Posts Tagged ‘Power’

The Holy Grail6

Quest for the Holy Grail © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender and Paint.net

Matthew 20:20-23 – A QUEST FOR THE TRUE HOLY GRAIL 

Simple but beautiful. Filled to the brim. Sought after through the centuries. Desired by the infamous SS and the Catholic Church alike, legends have developed about its whereabouts; is it in the caves of Montsegur, France or hidden somewhere in Oxford England or in a Chapel in Valencia Cathedral in Spain?

We all know that Indiana Jones found it in the caves of Petra and Dan Brown informs us with arrogant certainty, despite his distorted historical evidence, that it was a person, not a cup. He assures us it was not made of the wood of a Carpenter, clay from the earth, or silver and gold with embedded emeralds and precious stones, but of flesh and blood. He could be right in one respect, so let’s begin the quest for the true Holy Grail by reading from an ancient book which gives us clues …

COME, … 

Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, comes to Jesus with her sons. She kneels respectfully to ask a favor” (Matthew 20:20 NLT).

Mark calls her Salome. John calls her Jesus’ mother’s sister. Matthew calls her, the mother of the sons of Zebedee rather than the wife of Zebedee. It’s obvious that Zebedee hasn’t been involved in this favor-seeking exercise and that Salome has raised these sons of thunder by herself. Perhaps Zebedee has died and is no longer in the picture at all.

So James and John are full cousins of Jesus. They feel connected to Jesus by family. They are ambitious, looking for personal reward and special honor, a cup running over with power and prestige, but do they expect success without sacrifice? The Holy Grail comes with an adventure and a price.

 WITH RESPECT …

Salome bows before Jesus as a king, but her understanding is limited to an earthly kingdom and her ambition for her sons crowds out any understanding of the cup for which she asks.

The brothers are willing to let their mother approach Jesus with this request. Do they think that Jesus would favor her more? All three of them have obviously spoken about this in private before coming to Jesus.

 AND ASK … 

“What is your request?” He asks. She replies, “In Your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to You, one on Your right and the other on Your left (Matthew 20:21 NLT).

Perhaps they think they have earned the right of positions of authority when Jesus, as the Messiah, takes up His role as King of Israel. Surely they can drink from the Holy Grail; the cup of power?

After all, James and John (and Peter) were present at the Transfiguration of Jesus and when Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead by Jesus. Surely that counts for something?

Adam Clarke suggests that Salome, James and John were thinking in terms of a new Sanhedrin being formed and they would be the supreme dignities in the great Sanhedrin. The prince of the Sanhedrin (Ha-Nasi) sat in the midst of two rows of senators or elders; on his right hand sat the person termed Ab (the father of the Sanhedrin); and on his left hand the Chacham, or sage. These persons transacted all business in the absence of the president. The authority of this council was at some periods very great, and extended to a multitude of matters both ecclesiastical and civil. These appear to have been the honors which James and John sought. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary.)

It is clear that Salome, James and John are interested in status rather than service, homage rather than humility, recognition rather than reaching out, power rather than God’s purposes, authority over rather than assistance to others. They wanted more to lord it over others than to love others in humble recognition of their worth to God.

 WITH THE RIGHT MOTIVES …

Jesus isn’t willing simply to grant any such request. Neither does He for us, but He gives us opportunity to verbalize what we are thinking in order to correct us and guide more surely towards His purposes so that we ask aright.

Lord, guard what I ask of You. Help me to be discerning.

James 4:3 (NLT) says, ” … you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.  And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” 

Indiana Jones learned that penitent man kneels before God, and Salome also kneels respectfully before Jesus. The difference is that her request of power for her sons is not a request of a penitent heart.

Help me not only to submit to You respectfully in my actions but also in my motives.

You encourage me to come, even if I have it wrong, to ask for Your cup, but help me to ask aright.

I want to bring You honor in my life, but it is tinged with sinful attitudes at times. I know I love the praise of others far too much. There are times when I am way out of my depth and let You down because of my pride and selfishness.

But You invite me to find Your will for my life, things that will make a difference in Your kingdom, neither above or below what You intend for my life, to drink from the cup. Keep me engaged with Your purposes, listening for Your correction and willing to change and grow.

 AND SEEK TO UNDERSTAND …

Salome is the mouthpiece for selfish ambition, but you will notice that Jesus shifts the answer to her sons and to us.

“You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they reply, “we are able!” (Matthew 20:22 NLT).

Here is the Chalice of Christ, the Holy Grail! A bitter cup of suffering, not what I immediately associate with God’s favor, especially if I crave position, power and influence.

Apparently, criminals were at times made to drink poison and assassinations could be made by spiking wine with poison, but this cup of suffering was spiked with the poison of my sin and just as deadly.

This was not a cup of sweet wine offered to Jesus to celebrate His status. But a bitter cup of deep suffering to demonstrate His Servanthood

James and John could not endure such a poisonous potion of suffering due to their arrogance and pride, and it was these very sins, among others, that soured the very cup from which Jesus tasted. It was for their sins and my sins that He would die.

Jesus encourages me not be too quick in saying I am able when I am clearly NOT. He doesn’t simply say “No!” But as He questions me through His Word, He gives me the opportunity to respond, no matter how arrogantly to Him, and then He brings correction and further understanding so that I can adjust the tenor of my prayers according to His purposes.

 AS YOU DRINK …

Jesus tells them, “You will indeed drink from My bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on My right or My left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones He has chosen (Matthew 20:23 NLT).

Jesus is patient, direct. James and John would indeed drink the bitter wine from this Holy Grail. What did He mean? And does He expect me to suffer also?

James will die by the sword. (Acts 12:2). Was the cup for him the cup of martyrdom? Tradition says John was tortured, then banished to the Island of Patmos. Was that his bitter cup? Can I expect a gruesome end on this quest for the Holy Grail?

Click on picture below for the animation

 

Cup of Christ or Cup of Judgment © Images and Animation by Ross Cochrane

 FROM THE CUP OF CHRIST, …

According to Dake, 12 cups are given figurative meaning in the Bible, but I think they can be reduced to perhaps 4. The key cups are of judgment, salvation, suffering, and communion. 

  1. THE CUP OF JUDGMENT ON THE WICKED

Psalm 75:8 (NLT) says, For the Lord holds a cup in His hand that is full of foaming wine mixed with spices. HE POURS OUT THE WINE IN JUDGMENT, AND ALL THE WICKED MUST DRINK IT, draining it to the dregs.” 

The Cup of Judgment is eternal death. Romans 6:23 (NLT2) says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2. THE CUP OF SUFFERING ON THE CROSS

Jesus speaks in Matthew 20:22 (NLT) of the bitter CUP OF SUFFERING I am about to drink?” 

It is as if Jesus takes the Cup of Judgment of the wicked from me and gives to me the cup of Eternal Life (Salvation). He drinks my cup of death and I drink His cup of life. 

3. THE CUP OF SALVATION FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE

David says in Psalm 116:13 (NLT), I will lift up the CUP OF SALVATION and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.” 

4. THE CUP OF THE PASSOVER CONFIRMING THE COVENANT 

The Passover cup confirms that I am forgiven. In Matthew 26:27-28 (NLT) Jesus took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is My blood, which CONFIRMS THE COVENANT between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.”

How can I or anyone possibly DRINK THE BITTER CUP OF CHRIST? How can anyone really share in the suffering of Christ? 

When Jesus concedes that James and John will suffer also, is He is talking about identifying with His death, just as followers of Christ do each time they celebrate Communion?

Dan Brown almost got it right. The Holy Grail does involve a person; Jesus Christ Himself. The cup represents His death for me. My quest is reached …

 BY DYING TO SELFISH DESIRES, …

Romans 6:6 (NLT) speaks about sharing in the suffering of Christ. “We know that our old sinful selves were CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”

Galatians 2:20 (NLT) says MY OLD SELF HAS BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST. 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.”

Am I willing to die to my pride daily and give my life in serving Jesus, no matter what the cost? Help me to do so, Lord.

In Luke 14:25-34 (NLT), Jesus again speaks of me sharing in His suffering. He says, ... if you do not CARRY YOUR OWN CROSS and follow Me, you cannot be My disciple.

In Luke 9:23-26 Jesus said, If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, TAKE UP YOUR CROSS DAILY, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. 

… AND IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST, …

Paul, writing to the Philippians in Philippians 3:8 (NLT), spoke of his own experience, saying Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and BECOME ONE WITH HIM.” 

Jesus used James’ and John’s response as an opportunity to teach them what it means to be on a quest for the Holy Grail: to be a follower of Christ. Servanthood comes before Status. Only then could they understand that sitting in places of power with Christ must be seen from a totally different perspective.

Ephesians 1:20 (NLT) says

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and SEATED HIM IN THE PLACE OF HONOUR AT GOD’S RIGHT HAND IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS.”

 THEN YOU WILL BE BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE …

Drinking from the Bitter Cup of the Holy Grail (the cup of Christ) is closely associated with being seated in places of honor with Christ. In the light of all that Christ has done for me, Ephesians 2:4-8 (NLT) makes more sense. It says,

But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and SEATED US WITH HIM in the heavenly realms because we are UNITED with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are UNITED with Christ Jesus. God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”

 AS YOU SERVE THE SERVANT KING.

When Jesus spoke of sharing the cup of His suffering, I think He was referring not only to James being beheaded (Acts 12:2) and John being exiled to Patmos (Revelation 1:9) but he was inviting them and me to share in what led Him to the Cross; His willingness to do whatever it took to see others saved from the power of sin and death.

My quest for the Holy Grail is to be crucified with Christ or united with Christ which means to have His mission no matter what the cost. To serve in its fullest measure. If I identify myself with Christ I will identify with Him in His death and resurrection and sit with Him, united in His Purposes.

Simple but beautiful. Filled to the brim. Who is willing to drink?

John 12:26 (NLT2) says, Anyone who wants to be My disciple must follow Me, because My servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves Me.” 

It is not so much that I have the honor of sitting with You, but that You have humbled Yourself to sit with me. It is not about a quest to find the Holy Grailbut about drinking from the cup of Eternal Life already offered. It’s not about me asking You for favors but about me choosing to serve You. That blows my mind. I am servant to the Servant King.

Pastor Ross

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Anger.png

Anger © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 4:4-5 – EXAMINE WHAT CONTROLS YOUR LIFE

“Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude” (Psalm 4:4 NLT).

I wondered who David was addressing in this part of Psalm 4. Is he talking to himself, his own followers or his enemies? Is he trying to protect himself against the sin of being controlled by anger rather than, as he has said in the previous verse, be set apart as a godly man? Or is this the Lord speaking and answering David’s prayer? Then I realized that these words are relevant to all parties no matter who said them or to whom they are addressed.

Ephesians 4:21-27 (NLT) gives us similar instruction to those who believe in Christ. “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, … let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. … And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”

My take on Psalm 4:4 is, “If you think you have a reason to be angry, don’t let that anger make you think you have a right to act independently of God. Consider this deeply before taking any action. Sleep on it rather than do something you’ll regret.” The idea is the intention for reflection which leads to repentance.

Psalm 4:4 gives me a choice to examine myself. I can make choices that can change the way I respond to life’s circumstances. I don’t have to be controlled by my emotions. I can, as Psalm 4:5 (NLT) says, “Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord.”

1 Samuel 15:12 speaks about Absalom offering sacrifices to impress people. When religious rituals become an excuse for power-plays then it has nothing to do with trusting in God and it is hypocritical. Religious rituals and laws are never enough to replace the right spirit and relationship of dependence to God.

Psalm 4:4-5 invites me to a life of integrity and trust in Christ. He became a sacrifice for sin once and for all and trusting in Him alone brings forgiveness and a right spirit. I am not to live a life controlled by my emotions, but as Romans 12:3 (NLT) says, “… let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:19 – Part 1 – HOW TO UN-IMMOBILIZE THE IGNITION OF YOUR FAITH 

Key of Life - Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Key of Life – Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Such a small and frustrating device! How can my day be determined by something so insignificant? Yet when it has no life, I am stranded! I discovered this yesterday, and also that the shop over the road does not stock the tiny battery that would give power to UN-isolate the ignition of my car and get me to work on time.

The idea is that this device I am holding, by isolating the ignition, will protect my car from being stolen. No-one has stolen my car so far, so it must work. But not even my key can start my own car when this immobilizing monster holds me to ransom!

Theoretically, in my hands I have the power I need to engage the engine, but of course, theoretical power won’t start my car any more than a flat battery will – not today – not ever! The authority of my keys are useless without a battery tinier than my little fingernail. Mustard seed batteries.

In Matthew 16:19 Jesus has a set of KEYS and He says He will hand them over to Peter. Jesus has all the power of God at His disposal to give the bearer of these keys the authority of highest heaven to unlock and lock, open or close, bind or loose, forbid or permit heaven’s power to change earth.

Matthew 16:19 (NLT) says “And I will give you (Peter) the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” 

What is Jesus talking about here when He speaks of the Keys of the Kingdom? Why would He give them to Peter? Acts 2:14-41 partly answers these questions.

1. KEYS TO OPEN THE DOORS OF FAITH

Peter opens “the door of faith” at Pentecost and the life of eternity rushes through the veins of the Church. Shocking, shameless freedom surges like a tidal flow into its soul. For a while it is left drowning in the wake only to come up from the depths with a sudden intake of breath and every fibre of its being responding with surprise and delight. The Church is born.

Keys of the kingdom of Heaven, activated by the power of the Spirit, give us the opportunity to respond in faith to Christ and what He has done for us. In this way Peter opens the gates of heaven to 3000 people on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). 

The key slides into the deadbolt across the corrugations of metal and is turned. I can hear the soft click of metal as it aligns itself with perfect precision and feel the bolt slide smoothly until the door is released. These gates, says Warren Wiersbe, “have been opened to those who believe ever since.” 

The doors of heaven are unlocked! Correspondingly, the gates of hell have not been able to withstand the onslaught of God’s kingdom advancing and setting prisoners free. Those who are condemned already can now be pardoned. Escape from hell and entrance to heaven doesn’t occur at the pearly gates when I die, but at faith’s gates when I believe in Christ.

I had been BOUND in my sin, battery flat and no authority or power to do anything about it. Condemned! When I trusted in Christ I was LOOSED from my sin and ran through the open door toward freedom in Him. What incredible opportunities and possibilities have been unlocked in my life by the power and authority of these keys! 

There is nothing like an open door to stir your curiosity as to what adventures may lie beyond it’s threshold. Before you stands such a door. 

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 8 – Matthew 12:22-28 – I’M AN ATHEIST AND I INTEND TO STAY THAT WAY!

I’m an Atheist!

He was wide-eyed but unable to speak properly. The nurses told me that he did not have long to live. Brian (not his real name) was experiencing spasms of pain and shortness of breath. He was groaning and looked weak, drawn and afraid. I offered to pray for him. I prayed for healing and encouraged him to reach out to Christ and seek to have a relationship with Him. I told him that Christ would be able to help him get through this situation.

The next day I came in to see Brian again. I asked the nurses how he was and they told me he was much better. I was surprised that he was able to speak again. His recovery was amazing. An answer to prayer! I introduced myself. He looked at me, recognized who I was immediately, and said vehemently, “I’m an ATHEIST and I intend to stay that way!” His response to Christ as he had faced the possibility of death was to REJECT Him. I said that this was his choice but that I hoped he would come to know the Lord.

It’s not unusual that the crowd is amazed as Jesus heals a demon-possessed, blind and dumb man in Matthew 12:22, but it’s that TOTAL REJECTION of Jesus by the Pharisees (and Brian) that surprises me the most.

The Pharisees response to Jesus is vehement and MALICIOUS. Not only do they REJECT Jesus but they proceed to SLANDER His name before the people. They say in Matthew 12:24 (NLT) “No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets His power from Satan, the prince of demons.”

Why are they saying this? Why aren’t they willing to examine things further? Is it that they are afraid of losing their REPUTATION? Is it because they want to hold onto their POWER and already feel that it is slipping away? Perhaps.

The Pharisees are the TALIBAN of Jesus day (If you can’t get people to think your way, bomb them). They behave like RELIGIOUS THUGS! The intensity of their unbelief is incredible. It has already expressed itself as they plotted to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:14)! They are obstinate, pig-headed, determined, inflexible, unmoved, stubborn and persistent leaders. The kind of political leaders we still revere today.

The Pharisees did not actually see first hand Jesus heal the demon possessed, blind and dumb man. That’s not surprising. When I DISTANCE myself from Jesus I will rarely see His miracles, even when I hear about what God is doing in the lives of others who have had a personal experience of Christ. Like the Pharisees, I will not be satisfied or happy for the man who has been healed, even though his life has been CHANGED FOREVER. It is only as I am willing to place myself in PROXIMITY to Jesus and see Him for who He is that I begin to acknowledge, like the crowd, the possibility of Him being the MESSIAH, more than a man, the One sent by God to save me from my sin.

In psychology, PROJECTION is a defense mechanism where a person denies what is happening in their own lives, attitudes, thoughts, and emotions, and then ascribes them to other people. Perhaps the Pharisees are demon possessed themselves and being BLIND to this, they PROJECT what is happening to themselves onto Jesus. John the Baptist calls them a BROOD OF VIPERS in Matthew 3:7 who are resistant to REPENTANCE.

In Matthew 5:20 (NLT) Jesus says “But I warn you-unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

The man who was healed was BLIND AND DEAF. The Pharisees are BLIND AND DEAF themselves to the things of God and need healing. John 12:38-40 (NIV) says “…For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has BLINDED their eyes and DEADENED their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” Like Brian, they say, “I am blind to what Jesus has done for me and I intend to stay that way!” My Dad used to say “There are none so blind as those who will not see!”

The invitation is to allow the Lord to open your eyes to His truth and intentionally remain open to Christ and what He wants to do in your life today.

Pastor Ross

Part 6 – Matthew 12:17-21 – GRAND FINAL VICTORY! CHOOSE ME!

Choose Me!

Australia is in the middle of GRAND FINAL FEVER with the NRL – THE DRAGONS VS THE ROOSTERS. What are the characteristics needed for those chosen to be the warriors of this battle? What is it that will win the game and bring victory? What will provide the competitive edge that guarantees success in the end? A BONE CRUSHING, COMPETITIVE MOMENTUM, A WIN-AT-ALL-COSTS, FAN PLEASING POWER that SHOWS-NO-MERCY, and that’s just for starters!

You would think that when God chose the BEST MAN to lead His team to VICTORY He would choose someone well QUALIFIED? When God is the SELECTOR, you would think He would choose someone who would GUARANTEE such success that you could engrave His Name on the VICTORY TROPHY long before He even arrived on the planet. His JERSEY could be hung in the HERO’S HALL OF FAME way ahead of time!

Matthew 12:17-18 (NLT) says “This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Him: “Look at My Servant, whom I have CHOSEN. He is My BELOVED, who PLEASES Me. I will put MY SPIRIT upon Him, and He will proclaim JUSTICE to the nations. He will NOT FIGHT OR SHOUT or raise His voice in public. He will NOT CRUSH the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally He will cause justice to be VICTORIOUS. And His name will be the HOPE of all the world.”

1. So what qualities does God look for in the One He chooses to lead the grand final of grand finals? Is it the BONE CRUNCHING INTENSITY of a charging bull? NO! He chooses someone TO BRING HEALING AND RESTORATION TO OTHERS (Matthew 12:15). Instead of pounding the opposing team into the ground, He runs onto the field like an AMBULANCE MAN to pick up the players that are INJURED, and expects me to do the same. What is this?

Many people wanted Jesus to CRUSH the Roman occupiers, and for that matter the Pharisees. To TACKLE them with such RAGING POWER that they would be wiped off the face of the earth – a player like Elijah who would call down FIRE from heaven and CONSUME them (2 Kings 1:10,12)! GAME OVER except for the cheering! The fans left happy! JUSTICE with a FREE KICK! NO! He came to HEAL AND RESTORE me when I am BRUISED AND BROKEN and He calls me to do the same.

2. I would have chosen someone with at least a COMPETITIVE EDGE, shouting out TAUNTS with fire in His eyes like a rabid fan, but God chose Someone TO SERVE – Jesus wasn’t even on the FRONT ROW! He’s the guy that brings the water at half time and He calls me to do the same. Matthew 23:11-12 (NLT) says “The greatest among you must be a SERVANT. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 

Philippians 2:6-8 (NLT) “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 (or SERVANT) and was born as a human being. …” In Galatians 5:13 (NLT) God says through Paul “…use your freedom to SERVE one another in love.”

3. But serving one another is not catering to our whims. God doesn’t choose Him because He has an overwhelming desire to PLEASE THE FANS. Instead He chooses someone who has the desire TO PLEASE GOD, not cater to us, because fans are so fickle (Matthew 12:18). And make no mistake, God is pleased with Jesus even if the Pharisees are not! 1 Peter 2:4 (NLT) says “…He was REJECTED by people, but He was CHOSEN by God for great honour.” God has already said in Matthew 3:17 (NIV) “This is my Son, whom I LOVE; with Him I am WELL PLEASED.”

And once again Jesus is my example. Ephesians 5:2 and Romans 12:1-3 (NLT) says “Live a life filled with LOVE, following the example of Christ…” “…know God’s will for you, which is good and PLEASING and perfect.” 

4. I would have chosen someone with the POWER AND MOMENTUM of a DEMOLITION BALL in full swing but God chooses Jesus who has the SPIRIT OF GOD upon Him (Matthew 12:18), and the POWER OF GOD behind Him, giving me the example of how to live my Christian life. That’s why Ephesians 5:18 says that I am to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” and to exercise the GIFTS of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

5. On the football field selectors choose those who will SHOW-NO-MERCY but God chooses Someone TO PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO ALL PEOPLE. Justice is doing what is right before God and man (see Matthew 5:6). Jesus Christ shows me how to live and behave toward God and toward others, not just play the game. Micah 6:8 (NIV) says “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act JUSTLY and to love MERCY and to walk HUMBLY with your God.”  

God bless you Church. Jesus was chosen TO BRING HOPE TO A BRUISED AND BROKEN WORLD, as He died for me on the Cross and paid the PENALTY for my sins. The game is still AT HALF TIME and there is still time to be selected for the TEAM. I don’t have to sit on the bench. CHOOSE ME! The final trumpet is yet to sound and Christ will be proclaimed VICTORIOUS. WE WIN!

Pastor Ross