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I have always been a bit of a loner. I was not the sort of person you wanted in your team. I didn't fit. If Jesus hadn't come into my life, I am sure I would have ended up as a starving artist or at least a hermit - a recluse with a long beard, black jeans, T-shirt and sandals. It still sounds kind of good. I like my own company.

Strange that Jesus called me to be a Pastor and that I love it. I love people. Oh, there are times when relationships can get a bit strained, but I can be friends with the most diverse range of people. Sometimes the only thing they have had in common is me.

A couple of days ago I sat around a table as people from many backgrounds talked. One was from the outback and called herself a bushy. Another was from Adelaide and had a more cultured upbringing. They all accepted each other and me into their midst. What a great time we had as we talked and laughed together as we ate lunch - unity in diversity.

And speaking about A DIVERSE GROUP OF PEOPLE, what about the disciples of Jesus. In Matthew 10:2-4 we are given their names...

"Here are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (also called Peter), then Andrew (Peter's brother), James (son of Zebedee), John (James's brother), Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (the tax collector), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him)."

It's interesting to me that there were 3 SETS OF BROTHERS among the disciples - Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John (the sons of Zebedee), and the other James and Thaddeus. Why choose brothers? What's with the FAMILY thing? Wouldn't there have been A CONFLICT OF INTEREST? Not when Jesus is leading. The only conflicts that arose were because of sin and selfishness. James and John seemed to quarrel at one stage. I wonder if Jesus separated them and paired them up with others when He sent them out? But the thing they all had in common was Jesus and HIS LEADERSHIP AND AUTHORITY over them. Without Him this disciple and apostle thing would not have worked.

Can you imagine the conflicts without Jesus? Simon the Zealot who had once belonged to a very Patriotic band of Jews would have hated Matthew if not for Jesus. I wonder if they were paired together when Jesus sent them out? That would have TESTED THE RELATIONSHIP!

When I give my past to Jesus I can begin to see others through His eyes. I can also give perspective to others concerning their relationships. When all of us realise that SIN DISTORTS OUR FRIENDSHIPS, it makes a great deal of difference to how we view others. WHAT DID JESUS SEE IN JUDAS? Surely He must have known what would happen? Come to think of it - What does He see in me? The most unlikely of disciples WAS STILL GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY. Unfortunately for Judas, he never did get it sorted out. He will always be known for betraying Jesus.

That's SO DIFFERENT TO MATTHEW. Notice when Matthew speaks of himself, he is the only one named Matthew in the list of disciples, yet he still adds information about his disreputable past - he was A TAX COLLECTOR, a traitor to Israel. Why does he do that? Is he down on himself, ashamed of his past and rubbing it in. Why not take the positive thinking approach and say "Matthew, the FOLLOWER OF JESUS". I guess it's because Matthew is not into DENIAL OF HIS PAST. He actually thinks it's healthy to remember that he is A SINNER SAVED BY GRACE. He calls Judas for who he was - a traitor, and he calls himself for who he had been - a hated tax collector. I guess Matthew would always be tainted with that brush, but not by Jesus. I have to live with my past and it becomes the "BEFORE" PART OF MY TESTIMONY. Because of Jesus it is the "FORGIVEN" PART OF MY TESTIMONY.

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