Lost Property

God’s Word: Matthew 18:12-14

The story of the lost sheep won’t let us forget about God’s compassion for people who have lost their way. Isaiah tells us that ” we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Nothing is more lost than a sheep. Sheep have absolutely no sense of direction. Carrier pigeons could find their way home blindfolded and dogs have a sixth sense when it comes to being homeward bound, but sheep are in a different boat altogether. When a sheep loses its way, it’s a lost hope. When a sheep is separated from the flock, and more importantly, the Shepherd, it is defenceless. Sheep are stupid; unfortunately for them they can’t keep out of trouble for long. When a sheep is lost, the odds that death finds it, are stacked against it.

If you know Jesus now, at one time you didn’t. Once you were lost, and Jesus didn’t rest until He found His own. Jesus wasn’t about to sit by the phone or rely on a search and rescue team. He determined to get on His walking boots and go after you Himself. Jesus wouldn’t let anything divert Him. He didn’t think about Himself. He was consumed with thoughts of you. He walked for miles, climbing over mountains and crossing rivers to try to find you. He searched high and low, double-checking every road He walked, refusing to give up or take a break.

His eyes told you of His determination; His heart was set on finding you. He nailed posters to the trees in the neighbourhood. His search and rescue mission featured on the evening news and in all the local papers, He stopped at nothing because you’re everything to Him. His mission took Him into the desert and up Calvary’s mountain. Nothing would keep Him apart from you. Jesus determined in His heart what He wanted, you. He wanted you back where you belonged, with Him.

Don’t tell me Jesus doesn’t care about you. He did everything in His power to bring you Home. Not only did the Shepherd live to care for you but He died to protect you. The Lamb of God was slaughtered for your sins; His spilt blood bought you your Salvation.

No matter how far you have strayed it isn’t too far for Him to travel. Even if you run to the other side of the world that won’t stop Him from finding you. No distance is too great to keep you from God. Jesus is in pursuit of you. He promised that if saving you was the last thing He’d ever do He would see it through, and He did, at the cross. When Jesus caught sight of you and caught you in His arms you weren’t lost any longer. You were lost but then found.

And what did Jesus do when He found you? He threw a welcome home party! Jesus got the party decorations down from the attic, hung up the party streamers, and baked a cake. Jesus invited the whole of Heaven to the celebration. He knocked on every door and handed out personal invitations. He turned the music full blast and opened the doors wide. He wanted Heaven to share in His joy and celebration. His lost child was home again, and this called for a party.

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Icebergs and Acorns

Matthew 17:20

If you believe, anything is possible. Do you have faith in this? Or do you think this is too far-fetched to be true? If you struggle to accept the Truth ask God to help you overcome your doubts. Faith, even as small as a mustard seed, can accomplish much. Mustard seeds are so small it takes almost 20,000 of them to make one ounce! But in Palestine mustard trees can stretch up to fifteen feet tall when they’re fully grown. A modern day equivalent would be acorns and oak trees. We may find it hard to get our heads around how such a small acorn can hold such great potential but it’s true despite our doubts. Starting out small doesn’t reflect how much growth can occur. Smallness and ‘insignificance’ can hide great stature. The beginning and the end should be polar opposites. Small beginnings should birth growth and maturity on a large scale.

Nothing is impossible with God by your side. Throwing a mountain into the sea is impossible for man, but it’s a different story when God’s in the picture. Back in Jesus’ day people believed that mountains were rooted far below the earth. In their eyes throwing a mountain into the middle of the sea really was an impossibility. For them mountains were a bit like icebergs. There was so much more, below the surface.

We have to recognise that all we need is an ounce of faith and God in the equation. According to our maths it may not seem probable, but then again that just goes to prove that God has the power to multiply, overcoming the odds. There doesn’t seem to be any logic in this but Jesus promises us that you don’t need faith as big as the mountain you face. Even the size of a mustard seed is enough to see results.

There’s no sense in asking God to do something when you don’t believe He can. Exercise faith; that’s how you can overcome mountains. If you only have enough faith to overthrow a molehill it can’t be called faith. If you ask for things that are within your reach there’s no faith in it. Start asking for something that is just beyond your reach and stretch yourself. It’s then that you’ll realise God answers, as only He can answer ‘impossibilities’ with a ‘yes’. Small seeds hide potential. Their appearance is deceptive. You may think they are insignificant but each one holds a tree inside. You hold potential too.

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In His Hands All Things are Possible

God’s Word: Matthew 15:32-39

Title: in His hands all things are possible

God has never failed to provide for us. He has never let us down, He’s unchanging, and nothing can divert Him from His path. When we’re faced with the ‘impossible’ we can’t forget about God’s past history of fulfilled promises. The past isn’t full of broken dreams but promises of a better, brighter, future. The people of Israel forgot this Truth. When they were faced with the ‘impossible’ for the second time, in the feeding of the 5000, the disciples’ memory of God’s provision had escaped them. A goldfish had more of a memory.

The question that the disciples brought to Jesus was “where can we get bread?” They should have known the answer because they saw it for themselves. Had they forgotten the feeding of the 5000? Where was their faith? Had it disappeared into thin air? The disciples had somehow forgotten that they didn’t need to look any further than Jesus for sustenance. We too have all we need at our fingertips because Jesus is always within reach.

Including the women and the children, there could have been between 10,000 and 15,000 hungry mouths to feed. The disciples should have had faith that stretching a pack-lunch of five bread cakes and two pickled fish was a walk in the park for Jesus. One meal fed a multitude because Jesus can make a feast for thousands out of a picnic for one. In His hands anything is made possible: He has the power to multiply. When He gets His hands on ‘impossibilities’ He works them out. What was once unbelievable is now within reach, if only we stretch out our hands and offer God our all. We know what happened next. Thousands of rumbling stomachs were satisfied. Jesus didn’t just provide a bite to eat, but a man-sized meal that satisfied every single person who shared in the miracle.

What is even more amazing is that at the end of the day there were more leftovers than Jesus started out with. The offering of an afternoon meal was nothing compared to what was left in the end. When we lose faith we should remind ourselves of this. No matter what the odds are, you always end up with more than you started out with when God is involved.

When you give your life over into God’s hands don’t be surprised at what can happen. Even if you feel like you don’t have a lot to offer, hand it over and watch on as God gets to work. Bread that was made out of barley was a staple food supply for the poor, but that didn’t stop the boy with the pack-lunch from sharing his food with Jesus. Even if you think you bring a poor offering to Jesus He will accept it and transform your little into a lot.

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Freedom from Religion

God’s Word: Matthew 12:1-14

Jewish tradition only allowed medicine to be given in life-threatening situations on the Sabbath. Death had to be ‘knocking on someone’s door’ before someone was allowed to be treated. If it wasn’t a matter of life and death the Pharisee’s option was that it could wait another day. There was no emergency ‘A and E’ in Israel. The Pharisees shut the place down on the Day of Rest. This explains why they overreacted when Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Their belief was that healing was nothing more than practicing medicine, but even though Jesus gave freely they still felt that He was working on the Day of Rest.

The Pharisees should have had a closer look at the Torah. If they stopped judging others long enough to get their head stuck in the Book then they would have been able to see that there’s no Old Testament law that disallowed medicine, healing, or acts of mercy on the Sabbath. Unfortunately this man-made rule was all too quickly accepted and passed down through the generations. This is the sad truth; the Pharisees were more concerned about ritual purity than meeting human needs. They had a stubborn loyalty to their religion, refusing to compromise. They lost sight of compassion and what truly matters in life.

These religious men failed to see beyond the technicalities of their man-made laws. There was no room for compassion and they were determined to accuse Jesus of being a law-breaker, a rebel, without recognising that He brought healing and hope on the Sabbath, something that the Sabbath stands for. Compassion should have came first, but it wasn’t on their list of priorities. It’s true that the Sabbath should be kept holy but the Pharisees got hung up on this and took it to the extreme, writing a list of do’s and don’t’s longer than their arm. They even went as far as writing thirty-nine main classes of work that were not permitted on the Sabbath, including practicing medicine, reaping, grinding, and sifting… These religious leaders had become side-tracked from the Truth, and they were blind to it.

Thank God Jesus came to override traditions that God wasn’t in favour of (Matthew 23:13). When Jesus called Himself Lord of the Sabbath what He was saying was that He was above the law. This meant that Jesus had the authority to overrule tradition that man had established for himself. When we play by our own rules the Bible can become a weapon in the wrong hands. There’s a real danger of using the Bible against one another. If you think that the Bible is nothing more than a list of do’s and don’t’s you’ve read it wrong. It’s the story of Jesus fulfilling God’s law and dismissing man’s at the same time. Don’t rewrite your own translation using tradition.

God wants us to love; this law overrides all others. If we hold fast to God’s law for the wrong reasons our wrong motives cause our ‘sacrifice’ to become empty of all meaning. We shouldn’t choose to obey traditions that aren’t set in stone and found in Scripture, over the greatest commandment: to love. We have to ask this question of ourselves: what’s more important, following a list of do’s and don’t’s or following Jesus’ example in caring for others? Don’t follow a dead religion, follow Jesus’ example. Don’t let an empty religion replace having a living breathing relationship with Jesus.

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Life with a Capital L

God’s Word: Matthew 11:28-30

Rest; we all chase after it. But the pursuit of rest tires us to the point of exhaustion. We long to be free from spiritual fatigue but we forget that Jesus is the only one who can revive our hearts. We try to find renewal and refreshment for ourselves, becoming wrapped up in legalism. Finding rest for our souls becomes a rat race, a never-ending marathon, when we round the corner, the finish-line is never in sight. We wonder why we run out of heart and run out of energy when we struggle to keep on the road. We’re left wondering why we can’t take another step, run down into the ground so much we can’t pick up the pace.

We have nothing to worry about because we have Jesus. Thank God He gives us an invitation, the assurance, that we can give up on self-reliance and come to Jesus for true rest. We’re not to abandon the race ‘full-stop’. But we’re to stop trying to beat our personal best and rest assured that the work Jesus did on the cross is more than enough. Resting in our ‘good works’ instead of in God’s Grace is a waste of our time and energy; it counts for nothing. We’re called to give life our best shot, but not in a last ditch effort to save ourselves. We’re to run in response to His invitation and offer of salvation. Salvation belongs to the Lord. If we try to live up to the Law, we won’t make it. Trying to save yourself is an impossible mission.

Jesus invites us to throw off our burdens and take up His ‘yoke’ instead. Yokes are back-breaking harnesses; we’ve all carried one at a time. We may still be, without knowing. But Jesus says that it doesn’t always have to be that way, He offers a solution: a shared yoke. Two people can bear this yoke together- if only one of them is Jesus. In this passage a ‘yoke’, “zygos”, refers to ‘the yoke of the Law’. What Jesus was saying was that studying the Torah religiously, so as to try to win God’s approval, is a failed effort.

Even if you read the Bible from beginning to end, were able to read it back to front, and could quote Jesus ‘at the drop of a hat’, this wouldn’t impress Him. Even if you were a walking-talking-Bible your painstaking efforts aren’t worth anything if you’re caught up in legalism. The choice Jesus offers is obeying His teachings over slaving away in rule-abiding. The Pharisees invented a rulebook that did nothing but burden the people so that their first love became labour to them. Their religion became a burden to carry instead of a joy to carry out.

Jesus freed us from the Law; we don’t have to be overburdened any longer! We can throw off the weights that have held us back for so long. Yes, sharing a yoke with Jesus doesn’t spell out living a life of luxury, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still Life with a capital L. And when you worry that you can’t carry the yoke any more, rest assured that Jesus bears the brunt of it, His shoulders can carry the burden. He carried the cross, and He carried the burdens of our sins, so He’s more than able to stand under the pressure.

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