Posts Tagged ‘Parables’

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

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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 13:24–30 – SMOKING WEED – Part 10

Smoking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:10-17 – HOW TO GUAGE YOUR SPIRITUAL APATHY – Part 3

Hard Hearted Towards God

We visited the Opera House in Sydney not long ago. Thousands of people on foot! I am reminded that there is a spiritual INDIFFERENCE that walks the concrete footpaths of my city and what Christ has to say is often swept away or trampled by UNRESPONSIVE and negligent attitudes. The sounds of the city snatches away our attention and the persistent voice of Christ’s love fights to be heard above the collective sighs of our APATHY. Just like the parable of the Sower and the Soils.

It seems to me that the parables of Matthew 13 are directed to my city – especially to those not intentional in listening to Jesus, in order to give them perspective on what they are doing and opportunity for them to repent and believe and become fully alive to the things of God. They are a mirror and guage for me to see how I respond to spiritual truth.

Jesus speaks of HARD soil, defensive, closed and bitter towards God. He speaks of others with SHALLOW hearts, and superficial faith, and of those so PREOCCUPIED and busy that they miss their opportunity to discover what life is about. Then there are those who have RECEPTIVE hearts to the message He gives. They are like fertile soil, producing a crop worth harvesting. Yet even some of them produce in a LIMITED way, giving only 30% and 60% returns.

His disciples are intrigued by the story, but they see a whole lot of people in the crowd like those I saw in the streets of Sydney who don’t understand what He is trying to say, so they ask Him why He uses parables.

What Jesus says is astounding!

In Matthew 13:11 He says “You are PERMITTED to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are NOT. He is about to invest something by way of the resources of heaven into people’s lives, but some are NOT PERMITTED to understand? What does He mean that some are NOT PERMITTED?

It seems clear that in this passage they are NOT PERMITTED TO UNDERSTAND and it is FOOLISHNESS to them because they REFUSE TO LISTEN, not because God has put earplugs in their ears. A negative response to Jesus and His message means they are refused the SECRETS of the Kingdom of Heaven. God won’t FORCE me to listen, and equally when I refuse to listen, then He won’t PERMIT me to understand. I’m either receptive or left ignorant. If I slam the door so deliberately on God, then He also deliberately allows me the CONSEQUENCES of that choice.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT) says “The message of the cross is FOOLISH to those who are HEADED FOR DESTRUCTION! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” Are they headed for destruction WITHOUT A CHOICE of faith? I don’t think we can read that from the context of this passage. The choice is evidently there but they have refused to LISTEN. As a result even what they understand becomes foolishness to them and they are HEADED FOR DESTRUCTION because of their deliberate rejection of Christ and His message.

When the message of Jesus is treated as being ridiculous, unreasonable, unbelievable, over simple, uninspiring and those who share His message are treated with the same contempt, then it is obvious that the seed falls on hard, shallow and thorny ground.

Jesus puts it this way in Matthew 13:12 (NLT) “To those who LISTEN to My teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are NOT LISTENING, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” 

God bless your eyes and ears today. The invitation He gives to us is to SEE and HEAR with the eyes and ears of faith. May Jesus be able to say of you today “… blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.” (Matthew 13:16 NLT)

Pastor Ross 

Matthew 13:1-17 – A BACKHOE WOULDN’T GO ASTRAY! – Part 2

A Backhoe wouldn't go astray!

Just as well He didn’t come to HOLLYWOOD. I can see some of his key people pushing back the fans who crowd in and just want to get close enough to touch the edge of his coat or get His AUTOGRAPH. The PAPARAZZI are out in force and the CRITICS are out to get Him. TV channels want exclusive INTERVIEWS. He is on the cover of TIME magazine. There’s a wax statue of Him in Madame Tussauds and He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. OPRAH wants Him on her show and little ACTION FIGURES of Him are already appearing in the shops. He has big business SPONSORS with a shoe company that makes sandals and there’s a clothing line. Eastern style is in. A BIOGRAPHY of His life and miracles is being written by 4 different authors and He has a MOVIE CONTRACT. There’s even a PERFUME brand called Nard which costs the earth with His picture on the bottle.

Wait a minute! No, this is not about “15 minutes of fame”. It’s about “sowing and reaping” longterm. It’s not “The Farmer wants a wife”. It’s the FARMER WANTS A CROP. Jesus may have achieved CELEBRITY STATUS but He is not interested in walking out on the water to IMPRESS the crowd! He is here to stir them to LISTEN to a simple message that will IMPACT their lives.

He goes and sits by the lake as people gather. How big is the crowd? I don’t know but soon it is so big that He decides to teach them from a boat. It’s no auditorium with special lighting effects, fancy sound system and huge screens to display His Bible references, but it will do.

He has already had a busy day, but now the master story teller begins and the crowd get’s quiet. The first story is pretty basic, nothing particularly riveting here. He weaves the facets of His story around a farmer who sows a crop on four different soil types with limited success. In our day it translates to a businessman who makes some bad investments and one good investment.

You know the story – a “farmer” scatters his seed in his field. Some seed falls on the HARD GROUND and birds eat it. Other seed grows in ROCKY soil, and it wilts because it doesn’t have deep roots. Some seed grows in a THORN infested area and the thorns choke the tender plants (Matthew 13:3-8). And some grows in “FERTILE SOIL” and produces a crop.

Is it only me or does anybody else in this crowd think that this farmer is fairly IRRESPONSIBLE with the way he goes about sowing his crop? I mean he hasn’t PREPARED his field very well. There’s still rocks, shallow soil and thorns, as well as some good soil. You’d think he’d clear the weeds and remove the rocks and plow the field before he sows the seed. What kind of farmer does this?

This farmer doesn’t seem all that concerned about getting rid of the OBSTACLES TO GROWTH first. He just absently scatters the seed on an UNPREPARED field. Seems like a weird thing to do. He needs to have a methodical plan if he wants to get a return. A wheelbarrow, a shovel and a pickaxe, and a backhoe wouldn’t go astray of course, but all he is interested in is scattering seed. How irresponsible and WASTEFUL is this?

Someone said “The QUALITY OF THE FIELD – determines the QUALITY OF THE YIELD.” Is he looking to sowing a crop for a harvest or feeding the birds?

The fact is that this farmer isn’t about to FORCE the soil types to do anything. He accepts me as I am but He doesn’t want me to stay that way. It seems this is a co-operative farm and by the time He sows He has already allowed ample opportunity for me to respond to the backhoe, crowbar and pickaxe. John the Baptist puts it this ways “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” … ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’”   (Matthew 3:2-3 NLT)

Let’s face it – unless I change, then I’m not going to be able to RECEIVE what He is offering. It’s pretty obvious that the dirt He is talking about is me, and this is about as down to earth as you can get when it comes to describing my spiritual state. The question is have I already responded to the REPENTANCE SHOVEL until the ROCKS are removed, some HEALING SOIL SOFTENER to aerate the HARDNESS of my heart, to the pulling out of the WEEDS of bitterness until I have a receptive attitude. Jesus says in effect “I’ll do the sowing and the growing. You do the believing and receiving.”

God bless you as you allow repentance to turn the hardened, shallow and distracted parts of your heart in order to receive all that God intends for you and make your life fruitful. For me, a spiritual backhoe and crowbar wouldn’t go astray at times!

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:1-17 – MAYBE IF I ACTUALLY LISTENED FOR A CHANGE! – Part 1

Ears to hear?

In the middle of an argument, my Mum would say something like this – “Maybe if you LISTENED for a change, you would understand what I am trying to tell you!” So often I am not so much LISTENING but simply waiting for the other person to finish so that I can get across my point of view. Not really a very teachable position to be in. Ears to hear but unwilling to listen.

Joan is 99 years old and she feels that her world is so isolated. Even with hearing aids, she has to listen carefully to pick up anything I am saying. Ears that don’t hear well but more than willing to listen.

In Matthew 13 Jesus says “LISTEN!” with even greater authority than my Mum and with a voice that even Joan can understand. He addresses this problem of how different people are responding to Him. I can get caught up in all the arguments, but the real issue is to do with LISTENING. MAYBE IF I LISTENED…

Just a simple story. Jesus is obviously speaking about something important, but as I read, it doesn’t seem all that significant. The question is “Am I going to miss what He is trying to tell me because of my preconceived ideas about Him or because I insist on my own points of view?” Maybe if I listened….

It’s been a BUSY DAY for Jesus. He has been doing some amazing miracles and teaching with incredible authority. He has been bombarded with a steady barrage of artillery from the Pharisees by way of insults and challenges. It’s usually the religious people who criticize Jesus the most. He does not allow this to distract Him and encourages others to stay on track and LISTEN. Ears to hear.

He says in effect that listening is like a “farmer” who has seeds to plant and he goes into the field and scatters them. The seed that falls on the “FOOTPATH” is eaten by the “birds”. Other seed grows in “SHALLOW SOIL” with “UNDERLYING ROCK” and it wilts because it doesn’t have deep roots. Other seeds grew too, but they grew in a THORN infested area. They grew up and the thorns choked the tender plants (Matthew 13:3-8). We’ve got some thorny weeds in our garden like that.

It seems that this farmer does have some “FERTILE SOIL” in his field and it is the only ground that produces a crop worth harvesting. Even then he doesn’t get a very good crop in terms of his overall investment in seed. The crop he does receive from the fertile soil doesn’t all give him a 100% return. Some of it only yields 30%, and some 60%.

Just a simple story without explanation. In fact Jesus doesn’t seem as if He is going to give me an explanation at first.

But He goes on to tell me that anyone with EARS TO HEAR should listen and understand (Matthew 13:9). So this is not meant to be just a nice story. It has significant meaning and implications that are worthwhile for me to understand and apply. Is that the FIRST CLUE to being FERTILE SOIL – having EARS TO HEAR?

Is He talking about faith when He says “He who has ears to hear”? I don’t know yet. One thing is clear. There are those who don’t hear and don’t understand (Matthew 13:11-17). Apparently it takes an INTENTIONAL HEARING if I am to understand anything Jesus says. Or, like the Pharisees, I can remain far too intentional about not listening to anything He says.

So the invitation Jesus gives me is “Listen!” God bless you today as you respond to Jesus by saying “What would my world look like if I listened to what Jesus is saying here and spent time intentionally seeking to understand how it applies to my life today.”

Jesus looks to me as He speaks to the crowd in Matthew 13:9 (NLT) and says “Anyone with ears to hear should LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND.” “OK Lord, You’ve got my attention. I’m listening?”

Pastor Ross