Thursday, 31 May 2007

Self denial

“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” - Mark 8v34

No one likes to deny themselves. We all like to do things that satisfy us. To place ourselves second, or further down the list requires discipline. Self denial is unnatural.. Everyone is tempted to sneak to get their favourite chocolate off the bottom layer of a milk tray before the top tray is gone.

Take a look at any book store. Shelf after shelf is dedicated to building self esteem and self image. It seems like everything is focused on me. Even some Christian authors and speakers have swallowed the line and tell us how we as Christians can feel better about ourselves.

There can be no doubt that we are of inestimable value. We are worth so much that God sent his only Son to die on the cross for us. In reality that should be enough for our “self-esteem” but too often it is not. We always seem to want more.

Want did Jesus say? “If you want to be my followers, you must first of all deny yourself.” Everything else is built on that. Denying self means that Christ and others always come first. “Me” moves way down the list.

It flies in the face of convention, but self denial is the key to following Christ.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

“And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” - Mark 8v12

Many Christian groups place a huge emphasis on looking for signs from God to determine His will or to look for His approval. Sometimes they even do this when God’s word is clear on an issue, perhaps secretly hoping that God will show them what they want instead of simply obeying His word.

The Pharisees came to Jesus asking for Him to give them some kind of heavenly sign to support His claims. Their lack of faith caused Him to sigh deeply and say, “Why do you seek after a sign?” He went on to tell them that no sign was going to be given to them.

Faith requires acting and believing without seeing anything. Looking for a sign indicates living by sight, not by faith.
We don’t need to see signs from heaven. He has given us His word. That should always suffice.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Defilement from within

“There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.” - Mark 7v15

What defiles us? We tend to think sometimes that our defilement comes from where we go, what we see, or what we do. Many of us were taught that if we avoided certain “evil” places and circumstances we could avoid defilement. As a result there has been a tendency to say that if we avoid certain places and activities then we can live pure lives. Some well intended pastors and writers almost came up with a list of dos and don’ts that made us spiritual.

Sadly appears that we had things upside down, or even more accurately, inside out. Jesus said that nothing coming from outside a man can defile him. He said that defilement comes from within. If my heart is pure and clean, then I will see the wickedness of the world as God sees it and not expose myself to it. If I am exposed to it then I will turn from it and not let it defile me.

One the other hand, if my heart is wicked then anything that comes along will have the ability to bring out my wicked, defiled heart. The problem is my heart – that is really where my defilement comes from. Lets be sure that we work on the true defiler.

Monday, 28 May 2007

And He went about the villages teaching

“And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.” - Mark 6v6

We would think that Jesus being God would be a success at everything He did. Surely His teaching would always work and people would always be moved to respond. He was the Master Teacher after all - everyone was going to listen.

However, when we see Jesus coming home we see that people there were not so quick to believe. In a way this really makes sense. They, after all, had seen Him grow up. They knew Him as the carpenter’s son. Many had seen Him play in the streets as a child. They knew His family after all. How could Jesus be Messiah?

Somehow, because of their unbelief, His work was limited there. He marvelled at their unbelief (now that alone is amazing, how the omniscient God could ever marvel at anything). Now, if we are trying to serve God and no one is believing, and little is being done we might be tempted to say, “What’s the use, I am going to shake the dust off my feet and go on my way. I’m tired of nothing happening.” If we did that, no one would blame us.

What did Jesus do? In the very next sentence we read that “He went about the villages teaching.” He still kept going to the villages of His home region teaching them. They did not believe, but He kept teaching. He kept on “keeping on.” How can I do any less?

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?

“And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”

- Mark 4v40

Fear and faith do not go together. Here the disciples were on a boat together with Christ. While He slept in the bottom of the boat a great storm broke and they were petrified. In their fear they ran to Him and woke Him asking Him if he even cared that they were going to die in the storm.

Jesus woke up and first calmed the sea. Then He addressed them with words that should have broken their hearts. “Why are you afraid? Why don’t you have any faith?”

He made it clear that fear and faith are mutually exclusive. Where there is fear there is no real faith and where there is faith there is no fear. These guys had so little faith that the storm made them afraid. As one song puts it, “How can I fear? Jesus is near. He ever watches over me. Worries all cease. He gives me peace. How can I fear with Jesus?”

How do we do in the fear v. faith test? Which wins out in our lives? I know that in my life, when the storms come, Fear rules and faith fails.

May God give me faith in the storms of my own life.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Principle of sowing

“And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” - Mark 4v20

It is interesting to note that the task God calls us to do as sowers does not look like a very nice or successful task. Jesus mentions four kinds of soil that the seed is liable to fall on. Out of these four kinds of soil three of them are not going to bear the kind of fruit that remains. Either the seed never takes root, or it is destroyed before it bears fruit. Only on one kind of soil do we see fruit that remains.

We can get a picture of our seed sowing from this parable. Some of our seed will fall on hard ground and never take root. At times it may seem to take root, but the plant is destroyed before it can mature to the fruit bearing stage. But, on some occasions, the seed will take solid root and grow a plant that does bear fruit.

That’s what makes sower a joy. Watching crops grow and mature to the point where they bear fruit and more seed for them to plant is the greatest joy of a sower. It is not going to be easy, or always exciting, but the rewards will make it worth it all.

Friday, 25 May 2007

A sower went out to sow

“Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:” - Mark 4v3

I recently read a book entitled Finding Common Ground by Tim Downs. The subtitle is “How to communicate with those outside the Christian community while we still can.” This book challenged my thinking and today’s reading reminded me of some of the points he made.

Jesus was teaching in parables. He used the picture of seeds to talk about the word of God and how it is to be distributed. Because we all enjoy the fun of harvesting there is an aspect of the work that we often forget about. We need to remember that in order for there to be a harvest we need to be willing to sow. Sowing is never easy, and it is not going to bear fruit immediately. Sowing means that we need to till the soil and pick out the stones to get it prepared for the seeds. In some circles we have looked so much to the harvest that we forget there must be sowing.

Jesus did say that the fields are white unto harvest, but perhaps at that time the fields were ripe because the seeds had been sown, cultivated, and watered. We live in a day when society had been secularised to the point when the soil in many places is hard and stony. Part of that is our fault for dividing the secular and the sacred. We can we see our church activities as sacred and the rest of the week as secular.

In fact, all work is sacred. Every time we go out the door we are going out into the fields. Most of those fields are not white unto harvest, for the seed has never been sown. Every one of us every day are like that sower going out to sow. We carry the most marvellous seeds in our pockets, but too often we either try to throw out the seeds and harvest them immediately, or we just keep the seeds hidden away for our sacred work. Both are equally wrong.

We all know the soil we face everyday. We know when it is hard and stony. We know when it is ready for sowing, ready for watering and cultivation, and when the crop is ready for harvesting. We need to ask ourselves if we are willing to spend the difficult, laborious hours of sowing so that one day some one, maybe not even us, will see the harvest.

Some plant, some water, and some see the increase. All are equally important. Don’t neglect the opportunity to harvest if the crop is ready, but don’t forget to sow the seed wherever God has placed you. It is time to forget about sacred and secular. All work is God’s work.

“A sower went out to sow.” Are we willing to be that sower today?

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Why does He eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

“And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?” - Mark 2v16

There are some in the more conservative branches of Christianity who have learned to focus so much on the Biblical principle of separation that they have turned it into an unbiblical doctrine of exclusivity. In this they are much like the Pharisees who came to Jesus’ disciples to complain about how He was spending His time with what we might call the ungodly world.

There are some who would like us to live in some type of neo-monastic world where we spend all of our time with the church and never defile ourselves with the lost. This philosophy is not different than the mindset held by these Pharisees. Some may even ask questions like, “Why are you going to that staff party? Why would you go to a barbecue with lost friends?”

The reason is the same one Jesus gave. Our job is to go into the world and preach the gospel. Our primary ministry is not to reach the saved, but the lost. How can we reach the lost unless we are with them?

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

I am with you always

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” - Matthew 28v20

The poor disciples must have been in a state of total confusion. Their Teacher had died, and from all appearances risen again. In their minds, not any different than ours, the surely wondered what was going on. No wonder we read that “some doubted.” The word “doubted” is not limited to questioning, but can simply imply that some were wavering. Jesus did the loving thing. He called them all together for a word of encouragement.

Jesus gave the disciples what surely must have added to some of their confusion. “I want you to go out into all the nations of the world. As you go I want you to make disciples, teach them to observe what I have taught, and to baptise them.

Here we have eleven simple men. No great leaders, no big business men, no powerful politicians. They are told to out into the whole world and tell others what Jesus had done. What an incredibly daunting task! Now fear must have entered their minds as well as confusion.

Jesus’ next words must have made everything right – “Lo, I am with you always.” I don’t know if they thought He would physically be there, but we now know what He meant. His power, influence, and strength would be with them always. He would never leave them alone to set out on this impossible task.

Jesus still is with us today. The Bible makes that abundantly clear in passage after passage. Like the disciples we need not fear doing what He wants us to do. He doesn’t send us out alone – He is always with us!

When Jesus saw their faith

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” - Mark 2v5

True faith always shows itself in action. True faith is never hidden or quiet. One day while Jesus was in a hope preaching and healing a group of five men demonstrated this kind of faith.

Four men we carrying a pallet trying to get their sick friend to Jesus. When the approached the house where Jesus was teaching and healing they realised they could never get there because of the crowd. Many would have just given up, turned around, and gone home. These men though had faith that compelled them to keep on going. They climbed up on the roof, removed a few tiles, and lowered their friend through the roof.

It is clear that all men, including the sick man, had faith because Jesus acted when He saw their faith my saving the sick man. We aren’t given all of the details, but it looks like the other men were already believers and the sick man came for both physical and spiritual healing because of their testimony.

A lot of folks claim to have faith, but faith that does not produce works is dead faith. Jesus acted when He saw their faith. Do we have the kind of faith that can be seen?

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Watch and pray

“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” - Matthew 26v41

Jesus’ heart of compassion is moving. Even during these moments of intense emotions as He faced the faced the cross, His heart was on His disciples. He asked them to keep and eye out and pray while He went into the garden to pray Himself, but they could not stay awake even for this simple task. They still had not grasped the enormity of the situation they were facing.

Jesus could have attacked and berated them for their failure. Instead, He simple seemed moved and disappointed. “Couldn’t you even watch and pray for a little while.” We can almost sense His heart. He then chose to teach them, “Watch and pray. Your spirit may be willing, but your flesh is weak.”

We all know that is the case. We have all the best intentions, but good intentions fall far short because of the weakness of our flesh. What is the answer? The same as it was for the disciples – “Watch and pray.”

We can’t face our weak flesh alone. We must always be on guard watching out for the flesh, that is the practical part. But we must also pray, for that is all that take care of what we can’t do.
Watch and pray – great advice for the disciples, and for us.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Nevertheless, not my will

“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” - Matthew 26v39

“Not my will,” is one of the most challenging statements in Scripture. When we pray we usually think that we have it all sorted out. There are those who say that we can call on God to do things for us and that He is bound to answer the way we want. There can be a “name it and claim it” attitude that controls one’s prayer life, making God nothing more than a genie in a bottle at our hue and call.

If we could look at the perfect pray-er it would have to be Jesus. As He looked into the darkness of night He knew that it involved the brutality of beatings and scourging. He knew that His creation would literally spit in His face. He knew that it would culminate in the shame and horror of being nailed to a cross and hung naked for all the world to see.

As He prayed that night He asked God the Father that He might allow this cup of pain and suffering to pass from Him, that He could bypass it if possible. And yet, before He even finished His prayer He said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Your will be done.”

What gives any person alive the right to demand anything of God? If even His own Son acceded to His Father’s will, what does that say about us?

Oh that I would always have a “not my will” attitude when I pray.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Unto the least of these

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” - Matthew 25v40

The context here of course is the end of the tribulation and Jesus’ judgement, but there is a timely principle. Jesus told those He accepted that the test of the genuineness was how they treated Him. He said that they had fed Him, given Him shelter, and provided a drink for Him. They did not understand what He was saying so they asked Him when they had done so. He replied that they did so whenever they did those things for “the least of these my brethren.”

There works did not save them, but their provision for God’s people was a test of how real their faith was. Later we are instructed that we are to do good to all men, whenever we can, but especially those of the household of faith. We have a great responsibility to meet the needs of other. We have even more of a responsibility to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters around us.

How would we treat Jesus? The greatest test is how we treat each other.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

One thing remains

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” - Matthew 24v35

“Nothing lasts forever,’ the old saying goes and in general that is true – nothing on earth will lasts forever. In fact, heaven and earth as we know them are all going to pass away one day. One thing however is not going to pass away – the word of God.

Everything that we tend to focus on is one day going to be gone. All of our possessions and resources are going to be wiped out. All the stuff that we call vital and important is going to gone. Only one thing is going to remain.

This lets us know that most of us really have our priorities mixed up. We spend most of our time and resources gathering stuff that is going to pass away one day. Would we not be much better off spending our time and resources on the one thing that is not going to pass away?

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

White-washed sepulchres

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” - Matthew 23v27-28

The only group that Jesus really ever attacked harshly was the Pharisees. These men had taken godly principles and created a self-serving, proud, arrogant, superficial, hypocritical, tradition based religious practice which fed their egos and never forced them to deal with attitudes of the heart.

Jesus used and amazing illustration to picture this truth. He said they had simply white-washed tombs which still were full of dead man’s bones and rotting filth. The outside looked amazing, clean, bright, and sparkling. They took care to make sure that everything looked right, but they never dealt with their own personal private lives. This sin was the one that incurred Jesus wrath.

The tragedy is that the sin did not stop there. One song writer puts it this way, sometimes it seems that “the church isn’t anything more than the second coming of the Pharisees, scrubbing each other till their tombs are white, with epitaphs of piety,” (Andrew Peterson – “Come Lord Jesus”) while never dealing with issues that really count – the issues of the heart.

Jesus said at the end of this section something along the lines of “If you take care of the inside, the outside will sort itself out.”

Lord, help me to never be guilty of this horrible attitude which gives other the view that I am all nice and clean on the outside, while my inside is full of dead man’s bones. May my outside reflect an inner holiness and true Biblical piety.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Humility and titles

Humility and titles

“But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.” - Matthew 23v8-10

For centuries, at least, it appears that spiritual leaders have a tendency to get hung up with titles. “Doctor This,” and “Reverend That,” can be things that they almost demand by virtue of their office. It can really get silly at times. At one time I was on Dell’s mailing list as “The Most High and Esteemed Reverend Doctor Roger Parrow!”

As silly as that is, even in our circles we can get caught in the same trap. Honorary doctorates and then being called “Doctor” and the insistence on being called “Pastor So and So,” permeate our culture.

There is nothing wrong with showing respect to spiritual leaders. In fact the Bible tells us that we should do so. The matter comes down to what is in the heart of the one bearing the title. If he expects or demands that people use a title for him it appears that he is missing something according to this passage.

We are all the same in God’s sight. The greatest is the most humble. The true test of leadership is not wearing a title, but showing a spirit of meekness and humility

Monday, 14 May 2007

The two great commandments

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” - Matthew 22v36-39

The Pharisees were still trying to trip Jesus up. One of them thought as sure way to do that was to ask Him which was the greatest commandment. Surely He could not answer this in a way that would keep Him out of controversy.

Jesus answer must have stunned them – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbour as yourself.” Short, sweet, and to the point. He didn’t teach any great theology, He didn’t get involved in the debate. He just drove the point home. He then said that all of the Old Testament hung on these two commandments.

The Pharisees the law was harsh, legalistic, and demanding. Jesus made it simple. It really is all about love – love for God and love for others. If we could ever cop on to this on our own lives everything else would fall into place.

I realise that there is a lot more to Christian life than just loving God and each other, but if we could just sort that out we would be well on our way.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Which one does the Father’s will?

“Jesus now had them ready for the spiritual lesson He had for them. But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him..” - Matthew 21v28-31

After Jesus’ amazing triumphal entry into Jerusalem the Pharisees and other religious leaders realised that that they had a dilemma on their hands. The masses were turning to Him and they feared His new teaching so they set out to trick Him. They asked Him plainly first if His works were from God or man. He turned things around by asking them a question which confused them so He asked them another. “A man has two sons and both are to work in the field. One says he won’t, but does; the other says he will but doesn’t. Which one is doing the father’s will?” The answer was so obvious that they thought they couldn’t get this one wrong – “The one who worked,” was their reply.

Jesus now had them ready for the spiritual lesson He had for them. These men thought that they were the spiritual ones. Yet Jesus told them that the tax collectors and harlots who had turned to Christ were the ones who please God. Why? Because the Pharisees said that they followed righteousness but didn’t. The tax collectors and Pharisees acted like they would never follow God, but did. Who pleased God? The answer was as obvious to them as the previous question, even if they would not admit it.

God doesn’t want our words and platitudes. He wants our actions as we turn to and follow Him. The choice should be clear. What do we do with it?

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Serving leadership

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” - Matthew 20v27-28

The world measures greatness in a whole different way than Jesus did. The world says that greatness is marked by dominate leadership. Great leaders in the world’s eyes are strong, domineering figures. They are marked by their ability to lead and move men.

The disciples still did not cop on to what Jesus was doing. James and John’s mom came to ask if her boys could sit on Jesus’ right and left hands when He set up His kingdom. The others were upset about this power play and Jesus had to address the issue. He chose this time to tell them about true leadership.

“You want to be great, fellas? Jesus asked them, “then be a slave.” “You want to be a leader? Then serve.” He had the power and the authority to say this because although He was the greatest Man Who ever lived, He was also the greatest servant!

What an amazing lesson for us! We don’t have the pressure of trying to be great –all we have to do is serve.

Oh that I could learn to be a servant leader!

Friday, 11 May 2007

The last and the first

“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” - Matthew 19v30

We often like to talk about the great paradoxes in scripture. One that we talk about quite often is the idea that if we are last here on earth we can take confidence that when we get to heaven we will be first and all those who seem to have it first now will be last. Sounds great, and in some ways it appeals to our pride. The thing is, at least here in Matthew, it doesn’t fit the context.

The parable attached to this is the one of the labourers who start work at various times of the day. At the end of the day, all are paid the same. Those who worked all day re paid the same as those who only worked an hour. When they complained the manager told them that they had no reason to complain – they got what they were contracted to do. The last and the first were paid the same, there was no difference in rewards.

Now, we know that the Lord has rewards for our labour on earth. Various crowns are promised. The joyous thing is though that these will be cast and Jesus’ feet and then we will all be the same.

Heaven is going to be the great leveller. All those who are saved are going to be the same, there will be no difference between the first and the last, the eternal rewards will be the same.

Praise the Lord for levelling it all out in eternity.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

With God nothing is impossible

“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” - Matthew 19v26

It appears that one of the most difficult things to happen in life today is for a rich person to be saved. One day while Jesus was teaching a rich ruler approached Him about being saved and entering God’s kingdom. Jesus knew his heart so knew that was the place to test him. He told the man that he needed to keep the commandments. As hard as it is to believe, he said that he had kept them since his youth. The next test hit home, “Okay, sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” He couldn’t do this and walked away discouraged.

Jesus talked about how hard it was for a rich man to be saved because he depends on himself. The disciples commented on for a camel to fit through an eye of a needle was impossible, so did that mean that no rich man could be saved?

Jesus answered plainly and clearly – “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” While intended for this particular situation it does make a point that we ought to consider – nothing is impossible with God. Nothing is too hard for God, nothing strains Him to accomplish.

I am thankful that we have a God with no impossibilities!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Let the little children come to me

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 19v14

Jesus was obviously a busy man. Every place He went He had crowds following Him and religious leaders trying to trap Him. After a session of both of these happening A bunch of moms and dads brought some young children to Him to receive a blessing. The disciples tried to help Him by sending them away. After all, the Master was tired, and these were only children.

However, Jesus had a whole different attitude. “Let them bring the children to me,’ He said, “This is the kind of person who will inhabit the kingdom of heaven.” I don’t want to get into the theology of this incident, but instead to note a very important truth – Jesus always had time for children.

Sometimes we can think that children’s ministries are just an “add on” or a gap filler; something we just have to do because that is what we are expected to do. When a church begins to grow and develop we can think that the children’s work is juts a peripheral.

Jesus never took that attitude toward children. His attitude was more like a story I was heard when a person was asked if anyone was saved in a meeting. The reply was, “Yes, two and half people got saved.” “Oh, two adults and a child?” “No,” came the reply, “two children and an adult. The adult has already lived a good part of his life; the children have a whole life to live.”

God, give us a heart for children like Jesus has.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Seventy times seven

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” - Matthew 18v21-22

Good old Peter thought he really had it figured out. Jewish tradition held that forgiving someone three times was more than enough. So he asked Jesus what appeared to be a very spiritual question, “Lord, should we forgive someone seven times?”

Jesus must have surprised him when He said, not seven times, but seventy times seven times. That of course doesn’t mean that we count to 490 and then stop forgiving, but that we must continue to forgive over and over and over.

Now we might be tempted to say something like, “Well, that just lest people take advantage of me.” In reality we must ask ourselves if that really matters.” Do we see it as taking advantage of God when we keep going back to the same sins and going to God for forgiveness? When we think of how much God has forgiven us, is seventy times sever really so unreasonable?

Monday, 7 May 2007

The ninety and nine

“How think ye? if a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” - Matthew 18v12

This is a marvellous illustration from Scripture and it has a couple of principles. First is the basic principle that God cares about individuals. Every person is important to God and He cares about every one. Jesus gave His life for all men and for every man. Praise God for His care for all.

In this specific context however He is talking about His own sheep, those who are already bought and paid for. In this story we read about a shepherd who has 100 sheep and 99 of them are already and safe and accounted for. Yet one of the sheep is missing. That one is so valuable that the shepherd will leave the rest in the fold and go out to look for the wandering one. What a blessing to know that every one of Jesus’ sheep is important to Him. When we wander away He still cares and the blessing is that not only does He care and wait for us, but He will go out into the hills to find us.

Praise God that Jesus cares about the one, and that He cares about me as much as the ninety and nine.

Sunday, 6 May 2007


“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 18v4

The disciples, like us, really never copped on to what following Christ was all about. They were fully expecting Jesus to set up His kingdom on earth and they thought that they would surely be His cabinet.

One day they asked Jesus, “Who is going to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It must have shocked them when Jesus drew a child to Him and said, “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is one who is as humble as this child.”

The greatest are, in reality, those who put have the humility to trust Him completely. Absolute trust requires absolute humility and children are the perfect example of that. It is child-faith that allows our child to not fret about the bills, food on the table, or how to get through difficult times. Our children have he humility to just trust. The greatest test of how we are doing in God’s kingdom is our ability to trust Him.

Can we, like children, have the child-faith humility that lets us know that we can trust God no matter what, no matter how hard it gets, no matter what we can see? Child-faith is never easy, because we are so proud that we think we know what is best.

Oh God, give me child-faith from a heart of humility.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

The extra mile

“Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.” - Matthew 17v27

Sometimes we can be guilty of trying to get by with as little as we can when it comes to dealing with people. We do what is required when it comes to dealing with authorities, but usually that is about it. We may try to cut corners on our tax, take advantage of loop-holes and otherwise just do the minimum we can.

Jesus set a whole different example for us. One day the men who collected the temple tax came by to ask Peter if Jesus was going to pay the tax. When Peter went to Jesus He pointed out that no father would ever tax his son in an earthly kingdom, so there was no reason to pay the tax. However, Jesus did not seek to take advantage of any loop-holes or clauses. He told Peter, so as to not offend the authorities they would go ahead and pay the tax.

Christians should be above board when it comes to dealing with authorities. While we are to be wise stewards and not wasteful, at the same time, if we do what is right God will provide, just as He did when He provided the coin in the fish’s mouth.

Friday, 4 May 2007


I have to take a break from the regular reflections today. One of my great heroes of the faith, Dr Lee Roberson, went to be with the Lord this week. Dr Roberson was the long time pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church and the founder and long time president of Tennessee Temple Schools. I attended Tennessee Temple from 1976-1983. I met Mary there and Matt and Jay were born there. These were foundation years in my family and they set a lot of the groundwork for the man I am today.

It was during this time that the Lord directed our hearts to missions. Dr Roberson and his faithfulness to do what God called him to play a large role in who I am. He was a consistent example of faithfulness and balance. He was a true Christian gentleman. I remember hearing things like,”; “everything rises and falls on leadership,”; “die to self,”; “straight down the line,” and simply “don’t quit.”

Last night I listened to a short challenge that he preached on His 97th birthday. Amazingly the message was the same, “Don’t give up…the world is full of quitters…stay at the work…don’t give up.” By the grace of God may I stay as faithful as Dr Roberson did for all those years.

Devotions today were from Matthew 17 where Jesus said that certain things don’t happen but by prayer and fasting. Praise God for using this in our lives about a year ago to teach us the important lessons about fasting and how it can draw us closer to God and His will and work.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Gaining the whole world

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” - Matthew 16v26

We live in a day when its seems that everyone is out for a profit. Everything seems to be all about getting. Christians are not by any means immune to this trap. We can be so consumed with our pursuit of riches and things that we can forget why we are here.

Jesus said that a true disciple is not like this at all. A true disciple is willing to lay down his own life, take up a cross like Jesus did, and follow Him. Romans 12v1 reminds us of this; “…submit your bodies a living sacrifice…” Following Christ is not cheap and it is not always easy. Here Jesus said it involves carrying a cross. That doesn’t exactly give the picture of an easy walk does it?

Is it worth it? Is it worth laying down our lives to carry a cross? What is the alternative? The alternative is to try and gain the whole world, but what good is that if we sacrifice our heart and soul that should be dedicated to Him. The whole world isn’t worth it, but Jesus is. As Fernando Ortega sings:


Wednesday, 2 May 2007

The gates of Hell shall not prevail

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” - Matthew 16v18

There are times in our lives and ministries when it seems like we are fighting and unwinable battle. The world seems so big and powerful and we seem to small and insignificant. The church fights and struggles and Satan seems to be having a heyday with us. Looking at these things it would be easy to think that we are in a losing battle.

Yet we have this precious and amazing promise – the very gates of hell will not prevail against His church. The church is His body – it will withstand everything that Satan can throw up against it. Praise God that we have this supreme confidence. Let us march forward with confidence!

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Where will we get the food?

“And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” - Matthew 15v33

There were times in Jesus’ ministry when He called the disciples “ye of little faith.” That may appear to be a little rough, but, in our terminology, one could hardly blame Him. In this case Jesus and the disciples had 4000+ people travelling with Him and listening to His teachings. After three days Jesus took pity on them and decided to feed them. When He told His disciples they asked Him, “Where are we going to get the food to feed all these people?” Why is this a bad question? Because just a short time before they had watched Jesus use just a few loves and fishes to feed an even bigger crowd! How could they watch Him do it once, be involved in the serving, watching the food last and last, and still wonder where the food came from?

Now, before we get too harsh with them lets think about ourselves instead of them. How often do we doubt God’s ability to do something for us? How often have we watched God meet a need and the next time a need arises we wonder how God is going to do it this time? Far too often we ask our own version of, “where will we get the food?” even after we have seen Him provide.

How strong is our own faith?