“And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and
saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is a lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and
oft into the water. And I brought him to
thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how
long shall I be with you? how long shall
I suffer you? bring him hither to
me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he
departed out of him: and the child was
cured from that very hour. Then came the
disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your
unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If
ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain,
Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; And nothing shall be
impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind
goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man
shall be betrayed into the hands of men: and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised
again. And they were exceedingly sorry. And when they were come to Capernaum, they
that received tribute money came to
Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus
prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom
or tribute? of their own children, or of
strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of
strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then
are the children free. Notwithstanding,
lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up
the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt
find piece of money: that take, and give
unto them for me and thee.”
“Last week we left off in Matthew chapter 17, so if you can turn in your Bibles to Matthew 17. And once in a while, just gently exhort you guys, if it’s possible with your schedules, Sunday nights at six o’clock we have a prayer-meeting, and I believe in our prayer-meetings, really what happens in the prayer-meetings determines where we’re going to be in the future as a church. When there’s a church that’s praying, there’s generally a work of the Spirit of God going on. And so Sunday nights, if you are able to, what I at times have asked, that folks would consider if it’s possible with your schedule to commit to one Sunday night a month. If we did that, we’d have a quarter of the church together for prayer. It’s not something you have to do, and I know a lot of us have a lot of things we’re trying to balance. But sometimes I guess we need to be reminded to just the great importance of prayers. So tonight. You know, too, some of us are newer to the church. You know, churches go through cycles and transitions, and sometimes our church, our vision is ‘Win, Disciple, Send’, so leadership at times gets sent out and is going to other places. And so I’ve watched the church over the years, just kind of the dynamic change that takes place. I think we’re in that season now too with things changing, that maybe with more of an influx of new people, and some of the folks that have just been real pillars in this church having moved on to plant other churches or whatever, maybe the church at this time, we’re not quite as connected with one another as we have been in the past. And that’s just the reality of church life, with just the cycles that go on. If you feel that way, maybe you’re newer here, and just aren’t completely connected, you know, a prayer-meeting is one place where you have smaller groups of people, you get to know people. Maybe you’re a gal, we have a women’s study this Friday night, happens twice a month. It’s important I think for us to have friends within the Body [of Christ], and that’s an opportunity to make friends. The guys, the last part of this month, we have our Men’s Retreat, and I would think certainly as men, you hang out with men a day and a half as we do, you’ll make some bonds, it’s good, iron sharpens iron, it’s good to have men in your life, to just exhort you and encourage you. So those are some opportunities for you. Then too, just would like to remind you. Some of the folks, we used to bring out Michael Soule early on when we were getting started here, and haven’t in years. And I can tell as even people who are leadership in the church now can’t even say his name now, you know…he used to come, tremendous, actor really. One of those opportunities, like we just had Potter’s Field. If there are non-believers in your family, your neighborhood, folks that are maybe searching, don’t quite feel comfortable being invited to a church service to be preached at, Michael Soule, he just does this theatrical play, he does different ones, we’ve seen some of the old ones. They’re really powerful. He’s been used to really lead a lot of people to Christ. That’s coming up in a couple Wednesday nights. So, just want you to know about that. Well anyway, we are in Matthew 17, like I said, and I’d like to begin with a word of prayer, because right now there are folks from our church that are traveling down to the Gulf Coast. I went down a couple weeks ago, and we had mentioned we would be setting up some teams, so there’s a team going down right now. It’s hooked up with a team from Connecticut, they’ll be down, right there between, well it’s in Mississippi but right near the side of Louisiana, towards the New Orleans side there…an area that when I went was just devastated, big time by the hurricane [Katrina]. So they’re going to be ministering down there, just loving folks. [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/evangelism/Short-TermMissions.htm] You’ve heard I’m sure on the news, I read it in the paper, I saw the governor this week of Louisiana, stating just, “We need more help, this is overwhelming.” I heard even the Red Cross this week make this statement, they’ve given a billion dollars in relief, but there’s so much more that is needed…But anyhow, let’s say a word of prayer for these folks that will be heading down, they’ll be returning next Saturday. ‘Lord, I just thank you that we can gather together here on Sunday as believers, and just seek your face and study your Word together simply. But yet too, there are folks from this body that are also going down, you said, you know, that those that give that cup of cold water in your name would even be blessed, and to minister to the hurting and to the needy and that’s certainly your heart. I thank you for those that have gone down that have been able to go, and pray you’d protect them and bless them. And even now Lord, prepare their hearts for those that they’re going to minister to, lots of people that are truly just hurting and despondent, and wondering about life, and now these folks have the opportunity to come and bring them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the hope that is found in Christ. So minister through them, Lord, protect them, keep them healthy, sustain them. We pray you’d bring them back safely next week, Lord, as they return on Saturday. So thank you, Lord. I pray too, as we now come to that time where we study your Word, just simply you’d help our minds and hearts to be focused, that you Lord would open our eyes to the wonderful light that is here in your Word, and minister to our hearts, Lord, speak to us. And I pray Holy Spirit that you’d be upon all of us, and even upon myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name, amen.’
What is faith?---Practical Reliance on God
This morning we get to consider this thing we call faith, there’s a lot about faith in our text here in Matthew 17. What is faith? Of course those of you that have been studying the Bible, I’m sure a lot of you think of Hebrews chapter 11. In our society we’ll hear people speak about, you know, ‘keeping the faith’ or ‘how their faith is important’ or ‘how they are standing in their faith’, you know, ‘their faith is sustaining them.’ There are times you’ll hear somebody on TV say that, and you know a little later, as they’re talking about faith, you’re wondering ‘What is their faith, anyway?---and what does it mean?’ What is faith? The writer of Hebrews defines faith as “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” A lot of you know that Scripture for sure. What is meant by “substance of things hoped for”, when he says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for”? What is meant by that? The word translated “substance” means literally “to stand under, to support”. So just as a foundation is there for the house, that sense of sustaining me, my faith is a foundation to me, it is something that, just like that house, it’s confidence, it’s this assurance that I have, is I have a real faith that helps me to stand. And so he says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for.” What is the evidence of things not seen? The word “evidence” simply means “conviction”, referring then to this inward conviction that God gives, this inward conviction that what he has said to me, what he has said through his Word, what he has promised is indeed true. And no matter how circumstances may appear in the situation, his Word is true. So I have this conviction, this evidence of things not seen. So, putting it together, true faith then is a standing assurance and confidence that God is indeed true to his Word. True faith in not a blind optimistic feeling. Sometimes people speak of their faith in that way, it’s almost this optimistic feeling, ‘I’m an optimist’, but that’s not true faith. True faith is not a manufactured ‘hope so’ feeling. Neither is it merely an intellectual knowledge that attests that certain doctrines are true. And neither is it superstitious, you know, mystical in the sense of ‘in spite of evidence, I’m going to blindly have this faith.’ It’s not that way either. I mean, it’s the evidence of things not seen, there’s this reality yet to my faith. True faith is a confident obedience to God’s Word. That’s what it is. Because I believe it to be true, I then have this standing assurance and confidence, and no matter what’s going on around me, I believe his Word is true. That is what faith is. It causes me to stand in the midst of a fallen and shaken world. Considering Oswald Chambers, he put it this way, “Faith in the Bible is faith in God, against everything that contradicts him. I will remain true to God’s character whatever he may do.” Meaning, I believe his Word, though it may apparently, to me right now, seem that I don’t understand, and it’s confusing, but yet his Word is true. And because his Word is true I believe. Job said “Though he slay me, yet I will trust him.” Now that’s certainly a statement of faith. [If that short preliminary definition of faith seemed a bit confusing, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/faith/whatis.htm for an excellent Bible sermon defining Biblical faith.] Matthew 17, we’re going to be reminded again, faith is not an intellectual assent, it’s not just some superstitious optimistic hope, or type of attitude. R.T. France writes it this way, I like this, that “faith is a practical reliance on a living God.” That, I like, a practical reliance on a living God. That is what the Bible says. And so, when you have this practical reliance on your God, when that is true, you have that faith, it certainly, as you know, many of you, it effects the way you live. And we’re going to consider this practical reliance, this faith, practical reliance on the living God. We’re going to look at it in different ways. We’re going to look first of all, at faith, faith that trusts God for those that we love. Secondly, faith that moves mountains. Thirdly, faith trusts God when we don’t understand. And then faith to step out and see God provide. And so, this type of real faith, and how it effects us.
From Mountaintop experience back to the real world
Let’s begin with Matthew 17, verses 14-21, “And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to him, kneeling down to him and saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.’ Then Jesus answered and said, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.’” Now, we again are going verse by verse through the Gospel of Matthew. Last week, you remember that Jesus, the three disciples, John, James and Peter were with Jesus on what we call ‘the mount of transfiguration’, probably mount Hermon. And when they’re up there, in a radical way Jesus was transformed, it said, I mean he stood there in his glory. Elijah and Moses were there with him. Three disciples saw that, Peter blown away, doesn’t even know what to say, he’s a bit afraid. He says ‘Hey, let’s just stay here, this is kind of cool, let’s build some tabernacles and hang out’, he seems to like being there, though it’s kind of wild at the same time. There’s bright light and the glory of Christ there. But you know, we now see them descending from the mountain, and you know that mountaintop experience, we can’t stay there, so there’s the descent. We see there they descend, and it says in Luke chapter 9 that it’s now the next day, so they were up there probably about a day, or maybe with all the travel it’s the next day. And you see, you know they have that peace and serenity, that beautiful and powerful experience, and now they’re coming into the real deal, the real world, and it’s very different, they’re confronted again with the real world, the ugliness of it and the battle of a fallen world---spiritual battle. And you know, that’s our experience too. We have those special mountaintop experiences, time with God, whatever it might be, maybe it’s a retreat [or the Feast of Tabernacles 8-day retreat], maybe it’s a prayer-meeting, maybe it’s our prayer-time alone in the house, and we have that sense of peace. And then there’s the real world waiting for you, you know. [Comment: Having spent years going to our 8-day retreat of the Feast of Tabernacles, with other brethren, fellowshipping, hearing inspiring sermons, for 8 days---and then going home, back into the real world, back to our jobs—and auggh!---it hurts. We used to call it post-Feast-letdown. But it was more than that, it was going back into Satan’s world, a fallen world, after being within a whole small community of Holy Spirit indwelt believers.] As if sometimes the Devil is there to kind of steal the joy, and take away what was just going on in your heart, it’s kind of like that here. In fact, the Devil is part of this equation here with what’s going on, as we’ll see as we continue. But we do live in a real world, and we can’t stay in those places of serenity and tranquility, you know, where it’s just you and the Lord, that mountaintop, we can’t stay there. Though when they’re at the mountaintop experience, it’s very powerful, and there are things that we studied about this last week, there are things from that experience that greatly impacted their lives in the future. John and Peter even write about the experience later, it’s so impacted them, seeing Jesus in that mountaintop experience. But at the same time, they’re heading into the valley, but what they learn here is also very vital and very important. And so, the mountaintop experiences are important, but so is coming right back down and getting into the battle in the valley. That’s also very important to you and I, they’re both part of our growing and maturing, all so important in our lives. So Mark in his Gospel, Mark chapter 9 describes, as they’re coming down, there’s more details to this story in the other Gospels. As they’re coming down, Jesus initially sees this multitude, and he sees that the remaining disciples that weren’t with him, that were back there, are with this multitude, and there’s the Scribes, the religious leaders. And there’s a dispute, a debate going on. He sees that. And so he comes up to the multitude, you don’t have this here, but he comes up to the multitude, and he says ‘What are you discussing, what’s the debate about?’ And it’s at this point, this father that we read about here, he then speaks out and calls out to Jesus and says ‘Teacher, I brought you my son who has a mute spirit.’ And we learn from Luke chapter 9, verse 38, that this son is an only child, this father’s only child. You read in verse 15, this father is really having a trial, his son, his child, his only child is suffering significantly, there are these intense seizures he’s having. The New King James says and translates the Greek word into “epileptic” there as you see, he is an epileptic if you have the New King James, and truly that’s probably a bad choice of words in that translation. Because as you see, even in verse 18, and clearly in the other Gospels, this boy is demon-possessed. And of course today, we know with epilepsy, it’s science, epilepsy is a biological deal, there’s a brain thing that’s going on, and I don’t really understand it, but there’s a medical problem with epilepsy. But this boy has a demonic-spirit problem. And so that word “epileptic” in the New King James probably isn’t the best choice of words. The King James translates it as lunatic. Now actually that’s more close to the real literal meaning of the Greek word. The Greek word literally means “moonstruck” or “lunatic”. And so the King James is closer to the literal meaning. And why moonstruck? Where did they get that? Well, in that particular time there was this belief, when the moon would go through certain changes, that it could effect what was going on with people. And in an interesting way, in our culture we kind of have a sort of belief to that too. You know when there’s a full-moon, we’ll say ‘There’s a full-moon out, be careful.’ And for some strange reason, I’m not sure as to why, but when there is a full-moon, there are studies that have been done, there is more stuff that goes on in our emergency rooms, there is more stuff going on in our mental wards and things. And why, only God knows. [You forgot checking the Police Blotters for periods of the full-moon. Cops know all about it, things get crazy.] When there is a full-moon there is something that goes down. [Well, Passover, the very day Jesus Christ was crucified, always occurs on a full-moon. The other significant time in God’s Holy Day pattern is that the Feast of Tabernacles always starts on the full-moon of the seventh month on the Hebrew Calendar. The Feast of Tabernacles represents God’s Millennial Kingdom having come to earth, a time when Satan and the demons are locked away for 1,000 years, unable to influence mankind. Satan and the demons kingdom suffered greatly as a result of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, and in the Millennial Kingdom of God on earth, their freedom-time on earth will be just about over. The demons hate what has occurred on a full-moon, and what will yet occur on a full-moon. Something Gentile Christians are unaware of, since they haven’t kept God’s Hebrew Holy Days over a period of time. Just a little bit of information from our Sabbatarian Churches of God and Jewish side of the Body of Christ. So not only God knows, these two groups know, and the demons of course know.] Maybe it’s just we think there is, so it does happen, I don’t know. It could be too, I do know that in the Satanic religions and the occult, that full-moon, there are times, I mean, that’s a high day for Satanic religions, and there are things that go down. Maybe that has to do with it. But moonstruck, that’s what the word means.
It’s not easy being a
parent---when you love someone, you open yourself up to hurt and pain
This boy has been possessed with this evil spirit, and as you see there, it controls him in a brutal way, at times it even takes him and seeks to toss him into the fire, so he falls into the fire. There’s times that he falls into the water. So this father has been suffering greatly. I mean, your own son, I have a nine-year-old son. And maybe you have children, or maybe you have young nieces and nephews, and so you have that love in your heart for them, and just imagine that young person that you love suffering in that way, where you’ve got to jump up, you know, outside, because he just jumped into fire, and he’s screaming and hollering and he’s getting burned. Or you’re out in an area where there’s water, and suddenly this thing grabs him and he’s now in the water, and you have to go grab him, and it’s not just that he’s in the water, he’s shrieking and he’s kicking and he’s struggling. I mean, the suffering is intense. When you go to Mark and Luke, Luke gives us some more description, because the father shares a little bit more than what’s recorded here. The father says, that when the evil spirit would seize him, that this boy would start to scream out, and then he would convulse, then he would be thrown down on the ground, he would then start to foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth, and then after a bit of time he’d become rigid. And when the evil spirit would finally leave him, the father said it would leave him in such a way that it would bruise him, it would leave him in such difficulty, that he would be harmed when the spirit left him. I couldn’t imagine, having a son or a little daughter, just the suffering, and anguish with your child. You know, as I consider this, you know, this young boy, I would imagine there was this season where this wasn’t going on. We read in the Gospels that this started when he was a young child. But of course when he was born, I would assume it wasn’t like that initially. Something’s gone on in the family, they’ve gotten involved in some kind of activity that’s opened them up to this, where now this young boy, maybe involved in some pagan deal, religion, the occult, and now they’ve got a son that’s demon-possessed. But a parent in that situation, you know it’s not easy to be a parent, and one of the reasons it’s not easy to be a parent, is it’s not easy to love, because when you love somebody, you also open yourself up to hurt and pain. That’s just part of the equation, isn’t it? ‘I love you, and now because you have that part of my heart, I can get hurt. When you suffer, when you struggle, I suffer too.’ That goes with the equation to love. So to be a parent is not easy, for that reason. To love is not easy for that reason. Sometimes some of us, we shut up our hearts, because we’ve been hurt. [Comment: Amen brother. After being married for 19 years, and then having the wife desert and divorce, it has done something to damage the love that I have for my kids by that relationship. Why? Because it is probably an attempt by my brain to withdraw from a painful situation like one would withdraw from getting one’s hand burned on a hot stove. Just don’t want to get burned again. It has been difficult to love, because of all the pain. And that is a growing process I have had to force myself into, ignoring the pain and forcing myself to continue to love and support them. There is a lot involved in loving, your kids, other people, in spite of the potential hurt that inevitably comes along. I have about 500 photographs of the family and kids when they were growing up, from tiny babes to teenagers, that I have not been able to bring myself to put into albums or scan and put on a computer album-file because it’s still too painful.] We’ve been hurt in the past, and we kind of know, that you know, I love, and now I’m hurt, and now I don’t want to love, I don’t want to open my heart. And that’s not good either, because you lose twice when you do that. But it’s not easy. You know, I love my wife, I love my three children, and I wouldn’t want to go back before they were in my life. I just love them. But boy my children and my wife, they have a part of my heart nobody ever had before---and when they suffer, and if something really terrible was to happen to one of them, it would really, really hurt. You have that fear sometimes as a parent. ‘Oh Lord, don’t let my kids’, or whatever, it’s just right, we know what we’re talking about. I, thinking of this, thinking what this man’s about to experience in this equation when Christ enters into it, he has a relationship with somebody he loves that he’s suffering through with.
When Christ Enters, Faith Enters---see what happens
Now when Christ enters, and faith enters, see what happens. I was in Southern California this week, at what we call The Huddle, the church my wife and I came out of, in San Diego, there is what we call The Huddle. It’s a little [ministerial] conference. It’s not really a conference, but it’s a huddle. We get together, there’s hundreds of people that have gone out of that church to plant churches and to be missionaries, so we get together as a family and we call it a huddle. It’s sort of a conference, but we’re just getting together, and getting exhorted by Mike, and people sharing. Well this year, every year Mike will have different people share, and give little testimonies. I’ve shared before about what’s going on here in New England. But this year there wasn’t so much of that. One of the days they did something they’ve never done before, and I think it was pertinent, they felt led to do this. But there were five individuals that have been at every huddle I’ve been at, for ten years, five individuals aren’t there this year because they died. And so, people that have been very important and just blessings in this denomination’s family of churches have died over this past year. So Mike gets up there, my pastor, and there’s the screens, and there’s the pictures, and he begins to share stories and testimonies, of, ‘Here’s this man, came to the very first Bible study in the early 70s, and came up to me afterwards with his wife, and said, ‘You know, I just feel called to this church, and I feel called to just assist you and serve you in any way I can.’ And now it’s been thirty-five years later, and that man has been faithful to do that, but he just died, just recently. I guess he was a board member. I didn’t know him that well, but I certainly saw him at every huddle. Then there was another picture, Dwaine C., I knew him a little bit, his wife, pastor of another of these churches in another area, had a stroke suddenly and died, leaving his wife. Then there was Roger V., my wife and I knew Roger and his wife, couple not much older than we are, and he got cancer this year and it was a cancer that is generally curable but then the chemo damaged his lungs, so unexpectedly he died from his lungs being severely damaged from the chemo. And then there’s John W., this huge guy who played for the Stealers and played for the 49er’s a long time ago, and just a mammoth of a guy, every year Mike would have him, he’s an older guy, just kind of cute and funny, big guy, and he’d get up there and he’d give a devo, a little devotional one of the mornings, every huddle, and it was always football related…but it was always a lot of fun, he’s gone to be with the Lord. So, they told these stories and showed their pictures. But then, Mike and the leadership, I guess decided, they asked three of the widows, now there are three widows in that five that now are in this group, that they asked to come, and we wanted to pray for them, and give them an opportunity to share. One gal, the gal who was married to the man whose the board member that’s been there from the first Bible study, she shares, it was totally unexpected, her husband, they’re at the table playing games, cards with their grown children, and suddenly he gets a stroke and dies. And it wasn’t expected, she even was sharing how she thought God had told her a little while before that through a certain thing her husband was going to be around for quite awhile longer, and they were going to see all the grand-children grow. And yet now he’s dead. And so she’s here, and it was just unexpected, she’s a widow. Of course as they’re sharing, these three gals, there’s not a dry eye in the room, right?, because we all know each other, and there’s this love. The next wife, Mrs. C., her husband, I mean she’s, I would call her middle-aged, whatever middle-aged is, I just think she’s a little older than me, I don’t think I’m middle aged yet, so I think she’s middle-aged, I don’t know, but she’s whatever that age would be. [chuckles] And so, she shares, two years earlier their twenty-two-year-old daughter died from an illness. And for her and Dwayne, that was just life-changing, that was such a trial. And Dwayne had not totally gotten back on his feet, and now he dies, and so she’s a widow. She shares. And of course we’ve been praying a lot for Laurie because we know her, she’s basically the age of my wife, she has two sons, and Roger, you wouldn’t expect, but then he dies. So she shares. Now, why do I say that. Of course, these people are sharing, and you sense the pain, because they loved these people. I mean, I remember Laurie saying, “I’ll never be loved like I was loved by Roger,” her husband Roger, “I’ll never be loved like that from another person”, I mean, that’s what she shares. But why do I say that? Because, yet at this same time, these three women, they know Christ, and what this father is about to experience with Christ, they were able to yet say, they’re standing and there’s yet hope, and yet purpose in their lives, every one of them. And, you know, the one, Dwayne’s widow, lost her 22-year-old daughter, now her husband, and she’s sharing, but she says, “You know, I have joy, and I have peace, and I want to give you my secret, one of the things I do.” And it’s really, she’s saying she chooses to trust God. She says “Every day I start the day, here’s my secret, I start the day by being grateful, and I tell God, ‘You know I’m grateful I had 22 years of my daughter, Lord, I just want you to know that. I’m grateful that I’ve had my husband, and he was a good husband, and we were married for that long…” And she’s just choosing to trust God. So, she was even, clearly she’s yet having joy. And what a season of her life. And all these ladies were able to talk about Christ, and standing. And I say that because this father, he’s suffering because his son is suffering, he loves this son of his, and there’s the pain. But what he’s about to find is, faith in Christ. That’s my first point. Maybe you’re here today, and hey let’s face it man, that’s a reality of life. Right? You have pain at times in your life, and the reason you have pain is because of somebody else, somebody you love, you have pain, you have grief, you have burden because of somebody else you love [or loved]. Maybe you’re here today, maybe you have a child that’s just gone wayward, and you have such pain over that. Or maybe somebody close to you is no longer with us, they’ve died, or the relationship has been severed, so you have pain [been there, done that]. And faith, faith in that situation, faith in Christ, is so amazing. Today if that be you, my encouragement to you, and I just gently encourage you, turn your heart towards the Lord, turn your heart towards him, and choose to trust him in the midst of this. And as faith then begins to grow, faith is imparted to you, you will find peace. Chuck Smith, I was listening to his study, well actually it’s typed, so I was reading it on this text, and he shares this story. And year’s ago, his youngest daughter is only three years of age, and as kids do at times, she gets this fever, and it turns out to be a very high fever, as kids get. And of course those of us who have had a child or niece or nephew in that situation, you know that feeling. So here’s his little daughter, she was such a joy to him, and she got this high fever. Well he stays up all night, he’s holding her, he’s praying for her, as a dad would do, and here’s that warm little body, and I’ve had those experiences, man. If you’re a parent you have, ah, the feeling that you have, you want it to change, you’ve done all that stuff that can help, but there’s the whole battle as a parent. Well anyway she then started to convulse, and that happens sometimes, and this sense came over him of fear, that he was going to lose his daughter. So he shares the story about all of the emotion with that. But then in the midst of it, he felt God say to him, ‘You know, you need to trust me right now.’ And so he, right in his mind and his heart, as this was going on, he says “Lord, I don’t know what’s going to happen with this little girl, she’s my daughter, but I’m just saying right now to you, she’s your daughter, and I trust you for her life. She’s yours, I trust you.” So he shares the story that right there in the midst of that, he experienced this peace, peace. And of course his daughter turned out to be ok in the end. I say that to you because that’s faith. Faith isn’t something you manufacture, it isn’t this optimistic thing where you deny your emotions. Faith is you turning to Christ, and as you turn to him you say “I trust you Lord, I trust you Lord.” And there’s something that happens there. There’s this substance, this foundation, this conviction that God gives you that goes with that, and faith, faith to trust God, faith to trust God for a loved one. That’s wonderful, maybe that’s something that God just wants to say to you today, because of where you’re at and what’s going down in your life.
Belief in the Lord Jesus, is the answer for us
Verses 16-21, “So I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.’ Then Jesus answered and said, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’” This dad further explains to Jesus, he says “So I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him” (verse 16). Mark says, “They could not cast out the demon.” So “cure”, “cast out”, different translations [Gospels] you get the picture. But he says ‘I’ve gone to church leadership, man, I’ve gone to your leaders, and this has not helped.’ And maybe that’s been your experience, you are in this trial, and this deal, and you’ve sought out as many church leaders as you could, maybe you’ve been in a counseling appointment with me, and it hasn’t gotten better. But the ticket is, the deal is, this man, these folks haven’t been the answer, he’s about to find the answer is Jesus Christ. And that’s true for you in your situation, faith in Christ is your answer. That is what is needed. It’s all about him. Verse 17, “Then Jesus answered and said, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?’ Bring him here to me.’” Jesus answers, and you get a sense of some frustration…[tape switchover, some text lost]…first, generation, that Greek word speaks of being distorted, twisted, twisted in two, and corrupt, divided, “how long shall I be with you, how long shall I bear with you?” And I would think he’s not angry, I would think he’s just, ‘Ahh, I long for more for you, disciples, I long that you’d see, and here you are’… And then he instructs the boy be brought to him. Matthew tells us here in verse 18, Matthew condenses the whole story, but he rebukes the demon, and the boy’s set free. But you learn in Mark, sometime you’ll want to turn there in your future study, Mark chapter 9, verses 20 to 27 there’s seven verses with a lot more detail than what actually occurs here in Matthew. The child is brought to Jesus, but on the way, Luke tells us, along the way, Mark records it too, this demon seizes the child, right then. The child falls to the ground, groans and foams at the mouth. With that happening, there’s the dad, Jesus says to the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ Of course you can only imagine, here the father’s watching it happen again, and the father says “from childhood, and often he’s thrown into the fire, or the water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus replies, he looks at the dad, he says, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” And you know I can relate to the father, because the father cries out, I can relate to this, he says, “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.” Know that struggle, ‘I want to believe right now, help my unbelief, all these things.’ But I’m encouraged, as Jesus responds to this dad, he doesn’t rebuke the dad, but he actually sees the sincerity and humility and sees that in his heart, and he responds. In the other Gospels, Jesus at that point he sees the people kind of gathering together, running together, he then rebukes the spirit [demon], he says “Deaf and dumb spirit I command you come out of him, and enter him no more.” And the spirit cries out again, and the boy convulses greatly, and falls to the ground and doesn’t move, and people then think he’s dead. And people are saying ‘he’s dead.’ But Jesus takes the boy by his hand and lifts him up, and the boy arises. And I like what Luke adds, Luke then says, “then Jesus gave the child to the father.” And boy, what was going on emotionally with that father at that moment, to have the turmoil he had, and then to see this Jesus speak what he did, and to see his son set free? Maybe you’re struggling, people you love, you’re struggling, and there’s pain and suffering in your own life because of what’s going on. Turn to the Lord, man. The smallest bit of faith, you know, turn to him, ‘Oh Lord, help me, help my unbelief.’ He’s your answer. The disciples came to Jesus privately after that, you see there in verse 19, and they say ‘Why couldn’t we cast it out? We learn in the other Gospels, they’re in a home. It’s possible, because a little bit later it mentions Capernaum and Galilee, it’s possible they’re in Peter’s home. ‘Why can’t [couldn’t] we cast it out?’ To which Jesus replies, ‘Because of your unbelief.’ The NIV has ‘Your little faith’, but better “your unbelief.” Faithless is really, there’s not a whole lot of faith here. If there was just a little, because he talks about just a little, because he talks about if they had just a little it would make quite a difference---“it’s your unbelief.” And why unbelief? They were sent out and commissioned before, they went out and they spoke the word, remember, and they cast out demons, and why are they struggling with this? And it’s possible as they saw this little boy in the way he was and the power of this demonic entity doing what it did, that looking at that, there was that sense of overwhelming, and so no belief. It happens when we do that, and look at the circumstances.
Faith of a Mustard Seed Moves Mountains
But Jesus continues, he says the smallest faith, the littlest faith, the faith of a mustard seed, a tiny-weeny little mustard seed, if you had that much faith, it opens doors, man. “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain [which was Mount Hermon they’d just come down off of], ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” That’s radical that he would say that. And of course it’s true. But he says, ‘If I was to say now in faith, and I’d have to have the faith to say it, ‘Mount Monadnoc, I want beach-front, you know. Move, I want the beach.’ It’s kind of, it’s what he’s saying. Of course people try to say, no, that’s not what he’s saying.’ God can move a mountain. I mean, if he wants to use you to move a mountain, and he gives you the faith to say ‘Move, mountain’, a mountain will move. That is, with a little faith. It’s not so much the faith, it’s not the quantity of the faith, it’s the God we’re talking about, it’s the power of God. So just a little bit of faith, when you have an infinitely powerful God, anything can happen. And that’s what he’s saying, that’s what he’s saying. You practically relying on God, you turning to God and saying, “Lord, I look at that mountain, and I’m going to trust you Lord. Do the work.” Faith, faith can move mountains, you know, this real faith, not this mystical stuff, just faith, faith in Jesus, trusting truly in him. Because he’s speaking to you, and challenging you, and he’s leading you, and he wants you to trust him. Faith can move a mountain. You know, I think this passage is interesting, if you’ve been here a little while, and if you’re new, I’m going to give you a little story, it may or not mean too much to you. And I may confuse you all, but we’ve been praying about Radio here for awhile. We have the radio station, AM XXX. Back in San Diego, when I applied to the church internship program there, pastor-internship, they said, ‘What’s your vision?’ I said, ‘I believe God has put it on my heart to go to the Boston area to plant a church, and secondly, I used to be in Boston, and know Christian radio, I’m stirred, I feel God is leading me to assist Christian radio in New England. And then when all that’s done, to do outreach to western Europe, plant churches in Europe.’ Well, you know, God does speak, here’s a church, I guess the Lord was really leading me. Right? [And that church rose from 12 members attending a tiny Sunday morning Bible study in 1995, 2.5 years later they had 125 meeting for Sunday services, and 5 years later topping out near 400+ members, all in a region filled with rock-headed stubborn New Englanders who basically do not respond to religion or evangelism of any kind.] Had nothing to do with me, he just brought me out here, and here we go. Wow, there’s a church, you know. But radio station, we didn’t even get here and God dropped a radio station in our lap. Not this next Sunday, but the Sunday after, I’m looking forward to it, Sebastian is going to be with us, a little Frenchman, up in Montreal, planting a church. And why is he here? Because we’ve started a ministry called F.O.I, French Outreach Initiative, and we’re working with churches to plant churches in France, and in French speaking countries. In a week and a half I’ll be in France to speak at a retreat. So my point is, God speaks to us about things, I mean, you just follow him. Well, this radio thing. Since the day we showed up [in New England] we’ve been praying for FM radio, and early on, you know, there is, in radio engineering, you can’t just like go, ‘I want a radio station’ and put one on. You have to apply, and it’s like getting a piece of real estate, there’s only so much room for radio stations and frequencies. You can’t interfere with others. So you get an engineer and there were only two software programs they used to be able to use, and you would use these and they’re expensive, and you’d go, ‘OK, in this town, that city and this other city, is there any room for any FM stations?’ We did this early on. And we had four towers with our AM station, we could put up a little FM---and there’s no room. It’s just the capital city of our state is such a filled market that there’s no room. Did studies. Well anyway, within the radio circles we’re in with our denomination’s radio network there’s a man named Bob…Bob is quite an intelligent guy who happened to live in this state years ago, with the military. And he was burdened for this state. Well anyway, theoretically he knows that type of study really well, and he understood, you know, these other software programs, they do fine, but there’s other stations you can design. So he designed his own software, and he’s part of our denomination’s circle of churches. He designed this whole program. And then he went and started to look in our state, and one day he calls me up, he says, “I think there are stations we can get in your State,” and he says, “I want you to go to this town, you have till tomorrow, because there’s a deadline with the FCC, go find me a tower site, here’s the road, and get back to me and get me a letter…” like ok, we’ve got a day, and I’m going to apply for this license, and sure enough, right there, farmer, telephone pole, we found a place, and put in the application. Well he went in and with a group of people put in a lot of applications in this state, you’ve heard about it, because about two and a half years ago I told you, ‘Hey there’s a station in this city that just got approved, one of these applications, the government says ‘Yes, you can build that station.’” So we’ve been praying. There was one, south shore, big station, approved, we’ve been praying. There’s stations in this city and that city in a neighboring state, translators, there’s one on the end of the peninsula. The one in the first town hasn’t been approved yet, the senator actually wrote a letter against it, and the president of the state’s university tried to stop it, but we think we’re actually going to get it, for certain reasons. Well anyway, I’ve been telling you all this, the applications, government’s been giving construction permits. The challenge though, unfortunately, our denomination’s Christian radio network has gotten really large, and then unfortunately, and I want to honor men, but saying it as a prayer request, there’s discord that’s happened. And whenever there’s discord, it stops everything. [Discord among brethren is one of Satan’s strongest weapons.] And that’s what’s happened, everything just stopped, log jam. And here we are, we’ve got to get this other city on the air by June, this huge station on the south shore by April or it just disappears, you haven’t got years to build them. Anyway, that’s the reality, and I hope I haven’t sinned in saying that. I mean, hey, it [discord] happens in our church too, so I say it graciously, but that’s what’s happening. Something to pray about. But, when these applications went out, because of what’s happened, the aftermath, and I’m just trying to get you to this point, and I probably have already confused you, some of the applications ended up in the hands of one pastor, some ended up in the hands of our denomination’s Christian radio network, but a few of these in our state ended up with this one pastor who lives in California. We’ve tried everything to get the station in the city near our city going, but no matter what we try, we’ve offered to give money to buy this, and to build this, it just stopped. Well, because of that I was actually recently encouraged by Chuck’s son, Jeff, he says, “Listen, talk to this Daniel, [this other pastor] , he’s got these other applications. Daniel and I talked a couple years ago when they first came through, but the main one was on the end of the peninsula, and when I heard about it I was like ‘Oh! That would be exciting, man, to get a station on at the end of the peninsula, I’d love to get the Gospel into that city, I would just love to do that, right now with all that’s going on in our state.’ But on the peninsula it’s so hard to get towers, man, and I know there’s a station that a guy got granted, and he only goes on for one week a year because he can’t get a tower in the community, you know the peninsula is the peninsula. Well anyway, I called Daniel because I was encouraged by a couple people, and Daniel says “Here’s the deal, this station on the end of the peninsula”, he says, “I have a tower, and we can build it right now.” He says, “It has to be built by April, but we can build it right now.” He says, “I don’t have the money to do it”, he ended up with a couple stations in California, and that’s where his heart was all along. He says “I need money from these, so I can build what’s in my own back yard.” So there’s this offer. I went out with two elders, we had a conference to go to, but we also went and met with Daniel in Victorville, California. And I’ve been talking to others and doing research, and so, here’s the deal. We’re offered, we can do this right now if God leads us, we can build the station on the peninsula. Now it’s a little tiny-weenie station. But it has three translators. A translator is the ability to rebroadcast on another little station. It has a translator in this town, one in another city, and one in this other city. So it can rebroadcast, and that’s all been granted. So it actually covers more area on the peninsula, when you put it all together. [They have that station on the end city, along with all its translators.] Then, here’s the deal, Bob, this wizbang engineer, he says he’s absolutely confident through our attorneys, our FCC attorneys, that as soon as it is on the air we’re going to apply for an upgrade, and it can be upgraded from a thousand watts to 25,000 watts. And it can actually get into capital city from the peninsula [with that upgrade], it can cover all the shoreline. Now there’s a risk. You get on the air, with all that’s going on in our state, who knows what you might end up with, even Clinton had this whole Federal act passed in Congress that gave freedom of the radio and media and even non-commercial non-profit type of churches to be able to get on the radio, and there was an act in 1996 to guarantee that, but with what’s going on in our state, you’d never know. Especially if you put a Gospel preaching radio station, in love, that just teaches the Word of God in love. But right there at the end of the peninsula. Well, there’s the risk of getting it on the air and not being able to even keep it on the air. [It’s still on the air along with it’s translators or repeaters.] But there’s also the possibility of suddenly having this massive station. Well, he says, if you do this. He’s also applied in our capital city, right on top of one of its tall buildings, I think is what it is, and another in a city to the south, and he applied, and you had a little window to do that, and others applied, but the people that applied against it kind of locked it up, but evidently in a little while the government is going to give a 30-day period for everybody whose applied on top of each other for these stations to get together and in a room and decide ‘Whose going to get what.’ But he’s got two, one in our capital city, one in a city to the south of it, covering actually the capital city, right in the midst of it. He says, “If you do this one on the end of the peninsula, I’ll give you that.” The town next door is the one he owns, it ended up in his hands, and they’re confident it will come along. He says “If you do the one on the end of the peninsula, listen, I’ve got to get money for my stations, but if you show commitment, I mean, I’m going to sell all of this, there are people who have offered already to give money.” But he says “You can get the town next door” and we have been negotiating that with cost. But here’s the thing in that next door town I didn’t know, he says, “I believe it’s going to be awarded” and why, and he gave me the history of what they had, similar situations where they’ve been awarded those licenses. But he says, “that town next door, you don’t know this, but when we get it, it’s upgradeable.” He says, with Bob, and he’s going to show me the analysis, we can move it toward our capital city, we can crank up the power, and you can get into that city from the west, covering our town. So he’s telling me all these things. Now, why am I saying all that? Because it costs a lot of money for one thing (chuckles). I wouldn’t do it without you guys at least hearing about it. But it’s interesting, the text we’re in, what are we to do? First we’re to pray. Right? What do we do? I know this, at this time we’re in within our society I do not want to be a man, to be a pastor, that just sits back, and doesn’t say anything, and just lets things be status quo. And by the grace of God, I want to live for Christ. I want to trust the Lord for whatever God wants to do, and I want to press on ahead. I don’t just want to be a status quo Christian in a status quo church, at such a time, a critical time in our state and our nation. But I want to be led by God. And so what do we do? First of all, we pray. And I want you guys to know about it. We need to pray. You may be thinking this, ‘Why would we do that? We haven’t even finished construction in our building. Hey man, there’s so many needs right here in our town,’ and on and on and on. But why would we do that? Well, our vision has been radio from the beginning, but it’s “Win, Disciple, Send”, it’s the Great Commission, man [Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16. What is the Gospel we’re to preach to every creature? We all need to be united on this, it’s the Gospel Peter and Paul preached, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel%20.htm. And how do we do that? Evangelism (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/evangelism/1.htm) and see http://www.unityinchrist.com/missionstatement.htm to find out one way that can be accomplished. Radio is another. The Internet is another.] Man, it’s getting the Gospel out to the world. More than giving $100 to the homeless, it’s getting the Gospel out. Now we want to give $100 dollars to the homeless, but the Gospel is eternity! There are people dying all over the place, every hour of every day that don’t know Christ. And that is the commission of the Church [Body of Christ], it’s to get out the Gospel, especially. That is our mission. And hey, maybe we won’t benefit directly, but maybe folks will come to Christ. A lot of you sitting right here, I’ve mentioned this first service, people came up to me, she goes, ‘I’m a Christian today because of your Christian radio station, I’m a Christian today because of that radio station. I turned it on and I heard the Gospel. And there are people that got saved sitting in the mall parking lot, tuning on our radio station. And that’s honestly what it’s all about. Well, you look at all that, there’s a risk, and here’s what it would cost. Daniel wants for the one on the end of the peninsula, a little dinky station, but the translators go with it, he wants 50 Grand down-payment, then we would have to buy the transmitter and the antenna, and that would cost between 50 and 85 Grand, and then when it’s on the air, because of what happened and all the history in all these things, he ends up with debt, I mean, he owes another church $900,000. So, what he would like, is he needs help, ‘Ok, you give me 50 down when it comes on the air, let’s set up so that you pay $100,000 of that loan. So we would have a loan to a church, which I don’t really mind, because you’re just taking money from one part of God’s Kingdom and putting it in another. It’s different from a bank, but 100 Grand to another church we would pay. And then we trust the Lord, and if these other things happen, we spend more to build more. What’s the will of God, I don’t know, but I know it’s interesting we’re in this passage. And I didn’t arrange that, I was thinking about that coming back from California, as Jesus says, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to there.” And I don’t know what is in me, but I always want to live that way, I want to be on the edge, ‘Whatever you can do, Lord, let’s do it, man! Some of us sit back, and whatever, but it’s just not the time for that in our culture. So, I ask you guys to pray.
A life of prayer and fasting
Jesus says, you know, they ask, ‘Why could we not do this?’ And he says because of faith, and he says “However this kind does not come go out except by prayer and fasting.” So right there, prayer, you see the importance of prayer. This verse doesn’t appear in a lot of the ancient manuscripts, so you may not even have it in your translation, like the NIV, but prayer and fasting is consistent in the Scripture, I believe in prayer and fasting. When I fast I don’t fast to please God, because I’m fasting, faith is what pleases God. You know, fasting doesn’t do anything for ‘em. But I notice when I fast, it does something in my heart, setting myself apart to hear the Lord’s voice and be led in prayer. So prayer and fasting is powerful, I believe in that sense. And I don’t believe he’s speaking here of just a one-time kind of like say, ‘OK, go out and pray and fast for something’, although we do that, and that’s important. It’s more so a continual life, because there’s no time with this boy to stop and ‘OK, guys, let’s get together and pray and fast.’ The child’s in the fire…the life of praying and fasting should already be there. And when you are a person of prayer, when you’re a church of prayer, when there’s praying and fasting in my life personally, and the church, you have this sense of people of faith. It goes with it, when I draw near to God, he draws near to me. You know what I’m saying? And so, with all that, I’d ask you guys to pray about this station on the end of the peninsula. Personally I’m excited about it, if all this happened, I’d love to drive down to the end of the peninsula and turn it on, and sit in town, the darkest community I’ve ever been in, and listen to it. And this may offend you, I just believe this in my heart, and I say it respectfully, the darkest community I’ve ever been in is this town. I’ve never been in a community like that in my life, where immorality is just so promoted. And I believe the battle in our state is not political, there’s a spiritual battle that’s going on. And one of the ways to fight the battle is in prayer and with the Word of God. You know our armour is not physical, it’s spiritual, and Paul says the sword is the Word. Well, please pray, and we’ll keep you posted. You know, pastor Robert MacShane, I love reading about guys like this, he died at age 30, you may have been in the church awhile, you may know about Robert MacShane, 30-year-old, young man. But God used him to impact Scotland and the world. He died suddenly at 30, his church certainly grieved, born in 1813 in Edinburgh Scotland, at age 4 he learned the Greek alphabet, at age 14 he was already enrolled into the University of Edinburgh. But it wasn’t his intelligence that God used so much. His brother came to Christ, David came to Christ, and Robert, because of his brother came to the Lord. And when he came to Christ, Robert MacShane, he got a good glimpse of Christ, he just fell so in love with the Lord, had such faith. His life was aflame, and because of that, he influenced the world, and died by 30, but impacted the world, in such a short time. Pastored the church of Saint Peter’s Church in Dundee Scotland, he was so in love with the Lord. He was into prayer, and he started in one week in his church, if you went to his church, there were 35 prayer-meetings that started up in one week in his church. You could pick from 35. Five of them were for kids. Wow, what would that be like in our city? He said this, though, “It’s not great talents that God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” Point being, prayer and fasting, the heart, set aside, that means holiness. And he says, Robert MacShane, “H e just lived for Christ.” He said, man, that’s it, it’s the heart. That’s what God is looking for. Well, with all that, please keep it in prayer. If you’ve got any input or counsel or comments, we welcome that, and of course the leadership’s meeting, and we’re praying. We’ve talked to lots of different people and honestly the counsel at this point is, everybody’s saying ‘There’s an opportunity, why would we miss it?’ I don’t know, God knows. [Most of those Christian radio stations and repeaters are up and running now.]
Paying the Temple Tax
Verse 22, we’re going to go quickly, we’ve just got a few minutes, and we’ll just go right to the end here and make a couple quick points. “Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and the third day he will be raised up.’ And they were extremely sorrowful” (verses 22-23). You know, we’ve mentioned, it’s months at most before he goes to the cross. He’s taken that path, he’s going to be on that road that last time to Jerusalem. He knows it, he continues to tell the disciples. ‘Guys, you’re thinking one thing, I am the Messiah, but understand, I’ve come initially to go and die on a cross.’ They hear, and they don’t understand. He says he’s going to be raised to life, but they’re not computing, and so because they don’t understand, they are really grieving and they’re sorrowful. It says in the other Gospels, they’d like to talk to him about it, but they’re afraid to even ask. But if they would just turn and trust him when he says what he says, and say ‘You’re the Christ, and you know best, and whatever you say, ok, I’m gonna trust you.’ I think their grieving hearts would have been changed and there wouldn’t have been this sorrow at this moment. Really the sorrow is related to a lack of faith, more so than to a lack of understanding. [But understand, they didn’t have the indwelling Holy Spirit until after he was raised, hadn’t been bestowed on them. The earliest they could have received the Holy Spirit is given in John 20:19-22.] You may be in a situation in your life right now, things are going on that you do not understand, ‘How can God allow that, how can God do that? This I do not understand. God you’re confusing to me.’ And you may be here as a result of a heavy heart, because of what’s going on. But it isn’t your understanding that’s going to solve it, what is going to solve it is you turning to Christ and saying ‘Christ, you are the Son of God, I choose you regardless. I put my faith in you right now.’ And as you do that, God sparks faith in your heart, and you will have peace. “When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, ‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?’ Peter said to him, ‘From strangers.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish the comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for me and you’” (verses 24-27). Wild, huh? Trust in God for loved ones. Having faith to move mountains, having faith in God when we don’t understand. And here, you know, another element of faith too, about stepping out and watching what God will do, how he provides. But it’s a good chance they’re in Peter’s house at this point, so this is the last time we’ll see him in Capernaum. But as they’re there, it’s probably why the tax collector goes to Peter, because it’s his house, head of the household, ‘Hey, Peter, why does your Master, Teacher-Rabbi, why does he not pay the temple-tax? Does he pay the temple-tax?’ And the way it’s questioned, actually in the Greek is, the answer is expected to be ‘Yes’, and Peter gives ‘Yes.’ Although as you see there, it doesn’t seem that they’ve paid it yet. And that’s probably why when Peter comes in and Jesus already knows what’s gone down, he’s like, ‘A point for you, Peter, what do you think, when kings collect taxes, do their sons pay, or do they collect if from others?’ And he says, ‘Hey, their sons don’t pay, royalty, they don’t have to pay taxes, the other people do.’ And Jesus says to them, ‘Well, the sons are free.’ And of course he’s making the point, it’s a temple-tax, his Father is ultimately the owner of the Temple, God the Father, and he’s the Son of God, ‘Hey, we’re royalty, man, you too, you’re a son of God Peter, we’re free.’ That’s his point [and not that we shouldn’t pay national taxes or state taxes. And they, in that sense didn’t owe tithes to the Temple system. But later on, when the Church was born, tithes were collected within local congregations, used for evangelism and to support the pastors, fatherless and widows.] But this principle is throughout the New Testament, we could do a lot of Bible studies on it, he says, ‘But lest we offend, unnecessarily here, let’s just go pay the tax.’ ‘But here’s how you’re going to pay the tax Peter, I want you to go, and I want you to get your fishing pole, and I want you to go to the Sea of Galilee, and I want you to cast your line, first fish you catch, pull it in and open its mouth.’ Now the temple-tax was a half-shekel [drachma, so for Peter and Jesus, this would be a double-drachma], and so it was at least the value of a full shekel, because the both of them get paid here, because he says ‘You open it up, it’ll be enough to pay for you, and enough to pay for me.’ [And Peter’s mother gets a fish to cook for dinner.] And we’re running out of time, there’s a lot of interesting things I shared last service that I can’t go into. But, there is this, this is very interesting. A little bit of science here, that we have today. There is this fish that’s called Saint Peter’s Fish, and when we go on Israel trips we go to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, and we’ll often have Saint Peter’s Fish for lunch, I mean you get the tail and head all in one on your plate. And some people go, ‘OK, the fish is looking at me, man.’ But it’s wild, the fins and tail of this fish actually taste like chips, potato chips, that’s the only part of it I like. But anyway, Saint Peter’s Fish, they say there’s as many as 10 million of them in the Sea of Galilee. Here’s what science tells us about this species of fish, this family of fish. The mother of this fish, when originally the eggs are hatched, she carries the eggs in her mouth, and when the babies are hatched they are initially in her mouth. Then they swim out. And because that’s where they start, when they’re alarmed, when they want security, they swim right back into her mouth. Well, sometimes they swim to dad’s mouth too. Only challenge is these fish get bigger and bigger. Right? They grow. Now there comes a point in time where it’s not so convenient or comfortable for mom or dad to have teenage fish swim into their mouths, ‘When you’re a little dinky fish that’s fine, you’re a little too big, you just gave me a fat lip, you know?’ So this is what they do, after the little ones have swum out, and they keep coming back, at one point the adult fish will actually look for a stone and something shiny and will pick a white stone, something shiny. And so they carry it in their mouth, so now the adolescent fish come swimming and sees this stone or shiny object in their mouth, and they don’t go into the mouth. Now that’s wild. Because it seems it’s possible one of these fish, picking up a coin to keep away her teenage fish from gliding into her, picks up a coin, one in ten million chance---‘Peter, you go out there and cast your line.’ And Peter does it, and he casts his line, and Jesus says ‘You’ll get a coin’, and he opened it up, and this fish evidently is probably trying to keep another fish away, but there was this coin. Now, if Peter didn’t do that, Peter would never have seen it happen. Right? Peter had to trust God and step out in faith, and then as he stepped out in faith he saw God provide. Maybe that’s a word for you too, faith, man. Faith allows you to see God work, for God to provide in your life, and for God to provide in our church, and provide in ministry. Faith, what God will do, and what God can do. Let’s close in prayer…[connective expository sermon given on Matthew 17:14-27 somewhere in New England]
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