There is an opportune time to grab that baton

Jesus has chosen his Twelve and is sending them out on a gospel trip. It will be their first practice mission before they eventually become full-time missionaries to the world.

“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 10 v5-6)

  1. The opportune time is set within a context that is temporary.

God came to the nation who were preserving the Scriptures and trying to keep to the traditions of the Torah. Jesus goes first to Israel.

What the disciples had to learn was that this was a temporary context. Post-resurrection Jesus sends them to the world (Matthew 28:28; Acts 1:8) but we can see clearly how this was embedded into their missionary mind-set. Paul had a heart for the world but he believed, ‘first to the Jew then the Gentile’ (Romans 1:16). It took persecution to move the Church into mission to Samaria (Acts 8); it took a vision from heaven for Peter to truly see the Gentiles and then persuade the other apostles (Acts 10-11); it took the Holy Spirit intervention for Paul and Barnabas to be sent.

I sat with some leaders of a church which in its history had a move of God which saw many come to faith and the church building was filled to capacity. Their biggest challenge now is that they have members who for many years are wasting their life on the dreams of the past not realising that there are times when the opportune time is set within a context that is temporary. They are misunderstanding the past opportunity and they are in danger of missing a new one for their life now. Learn from the past, draw out its principles, but don’t live there for some contexts are temporary.

  • Your opportunity can be given to someone else.

Do you ever wonder what would have happened if the Jews had grabbed that baton? They didn’t and so now the disciples go not only to Israel but to the whole world.

I know of a man who used to be an elder of a church. The Church was 1 mile outside of the town in a place where it was completely non-residential. The Pastor wanted to move the Church into the town to be where the population was. This elder refused and made sure the desire of the Pastor was thwarted. The disappointed Pastor moved on and God gave him the same opportunity but in a different place where the elders supported him and he moved the church into the centre of that town.

In the course of time the elder abandoned his wife and family and moved away to start life with another woman. Today his son is the Pastor of that church and has moved the people into the town and they have a newly built building.

  • The restricted opportunity could be for your benefit.

Going to the Jews was far easier for these Jewish disciples than going to the Gentiles. They needed no cross-cultural preparation or understanding. The Church would discover the importance of these things.

Preparation is everything. These disciples at the time were so unpredictable in that they could react violently if the gospel was rejected wanting to call fire down from heaven (Luke 9). Far better to practice in the safety of ‘home’ first.

Some people look at the baton and want a different one.

There is a huge difference between a Pastor turning down an opportunity of leading a Church because there isn’t many members or little salary and a Pastor accepting it based on the fact that taking that baton right now gives him or her the benefit of seeing what God can do. One has stopped running before they start and the other is a person who keeps moving.

Know the time of the baton for you and when it comes from God make sure you grab it.

Grab that baton, it’s your turn now.

Yesterday once again I hosted a zoom induction of a new Pastor to our church in Malton. The Church has a history of great Pastors who have continued the story. This new Pastor takes the baton today and will Pastor the church not in the way it has been done before otherwise there would have been no need to pass the baton on. But he will do it his way, he will run his leg of the race the best he can and that is how it should be.

Jesus chose 12 disciples who would become the Church leaders (well, 11 of them).

“These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (Matthew 10 v 2-4)

Which one was the best leader? Who was the best preacher? Who pastored in the most caring way? Could any play music (an added bonus!)? Who was the best digitally?!

Any member of a church that stays in it long enough has the privilege perhaps of compare and contrast on the Pastors that lead their church. We all know this experience from both sides.

Well now can you imagine following on from the 12 disciples that Jesus chose?

But of course we know the good and the bad of most of them. Let us take a very brief look …

Simon Peter known for one thing, the denial, but was used in many ways for example in receiving revelation from heaven: “Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16

Andrew who struggled to see what Jesus was wanting him to see: John 6: 9 “There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many people?”

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who desired promotion to have the best seats in Heaven: Mark 10:37 “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

Phillip who struggled to do the math of faith: John 6:9 “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Bartholomew also known as Nathanel was spotted by Jesus even before he knew about him: John 1:48 “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Thomas had courage but lacked faith, John 11: 16, John 20: 25, “Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him… So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!… But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Matthew also known as Levi was quick to leave everything and follow Jesus, Luke 5:27-28 “After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.”

James son of Alphaeus is also known as the less, the lesser or the younger, Mark 15: 40 “Now some women also were watching from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome.” But nothing more is said of him.

Thaddeus also known as Jude who wrote the epistle has nothing said of him in the gospels

Simon the zealot listed but no more information on him either.

Judas Iscariot known for one thing alone.

The more you know these first 12 disciples the more you realise how human, sinful and actually it is not too difficult to follow on from them! You see it is often our rose-tinted glasses that make people bigger than they actually are.

Jesus chose these men, imperfect, ambitious, faith-less people that they were. They all had good attributes but for some we will never know what they were as no-one decided to write anything about them!

Therefore, you can do it, you can carry your own baton as a disciple of Jesus, you may have many reasons to disqualify yourself but these are no more or less than the 12 men above. If Jesus wanted them then he sure does want you. S grab hold of that baton and run your own race today.

Together is better

Today is going to be great. I have another zoom induction service of a Pastor commencing in his new church. I will bring the church and Pastor together for a new day and season and I am praying the years ahead are wonderful ones and that together they will impact their town and area with the gospel.

In our next chapter of Matthew today we read of a new day for the disciples. Jesus is getting them ready to go out on a short Missions trip for Him. What is important in this opening verse is that Jesus expects them to go together, the other gospels have Jesus sending them out in two’s.

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Matthew 10 v 1)

The social distancing that has been needed since the start of this pandemic has only heightened the fact that we are social beings and when that is taken away we struggle. The vast majority want to be together again and it is what we are looking forward to.

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him, together.

  • Community is more important to Jesus than it has been for us over the years, we realise that now.
  • Our calling and our destiny is better discovered and expressed through community than trying to convince a community of our individual, personal revelation of the ministry Jesus wants us to do.

Jesus gave them authority, together.

  • ‘Bless me’ should be changed to ‘bless us’ and ‘fill me’ changed to ‘fill us’ and so on.
  • Singing songs together then we should sing songs more about us rather than me. There is a place for personal worship but perhaps the powerful moments are also in the understanding that Jesus wants to pour out His Spirit on us.

Jesus gave them authority, together, to drive out and heal.

  • We were never meant to go it alone.
  • Driving out demons and healing is just too much for an individual anointed one man/woman band. Maybe there are too many temptations for stardom. If the team conquer Everest it’s not important which foot got there first, the team did. The gospel was meant to be shared together and when we minister to people it should be done at least with another if possible.

How are your horizontal relationships? Who are you walking with? Who is holding you accountable and who is laughing with you? Share your life, it is better that way.

There is more harvest than workers

God hasn’t finished with your life.

You may already know this and are waiting for some divine destiny to unravel. I have great news for you! I know what it is!

The HARVEST.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9 v 36-38)

It is PLENTIFUL

The aim of mission is that individuals come to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour. But that happens in a variety of ways through medical missions, education, reaching the poor, the orphans and the widows, social justice, helping business enterprise, evangelism and church planting. Even where you are right now without going overseas there would be a variety of ways to reach many people with the message of God’s love. The harvest is indeed plentiful. Let’s be creative. But also let us not be blinded to the many hidden and sub-cultures within people groups all over the world. The harvest is plentiful. It is not enough to say ‘God has called me to reach the Jews’. The Jews in the UK, Russia and in Israel may share the same history but they don’t share the same language and problems. Every nation will have a caste system of some kind, recognised or not, which cuts through language and ethnicity. I have a friend who is church planting in London. All his churches are Chinese. They all speak Chinese so I think. But one church I am translated in to speaks Mandarin and another Cantonese. They don’t understand one another. Even though I just think they are the same people. The harvest is plentiful. Then we can look at the unreached people groups defined by the fact that there is no movement within which can adequately reach the people without outside cross-cultural help. The hidden, lost people groups. Then there are the least evangelised people groups. 25% of the world population still have little or no access to the gospel. The harvest is plentiful.

The need to PRAY for WORKERS

A prayer movement began in England in 1782 led by the Nottingham Baptist Association. Every month churches would meet solely to pray for mission and expansion. It wasn’t long into those meetings that a man drew a map of the world and joined in the prayers, pouring out his own life in prayer for the lost. This man, William Carey, known as the father of modern missions rose into the work of reaching the lost from the place of prayer. We need such movements again. We are living in a new season where for over the last decade at least the Church has been reawakened to the call to pray for the people of the world. New ministries and movements of prayer are emerging. A fresh burden to pray for a release of workers is being seen right across the globe. This is not a movement in the UK to send workers to the four corners of the world. No, this is a world-wide desire and call to pray. Movements of prayer are taking place in Africa and Asia to raise up workers for the harvest. The world is poised for global mission like never before.

It is waiting.

For you.

The crowds are there.

Overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro is the world’s largest statue constructed between 1922 and 1932, Christ the Redeemer. It is an amazing picture for the whole of Brazil’s Christian faith. Christ the Redeemer has His arms stretched out to the whole world today. No one is beyond His reach.
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9 v 35-37)

The crowds were there. They can be found. Jesus moved throughout the region, teaching, proclaiming and healing and as he did he saw them, the harassed and helpless crowds, directionless and uncared for.

We only see what is there when we move.

They were not led by still waters instead their lives were storm-raged and rudderless.

What had happened to these people?

Who was to blame? Them or their shepherds? Maybe both.

The Bible is full of a God who loves as a shepherd.

Joseph described God, “God who has been my shepherd all my life” (Genesis 48:15)

Isaiah prophesies, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (40:11)

And of course David says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” (Psalm 23:1)

This shepherd is the defender of the vulnerable.

Our God was and is always on the side of the powerless and of justice for the poor, needy and vulnerable.

Most people who are downtrodden by abusive power are those who had little power to begin with, God gives them particular attention and has a special place in his heart for them.

The word ‘compassion’ comes from the words to ‘suffer with’ and is rooted in God’s covenant with us His people. He came to us, suffered for us and rose so that we might also be raised.

He saved you. He heard you. He turned to you. He was gracious to you. He gave righteousness to you. He protected you. He has been good to you. He delivered you. He dried your eyes. He steadied your feet. He brought you to life. In the presence of suffering, in the presence of liars, in the presence of all His people, even in the presence of death, He freed you, freed you to serve, freed you to praise and freed you to live. For the ones who have fallen on hard times. For the tattered and the torn and those who have been forgotten. For the ones that have run out of second chances, burnt every bridge, and hit rock bottom… You are never too dirty, never too deep, never too far, to find hope, find relief, to find a Compassionate Saviour. You were once part of the crowds and now you are called to move towards them.
Today may God open your eyes to see what Jesus sees.
Today may your heart be broken for the broken.
Today may you not give up until those around you are helped.
Don’t run from the mission God has called you to, but be the follower of Christ in the mission to the crowds.

Jesus the non-conformist

In 29 years of being a Pastor/leader I have found the attacks within the Church are more regular and more damaging than any attack from outside. Every attack has centred around offence that a decision or action caused discomfort, change or disregard to how things are usually done or should be done.

“While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”(Matthew 9 v 32-34)

Contrast 1: The healed blind men left the house and disobediently began talking about Jesus. As they leave a demon-possessed unable to talk was brought in.

When a Church is unable to evangelise the problem may well be a spiritual one.

Contrast 2: The openness of the crowds who are surprised that they are witnessing such activity in their generation (Nothing like this has ever been seen …) expose the closed and insecure Pharisees who assume that if this was God He would work through them (It is by the prince of demons …)

When the culture of a Church is worshipped then it can dismiss the ways of God.

Contrast 3: The blind could see and the mute could speak but the seeing Pharisees were blind and their accusations of Jesus only silenced the spiritual warfare taking place in their own hearts.

When a Church opposes a move of God their condition can be worse than the demonised outside of it.

God still moves today.

When He does He usually offends those who are not moving.

Obedience is better than your answer.

In 1886 at a revival meeting held by D L Moody, the worship leader wrote down a sentence from a man who gave a testimony of Jesus changing his life. He sent it to a friend and minister, J.H. Sammis. The sentence was this, “I am not quite sure—but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey.” Sammis then wrote the famous hymn:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way; To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

(Ira D. Sankey, in his biography, My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns)

“As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.” (Matthew 9 v 27-31)

Despite their disability they followed.

Despite not being able to see they identified him. It is the first time that Jesus is called by the title Matthew used of Him in 1:1, ‘Son of David”. They would know of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy that: “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” (29:18); “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” (35:5); “I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (42:6-7) They knew this was that day.

Despite their blindness they pursued him. They did not give up even when Jesus went into the house where he was staying.

Despite never seeing a miracle they had faith that Jesus can do what no one has ever seen. In the Old Testament there was only the promise of healing of blindness, there is no record of anyone actually being healed. They trust in His ability to do it.

Despite being looked down on by the social stigma of their condition, they knew Jesus was really the master, the power and the controller of their life. “Kyrios, Lord”

And finally and sadly …

Despite their healing they were not obedient to Jesus. He can change your life but obedience is what you do or don’t do. Jesus was trying to protect His mission from the crowds who were increasingly getting it wrong in wanting Him to be the king that saves them not from sin but from the Romans and even their own religious oppressive leadership. Ironically now, post-resurrection the obedience request is for us to all go and tell.

It seems to me that having a problem in your life, whether that be blindness or some other problem can actually make you someone to be admired. They followed, they identified, they pursued Him, they had faith in Him and they called Him ‘Lord’.

It is when we get healed or some other answer to prayer when it can go wrong for us.

Obedience is better than your answer.

No matter what is going on make sure you are saying today, “I am not quite sure—but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey.”

A new decision can lead to a miracle.

Maybe if we just ask them for a coffee and a chat?

Maybe if we just tell them that Jesus can transform their life?

Maybe if we just invite that person to Alpha?

Whatever did happen to thia woman she found herself in front of the only man who could change her life.

“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.” (Matthew 9 v 20-22)

Jesus is going to the house of the synagogue ruler (the other gospels name him as Jairus) to raise his daughter who had died (the other gospels say she was 12 years of age).

In what is a beautiful parallel story within the gospels we have the daughter of the synagogue ruler raised to life and another was restored as a daughter of Israel (the other gospels say after 12 years of ill-health). The connection is purposeful.

The law of Moses had lifestyle rules which kept people clean and acceptable to God. “When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period.” (Lev 15:25)

This woman has no name.

She is not acceptable to God nor her culture because if she touches anyone or is touched then the uncleanliness is passed on.

So this woman is isolated.

She has lost contact with friends.

This woman has not been hugged for a very long time.

The father of the daughter has been a father all the time the woman has been unclean. But even more importantly he has been the synagogue ruler responsible for making sure this woman and others did not enter the place of worship and make it unclean.

What changed the life of this woman? It was of course Jesus.

But it is right to say that this woman changed her life because she dared to use the word, ’IF’.

IF is to think differently

Thinking differently can lead to new decisions.

New decisions can lead to miracles

It starts with IF.

Discipleship is knowing that what may have died can live again

Happy Easter!

Jesus was dead but He came back and is alive today.

No matter what dies, it can live again.

If Churches close down then later they can reappear.

If a generation loses faith then the next can regain it.

Whatever you have lost can be found.
Whatever has been stolen can be given back.
Whatever has gone wrong can be put right.
Where there has been defeat, success can come.

It is not over till it’s over and we never get to say it is over!
There is still time in your life, there is still today.
Jesus is Here!

While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples … When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.” (Matthew 9 v 18-19; 23-26)

  • Some miracles start from the bended knee of heart-felt worship and earnest prayer.
  • Some miracles need a new sound.
  • Some miracles need people who think they know what has happened to leave.

Easter Sunday tells us that miracles do happen. Everything is possible for God!

  • Jesus went into the house of acceptance and conclusion.
  • Jesus proclaimed LIFE, the opposite of the atmosphere.
  • Jesus moved the mourners and the mockers out of the house to change the sound.
  • Jesus went into the room and took the girl’s hand and she got up.

And the disciples knew that whatever may have died can live again!

Discipleship is being excited about the new move!

Happy Easter Eve! Also known as Black Saturday and the Great Sabbath. For some nations it is a bank holiday of rest and relaxation. In Mexico it is Judas Day and today there will be many effigies of Judas being burnt!

Today, especially for the Catholics, the paschal fast is continuing. This is not a sombre, Lenten fast. This is one of excitement of what is to come, like the morning of a Wedding Day. But it is not the fast of that first day after the death of Jesus. He is gone. He died yesterday. He has been taken from them and today they most probably did fast. Here are our verses:

“Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9 v 14-17)

  1. Some are disciples of the old move (the forerunner John) and they don’t recognise what they had been fasting and longing for has come.
  2. Jesus didn’t come to improve on the old with a few changes. He came to create a whole new garment.
  3. If the old structures that have now become inflexible and unmoveable are not laid down then they will not hold the new move of God. Structures serve the movement.

Tomorrow we celebrate the new move which has never grown old and is still powerful as it was 2,000 years ago. It signifies that Jesus’ message was about movement and it still is. He is movement and He creates movements as His Spirit testifies throughout generations.

Today are we ready?

There are still old garments hanging on the coat hooks in churches today. There are still old wineskins wanting new wine not realising that unless they change they will spoil the new.

So what is the message of this movement?

  1. Inclusivity for all are welcome. (Let’s keep partying with all types of people)
  2. Separation (from the past but not from the world)
  3. Expectancy of the increase of disciples (the Matthew’s of this world)