All Posts By

Mark Hands

Matthew Chapter 20

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The themes of this passage are

  • Gods decisions are not unfair
  • Jesus anticipates is death
  • A new view of leadership
  • Two worlds collide and healing results

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Christianity is not just a motivational talk about living a better life.

It directs us to believe, think and act differently.

Jesus teaches in this passage that

  • Grace is undeserved favour (the workers all receive the same).
  • Death to this life comes before we can truly live. This is a theme of Jesus teaching.
  • To lead is to serve. (This idea was/ is counter intuitive to the leadership of the day)
  • God hears our cry and responds to us amidst the cacophony of life. (when others ignore us, Almighty God hears our repentant call)

Apply //

There is so much about Christianity that is counter intuitive to the conventional life the average Australian accepts as normal and good. History shows that when Christians truly live this counter intuitive life (forgiveness, dying to self, service and repentance), then the very direction of history moves in a new direction.

We might not be involved in Civil Rights or the underground church however we are involved in our lives and that is where God empowers us to live these values.

It starts where we are.

Pray//
Lord, my hope comes from Jesus and the way he showed us to live in a counter-intuitive way as a reflection of your kingdom. Give me the courage to live in ways that strengthen your presence in this world that others may find you too.

Matthew Chapter 19

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Can a man divorce his wife?

The disciples get annoyed with children.

Getting a Camel through the eye of a needle

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What these passages reveal to “me” is the importance of “posture”.

“What? You mean how the disciples stand matters?” I hear you say.

Not quite, by posture, I mean – what was the intent in the hearts of the disciples in asking their questions.

The Pharisee’s questions about divorce were a tricks and intended to trap.

Jesus responded with riddles and ambiguity. A road block.

The disciples posture however, was inquisitive and genuinely wanting to know. Jesus was far more gracious in his response to them and he ends by saying “the one who can accept this should do so”. He left room for people to seek understanding or time to think, rather than a black and white law.

If you look at the other two stories, Jesus rebukes those with a posture that is self righteous and he then warmly embraces those with a “posture” to learn.

Apply //

Isaiah 1:18 instructs us to “come and reason with me”

I love this scripture because it invites me to ask God questions and then, like a Parliament, spend time (sometimes a long time) discussing and debating my questions with God as my life unravels. People who want quick answers are not seeking relationship, they seek self affirmation in a world that they agree with rather than a mystery to be discovered. True seeking of God takes first a posture of relationship.

Pray//

God, help me to have a posture of curiosity. Help me to be open to answers which challenge my ideas of what “should be”. Help me to see the Kingdom truths as God sees them rather than, as I want them to be. Remind me to lean in and listen rather than stand back and observe.

 

Matthew Chapter 18

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Jesus states that unless we become more like him, we have no part in his kingdom. For example, the themes in this chapter are

  • unless you become as a little child
  • takes the destructive impact of sin really seriously
  • do not ignore sin even amongst friends in church
  • remember that God found you and saved you
  • God Forgives.

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These stories all remind us to be aware that, while salvation is Gods effort to draw us closer to his kingdom, his influence requires a “metamorphosis” of the way we look at life. Isaiah says “My thoughts are not your thoughts” Isaiah 55:5, and these scriptures bring a sharp resolution to the gospel message that, while we cannot save ourselves through good works, God’s presence and Good News will require a response in the form of

  • Seeking God as a child
  • Distancing ourselves from sinful influence
  • Building communities where Good News is lived
  • Forgiving others in an act of grace

Apply //

Blind spots are our behaviours that we don’t see – but others do. It might be a tendency to be negative under stress or you might turn everything into a competitive win- lose scenario. Blind spots are dangerous because they are habits which we are not aware of but can impact our own lives and the lives of others in destructive ways.

Identifying blind spots takes courage and deliberate transparency to allow others to highlight poor (sinful) habits, which we may see as normal.

When we become aware of these blind spots, don’t ignore them. They have the power to direct your life in directions that you do not want to go.

Pray//

Lord, Help me to gain trust in others who can show me the blind spots which separate me from friends, family and even God. In the same way that Jesus became vulnerable on the cross, let me be vulnerable to change destructive habits and perspectives.

 

Matthew Chapter 17

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The themes of this chapter are –

  • God appears
  • A demon appears
  • Jesus unfolds the future
  • The disciples grieve
  • Jesus provides the basics

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The story of Jesus is the story of God coming to earth for a visit to explain life and truth. Those truths, though infinitely complex, apply to our lives every single day. Truths such as

  • God is beyond our imagination, but reachable = Jesus transfigured.
  • Evil exists and can be overwhelming = The disciples fail to cast out a demon.
  • Incorrect expectations lead to disappointment = Jesus predictions of the future cause grief
  • Following Jesus is to live in the world but not be of the world. = Jesus pays tax, through a miracle.

Apply //

I reckon being a disciple would have been difficult. They left everything to follow this guy called Jesus, expecting that he was the deliverer from their lives of slavery. What they learned was that, yes, he was their deliverer, he did have the power to “take them home”, but his pathways for achieving this deliverance were different from what they had expected.

Following Jesus in most of these situations, left the disciples confused, feeling helpless and even grieved.

However….

Jesus remained with them and taught them and provided for them every step of the way.

Living as a Christian is to live like a salmon swimming upstream. The Gospels show us that the principles Jesus taught are often “counter-intuitive” to cultural norms. It can be confusing and even difficult, however, these principles are truth; and Jesus is always with us to prod, teach and even provide, sometimes (but not always) in miraculous ways.

Pray//

Lord, your wisdom does not need to be popular to be true. Help me to listen to the whisper of your wisdom, even amidst those times when what I expected is not the way you choose. By the way Lord, I also look forward to those times when a fish pays my taxes…….

Matthew Chapter 16

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Themes:

  • Show us a sign
  • Be careful of stray ideas
  • Wow what an insight!
  • You got it wrong again Peter.

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The followers ask Jesus a question. Please show us something concrete that this Kingdom story is true.

Jesus says – No sign shall be given, only another story that “points the way” (Jonah).

Jesus warns that stray ideas from Pharisees and Sadducees are dangerous, so be careful about jumping to conclusions about God.

Jesus praises Peter for saying “you are the Christ”. Jesus response affirms Peter’s insight as a revelation that he will build the church on. Well done Peter; good idea mate.

Then Peter decides to throw another idea into the ring  (you won’t die Jesus, I won’t let you) and Jesus rebukes (again) by aligning the idea with Satan – “Get behind me Satan”

Wow, what a roller coaster ride for the disciples. Sounds like my faith journey too.

Apply //

Christianity is grounded in faith. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for (says Hebrews 11) so faith cannot be built upon tangible evidence, that is why it’s compelling nature is a mystery to unbelievers.

Faith, is both a noun (the name of something) and a verb (an action). In these passages, the disciples both declare their faith and start acting on it.

And they make mistakes. (“Get behind me Satan”)

Sound familiar to you too?

The key to faith is that it requires action, and action will mean that we make mistakes. The point I find in these passages is that Jesus both praises and rebukes however, his offer of relationship remains.

Relationship with God (Jesus) is the constant as we develop our faith.

Pray//

Thank you that faith is not something that comes and goes with the weather or time of day. Help me Lord to be confident enough in my faith to act on it and know that you will be there to affirm and correct and – befriend.

Matthew Chapter 15

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Themes:

  • What defiles a person
  • Great faith
  • Feeding 4,000

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Imagine asking Jesus a question and he responds, “Are you still so dull?”

If it was me I would think “Gee I really missed an important point”

This happened to Peter

Jesus says to him (paraphrased)

Peter, I know that there are a lot of laws about what you should eat and not eat and wear and not wear but; it is not what you put into your mouth or on your body that separates you from God. It is actually the words that come out of your mouth”.

Maya Angelou, the great Christian and Poet says that “words are things”. are a gift from God to man as a means of navigating life. Words more than misty thoughts, they are powerful “things”.

Jesus says that our words are a picture of what consumes our thoughts and therefore the focus in our hearts.

“OUCH”. Peter doesn’t get it at first and Jesus says , “Are you still so dull”.

Choice of Words reflect the truth in our hearts not what you choose to eat for lunch.

Apply //

Who is your favourite speaker?

Who is the person you always listen to and always carry out their suggestions and directions. You may be saying, Stu Cameron or Martin Luther King and you would be wrong.

Your favourite speaker – is YOU

It’s true. YOU always do what YOU decide to do. You decide to do what is in your heart, your thoughts and your words.

Jesus is saying, be careful what you say because it mirrors what your heart really ponders upon and it’s what you do – every time.

Listen to your words and be careful – they are “things” used to create good and evil. Use them wisely.

Pray//

God show me how to develop a heart that inspires Godly thoughts and then creates Godly words.

Matthew Chapter 14

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Matthew Chapter 14

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These three adventures have a common thread.

When the disciples were confronted with 5000 hungry people, they “told Jesus” to “send them away” because they had no food.

Jesus replied “, YOU “give them something to eat”. Jesus is saying, use what you have and I will bless it… and guess what?  “Action delivered the miracle”

Secondly, the disciples are terrified amidst a storm at sea. Jesus arrives on the water and invites Peter to “come”. Peter stands up, and walks for a few steps toward Jesus, defying gravity.

“Come”, “Give”, Act”.

Jesus taught the disciples a profound truth – use what you have and God will help you flourish.

Apply //

There are times in my life when I have faced terrible failure, family tragedy or impossible business hurdles. I have prayed and asked God to send a miracle in the form of opportunity, health or a generous investor.

The word I get most of the time is the same word he gave to the disciples; “Come”, “Give”, “Go” which simply means, to ACT. Do something.

Shakespeare once wrote that “action in eloquence” and these two stories make the same point in scripture.

I am glad that God sees me as an active participant in the relationship we call Christianity. Yes, he can call on a legion of angels, however, he often needs me to have a little more faith in my gifts, talents and capacity which, he gave me, and will bless, if, I use them.

Pray//

Lord, thank you that this relationship is more than just you. It is me too! I am humbled with this knowledge and I pray that as I face what appears to be insurmountable challenges, you will be patient with me as I remember that I was created in your image to bring miracles to this world.

Help me to be bold and “Come”, “Give” and “Go” after which, you will bless.