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Devotions
Thursday, 30 November 2017

"Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' they were indignant and said to Him, 'Do you hear what these are saying?' And Jesus said to them, 'Yes, have you never read, Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have perfected praise?'"

Jesus has just turned the tables and sent the money vultures scattering. He cleans out the temple of it's abuse and distortion of worship. Then He brings the blind and lame into the temple grounds. They normally were on the outside, not available to go in, not available to get too close for they were seen as outcasts and unclean. So after the moneychangers are out, Jesus brings the forgotten and outcast in and healed them. He reveals that not only is He King over the temple, but also King over disease. He has the power to heal and change physical limitations. Most importantly, the healing that happens is only a foreshadowing and awakening to what He does in healing a sinful heart that can love God. 

The chief priests and scribes missed the point of hte temple's presence. It was not meant to be an exclusive group of elites where only qualified Jews were available to enter in. It was meant for all peoples to come and worship God. It was meant to be inclusive according to God's prescription of sacrific, atonement, and worship. The temple was supposed to go out and reach and help the blind and the lame, not turn them away, not forget they existed, not let them beg everyday at the gate for something. Jesus then has a serenade of children singing his praises. Children just love to sing. Often for most of us, we shy away from singing as we get older, for fear that our voices are not good enough or that others will not want to hear our terrible voices. But children don't care. I love to hear children sing. I believe God loves to hear children sing His praises. We know that these chief priests and scribes didn't like children to sing. Their problem was who they were singing to.

Understand that these religious figures found it blasphemous to praise any human being as God. That was the core of their struggle with Jesus. They didn't believe He was the Messiah, therefore, didn't believe it was good to sing his praises. They were also jealous as well of the attention and power of Jesus. So when Jesus rebukes them we understand that He is the one who has authority over all people, both young and old, rich and poor, and of all colors and backgrounds. He is rightfully receiving what is due Him for He is the King of Kings, the Savior for all people, the Son of God, the Son of Man! 

What we have here in this picture of Jesus at the temple healing the sick and receiving the praises of children is a future scene in heaven. For in heaven, there is no sickness, no disease, no pain, no hurt and there is constant praising of Jesus Christ, constant worship and singing of His greatness. All peoples will one day recognize and praise the name of Jesus. This day, come to Jesus. Sing his praises! Shout His great salvation! Know the healing He brings to your heart! Prepare yourself for the future, where one day you, for those in Christ, will join the chorus and peoples in singing His praises, like we are children again. We will sing with all our might and strength. Are you ready for that? 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 08:52 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 29 November 2017

"Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of thos who sold doves. And He said to them, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.'" 

The temple of God had always been made to be a place of worship for all nations and all peoples. It was not just for the Jews. There was the outer court where the Gentiles, non-Jews, could go and place sacrifices and pray. Yet, in this incident, there was no praying and no acccess to worship. The local business seeing an opportunity to make more money from the large amount of visitors into the city were using it a get rich place at God's temple. They were overcharging for animals, finding every little thing to put cost upon, and taking advantage of people who had come to pray at God's house. 

So when Jesus comes into the scene, you can picture it. He looks around and sees this abuse of God's house, this restriction to prayer, this financial gain at the expense of worship and it just fires him up. His righteous anger boils over and he just cleans house. He flips the tables and sends the money all over the ground. He sends out of his presence these money changers from the temple grounds. And then He takes the moment to declare the truth, "My house will be a house of prayer." This from Isaiah 56:7 where God's house is called to be a place for all peoples to come and pray and hear from God. It was to be a place where worship of every nation, tribe, and tongue gathered to praise the one True God. Sadly, these money changers were preventing the nations from praying and taking advantage of them instead. 

Then Jesus mentions how it has been made into a den of thieves. This from Jeremiah 7:10, where God disciplines His people for offering ritual sacrifices while living in total disobedience to Him. God's people were offering worship in Jeremiah's day, yet they did not behave in obedience to God. Jesus entered the same situation and correction had to be done. Why was Jesus capable to do this? Because He is the authority over the temple. He is greater than the temple, as outlived and endured and replaced the temple. He is the Lord over the church, the temple, and all worship. He has the right at any given time to come and exercise His authority as He sees fit. 

This causes us to think today. Have we made our temples a den of thieves? Remember we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, our bodies house the very Spirit of God. We turn it from prayer and peace and worship to a den of thieves when we live in disobedience to God. It is not just stealing, it is any form of sinful disobedience and then come and attempt to worship and praise God as if nothing is wrong. Understand that we also cannot reach all peoples, love all peoples, and care for all peoples if we are not walking in right fellowship with God. Maybe today Jesus needs to come and flip the tables in your heart. Maybe he needs to come and drive out the selfish and prideful and sinfulness in your life. A true believer and follower of Jesus Christ will not deny him authority to cleanse your temple! 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 09:11 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 28 November 2017

I am constantly amazed at the amount of traffic and preparation it takes for a President of the United States to come to an area. There is logistics, traffic flow, traffic redirection, security measures, and more needed to make sure he is safe and protected during a visit. At the same time, I do appreciate the videos of when our President travels abroad into other nations and their reception at the airport and the government buildings for him. In President Trump's recent trip to China, there was great crowds of people gathered to greet him as he came off planes, entered their capitol buildings, and was among their cities. This is a great show of respect for the office, a high regard for the leader of the United States, and a great example of human spirit. 

The familiar story of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem is upon us here. There are so many wonderful truths and aspects to our worship of King Jesus in this story. It is not just a story for Palm Sunday, it is a powerful reminder of our own response to the True King. The people of Jerusalem, at this time, near Passover, was in the thousands. The city was bustling with activity and commerce. Jesus was entering the city, the last week of his life on the earth, and also here revealing that He is the Messiah, the Promised One. 

Let us continue to remember that Jesus didn't just come for the Jews at this time, but for the whole world. He is the divine King, the One who knows all. He is the prophesied King, the one who was foretold about, even this episode of riding on a colt from Zechariah. He is the righteous King, He is good, perfect, and just. He is the savior King, to which they cried out "Hosanna." He is the gentle King, as he did not ride into town on a fancy horse, but a humble donkey, a representation of his willingness to be crucified for our salvation. He is the peaceful King, to which the donkey ride speaks to as well. Kings going into battle used horses. When they rode in peace, it was on a donkey. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He will bring peace between God and man through His sacrifice. He is the global King, as He will rule and reign over all to which He died for, the whole world. His salvation is good news for all people across the globe. He is the Messianic King, the Son of David, the one promised to come from the line of treasured former king who was going to save them. They didn't understand the how but they did know the who. He is the compassionate King, who wept as he saw the crowds, the sinners before his eyes, the ones who will soon change their cheering to mocking, their celebrating to condeming the Messiah. 

I am often reminded in this story everytime I read it of how I see Jesus as my King. Do I recognize all these attributes of Jesus in my life? Do I praise Him for being divine, righteous, and of peace? Do I give Him enough attention and recognition for His gentleness, His humility? Do I only focus on the Savior King and miss the global call for me to tell others about him? Take a moment today and visualize what you would do if you were in that crowd. Would you be praising and worshipping with palm branches? Would be concerned someone might tell the temple authorities on you if they catch you participating? How do you praise Jesus as the King of all Kings, and the Lord of all Lords? 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 08:27 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 27 November 2017

Have you ever been looking for something when it is right in front of your face? There is a sense of frustration that you know its there, it has to be there, and yet, you cannot seem to locate it. There is also the heightened anxiety of missing something that everyone else sees. I can still remember driving with my family and seeing one of the largest and biggest rainbows in the sky. My youngest in the back of the van did not have the easy access to see it. We said, "Look!" He said, "Where, I don't see it. I don't see it." To which then led to a panic of emotions that he would miss it while everyone else enjoyed it. The struggle to see is real folks. 

It is even more real to those who cannot see anything. Those that are blind from birth or by some accident or failing eyesight cannot see anything. Light is just a blur and mostly darkness is their constant vision. One thing about being blind and not being able to see is how desperate and dependent you have to be on other people. You need people to lead you, to guide you, to help you so that you will not bump into things, run into things, fall down and get hurt. You don't know really where you are going and need some sense of direction. 

In the story today from Matthew 20, Jesus is exiting Jericho and two blind men sitting by the road shout at Jesus, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!" The crowd told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the more louder, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!"

Jesus calls them and asks, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They answered, "Lord that our eyes may be opened." Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately their eyes received sight and they followed Jesus. 

This great story is parallel to the Bartimeaus one and is likely the same. Here there are two. Bart, I like to call him, was the vocal of the two. The healing here reveals great lessons for us to consider today. We need the mercy of Jesus! We must realize that we cannot do anything good, anything worthy, anything positive, anything eternal, anything to earn our own salvation. We need Jesus! This is what the blind men knew. Their state was low and helpless. They knew the only person in all the world who could help them was Jesus. So they cried out and begged for His attention. He responded to their request for sight and they received it. 

For everyone in the world, this is where we must be to find salvation. We humbly bow and confess that only Jesus can save me. For every Christian who already believes, this same attitude and plea is for our daily living. We cannot live on our own power, we need the mercy of Jesus today. 

Let us not just confess the need for mercy, but let us also believe that Jesus has the power to give it and do the miraculous. We must believe and trust that God can do what He says He can do. These blind men trusted that Jesus could heal them and would heal them. So when He touched their eyes, they were opened and where they were once blind, now they could see. They praised God and followed Jesus. Notice that point. They didn't run and live life on their own accord now free from the hindrance of blindness. They became followers of Jesus Christ, giving their lives to Him and His service, thankful for what Jesus had done for them. Be mindful today, that you cannot gain anything of eternal value on your own. It is all based on God's mercy. So let us, turn our eyes toward heaven, raise our hands to the sky and plead with all conviction and desire, "Lord, have mercy on me! Help me to see You today!"

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 09:56 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 24 November 2017

Why did Jesus come to earth? Verse 28 of Matthew 20 reveals the purpose: "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." 

Jesus didn't come just to give moral principles. Jesus didn't come just to show off some power in some miracles. Jesus didn't come so that He could be some religious guru to be the face of a new religion. Jesus came to ransom His life so that all who come through Him might be saved. Here he gives this truth to His disciples when the mother of James and John seek to have her boys favored over the others and seated at both of Jesus' sides. Of course, this not only created division among the sons, James and John, but also upset the other 10 disciples. Nothing divides a group of men faster than one or two seeking to gain all the glory. So Jesus then with this one statement in verse 28 deals with these prideful disciples. They show us a few things about Jesus and what He teaches us and the disciples in just this one verse. 

Jesus came to suffer. He calls Himself the Son of Man, the special and unique way in which He identifies with us as a man. So that by this he can sympathize with us in our suffering and be qualified as a sacrificial substitute for sinners. Jesus came to save. He gives His life as a ransom for many. Ransom here is the payment made to release someone from slavery. Because we are slaves to sin, self, and death, Jesus came to give His life as a payment that we might be go free and live. Jesus came to be our substitute. He came to take our place. He came to die our death. He came to not to show just His love for you, but He died instead of you. Jesus came to show us how to live. Jesus did not lord his authority over people, instead modeled a different kind of leadership. He model a selfless living that did good for others. It was not about one's own reputation but God's glory. The key here is loving people by serving them. Jesus came to serve us. Consider the greatest man of all time, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Bright Morning Star, the Son of God, the Lord of all Creation, came down out of heaven to live in this sinfilled and rotten world in order to serve sinners like you and me. Preposterous! Unnatural! Inconceivable! These are the adjectives that come to mind when I think about it. He came to serve you. He came to help you. He came to wait on you. Jesus didn't exercise his supreme authority to make everyone bow down and do whatever he wanted. Instead, He is the one who deserves to be served and came to serve, fully in the sacrifice at the cross. 

So we then as His followers, those who have received His payment on our behalf, by grace, are to also serve others. Jesus has given us the model and we are to be empowered to follow His example through His power not our own. We are to serve others not for personal glory or fame, but for the glory of God and this exalts Jesus. For how we serve others will demonstrate the impact of His sacrifice for us. On Black Friday, a day of massive shopping, there will be times and places of impatience, anger, frustration, but times that also offer an opportunity to serve someone else. It is the chance to let the sacrifice of Christ on your behalf, the submission to Christ's authority, reign supreme and demonstrate how much Jesus means to you by serving someone else. 

Don't get caught up in being at the top. Instead, remember the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Serve one another for we have  been shown how by the greatest of all teachers, who fully embraced it through his own suffering and sacrifice on the cross so that both you and I can live and be free from the slavery of sin. Serve another in the name of Jesus! 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 07:28 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 23 November 2017

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I am thankful for the Pilgrims who risked life and death to cross the Atlantic ocean in order to come a new world where they could worship God freely. God's providence in their lives and the friendship with Squanto proved to be the great combination for their success in the colony. The changing of our founding history in this nation is such a disrespect to the truth of God's hand in giving His people a chance to worship Him freely and to spread the great Name of Jesus Christ. 

The great piece of gratefulness to us today is Jesus Christ. Without Him, we would still be lost. Without Him, we would still be slaves to our sin. Without Him, we would not have hope for eternity. So our greatest "blessing" to be thankful today is Jesus Christ. 

In this we find our portion of verses today that provide Jesus telling His disciples before they were going to enter Jerusalem what was going to happen. He tells them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up."

Again, very easy for us to notice and say of how much foreknowledge Jesus had. He was no simply man. He was not some ordinary guy who guessed it. As we recall Him telling Peter to go catch a fish that will have a coin in its mouth, so we see Jesus providing details about His upcoming death that reveal His divinity. The disciples were still not understanding fully yet what Jesus was teaching. It again was not about your pride or your prestige or your gaining the most in reward. It was still about the grace and mercy of God in salvatoin, a salvation that is completely provided by the sacrifice of His Son. Yes, we must see it and remember it and receive it. God has shown us the greatest act of mercy and offer of grace in His sacrifice of His only Son. To this Jesus was predicting how the week in Jerusalem is going to go. 

How would you like to know how your own week will go in extra details that are outside your normal routine? You will know what conflicts will arise, what struggles you will have, and emotional strains. Wouldn't that be nice? Jesus is telling his disciples these are the main and important events that are going to be happening. These are the events that will change everything. A sinless, perfect man will be set up and delivered by his own disciple to the religious authorities of His own people. They will take this man who has no real charges against Him and will send Him to the Gentiles, the enemy in such regard, who will punish and bruise and harm Him. They will hang an innocent man on a tree and crucify Him. But all is not lost! For Jesus again here predicts that salvation all will change in all the world physically, naturally, and spiritually when He is raised on the third day from the dead. 

Today let us all recognize and be thankful for all we have from the hand of God. Yet, all of this, our families, our homes, our health, our jobs, our churches, our blessings are all made possible because of Jesus. We have nothing without Him. We are nothing without Him. In Christ alone, my hope is found. In Christ alone, I have all things. In Christ alone, I have every spiritual blessing. Let us thank God abundantly today as we gather around food and family for the greatest gift He ever gave in His mercy and grace to us, the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Praise and Honor to Him! Thank you Jesus! 

If you get the chance to read this post today, just comment on what you are thankful that Jesus has blessed you with:)

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 08:37 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 22 November 2017

In this passage we have Jesus teach the truth of the first shall be last and the last shall be first. He uses the parable of workers in a vineyard. The parable is quite simple to follow, the workers who were first hired, and thus worked longer than the rest, complained about those who had been hired last. The workers hired at the eleventh hour only had to work one hour and were paid the same as the ones who worked all day. 

On the surface we see how unfair this is. Even in our own workplaces, we too would complain and become angry if we too worked all day or worked in tenure longer than a new hire and is given the same pay. This would be an injustice as well to us. But this is not the meaning of the parable. Jesus is speaking of spiritual truth and salvation reality. Two impactful truths emerge here. 

One, God's grace is surprising. The truth is, God's grace on the surface is unfair. It truly does surpass normal expectations. Normal thought would be that God's grace would come and benefit the "first," those who prove their goodness and righteousness. To this, man deems this is "fair" and right like the proper pay for the workers who slaved all day. Their pay was just and right. Except, this is not how God's grace works, thankfully. Instead, God's grace is not fair. It is full of God's mercy. How amazing is this grace that we do not receive proper justice for our crimes, our sins, our unrighteousness. In fact, the true and fair justice is punishment in Hell. But instead, God does what we would never expect according to what we could never earn. You see God doesn't owe us salvation for something we have done; intead He gives us salvation despite everything we have done. It is therefore a free gift of divine mercy and grace based not on human work or merit. Truth is, grace tells us that God owes us nothing, yet He gives us everything in Christ. 

Two, God's grace is sovereign. Just as the vineyard owner had all rights to pay what he wanted to who he wanted, so does God have the right to judge and the right to show forgiveness to who he wants. He then has no obligation to give forgiveness to us sinners. He is sovereign and instead of judgment he dispenses mercy. This is good news to us who cannot save ourselves. Our only hope and only way to find salvation is because of God's mercy. God even in his dispensing of mercy is fair for He gives it to all people. For all sinners need mercy. God is not selective, for all people can find salvation through Jesus Christ. So therefore, though His justice and wrath is deserved upon all who do not measure up to His standards, He also gives mercy and grace to all who come to Jesus. 

How great is this truth today! Live this Thanksgiving week, not only thankful for God's eternal life, but also for the greatness of God's grace and mercy that extends to us mercy when we truly deserve punishment. Be thankful for salvation, for God's grace, for God's mercy, and Jesus Christ who brings us salvation! 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 09:08 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The human spirit is drawn to reward. What do we do as parents to influence our children to behave or do something? We bribe them with a reward of something. For many people, this drive for rewards means that we will win at all costs, use who we have to get it, and cheat if necessary in order to win. To be rewarded is not a bad thing, but it can be. Being rewarded gives us something to reach for, to feel appreciated for, to be recognized for, and to live for in the future. 

The Bible tells us there are rewards in the next life. There are certain gifts and acknowledgements of reward that God will give to His faithful saints and servants. The disciples were still thinking about the rich man who turned down eternal life because he would not give up his prized possession and treasures. Peter asks Jesus, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?" The question poses to Jesus, what will we get since we have left everything for you. Peter is thinking, I left my occupation, my home, my family to follow you, what do we get? Even though, the thought is selfish, it does show in Jesus' response that real treasure and real lasting reward is not of this world. 

Jesus says, "Truly I say to you, that you have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My Name's sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first."

The reward for the faithful disciples of Christ who are wiling to forfeit this world's possesions and rewards for the salvation promise of heaven will be greater. There is the promise to rule and lead in power over others. There is the promise to every believer who leaves behind the things of this world, the attachment to family and things for Christ, will be give much more than double. You know, something to consider this week for Thanksgiving, to remember and keep in our thoughts: to inherit eternal life is the greatest reward of all. To know you will live with God forever, that you will spend eternity in heaven with Christ is better than any reward this world has to offer. It is better than all the accolades. It is better than all the achievements. It is better than all the money and riches. It is better than global recognition. To have eternal life is truly better and greater than anything this world has to offer. It is the one thing that the world cannot produce and the world cannot match. To this we are thankful and grateful. To this we are truly mindful of God's greatness in providing salvation to overcome this world. 

So to this we hear that the first will be last and the last will be first. It is that we must be humble and fully surrender to Christ, to submit to His lordship over our lives in which we shall be rewarded the most. The thing about heaven is because it is sinless, it emphasizes the opposite of this world. Humility, not pride is encouraged. Surrender, not strength is evidenced. And to this we pray as Jesus taught us, "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." We are to reveal heavenly character in our lives and actions with eternal life and divine expressions. Do not seek the reward of the world, the accolades and praise of this world from man, instead rest and be content in the promise of eternal life and be faithful to surrender to Christ for His shall reward His followers accordingly.

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 08:27 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 20 November 2017

Today, as we enter the Thanksgiving week, let us all take the heart the story of the rich young ruler. He comes to Jesus and asks the most important question of all time for every person: "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?"

We are always driven to prove we are good. We are always desirous of having something to show for how good we think we are. This is the question every person asks. Yet, it is the wrong question. Jesus responds with downplaying his false idea of goodness. He pierces his heart with an assurance that there is only One who is good (oddly the man was looking right at him) and tells him if he seeks to enter into eternal life, keep the commandments. Notice the rich ruler asked to obtain eternal life. Jesus told him if he wanted to enter into eternal life. A little detail to prove the point. The ruler wanted to earn it and Jesus reveals it cannot be earned, but entered. 

When the ruler presses for which commands are the most important, Jesus repeats a few and then the ruler spouts his own pride that he has kept these and wanted to know what else. To this Jesus challenged the heart of this man and his pride, "Go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come follow me." It wasn't about the commands outwardly but the heart inwardly. We can fake and show a lot of people that we are good people on the outside. But in the inside workings of our hearts, where the greed, the selfishness, the pride, the arrogance, the false belief that I am good and better than others around me the problem is exposed. Salvation and eternal life is not about outward deeds but about inward change. It is about surrender of everything we hold dear and trust in ourselves in order to place our faith and trust in Christ. 

Sadly, the young ruler chose to keep his possession instead of finding Jesus Christ and salvation. Jesus lets him go. For everyone has to personally and invidually grasp this for themselves. Jesus turns to teach his disciples with, "Truly, I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Jesus is not saying rich people can't be saved and rich people can't have property and stuff. It is just the truth that those who are poorer, having nothing more to lose, having nothing usuallly to start with and the appeal of Christ is much quicker. To the rich who could lose status, property, influence, popularity, and more the cost of salvation by laying it all aside for Christ is almost impossible. That is the point here. A camel will go through a tiny needle hole before rich people will give up everything for Jesus. 

Most importantly, when the disciples ask Jesus, "Then, who can be saved?" We are given the reminder that, "Wth men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Let this remind you today that man cannot save himself, it is impossible. You cannot keep enough commands, be good enough, rich enough, or religious enough to save yourself. It is impossible Jesus tells us. But thanks be to God that through God alone we can be saved. It is a gift of grace. It is a gift to which we do not earn, cannot boast in, gain favor for. It is a divine work that is only possible through the powerful hand of God. I cannot tell you how it all works, but I can tell you that God does it. Today be thankful and know the gift of grace in Jesus Christ. You are a changed creature in Christ. You no longer need the desire of possessions or outward religion to justify your life. You have Jesus, which means you have it all. 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 07:34 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 17 November 2017

"Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them. But Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.' And He laid His hands on them and departed from there."

Again we come across an episode with children and Jesus. Don't you just love Jesus with children? Can you picture how His face lit up and reacted when they came to Him? 

Very simply today, let me share that this is the same reaction Jesus still has, in fact how the Father Himself has, when His children, you and me, those who believe in Jesus Christ come to Him. He is desiring to hear our pleas. He is warmed to know that we need His care and want to talk about our days, and share about our lives. 

This biggest truth and lesson in this today is that Jesus receives the humble. A child is humble in knowing that they cannot do everything for themselves. They need another's help. They need Mom and Dad to fix the plate, put their clothes on, to drive them somewhere, to kiss their bumps and bruises. They need help. We are sinners, and we need help. We must humbly come and desire the touch of Jesus. We need even today the special caress of Jesus on our backs, on our heads that says, "Little one, I love you and everything is going to be ok." We should never forbid anyone of any race, color, background, or history to come to Jesus. He is calling. He is wanting them all to come. In fact, our dual role as believers is to come to Jesus ourselves daily and bring others to Him too. 

A simple reminder today that Jesus cares about you. Jesus loves you. Jesus wants to put His hands and arms around you. Jesus wants us to come as little children, humbly before Him, recognizing our need for help. In whatever you are facing and dealing with today, would you go to Jesus? Would you just come and sit on his lap? Would you come and rest at his feet? Just tell Jesus all about your troubles, all about your fears, all about your worries, all about your life that you cannot control and cannot help. Let Jesus bring comfort and peace to your heart today. 

 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 08:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 16 November 2017

In our world where marriage is skewed and not taken seriously, where promiscuity is almost championed by certain individuals, it is no wonder the world is lost. One of these areas is in how to be single. The shift has occurred from the 50s and 60s where marriage was a given and if you didn't marry by a certain age it seemed like something was wrong with you. To the place now, where more people in general put off getting married, choose to live together with another person in their younger years and often do not get married at all. We have more out wedlock children and failures to provide their parental responsiblities. 

This is the culture we are in. This is where we are and where the gospel of Jesus Christ needs to be. God has placed every believer, every church in this culture and in their respective community to display, to teach, to model, and to reach out with the gospel. We must teach the truth about marriage and God's design there. We must also teach the truth about singleness. 

Jesus does that here. The disciples respond back to His strong teaching on marriage and divorce with their extreme words, "If such is the case of hte man with his wife, it is better not to marry." Basically, if this is how hard it is going to be to stay married and not get divorced so easily as it is now, then it is better to stay single. What a cop out right? Times and thinking has not changed. We still say this to things. When we think something is not fair, not right, too hard, too difficult, requires too much work and effort, we also say, "Well then, I guess it's better to not try at all or do that at all. The extra effort is not worth it." This is laziness. You cannot be successfully married and be lazy. On the other hand, you cannot be a content and God-honoring single by being lazy as well. Being single is not a license to avoid commitment and avoid self-discipline. Jesus debunks that with His response, "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it." 

Jesus is not saying that being single is greater or better than being married. He is simply proving the point that whatever lot in life God has guided and ordained, you are to work at, in marriage to glorify God with one another, holding a high standard for longevity and commitment, and in singleness, for the kingdom of heaven glorify God with your works and service. Both require discipline, hard work, and commitment. Jesus is trying to teach the disciples and us as well that changing marital status is not always the answer. Getting divorced to be single again is not the answer. Staying away from marriage even though God has brought a special spouse into your life that you love and grow with just because you fear commitment and such is not the answer. It is about accepting God's call and direction in your life and serving Him in that state the best you can. Don't take shortcuts. Don't make excuses. It takes a lot of work to keep a marriage honoring to God and on solid ground. It takes a lot of work to avoid the temptations of singleness and live a Christ-honoring life before God. 

Whatever your lot and status today, do it all for the glory of God. Accept it, be thankful for it, pray for God's guidance and direction as you glorify Him in all you do and all your work both with your hands and in your relationships. 

 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 09:48 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 15 November 2017

It is hard to show just how terrible the impact of divorce has been on our culture. It has tore apart families and caused major pain and hurt for years to come. What is much more problematic for me is how it has become a lucrative business on its own. No fault divorces and custody cases are all done by lawyers taking the battle between spouses to the courthouse and exposing all kinds of questionable truth in order to win. It is really sick when we think about it. 

Divorce is not good. God in fact hates it. Divorce is damaging to parties involved and in the culture. So if we keep in mind our recent thoughts from Matthew 18 about the relationships in the church and apply them here in chapter 19 about divorce we come up with a whole new viewpoint that is not espoused today. 

To every believer reading today, we cannot ignore the issue of divorce in the church any longer. Because we have failed to "get into someone's elses business" we have not offered the proper and right place to deal with marital conflict, which is the church not the courthouse. That is the teaching of Jesus here. 

Pharisees try and set him up again with the question, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" The question is answered by our secular world today as yes. Online divorces, no fault divorces, irreconcilable differences are all used to file for divorce. But Jesus does not fall for their trap. Jesus answers and gives us a few truths to remember. God created marriage. Therefore since He created it, He alone should break it. Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 that a man is joined to his wife and the two shall become one. God defines it as a man and a woman. God designed marriage to be for life. The marriage relationship is a covenant that demonstrates to the world Christ's marriage covenant to His people. We are a reflection of the gospel relationship according to Ephesians 5:22-33. Since Christ will never discard His bride, the church, then we too should not discard one another in the marriage relationship. 

It also teaches us that God hates divorce. The Pharisees offer Jesus the Mosiac Law, (as if He didn't know it already), and He responds by telling them the allowances were made to address the hardness of the hearts of the people. It was not God's intent. Divorce is a result of sin. Marriage brings two sinners together as one. Divorce separates that understanding in some form or fashion. 

And God then regulates divorce. There are scriptural allowances for divorce. At the time of the first century, two common schools of thought espoused two different interpretations of Deuteronomy 24. One said that a man could divorce his wife if she had committed any type of immodest behavior or sexual immorality. The other believed divorce was possible whenever a wife did anything displeasing to her husband, which led to a spike in divorces at the time. Scripture indicates two grounds for divorce. One is adultery. We don't have time to unpack that today, but let's just say that in situations where adultery has happened, divorce is possible but not required. Jesus is not giving loopholes, but ways to reconcile. It is not to be the only option, but can be considered. The other allowance is abandonment in 1 Corinthians 7. This is when a believer and an unbeliever are together and the unbeliever cannot take it any more and leaves. The believer should not initiate divorce to find a believing spouse. 

The point today that I believer we need to apply is not let the courts be the first place and divorce be the first option on the table. We need a caring and intimate church fellowship so that when marriage struggles and conflicts arise that seem to be irreconcilable, the couples need to go to the church first. We need to love and comfort one another and speak the truth. We don't take sides but share truth. If we the church, regardless of our own marital status and histories, would practice loving church discipline and fellowship we may be able to save more marriages and strengthen the families in our churches for the glory of God and the spreading of the gospel. Also, let us consider how our own marriages are reflecting and sharing the gospel message of love, grace, and commitment. 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 09:38 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 14 November 2017

One of most necessary things in life to do for happiness is forgive others. One of the most difficult things in life to do is forgive others. Not that forgiving people in general the first few times is that hard. It is the multiple offenses that move us to maybe claim we forgive but we don't forget. We may forgive but we don't let it go. As that old saying goes, we often apply it to our relationships, "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." I won't let you do it to me again. Well, what does Jesus say? 

Here as we end chapter 18, we find Jesus' most poignant and penetrating teaching about forgiveness. Remember we are still talking about how we relate to one another in the church family. We are to love. We are to confront. We are to forgive. It was common in those days to hear the local rabbis teach that you are to forgive a brother for a repeated sin up to three times, after which there would be no more forgiveness. This is why Peter wants to sound super spiritual and offer to Jesus a question, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Peter was hoping for a big pat on the back, atta boy from Jesus. Yes, Peter, more than the rabbis teach and seven is a good number being God's perfect number. 

But Jesus pushes him even farther. He tells him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." The number is not the point, the heart is. So Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant who was pardoned from his own debt and then required another to pay him. Very easily, we need to remember two things today.

One, because of Christ we have been forgiven. Our debt for our sinfulness is too high. We have a price we owe God that cannot nor will not ever be repayed by our own power and resources. There is no price-tag for the limit is too high. "But Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow." It is out grace and compassion that God forgives ALL our sin, even the ones we keep repeating over and over again. God continues to forgive you and me more than the rabbis 3 time limit. Aren't you glad He does? Aren't you thankful today that God has forgiven your sin? That He has washed it away and not held it against you? 

Two, because we have been forgiven, we are commanded to forgive others. How ungrateful we are to not forgive others when God has forgiven us? Isn't this the message behind the Lord's prayer, "Forgive us as we have forgiven those who have trespassed against us?" Let me clearly say that the Bible is not saying it is easy to forgive or that it's natural to forgive, however it is Christian to forgive. A person who does not forgive cannot claim the indwelling of Christ in them. We are to forgive not because we have to, but because in love we are compelled to. 

To bring application to this day, let me remind our hearts that in our own strength and power we cannot forgive. We hold grudges. We seek revenge. We seek retaliation. We demand payment. But in Christ, by His grace and power, and under His authority we can forgive. This kind of forgiveness that seeks restoration and reconciliation is what SHOULD characterize the church. Yet, we must confess some of deepest of grudges and groups of people who harbor the most unforgiving spirits are in the church. God may it not be said of us. Who needs your forgiveness? Who needs to be offered grace? Who needs to be shown God's mercy from your hand? Be thankful Jesus forgives you all your sins. Now be purposeful to forgive others as you have been forgiven. 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 08:49 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 13 November 2017

Let's mention one of the most dreaded and fearful words in our day from inside the church: church discipline. (Gasp!) Yes, the concept has been mentioned many times, but who has ever seen it played out or been apart of it's use? I must confess and acknowledge that a couple of reasons why we don't use church discipline today is one, we have not done the previous steps correctly and try to jump to this one, and two, we don't trust Jesus for the power to work things out when we obey. 

Hear today what He said:

"And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax gatherer. Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered in My Name, there I am in their midst."

Remember our context here is the church and our relationships and fellowship with one another. As Jesus has told us to confront privately first of all of any offense or sin done against you. He then told us to go with a small group of two or three no more than five to confront the lack of confession and repentance. Now, with further defiance and rebellion, the final step is to bring them before the church. Rememeber the goal is about restoration. It is not about deliberate removal for other reasons. It is only and should always be about restoration for the fellowship and unity of the body. 

So I think we need to remember the promises Jesus gives us here so we don't misunderstand and abuse this great principle. He promises His authority. A similar language from Matthew 16 about the power of prayer and the church is there again in verse 18. In the authority of Jesus we can protect the purity of the church from unrepentent non-believers and believers and at the same time excercise forgiveness as well in the name of Jesus. Whatever we do in the name of Jesus on earth will be a reflection of what He does in heaven. So when we must discipline a unrepentant believer, we do so in the name of Jesus. He is the protector of the purity of the church and deal with sin in the church. He also promises His support. In verse 19, if we agree ab out any matter we pray for, the Father will do it. Don't abuse this verse and take it out of context as if we we just get another person to agree with us we can have anything. No, this is in the context of confronting sin. So we have the support of the Father in heaven when we gather together in unison to confront sin in the church. Jesus knows that church discipline is not easy and that we will be tempted to back out of doing it. So He is giving us His support to follow through. He also promises His presence. The most abused verse in all the Bible is in verse 20. We claim that if two or three believers are together at any place Jesus is there. Jesus is clearly referring to the work of two or three believers who have gathered together to address another living in unrepentant sin. He is telling us that in these situations I am with you. I am with you in power and authority. Jesus is always with us as a believer. When we are alone or together with other believers He is already there. But we need Him the most when we are confronting a believer who does not repent. We need His power and authority. We need His guidance to speak in love and gentleness. We need His hand to help us find a way to restoration. 

If we do the steps to confrontation Jesus way, then hopefully this one is to be avoided. But there will be times as Paul dealt with in 1 Corinthians 5 where larger church discipline will have to be done in order to emphazise the purity of the church and gather that unrepentant one's attention for the goal of restoration. Today, remember, we are called to confront, not judge. We are called to speak in gentleness and love, not criticism and revenge. Let's trust the promises of Jesus and protect the purity of the church by reaching out and restoring others for His Name's sake. 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 07:55 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 10 November 2017

I am convinced that in this current culture and context that the church needs to be more about restoration and relationship strengthening than religious zeal. There are plenty of causes that require and demand the church to stand its ground on. But there are plenty of other places where we, to our fault, get caught up in the fight that we divide ourselves even more. 

To this end, the church has to practice church discipline. Church discipline is not to keep everyone in line so to speak. Instead, it is protecting the purity of the church and at the same time showing care and concern for the family members. It is about reaching people and loving people. 

In the most concrete and powerful passage of Scripture in Matthew 18 about this, we find the second step before us today. The first step is private confrontation in love and humility. The second step is small group concern. 

"But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.'"

Let's be honest. Not everyone likes to be confronted or revealed their problems and sins. It is not surprising that Jesus requires another step. He knows the human heart. He knows we have pride issues. He knows we don't like to admit our wrongs or even be told them. Let's first understand that Jesus is not telling us to let it go. If he won't listen, then you expand the circle. You don't just let it go. You don't just overlook it and hope they get it one day. Their lives and the purity not only of the local church, but the global church is at stake. So Jesus uses the Old Testament requirement to bring charges against another you need witnesses to confirm this call to repentance. Two or three witnesses establish a fact. This in the court of law removes hearsay and distortion of the real truth. 

In this sense, adding two or three more to go and confront the defiant and unrepentant believer. These witnesses must be believers! They must be mature, gentle, loving, and understanding of keeping the situation and conversation private. This is not a gang up session that overwhelms them and puts them on defense. Remember the goal is forgiveness and restoration. It is not judgment time. It is not what else can I find out to hold over your head one day. It is not seeking vengeance or righting a previous wrong. You don't even have to involve the pastor or deacons at this point. You can if they are familiar with the situation. But others can be involved here beside the church leadership. 

The point is to show concern for another beleiver. It is not about destroying their life, unpacking all their previous sins, but seeking repentance and restoration for the primary issue. Take a small group making the total still less than five to show the wanderer he/she is cared about, concerned for, and confronted with humility and love. Don't give up on people so quickly. May we take the steps necessary and prepare our hearts for holy attitudes that seek to restore our family members. 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 07:51 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 09 November 2017

"And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother." 

It is much harder to confront someone face to face in private than to tell their problem to other people. Jesus is still teaching us to go against the natural. Remember, this chapter 18 is all about our treatment of one another in the family of God. We are to not only love one another, but part of that love is to correct and challenge others in their sinfulness. We must always start with a private conversation. Never begin by telling another person before you go to the main person involved. Jesus is teaching us that we are much better off when the circle is smallest. 

What we must be mindful of is that if we do talk about a brother or sister in a way that doesn't build them up in Christ then we ourselves are to be found in sin. We must guard and protect the character of our family. The more someone's sin and failures is known and talked about, the harder it can be to bring repentance and restoration. In other words, quit trying to private investigate someone's life and stuff and just go directly to them. If they won't tell you or talk about it, then pray for them and drop it. We have got to quit this assumption and research about people's lives instead of going to people first face to face in private. 

This conversation in private is not about demanding and judging. It is not the role of the church leadership as if they are the police force that has to handle and deal with every situation. No, we are talking about speaking in love, in truth, with concern and care for that person. Either they have sinned against you or is caught up in a sin that needs to be addressed. The goal is restoration and forgiveness. It is love that is willing to confront instead of letting them wander away. It is love that is willing to correct instead of festering bitterness and anger. Oh that we might find that 95% of the work of church discipline would be eliminated if this was always the first step. 

It is amazing how much things are done and result differently when we do them Jesus' way. 

One final thought today before we seek application. As much as Jesus is telling us to go in private to another believer over a situation, there is also a proper attitude that is willing to be confronted. We need love and compassion as we go to another. But we need the same understanding and humility when someone comes to us. Often we don't know how we have offended or hurt another person. We so often get caught up in our own worlds that we have no clue how that comment didn't go well, how that action did not get received well. So it is just as vital for us to be confronted ourselves. This makes the whole process of righting relationships and seeking forgiveness and restoration so much more successful. 

To this we are challenged today: Avoid the first impulse to gossip and make assumptions about people and why they did what they did to you. Take Jesus' advice. Go in private and ask. Do it out of love and concern and attempting to right the wrong in the relationship. Also, be humble, (as we have already seen in this chapter- like a child) and be approachable to be confronted about your sinful tendencies, your destruction and harm you have done in a relationship. Most of all today, forgive one another. Make restitution. Make peace. Grudges and gossip do nothing but tear down and rip apart. Love one another as we forgive and challenge each other to obey Christ in all things. 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 08:29 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 08 November 2017

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost." 

There are not only people outside the church watching us, but the angels are too. I pray today that the thought of being watched in the heavenly realms will make you consider much more seriously how we treat and love one another. The usage of angels here is not to reveal a certain amount of angels for every believer. This is not a passage to cover the role of angels in our lives. Instead, Jesus is driving home a point about our love for one another. For if God the Father sends out angels to provide and protect for His children, for our lives, then how much more should we be loving and providing for one another's needs. We are not to despise another believer. We are not to look down on another believer. We are not to treat or threaten, or bully, or ignore, or disregard another believer. For God the Father does not do that to His children. He providentially meets our needs and sends the angels to do it. 

I can imagine the picture in heaven when believers are not loving one another. You don't have to be in some churches long to notice the indifference and hostility between certain groups of people. I can just picture God the Father being upset, disappointed in the way we conduct ourselves sometimes. I can now picture the angels looking back and forth between the Father's face and the events in the church. You can just imagine with me how they are waiting to see what the Father wants them to do. How sad is this! How disappointing it is for us to be unable to love as Jesus loves, to care and reach those who need our help the most, to truly love our family in Christ as we love our own blood. 

Jesus then shares the truth through a parable of the lost sheep. "What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish."

Often this parable is used to convey the idea of reaching those outside of Christ. In conjunction with Luke 15 and the prodigal son story that is not incorrect. But in this context, of relationships and love for one another in the family of Christ, it is not the main emphasis. Instead, Jesus is condemning us and challenging us to make sure that not one of these little ones perish. He is condemning us, as we are gulity today of doing, of spending so much time on the 99 that we don't even notice the one who wanders off. Remember the Bible compares us to sheep who have gone astray. We wander off easily from the faith, from God. We get distracted, hurt, and forgotten. If all we do is spend our time keeping the 99 happy, at peace with one another, we miss the heart of God which is to pursue the one who has got away. God is after them. God is not forgetting them. God is still trying to get their attention for He loves them and as a fellow brother or sister in Christ we must confess our selfish desires to be entertained and babysat in the church. This is destructive because we are spending all this time fighting and needing intervention while the wanderer, the one, gets farther away. So our challenge then is to forget about ourselves and reach out and grab the struggling the brother. Reach out and hold on to the straying sister. They are family and we should not want them to ever get reattached to the bondage of the Devil again. We need to get our heads out of the clouds about ourselves and our "health" of our churches. Our minds must be always looking for the lost and the wanderer. We are to be going out of our way to reach them so that we can rejoice with the angels in heaven as well as the Father when the wanderer, the stray sheep comes back home. This is the love that God wants to see from His children. He does not want us to be so infatuated with ourselves and how faithful and good we are, but to see those who are in need of love and restoration. 

Who comes to mind this very day that needs extra attention of God's love for they are disconnected from the family of God? 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 07:17 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 07 November 2017

Let's begin with this clear and strong word: God is serious about how we treat each other. Now not only is God serious about how we treat unbelievers, those who need to see the light of God, who need to see love of God toward them, but God is very serious about how His family members treat each other. 

This is the message in our verses: "And whoever welcomes one child like this in my Name welcomes Me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to fall away- it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses will inevitably come, but woe to that person by whom the offense comes."

As we covered yesterday, we are to be like children, to treat children properly and rightly, for God loves the little children. But this text is not about physical children. Jesus is using a physical example of a child to portray the spiritual truth of our relationship to the Father. We are children of God in Jesus Christ. In salvation, we are brought into the kingdom of God and the family of God. We are dubbed sons and daughters of the King. Therefore Jesus is nailing home a powerful point. When we welcome and receive a new Christian, a fellow brother and sister in Christ we are welcoming in the Name of Jesus. But to cause another member of the family to fall away, to lose faith, to stumble and fall into sin it is serious business. You could easily understand that Jesus is relaying a message from the Father: Don't bully other Christians. The fall away is to take advantage and hurt and put down another. That is bullying. That is when a Christian uses his power and influence to dictate and force his way, his agenda, his power over another. It happens more than you think. God cannot stand it. In fact, the warning speaks volumes to the seriousness God takes of this. It would be better for that bully Christian to have a heavy millstone or chain around his neck and drowned in the sea than to answer to God for his abuse of other Christians. 

Jesus also is serious about accountability. We are to be serious about others holiness and our own as well. Jesus knows we are sinners. But we should be doing all that way can to develop a fellowship of accountabiity with believers. We should not be leading them into sin and we should not let them continue to go into sin either. Just compare it to your own family. Most of us would not think of leading our little brother or sister into something bad. Most of us could not imagine leading on purpose our children into something dangerous and unhealthy. Why should we be so casual with our spiritual family? We need to be more serious to protect the purity and holiness of the church family. 

To do that we must be serious about our holiness. Jesus says here, "If your hand or your foot causes you to fall away, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to fall away, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire." 

Jesus is not saying we are to start cutting off body parts. This will not solve the root of sin which is in the heart. What He is telling us to do is be serious with extreme action against sin in our lives. Do not take a casual approach to it. Be serious about it. For this is a true statement: The more serious you are about other's holiness the more serious you will be about your own. Let us seek to treat one another in the love of God, equal sharers in the kingdom, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Let us also spur one another one to holy living, each doing their part to correct and challenge sinfulness in others lives while also doing what it takes to remove the tempations and sin from our own. 

The world is watching how we love. They don't care about your doctrine. They want to see how you love and treat one another. Will we love as God loves? 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 07:28 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 06 November 2017

Matthew 18 is one of the best sermons Jesus preached. This one in particular is all about the church. It is completely about everything the church needs to do and remember on the inside while an outside world is watching. Jesus was so concerned about the conflict and disunity among His disciples that He lays down some powerful keys to successful kingdom relationships. 

The opening four verses provide the entrance into the church of Jesus Christ. There is a question posed to Jesus by the disciples, "So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" No doubt there was some jealousy, some envy, some concern that certain disciples were being favored over others. Some probably felt Peter was being singled out as more special. He was the one mentioned in the promise about the church and its authority in Matthew 16. Peter was also on the mount for the transfiguration. John was there too, and we know that in the Gospel of John, he is referred as the one who was most intimate with Jesus. Jealousy for power and prestige are not qualities of the kingdom and they will not open the entrance into heaven either. 

This then leads to Jesus to use a physical child to represent a spiritual reality that will play out for the rest of the chapter. Jesus brings a child and says, "Truly I tell you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child- this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Being the greatest in this world is about power, achievement, money, popularity, how much you can buy and what you have done. We measure greatness by these outward ideals and goals. The disciples were thinking along the same lines for the heavenly kingdom. Yet, God does not see things this way. A few thoughts to remember from Jesus' words here:

God is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. There is no one greater than God. Jesus is the Son of God and He is above all. He has been given the Name above every name. In God's eternal place and kingdom, He rules and reigns. Everyone else who is allowed entrance into His kingdom will know that up front. He is the Boss. He is the King of Kings. Everyone else is just subjects. 

To become a citizen of the kingdom, you must become a child of the King. Jesus is clarifying how we enter the kingdom. It is by conversion, through faith, (the faith of a child) by God's grace. To become a child of the King, to be saved and converted, all must be humble and admit our sinfulness, and trust in the Father. We are to be humble of heart, not childish in our thinking. We are not to act like children in all things. We are to have hearts like children that have to trust in parents, other adults for things they cannot do for themselves. Every child quickly realizes their limitations in life. As they age and grow, they become more capable. But until adulthood, they are limited. This limitation is a key component to our reminder of salvation. We are restricted and greatly limited. We cannot do enough good to save ourselves. We cannot give enough, be great enough to warrant salvation from our sin. But in humility, child like faith, we trust in Jesus and we trust in the Father. We trust in Jesus' atonement and sacrifice and resurrection on our behalf. We trust in the Father's acceptance of Jesus' blood on our behalf and His promise to enter into His kingdom. 

The greatest is not about who looks the best, makes the most, has the most, has done the most. No the greatest in God's eyes is the one who humbles themselves in complete dependency on Jesus for salvation and sanctification. Who are you trying to impress? Who are you trying to get to notice you? Who are you trying to beat out for the top spot? Find humility of the heart. Lean on Jesus. Be a true child of the King! 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 07:07 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 03 November 2017

Can we all agree that we hate taxes? Even now, as tax reform is being debated and discussed in our nation's capitol it is an unpleasant topic. In the times of Jesus, taxes were terrible. The Roman government was forcing the Jewish people to pay excess taxes on everything they were making. There was a lot of poverty. On top of that, the temple was abusing their authority and forcing extra taxes and prices. We know how they were taking advantage of the patrons who came to Jerusalem to worship during Passover week and paid way too much for the animals to be sacrificed. 

Even here in this passage today, some temple authorities came to Peter and asked if Jesus paid the temple tax. The temple tax was a half-shekel tax that is equivalent to about two day's wages that was collected annually from every male over 20 for the upkeep of the temple. This was used to keep the temple facilities up to par and clean and in good shape. Jesus anticapates the question from Peter with His own, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?"

Peter answers correctly, "from strangers." Jesus then teaches a truth. He says, "Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you."

We first must understand that Jesus is clearly saying He doesn't have to pay the taxes. For kings do not take taxes from their own sons, so then Jesus as God's Son was exempt from the tax. He is the Son of the Most High. Jesus is already greater than the temple, has predicted its fall and destruction. He is the new Temple of God that will be ushered by His death and resurrection. But Jesus also knows how others will respond. It will not be favorable in trying to reach them if they avoid paying the tax. Jesus understood what we must continue to remember. To cause an offense that would prevent someone from believing in God is more damaging than arguing about the theological ramifications of your lack of following the law. It is then shameful for a Christian to not pay their taxes. You are to submit to the government authorities, and as much as you and I hate taxes, for they seem to increase and not decrease, we are called and commanded to be obedient to the law of the civil government. If that means pay this amount, then do so. Jesus did. He didn't even have to. He practically could have destroyed and built another temple if He wanted to. But He didn't. For the sake of gospel penetration and salvation presence, He sent Peter out to the Sea of Galilee to catch a fish. 

This means we also must understand Jesus' power as well. His humility in submitting to the taxes of the land and His power to perform a miracle again that is yet to come. It is not in the moment, but in future time. Peter is sent to the sea to cast a line and take the first fish that bites. That fish will have a piece of money, a shekel, that is to be used to pay the tax for two. Have you ever thought about the foreknowledge and preparation for such miracle. Jesus had to know that someone will drop a coin in the water, that a fish would put it in the mouth but not swallow it so that Peter could catch it. Do you realize how specific and amazing that is? Some of us sit around and fish and never get a bite. Yet, with all the fish in the water, (for we know there were plenty in the Sea of Galilee), it would be this one that would take the hook of Peter. 

Here let's before we end, commend the faith of Peter. This sounds ridiculous. Go hook a fish with a coin in it. Yea, ok. Don't think so. But He went and did it and found it to occur just as Jesus said. We must be good stewards of our finances, but we must honor our government authorities, regardless of how we feel about them, that is what the ballot box and prayer do. Those things change policy, not your going rogue and avoiding taxes, or paying fines, or trying to hide income from the government. That is stealing and not a good testimony before the world. Follow the model of Jesus. Even though we belong to a greater King who does not require our taxes, we must humbly submit to the laws of the land and pay our fair share for this is our way of keeping good testimony and opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 09:12 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 02 November 2017

None of us like to hear bad news. We cringe at the phone call of a family member's death. We dread the doctor report. But we definitely cannot take hearing of bad news that is yet to come. It is one thing to hear of something terrible after it has occurred. We are informed of another terrorist attack, of another shooting, of some car accident, and we know it's done. There is nothing that can change the event. But to hear of something bad happening before it even comes is a whole new ballgame. 

Here Jesus tells His disciples, "The Son of Man is about to betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up." 

Their response? They were exceedingly sorrowful. 

Jesus was again, for the second time now, predicting His death. He will be betrayed, by Judas, arrested and hung on the cross and die. Isn't it still true today that we don't always hear the whole story. It seems to me, they still missed it. They hear Jesus is going to die. They hear of His arrest at the hands of men. This can't be! He is Messiah! He is the Son of God! But that's where their ears stopped hearing. 

All throughout this chapter, we have noticed a glorified, majestic, and powerful Jesus. He was transfigured, He heals the sick, and now He is the suffering Savior. This points us to the vision to see the victory. Jesus will die at the hands of men, only by His own submission to the mission. He will be hanged on a tree. He will be buried in a tomb. But that will not be the end. What the disciples missed is what we forget all too often. We must keep our minds fresh with a crucified Christ. We must daily remember Jesus, the Savior, who went to the cross and died for my sin. He purchased my pardon. He took my place. 

But don't forget the best part. Jesus here tells the disciples He will be raised up on the third day. He will be resurrected and glorified. He will secure salvation for all who believe when He is raised from the dead. We serve today, this day, a Risen Savior! He is Risen! He brings to us victory over death and sin! We have that great experience to not only believe in His sacrifice, but also live in resurrection! 

The bad news was only temporary. The good news was better in the end. Jesus had to die. But He is alive for He is risen! The sorrow of His death would give way to the excitement and joy of His resurrection. Let us all who know Jesus, who believe in His sacrifice for us, who believe in His resurrection, live the good news that today there is Victory in Jesus! 

 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 08:13 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 01 November 2017

"You just have to have faith!" 

That is the expression we use all the time to encourage others to believe. We use it to encourage them to believe in something good that can happen. We use it to encourage ourselves to believe in the positive over the negative. With faith, we think we can alter the outcome or see a different ending. 

At any point in which faith becomes something we have drummed up in ourselves, a dependence on our will power, we are no longer practicing life changing faith. Anyone can have that kind of faith. But it is not Biblical faith. The faith that Jesus talks about is one where God is the source and the object. It has nothing to do with us. 

Here Jesus is confronted by a father who is concerned for his son. He is epileptic and suffering. He brought him to the disciples but they could not cure him. This is powerful because in chapter 10, Jesus sent the disciples out with authority to heal and do these miracles. Yet, in this situation, they could not. Why not? They lacked faith. It is not the lack of faith to even attempt the healing. They lacked the faith to trust God and let Him do the work. This is what Jesus told the disciples when they asked why they could not heal him. 

Jesus says, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to the mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." 

So we have to deduct that their lack of faith is in their unbelief. They doubted God's power. They doubted what God could do through them. Look at how much of genuine faith you need! All we need is of the mustard seed variety. We only need a little for God to do the impossible. Mountains can move, valleys can be raised, doors can be opened, healing can take place with just a small amount of faith. 

So what do we do with the phrase, "your faith is not big enough." Jesus is telling us that all the faith we need is a small amount. I don't neeed a certain size of faith, just enough to surrender my will to God and let Him move. Notice how this kind of faith comes. It is not passed down. It is not consistently present. It takes a conscious focus through prayer and fasting. 

Prayer and fasting are the vehicles to which faith is grown and strengthened. For when I fast, I must then surrender my appetite, my stomach, my desires to eat to God so that I may find Him to speak and be my "food." When I pray, I must surrender my will, my desires, my dreams, my aspirations, my opinions to the One above all. For as I bow and pray, I recognize my place before a Great and Mighty God, my insignificance to His majesty, and I in faith approach not on my own merit but only by the blood of Jesus Christ. 

This is faith. This is faith is small but powerful. This is faith that believes in the unseen. This is faith that comes with prayer and fasting. You need a little faith today? Try surrendering whatever you are facing to God. Take your plans and hopes out of it and let God do it. Seek His face with prayer and fasting. Then you shall find Him, for He will give you faith to move mountains. 

 

Posted by: Pastor Matthew AT 08:52 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    About us

    First Baptist Church is a Southern Baptist Church located in Rockwell, NC. It is a member of the Rowan Southern Baptist Association .

    Contact us

    P.O. Box 756

    Rockwell, NC,28138
    Phone: 704-279-6120

    Fax 704-279-4390
    Email: fbcrockwell01(at)Windstream.net


         SENIOR PASTOR :Rev. Matthew Laughter

    Pastormatthew(at)fbc-rockwell.com

     YOUTH/CHILDREN'S PASTOR:  Rev. Sam VanSlyke

    Pastorsam(at)fbc-rockwell.com

     

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