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Posted By Nan

Matthew 8:5-13
This is a familiar story. The centurion showing great love for his servant and asking Jesus to heal the servant. He was not a Jew, nor in all probability was his servant. He was a gentile. Jesus came to the Jews. Or so the people thought. But here He was listening to this gentile and healing the man the gentile asked Him to heal. To top it off He then applauded the man for his great faith. Jesus then took the opportunity to educate the people around Him that God would call all people to Him. That those who belonged to Him would come from all nations, not just the Jews. Quite a challenging statement for the people to hear.
What really strikes me when I read this passage is that the centurion did not feel he deserved Jesus to come to him but he believed Jesus would heal his servant. His faith was the sort we need. He did not dance around singing Hallelujah (although he may well have done after his servant was healed) he just lived the faith. There is an important place for praise and worship but we do not spend every day every minute doing that. What we do is live our faith in our lives. This centurion lived his faith just in the things he believed and the way he behaved and his awareness of his unworthiness to deserve any of this, but his belief that Jesus would heal anyway. And his gratitude that the undeserved gift would be given because he asked.
What Jesus wants is the type of simple trust displayed by the Centurion. The Jewish teaching about the Messiah held that He would come and call all Jews to the Messianic banquet. No gentile was welcome there but would instead be cast out in the cold. But Jesus is saying the opposite. There would be gentiles welcomed into the banquet while Jews who had no faith would be case out in the cold and dark. Just as the Jew, born into the Jewish nation, was not guaranteed a place at the Messianic banquet so those of us who grow up in a supposedly Christian family or belong to a Christian group will not automatically be invited to the Messianic banquet. To do that we must enter through faith in God through Jesus. Be careful that the God you are actually worshipping is God, not the god of political ideology, or the god of harsh doctrine, or the god of fence sitting but the true God. When Jesus returns there will be many who call themselves Christian who, along with the Jews who do not acknowledge Jesus as their Saviour, will be cast out in the cold because they do not have faith.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 8:4
I wanted to spend a day talking about verse 4 of this story. The man with leprosy has been healed and Jesus tells him to see the priests and offer the sacrifice Moses had said he must offer “as a witness to them”.
I was reading Matthew 8:1-4 a few days ago and verse 4 seemed to leap off the page at me. This was an important message. The man was commanded by Jesus to witness of what Jesus had done. This does not only apply to the leprous man, but to all of us.
It is our outward lives, every moment of every day that is the testimony of our faith. It is not about going to church on Sunday and making all the right sounds for a few hours then going home and being just like everyone else. It is about living each moment of every day in conversation with Jesus and living that conversation. Every moment infused with Jesus so that He informs what you say. Not about making harsh pronouncements about others, but about loving them (love the sinner and hate their sin means just that, love them without judging), about making the effort to be friendly and welcoming to those who aren’t in your friends group, and don’t even look as though they would fit your complacent, middle class lifestyle.
It is about going through your life trusting that God is in control and you can confidently step out, even into uncertain and difficult circumstances, and no matter what happens God is there … in control. And in His strength you can be gracious, real, honest and humble. It is about speaking out that belief, about loving the unlovable because Jesus gives you what you need to do that, about forgiving generously because you can hand your anger and hurt to Jesus and know He gives you what you need to demonstrate that love for others (even when you don’t feel like being very loving but have chosen to hand control to God). It is about being willing to show your emotions and ask for help and acknowledge all God does in your life, even through other people.
It is about being a living beacon of Jesus. The witness of the mammoth changes He has brought about in your life. And remember, witness is not just about telling people about Jesus and giving your testimony. The more powerful testimony is the way you live your life.
So go out today and show yourself to the people you encounter and offer your sacrifice of love and praise by witnessing, in attitude, behaviour and words what Jesus has done for you.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 8:1-4
Jesus has just given a wonderful sermon to thousands of people on the mountain. This was the famous Sermon on the Mount, the instruction on how we are to live our lives. He is down among the people with large crowds following Him. At that moment one of the worst outcasts in society came and knelt before Jesus. What an affront! This man was someone people were forbidden to touch and were therefore frightened of. People would also look on him with disgust. We have people like that in our society today: the homeless, horribly disfigured, disabled, mentally ill, drug addicts, prostitutes and many more. How many “nice” noses are turned up when faced with one of those we consider forsaken by society. Here in front of Jesus was one such man. Jesus did not turn him away. He allowed the man to speak and never flinched at his “uncleanness”.
First, this marginalised man expressed a deep faith in Jesus. He said to Him that He could make the man well if He chose. In many ways, his faith was as much an example of discipleship as Jesus’ willingness to heal him. In the same way, we are never so unclean as to not be able to approach Jesus and ask Him to heal us. That is such a great comfort, that we are never so sinful, so repulsive, that Jesus will not welcome us.
Second, the man was humble. He did not consider he had a right to demand Jesus’ healing. Instead he accepted Jesus’ greatness and stated that Jesus could heal him, if that was what He wanted to do.
Thirdly, the man had great reverence for Jesus. He recognised this was God and he worshipped Jesus because of this. Jesus’ reaction to this was one of compassion. He broke the laws of the day and actually touched the untouchable man. He healed him and risked being cast out himself by that act.
In the same way, Jesus can take our brokenness, our uncleanness and reach out to touch us. He may be God and perfect, but He is willing to touch our uncleanness and make us clean.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 7:28-29
The sermon is now over and the crowds are amazed at Jesus’ teaching. This is because Jesus spoke as one who had authority, not in the way the teachers of the law spoke. In the Message, verse 29 is written as “It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying – quite a contrast to his religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.”
So what was different about Jesus? He spoke with the authority given him by the Holy Spirit, not in the tentative way the teachers of the law spoke. They spoke like a student who has to present a speech on a topic of the teacher’s choosing in which there is no personal interest. The work is well researched and presented but it lacks the conviction and passion of owning what is said. Jesus’ accused the religious leaders of His time of being empty vessels, of not knowing God. There is a world of difference between the teaching of one who, full of the Holy Spirit, and full of the joy of the knowledge of God and the salvation given to us by our Saviour Jesus, proclaims the joyous facts of God and our salvation and one who has read the Bible and all the books on doctrine and is following some plan to do this section of the Bible today but has no passion for what is being taught because he does not know God.
My question to you is do you know God? Do you live Jesus’ salvation every day of your life? Do you hear the Holy Spirit guiding you?
In a recent post, Chip Brogden spoke about the growing number of people who have decided that the social benefits of going to church are not able to compensate for the lack of spiritual life they receive in church. These people actually consider that the religion of the church is hindering their relationship with God. One man commented that he has long considered Christians to be settlers, people who belong to a denomination, who are taught doctrine that allows them to continue to belong to these denominations but that teaching cannot sustain them. He considered those who are journeying with Christ are Disciples. He cites Matthew 28 where Jesus said to go and make Disciples not Christians. He believed God calls us to be disciples of Jesus.
It is a challenging thought and a question we all must ask. How is my spiritual life? Am I growing in the Lord? Do I live His salvation every day? Or is there still emptiness within me that all the faithful adherence to my church’s doctrine cannot fill? For me, it is true that I have grown more, spiritually, outside church and for most of my Christian life I felt oppressed by the sermons I heard. They seemed to be preaching simplistic and often unfactual things about the God I knew. I always found more inspiration in my own personal relationship with God, and when my children started reporting the same thing my husband and I decided it was time to leave the church system.
I am not saying that church attendance is bad, but it must be reviewed regularly. You need to stop every so often and consider your spiritual growth. What does God say about your growth? Are you where He wants you to be? Is it more important for you to identify with a particular denomination or church building or are you delighted to be a disciple of Jesus? Why not spend time today asking God to search you and reveal the answers to these questions? Also ask Him for the courage to do what He directs you to do next, even if it involves asking you to leave the safety of a church.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 7:24-27
This is a lovely little passage that is frequently told in Sunday School and children’s books. Build your foundation on solid rock not sand and your house will not be washed away in floods. But what is that solid foundation and what does it look like in our lives?
There are many aspects of this:
Resisting the attacks of the devil. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”? John 16:33 NIV. We will always be under attack. Nothing is ever going to go smoothly. There will always be something that happens to upset our equilibrium – trouble with a friend, child, partner, finances, car and so on. Life will not go smoothly, but if our trust is in God and the faith that Jesus has overcome the world and is sufficient enough to give us what we need to fulfil His purpose then we can resist. That is the solid foundation to build our house on.
Trusting God – how often do we lash out at others when we feel hurt? In our fear we resist help because we do not trust others to be able to do so. Likewise we lash out at God and resist His help. He will help us anyway, because He loves us. But it may take longer and the path may be more unpleasant and rocky that it needs to be. Remember, God said “I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me”. Hosea 14:8 NIV. A wonderful solid foundation to build our house on.
Having the courage to be you - We can be real with Him because He knows more about us than we know about ourselves. When we walk through the dark times He is always with us, even though we often feel alone. He will always give us what we need, and it will be perfect and the best God has. Remember Hebrews 13:8 “I am the same yesterday, today and tomorrow”. It is so hard sometimes to be the real you. The pressures of life press in on us and there is the temptation to go along with others because people can get upset when you are you and not the person they want you to be. This type of pressure often happens in childhood, from our parents. This robbing us our who we truly are is one of satan’s greatest weapons against us. Do not give in to satan! Submit instead to God and resist satan and as James 4:7 says satan will flee. He will try a lot of words to convince you he is winning first, but never forget he has no authority over you. Such a great solid foundation to build your house on.
So seek to know Jesus better. How? Read your Bible. Read it not out of duty but out of a delight and hunger to know more about God. If you are having trouble reaching that desire, then ask God to show you in His word. He will show you the delight of His word and you will really come to know Jesus.
The other way is to prayer constantly. That does not mean you get on your knees and spend hours cut off from others praying. There may be a time when that is appropriate, but there are other ways to pray. As you go about your day have a conversation with Jesus. Have the sort of conversation you might have with someone who is accompanying you on your day’s journey. You may walk for a while without saying something. Then something may happen and you turn to your travelling companion and talk about it. You may ask for help, you may share your concerns, you may wonder what you should do. This is how you invite Jesus to walk with you daily and get to build that solid foundation. Once you build that foundation, then you can put the faith God gives you into action.



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