Monday, July 21, 2014

The Transformed

“As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” ~ Matthew 9:9-11

Jesus is the ultimate transformer. He takes our lives and transforms us to new individuals. He takes the weak and difficult things in our lives and uses them to display His strength, His hope, His eternity.

We who trust in Him are the Transformed. Matthew inserts his own transformation in between accounts of Jesus’ miracles. In a way, Matthew is declaring that his own calling, his own transformation from a despised tax collector to a beloved disciple of Christ, is miraculous. Jesus casts out demons, Jesus heals, Jesus forgives and Jesus transforms lives.

Levi was a tax collector. He was like the IRS of the Roman Empire. Tax collectors in those days were often wealthy, but had very little interaction with rabbis. Jesus, the Rabbi, approaches this man, and there is no reasoning, no explanation. Jesus simply says, “Follow Me.” Levi follows Jesus, and becomes ‘Matthew.’ He leaves all his wealth and stability behind to follow Jesus. Jesus can save anyone.

The name Levi can mean “joined,” but it can also mean “to take.” Matthew means “Gift of God.” Jesus transforms this man from one who takes to a gift of God.

Despite your past, Jesus wants to transform your life to be a Gift. He looks upon you as His masterpiece, His workmanship saved by grace. In Ephesians 2:10, the Apostle Paul declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Matthew never could have imagined that he would be transformed to a disciple of a Rabbi, the Rabbi who saved the world through the power of His blood.

Be reminded of the transforming power of Jesus. Share your testimony, as Matthew does in his Gospel record. Do your friends know your testimony? Share it with someone today. His Holy Spirit lives in you, unveiling His Word to you and making you into the image of Jesus.

“By the mercies of God, present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” ~ Romans 12:1-2

Robert Furrow

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jesus and the Tormented

“There met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine.” ~ Matthew 8:28-31

Just as Jesus calms the raging storm on the sea of Galilee, He encounters a terrifying scene. Not a storm of the seas, but a storm within two men. Him and the disciples encounter tormented souls. Two men, described as fierce and violent, are possessed by demons. Instantly, they are afraid of Jesus and overwhelmed by His power and presence. With a word, a single word, they leave and are cast out.

We are not called to become obsessed with the Spiritual Realm. We are called to preach and make disciples of the Gospel of Christ.

When demons show up, when false teachers enter the scene, it is not as a horror villain. satan parades as an angel of light.

I am quite sure that satan would like to destroy you. I am certain that he wants to steal, kill and destroy all that is in your life through sin. However, you are a child of God. You, as bearers of the image of Christ, infuse the world with the message of the Gospel. You are light in a dark and hopeless world.

We do not need to concern ourselves with fighting demons. We only need to concern ourselves with staying close to Jesus. In fact, James 2:19 tells us that demons believe in Jesus, and they tremble in fear.

“If the devil comes knocking at my door, I am going to send Jesus to answer.” ~ Greg Laurie

Again, James 4:7-8 declares, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

We have already been given the victory. Jesus has already been given the victory. They are afraid of Jesus. They are afraid of us, the children of the Living God, in the image of Christ.

Jesus has already disarmed the devil and defeated the enemy of darkness. Colossians 2:15 states “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Walk in His victory. Have confidence in the presence of Jesus. If you are in any doubt, and fear the evil lurking in the dark, turn to Jesus, and He will draw near to you. Call out of Him and He will bring you close to Him. If you are worried about the life of another, a friend or family member who is walking dangerously in the darkness, pray fervently. Pray until you have an answer. He will speak to you and fill you with His peace, love, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

But if you reject Jesus, like these people who witnessed Jesus power over these demons, He will leave.

Draw near.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Roadblocks to Real Christianity

“Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”  ~ Matthew 8:19-22

This is for those who want to follow Jesus, but find that life is getting in the way. This is for those who desire to experience real Christianity, but have never fully committed.

Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart. In reality, following Jesus, living fully for Him, requires sacrifice and dedication. Like an Olympic athlete who trains daily with perseverance and devotion, to win the ultimate prize, so we too are called to live daily, fighting off temptation and seeking Christ, for the ultimate prize of heaven.

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:14

Jesus is approached by two men who express an earnest desire to follow Him. In one sentence, Jesus uncovers the common roadblocks which stop people from fully committing to Him. For anyone who wants to follow Jesus must recognize that there is a price, a change in priorities and a level of perseverance.

Paying the Price: Following Jesus is expensive. It is everything. We must be willing to give Him everything, our lives, our family, our cars, our homes, our jobs, that it might be used for His glory and not our own. Following Jesus does not bring selfish gain. Following Jesus brings true Joy and everlasting life.

Placing the Priorities: When we follow Jesus, He becomes the first and foremost. Even our families are placed behind our devotion to Him. Yes, Jesus commands us to provide for our families. However, we may have to change priorities if family stands in the way of following Jesus fully. Our friends, our finances, our stuff, our time, all takes a back seat to the One who crafted you and knows your true and lasting purpose: to glorify God.

Preparing to Persevere: Life takes sacrifice and hard work. As any athlete or successful entrepreneur can attest, time and patience are often key ingredients to a true reward. When times are difficult, it is then that we must cling to the Bible and His promises. Daily read and spend time with Jesus, especially when it is difficult. 

Galatians 6: 7-9 displays the concept of rewards gained through giving our lives to Jesus. When we sow seeds to our flesh and this world, we sow to the harvest of death. When we sow seeds to the Spirit, we sow to the eternal harvest. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Do you want to live for Jesus? Recognize the roadblocks, push them aside and begin a journey with Jesus beyond what you could ever imagine.

Robert Furrow

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Changing of the Guard

 “Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.”  ~ Matthew 8:13

With great ceremony, the guards switch positions to ensure the health of the guard and the security of the people. With the death and resurrection of Jesus, we see a changing of the guard. Salvation is available to all.

Breaking through the boundaries established by the religious leaders, Jesus recognizes faith in the life of an outsider. No longer was faith and salvation only available to the nation of Israel. Jesus fulfills a promise of old and ushers in a changing of the guard. The Gospel and salvation through faith is now available to all through the life and sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus.

The nation of Israel was called to declare the truth of God to the rest of the world. Jesus, as a fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through Abraham’s Seed, ushers in a new era of believers in YHWH, the One True God.

The future of the church was Gentiles. Gentiles refer to non-Jewish persons by religion and nationality. Repeatedly in the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament, God explains that the Jewish people were to be a light to the rest of the world. It was promised to Abraham that through his Seed, through the Messiah, all nations would be blessed. Look to Galatians 3:16 “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.”

Jesus presses the pause button, in a way, on the Jewish people, and ushers in the era of the Gospel presented to the entire world.

Jesus is not finished with the nation of Israel. In fact, God declares that He will never reject His people, the Israelites. Zechariah prophecies that the Jewish people will one day bow before Jesus and declare Him as Messiah.

Zechariah 12:10 declares the day when the Jewish people will recognize Jesus as Messiah. “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” When was God pierced? This only happened in the fulfillment of the prophecy, by the death of Jesus upon the cross.

Today, the message of the Gospel is being preached and received  growing at a rate higher than any other faith or religion. The promise of eternity and hope of new life is taking root in the hearts and lives of millions around the world. As Jesus heals this centurion’s servant in recognition of his faith, He foreshadows the incredible salvation that is available to any who receive.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” ~ John 3:16-17

Robert Furrow

Monday, June 2, 2014

Miraculous Jesus

When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” ~ Matthew 8:1-4

Miraculous Jesus.

Jesus declares His deity, His position as Messiah. His power over the laws of nature is displayed in performing miracles. While others claim to perform the miraculous, only Jesus, as the Son of God, performs miracles to bring others to salvation and eternal life. Only Jesus holds all things together by the Word of His power. Only Jesus is God.

In John 14: 10-11, Jesus declares his authority and deity as one with the Father. He says,“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” Jesus is uniting Himself with the Father, as the only Son of God. He alone declares dominion over spiritual and physical disease.

Here, Jesus performs an unlikely miracle, not for show or appearance. He heals a leper because He can. The leper, desperate for life and hope, declares in faith that Jesus can heal him. Jesus says, “I am willing.” With those three powerful words, the man is instantly cleansed.

Leprosy in the Bible is a symbol of sin. If people were found to have contracted leprosy, they were instantly outcast from society. No longer could they live with their family. No one could touch them or even interact with them. The disease literally ate away at the flesh and skin of a person.

Sin is the same. It begins small, like a leprous sore. Sin seems appealing at the start, the pursuit of pleasure and self. Then sin creeps in and eats away at our lives. It destroys relationships and keeps us away from living as we were meant to live.

“I am willing,” Jesus said.

Jesus is willing to cleanse and heal us this very day. In the same way that Jesus heals this leper, and cleanses him completely, Jesus heals and cleanses us from sin. 

Today, as we recognize Jesus’ dominion over all things, we know that He can heal us, He can make us clean. He is willing, if we only ask. In that moment, Jesus cleanses us from all sin and all unrighteousness.

Incredibly, the Creator of the Universe, the Miraculous Jesus wants to walk with us every day, in and out of seemingly mundane moments. The miraculous Jesus is present in our every moment. So today, walk with the miraculous Jesus, who alone has the power to renew our life and make us holy. As we stand before Him, cleansed of our sin, we begin a walk away from the disease of sin and in pursuit of God’s glorious beauty and holiness.

“That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” ~ Colossians 1: 10

Robert Furrow

Monday, May 19, 2014

Narrow Minded

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. ~ Matthew 7:13-14

Jesus is the Narrow Way. A relationship with Him is the only Way to Heaven. 

The door to Heaven is in the simple, yet complex relationship with the God who created us. We want something more formulaic. We want the way to Heaven to be a series of good works or traditions. Heaven is not found in religion or church, it is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Not everyone who says they are Christians, are Christians. If there is a narrow way that leads to life, we want to be sure that we are on that narrow path.

In Romans 10, Paul is speaking of the nation of Israel and their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. As Paul describes what the Jewish nation needs to receive salvation. The only way to be saved is through declaring and calling upon Jesus Christ.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:9-13

The Way is near to us; it is found in the confession of devotion to the Messiah. Salvation is seen when God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, draws a person to Himself. Then, through confession and belief, that person receives salvation and is eternally changed.

For those who may have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lifetime, a baby who passes away too soon, a person in a remote jungle. We know that God is fair and that He will present Himself to them and if they do come to Heaven, it will be through Jesus Christ.

Each human has an innate desire for something greater than him/herself. We look up to the stars and find a world outside our own. We yearn for purpose and life outside of routine and mundanity.

Our purpose is not found in doing more, but in knowing Jesus. Follow Him, with complete abandon and find the Narrow Way.

The most fearful words to hear would be those found later in Matthew 7:23, when people who think they should go to heaven are cast away from Jesus’ presence. He says to them, “‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Make sure that you Know Jesus, the Narrow Way.

Robert Furrow

Monday, April 14, 2014

Correction for Critics?

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” ~ Matthew 7:1-5

Today, You stand in front of God. If you fall into sin, you fall before the Living God. No one else is your judge. No one else can save you. No one has the power to make you stand in righteousness or fall into sin.

While we are called to lovingly rebuke and restore those who are falling into destructive sin, we are not called to criticize people based on our own convictions. The way that we judge other people is the way that God will judge us. We want to be kind and merciful because that is the way that we want God to judge us.

It is usually our own weaknesses that lead to restriction. Many years ago, I got rid of my TV because it was distracting me from preparing my study for the youth group at Calvary Albuquerque. I would come home from work, and turn on the TV rather than prepare. Thus, because of my weakness, I got rid of the TV for a while. (I now, years later, have a TV in my home). However, when someone asked if I watched a show, I declared in my pride that I no longer had a TV. It was my weakness that led to my restriction! Yet, now I was in pride criticizing those who did not place that restriction, and probably did not have the same weakness!

We are not called to be “Sin Sniffers” or part of the “Gospel Gestapo.” We are not to look down our noses and tell other people how they are to worship Jesus. We should not have enough time to manage another person’s life. Why? Because we have enough problems when we look in the mirror! If someone is hypercritical, if they are always seeing problems in other people and cannot even develop relationships because of your critical nature, then the root is probably pride.

On the other hand, it is loving, rather than hypercritical, to correct someone who is deep in the mire and muck of sin. If a friend is coming dangerously close to having an affair, out of love, you correct that person and save that person and their family from years of grief, anguish and despair.

First spend time with Christ and let Him change and transform you. Then, we become critical of ourselves rather than another person. If you are tempted to criticize another person, pray. If you are tempted to gossip or spread dissension, stop. Spend time with Jesus. Pray for that person and let God’s do the judging and bring conviction into your life and the lives of His children.

The picture Jesus describes here is so accurate. A person who has a wooden plank in the eye, begins to criticize another who has a small speck. First, we need to take the plank out of our own eye! Perhaps the speck we see in another person is really our own plank, our own problem.

When was the last time you just sat with Jesus, opened the Bible and let Him speak to you? No time limit or restrictions, just the transforming, loving, and powerful Presence of God.

Let Him remove the plank problems in you and then share His transforming love with those around you.

Robert Furrow