesus is (Matthew 15:32). Pity maybe, but not compassion. Compassion is different. Compassion is committed to lean in and to DO something when pity has been overwhelmed. Jesus doesn’t just have sympathy or empathy. He goes further and meets the needs of the people who come to Him, healing everyone; every kind of sickness and suffering, both physical and spiritual. Nothing is impossible for Him (Matthew 15:30-31). Lord bring Your healing touch to Dave today.

PROVISION – He waits until I am well and truly hungry, after three days and nothing left to eat. When my resources are not enough. When my humanity is inadequate when faced with the enormity of the need. When I am empty, drained of solutions and concern, and feeling lost. Just when I want to leave work, go home, forget about those in need and be with my family. Let those in need learn to find a way to meet their own needs (Matthew 14:15)! Ever feel this way? That’s when Jesus says to me “I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.” (Matthew 15:32 NLT). “How much bread do you have?” (Matthew 15:34 NLT). He is more concerned with what I have in my hand than the enormity of the need.

4000 men! Some of the women and children would have stayed at home but many were there. 8,000 people? 16,000? It’s absurd to seat eight to sixteen thousand people with the view to feeding them with “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.” (Matthew 15:34 NLT). Surely not! “Unsatisfactory, insignificant, insufficient, inadequate, deficient, lacking, not nearly enough!”

THANKFULNESS – Jesus simply tells us to sit down and get ready for a miracle. The blessing is given and Jesus breaks the bread. CO-OPERATION – Jesus invites me to help distribute what He places in my hand. It seems to multiply in my hands as I go. He takes it, blesses it, breaks it, gives it away. The more I distribute the more there is that remains. 7 baskets of provision left over, untouched. Not junk food; fish and chips, but healthy Omega 3 oil bearing fish that only John West chooses (according to the Ad) and barley bread. What would the world look like if we brought what was in our hands to Jesus. Compassion and responsibility would accomplish the extraordinary (Matthew 14:15-21). More than enough!

Jesus, using bread as a symbol of relationship says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever COMES to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever BELIEVES in Me will never be thirsty” John 6:35 (NLT). THE JESUS DIET.

GENEROSITY – Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Jesus says “… pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38 NLT) More than enough.

It seems Jesus is deliberately inviting me to look beyond the simple awareness of a need. Jesus is inviting me NOT TO MISS AN OPPORTUNITY to accomplish the EXTRAORDINARY in ANY situation. He invites me to be responsive to what God can do through me, to use what I have in my hand. To show COMPASSION and not just pity. To rely on Him to get me through. 

So take what resources you have to God right now and allow Him to use them for His purposes. God’s EXTRAVAGANCE, your CO-OPERATION. Remain in a place where God wants you to be to see His purposes accomplished despite your reservations and your limitations. Be open to a MIRACLE! Never be hungry! Never be thirsty! Taste and see that the Lord is good. Bread of Life. Even better than fish and chips on a cold winter’s day.

Matthew 15:39 (NLT) “Then Jesus sent the people home, and He got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.” 

No time to bask in the glory of a miracle. We move on to the next thing He wants to accomplish in our lives. 

Pastor Ross

PS If this message has helped you, please pass it forward to others and watch it multiply in your hands.

Matthew 7:22-23 – HOW CAN THINKING PEOPLE BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?

How Can a Thinking Person Believe?

Jesus makes it tough for people living in the Western World. He says “On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your Name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’”

All these things are unfamiliar to our culture. In just a few sentences Jesus speaks about JUDGMENT DAY, PROPHECIES, DEMONS, MIRACLES, KNOWING GOD and GOD’S AUTHORITY to tell us what to do. Not what we want to hear in our scientific age. Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist, mocks the fuse that has been lit by the words of Jesus in these verses. He wants to cast out Christians in the name of science.

Yes, I know there have been times in history when Christian culture has confused spirituality with superstition, regarding various amulets and charms with power to cast out demons. Yes, religious leaders have used these trinkets to promote superstition for personal gain and power. Yes, many believed that all diseases were produced by evil spirits and those with intellectual disabilities or suffering from a mental illness or Epilepsy were considered to be possessed by demons. But please don’t tar every follower of Christ with the same brush? Same old, same old.

Jesus believed in the existence of demons! As a Bible-believing Christian today I acknowledge the existence of a spiritual world including the demonic, without having to put any trust in amulets and charms. Similarly every Bible-believing Christian I know believes in miracles, and signs and wonders without attributing superstitious beliefs to eclipses and comets, magic and false prophets. No intelligent person can explain every human condition by science alone.

Unlike Richard Dawkins, many cosmologists today are speaking of parallel universes or multiverse, even though they are conflicted because it doesn’t fit neatly into the test-tube of science. In his book, A Brief History of the Multiverse, author and cosmologist, Paul Davies, says, “… how is the existence of the other universes to be tested? … somewhere on the slippery slope between that and the idea that there are an infinite number of universes, credibility reaches a limit. As one slips down that slope, more and more must be accepted on faith, and less and less is open to scientific verification …The multiverse theory may be dressed up in scientific language, but in essence it requires the same leap of faith.” — Paul Davies, A Brief History of the Multiverse

George Ellis, like most cosmologists, accepts the idea of the multiverse saying it would be so far away, however, and that it’s very unlikely any evidence will be found. He says “As skeptical as I am, I think the contemplation of the multiverse is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the nature of science and on the ultimate nature of existence: why we are here … In looking at this concept, we need an open mind, though not too open. It is a delicate path to tread. Parallel universes may or may not exist; the case is unproved. We are going to have to live with that uncertainty. Nothing is wrong with scientifically based philosophical speculation, which is what multiverse proposals are. But we should name it for what it is.” — George Ellis, Scientific American, Does the Multiverse Really Exist?

I know that like the multiverse, when my prayers are answered in miraculous ways we are still not be able to sieve it through the grate of science and come up with God or a miracle. Yet to deny God and miracles on the basis of science is a lie and the spiritual dimensions of life will remain disregarded and silent, unable to be investigated due more to rebellion than reason.

Miracles are not only possible, but any thinking person will concede that life is not lived in the test tube of science alone. Unfounded assertions and rudeness will not help the cause of science. Such a limited view of life displays arrogance and ignorance. Such arrogance and ignorance is the soil in which unbelief grows and does not leave us open enough to investigating the possibility of the truth of the Bible. The invitation God gives is simply to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8 – that’s about as empirical as it gets! 🙂 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 14:34-36 – THE FREEDOM FIGHTER

If I Could Touch the Hem of His Garment – Photo by Ross Cochrane

She is in bed most of the time now, unable to do the most basic of things. 96 years old ANGIE (not her real name) was once a FREEDOM FIGHTER in Czechoslovakia. Her speech is slow but her conversation reveals her intelligence and she surprises me with the laughter in her eyes and her faith in God. She has learned to use the computer, send e-mails, play music etc, but muscular degeneration means her fingers don’t work as well now. She struggles now just to lift her hands a few inches and there is pain. She cannot feed herself or hold a cup in her hands. I pray for healing for this faith-filled freedom fighter.

After they cross the lake, Jesus and His disciples land at Gennesaret (Matthew 14:34). Jesus has had contact with those from this region before and soon people are “bringing all their sick to be healed” (Matthew 14:35). They come expecting miracles to the One they recognise could and would heal them. They beg Him to let the sick touch “at least the fringe of His robe”, and ALL who touch Him are healed (Matthew 14:36).

Imagine if it was Angie that day in Gennesaret being brought up through the crowd behind Jesus and touching the fringe of His robe. Imagine Jesus turning around, seeing her there and saying, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.”

MIRACLES OF HEALING are not impossibilities conceived in the hearts of people who are fools, as Ingersoll, the faith terrorist, once suggested. They are not unthinkable to the thinking person who is open to the possibility of truth beyond the senses; to a system of perception called faith.

Certainty in God’s promises, not ignorance, is the soil in which belief in miracles grows, and if we are honest we do not pretend to think we know the boundaries of possibilities in this world. If we are truthful and sincere we will admit our doubts and spiritual ignorance and say, “Lord, help my unbelief” rather than being content to say “It cannot happen!”

A FREEDOM FIGHTER is dedicated to opposing an invader seeking to enforce compliance and subservience upon us. Afterall, why should we worship our DOUBTS? Why should we prostrate ourselves before the mirror of our own LIMITATIONS and not before the One in whom ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE? Why should we kneel before medical science as our SAVIOUR rather than as our SERVANT, and preach a gospel of rational redemption when the hope of medical miracles won’t change the human heart or forgive human sin? Why should we not fight for the right to look beyond what doctors do, as wonderful as that is, to find the wholeness we need?

In Matthew 21:21-22 (NLT) Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” 1 John 5:14-15 (NLT) clarifies this further by saying “And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for ANYTHING THAT PLEASES HIM. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.”

Angie, the FREEDOM FIGHTER, appreciates what it is like to be healthy and articulates to God her desire to be well. The possibility of being free from sickness brings her humbly before God, like those from Genessaret, ready to touch even the fringe of His robe to find relief. And it gives me an invitation to fight the battle alongside her as I pray for this wounded warrior to receive the healing grace of God.

Praying for Angie – Photo by Ross Cochrane

Pastor Ross

P.S. Angie died last week. She slipped away into the presence of the Lord. She knew she was loved and she confided in me that she was ready to go home. I hugged her gently and said my goodbyes but before I returned from holidays she was gone. My brave warrior. I will miss her intelligence, her beautiful eyes, her love for God and her friendship with me. Were our prayers answered? Of course.

 

 

P.S. to my last P.S. It has now been some years since Angie died. I recently found Angie’s e-mail address on my computer, although it doesn’t exist anymore. I found myself crying and realised that my grief for her loss still ran deep. So I wrote her an email.

Dearest Angie,

I came across your old e-mail address today and although I know this will just go out into cyberspace somewhere and perhaps return, I thought I would write anyway.

It seems so long ago that you passed this way but I still remember you. You died when I was away on holidays and no one told me. I missed attending your funeral. I am so sorry about that, but I remember our friendship, the many conversations and prayers and your beautiful smile. I remember how you told me you were part of the resistance during the war. I remember you telling me about your accidental meeting with the Pope while you were on holidays in Italy. Even though you were a Protestant they put you in the line to meet the Pope at the Vatican.

I remember when you were able to send emails and use your computer. I remember quiet talks when tears would fall at your frustration about not being able to move your hands and we would laugh at life as well. Motor Neuron Disease took your physical abilities but not your keen mind and sense of humour.

It was a pleasure to be your Chaplain, but most of all I miss you being around as my friend. I miss you. I prayed for your healing but God chose to heal you in a place where there are no more tears or pain. One day, when I no longer shed tears or feel the pain of the loss of a good friend, I will see you again.

God bless

BREAKING THE CHAINS OF SUPERSTITION – Part 1

Superstition – Photo Creation by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and MorgueFile.com

The 2nd Friday in January was Friday the thirteenth, 2012. For those who believe in SUPERSTITION an unlucky day – a bad day for a journey, to marry, to make any investment. One woman I spoke with yesterday reads the stars each morning in the paper and prays that God will allow it to happen. Lets add to that walking under a ladder, a black cat, crossing your fingers, touching wood, reading the stars, petals plucked to discover if she loves me, she loves me not.

RELIGION especially can be the hive of superstitious nonsense. One man wears a cross as a kind of rabbits foot against bad luck, while another wears it as a symbol of what Christ did for us on the Cross in dying for our sins. One person prays as a meaningless ritual while another uses prayer as an expression of relationship with Christ.

SUPERSTITION is evident when I have a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of cause and effect. Many people would add that a belief in the supernatural, in miracles, in God, in the resurrection and ascension of Christ is also SUPERSTITION.

I’ve been reading a lecture (blog) by Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), an Atheist. I love his ability to express himself but I am amazed by the arrogance of his assertions and how he intentionally associates SUPERSTITION WITH FAITH. He is particularly scathing about regarding the Bible as the inspired Word of God and proclaims SCIENCE AS OUR SAVIOUR, which will “destroy bigotry in all its forms… It will abolish poverty and crime, and greater, grander, nobler than all else, it will make the whole world free.” (Ingersoll lecture on Superstition)

And years after his death in the scientific age in which we live we are still mesmerised by the superstition of believing that science is the saviour of the world. Yet far from freeing the world, the evidence suggests we are destroying it by the very discoveries we have made. Science hasn’t lived up to the arrogant claims and promises Ingersoll makes because it keeps limiting us by ignoring the very things that truly set us free.

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.

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.

Arnold (not his real name) has worked so long as a scientist that he has allowed his empirical rationalism to limit his ability to discern truth by relying only on his SENSES. Allowing for a multiplicity of ways to discern truth and not simply restricting discernment to the five senses allows me to exercise FAITH as a valid system of perception. When Arnold, shackled and restricted to the evidence of the senses as he must be for his scientific research to be meaningful, refuses to acknowledge any OTHER pathways to truth but it’s own self imposed world of choices, then far from practicing science he is involved in “SCIENTISM” (as my geologist friend Bob calls it). Closing itself up to other possibilities outside the field of it’s own restricted measures of obtaining truth, scientism arrogantly seeks to cut us off from the possibilities of discovering a more holistic range of truth for our lives and from the divergent thinking that leads us to new discoveries. Should I restrict myself to my senses as the ONLY means to living life I could never be accountable to anyone but myself, limited by my “INGROWN THINKING”.

Erwin McManus speaks about the impossibility of trying to see something with the sense of smell or hear something with the sense of sight. It’s not that faith and science are diametrically opposed. They are not. It’s that we sometimes apply the wrong apparatus of perception when seeking truth.

It isn’t Jesus who is responsible for leading me to believe in superstition. 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). He will never take me anywhere where truth is not.

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

Part 12 – Matthew 12:22-42 – THE CANVAS OF MY HEART

The Canvas of My Heart

Yesterday I was reading about a man called Han van Meegeren who was a Dutch artist and an extremely talented ART FORGER. He forged some of the world’s most famous paintings so well that the best art critics and art experts of his time thought his paintings were GENUINE.

Painting one of the finest Vermeers anyone had ever seen was his greatest MISTAKE. He sold his forgeries during the second world war and one of them ended up with the Nazi commander Hermann Goring.

After the war, the sale of the painting was traced back to van Meergeren and he was arrested for selling Dutch cultural property to the Nazis. The punishment for this act of treason was death and so van Meegeren decided to CONFESS that the painting was a forgery. But what would convince the jury?

In Matthew 12 Jesus faces a different problem. His works are GENUINE. When He paints on a person’s life it is the Hand of God, AUTHENTIC, ORIGINAL AND UNIQUE. In Matthew 12:28, He says to the Pharisees “The kingdom of God has arrived among you”. The Pharisees see His miracles as counterfeit and His teaching false. Their unbelief is relentless. They continually try to trap Him.

In Matthew 12:38 (NLT) the Pharisees say “Teacher, we want You to show us a miraculous sign to PROVE YOUR AUTHORITY.” In Matthew 12:24 they test and tempt Jesus in the same way as Satan did in the wilderness (Matthew 4:5-7), demanding a SIGN from Him, but when He heals people they say He gets His power from Satan. They hypocritically demand a sign but then reject it. Can’t have it BOTH WAYS! What will it take to convince them?

In Acts 2:22 (NLT) when Peter preaches to those gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost “People of Israel, listen! God PUBLICLY ENDORSED Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful MIRACLES, WONDERS, AND SIGNS through Him, as you well know.” God verifies the authority of the works of Jesus and Jesus exposes the works of the Pharisees as a forgery. In Matthew 12:34 (NLT) He calls them a “brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” 

Certainly many people witness that Jesus does miracles, wonders and signs, but does this CONVINCE them? Does it convince you?

Jack, a friend of mine, is unable to walk. When I spoke to him about God, he said “If God was real He wouldn’t leave me like this. I don’t deserve this. Where’s the proof that God exists?” He said He doesn’t see any evidence of God because God refuses to heal him. What will it take to convince him?

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT) says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” WHY DOESN’T HE HEAL MY FRIEND JACK?

Perhaps part of the answer is found in John 4:48 (NLT) where Jesus asks, “Will you never believe in Me unless you see MIRACULOUS SIGNS AND WONDERS?” 

It seems to me that the FOCUS is not so much believing in signs and wonders (and I do), but in allowing His artworks to lead me back to Him. The SIGNATURE IS GENUINE. It is in believing in the Master Artist Himself and then in allowing Him to paint upon THE CANVAS OF MY LIFE. Romans 10:9 (NLT) puts it this way, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” The brushstrokes of His forgiveness touches the very fabric of my being and His creative genius gives my life AUTHENTICITY.

Jesus is asking me to trust in Him WHETHER OR NOT I see signs and wonders. I encouraged Jack to put His faith in Jesus, not just in looking for a sign. Matthew 24:24 speaks about FALSE SIGNS that are forgeries that can lead us away from Jesus.

God bless you Church as you put your faith in Jesus. And as we focus on Him, THEN we are in a position to see His miraculous intervention in our lives in all kinds of ways, the authenticity of which is beyond question.

Pastor Ross