Aug 262016

Healthy eyesThe eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)

Today’s verses, on the surface, don’t seem to fit into the context of this part of Jesus’ message. He has just been talking about storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth and the next bit will be about not serving God and money. So why should he suddenly start talking about eyes?

I believe this subject of the eye fits in well with the flow of His message. Let me explain.

Jesus is not talking here about physical eyes but spiritual eyes. In the natural, when our eyes are closed we obviously can’t see and when we open them, in the daylight, light floods in and we can see what’s around us and what’s happening. In the spiritual when we have the light of illumination (God’s word) we can see or perceive much more clearly. A famous verse that follows this idea is:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

I have heard people using the phrase to people “Do you see what I mean?” quite a lot. We are asking if they understand or comprehend what you are saying. Seeing something or ‘getting it’ is good. If it were bad, it would mean that they don’t get what we are saying and we might need to explain some more.

An example of this idea can be found in Matthew 20 where Jesus is telling the parable of the generous landowner who pays his workers the same wage whether they started first thing in the morning or only ‘clocked on’ late in the afternoon. Verse 15 is translated “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ (Matthew 20:15) The last part has a footnote in most bibles, because the exact translation is “Or is your eye bad because I am good?

This explains what Jesus is saying; A bad eye is an eye that doesn’t see grace or goodness or generosity properly. This fits well in the context of money and where our heart is regarding it. A bad eye can look at money in a greedy way and all the opportunities it can use for itself. A good eye will look at the same money and consider how it can be used to bless others or invest into the building of God’s kingdom. It could be the same pile of money but the attitudes about how it should be used would be totally different.

So we can see that Jesus’ argument is following a logical pattern. We are not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth where we are only thinking about ourselves, but rather looking to eternity, having the view that our money is to be used as a blessing. When we do that, we have healthy eyes and we will not be serving money but God. More on that subject next week.

 August 26, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Aug 192016

Treasure in heavenDo not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Gerald Ratner was the chief executive of a British Jewellery company which was worth millions. With a few careless words about his product, the stock price of his company lost £500 million overnight. His earthly treasure was gone. Chris and Denise were living the life of luxury. They owned a thriving property development business worth £35 million. They had a mansion, cars, horses, expensive holidays, everything that most of us can only dream of. When the bank where all their money was held went into receivership, all their money was gone. They now live in a flat and receive the basic Jobseekers allowance. Their earthly treasure is gone!

Money is a huge God in this society and we can easily get lured by its promise of comfort and security. It causes us to dream about all the things we can buy, the holidays we can go on and the comfort we can enjoy. But we all know, in theory anyway, that money doesn’t buy us happiness.

In this passage Jesus is directing us to where our focus should be, because we can get very easily distracted.

I don’t believe that Jesus is saying we shouldn’t ever have savings, or plan for the future, but He is challenging us to look at and consider where our trust is focussed.

The key word of this passage is ‘treasure’ or in other words the things that motivate or control us. The treasures of this world are mostly materialistic, the ‘things’ we set our gaze on. They are temporal and actually quite empty. They are the Christmas presents lusted after for months that after sometimes only a few days are left gathering dust in the corner of the cupboard. They promise much, but in the end are empty. Have you ever saved up or waited for something to discover that it never quite promised the happiness it was meant to bring.

We are not meant for this world, we are just passing through. Why are we so keen to put down roots that we know won’t last? It is so easy to be taken in by this world’s allure. We live here and work here and get caught up in the moment, but that moment passes oh so fast.

Our treasure is and should be in heaven. It’s not material but spiritual. It’s an eternity spent with our father in peace, wholeness and security. It’s true joy. The wonderful gift that God has given us and the very reason we are on this earth is so that we can work towards that time. Everything we do now can have an impact into eternity. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about what I am now, but I love the quote from Maximus in the film ‘Gladiator’ when he said “What we do in life, echoes in eternity” so true.

Our treasure in heaven is shown when we: build the church, when we feed the poor, when we do good works, when we tell people about Jesus, when we forgive, turn the other cheek, when we seek peace and when we love and serve like Jesus did.

Let me challenge you this week to find ways to pay into your heavenly bank account and as you focus on these treasures, the world’s grip will get a little looser.

 August 19, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Aug 122016

FastingAnd when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)

We come this week to a subject that really doesn’t make sense to the natural mind. Why would anyone want to ‘not eat’? Surely God has provided food for us to enjoy and satisfy our hunger, not to punish our bodies?

In our minds we can probably imagine religious fanatics following a strict ascetic lifestyle. These people can have rather unhealthy masochistic tendencies. Definitely not normal.

It’s certainly true that fasting is not commanded in the bible, but in these verses today, Jesus undoubtedly makes the assumption that we will fast. Twice He says “When you fast”

It’s important firstly to see what fasting is not.

It is surely not ‘hunger striking.’ We are not trying to twist God’s arm. We are not fasting to feel pain and it’s not an extension of health dieting either.

So why do we fast?

Actually, fasting is not suppressing our desire for something but rather our intense pursuit of something else. Let me explain. We are placing our desire for God above our desire for food, we are saying our spiritual hunger is greater than our physical hunger. In Matthew 9, John’s disciples question Jesus as to why His disciples were not fasting. Jesus responded:

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Matthew 9:15)

Fasting has a strong link to sadness and mourning, it suggests something that is longed for. Jesus’ disciples didn’t need to feel sad while He was with them, but as soon as He left them and until His second coming there is a longing for His return amongst all His followers. You can hear the longing in Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

There is a fascinating link between fasting and the Lord’s supper. With the Lord’s supper we are eating and drinking to remember the past. With fasting we are not eating to look forward to the future.

Let’s look at a few more examples from the bible about fasting;

(1) Fasting was done by God’s people after they had displeased Him

So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. (1 Samuel 7:6) See also; Joel 2:12, Jonah 3:5-8, Judges 20:26

(2) Fasting was done to prepare hearts and seek God’s help in preparation for battle

Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; (Joel 2:15)

See also 2 Chronicles 20:1-4

(3) Fasting was a sign of sincere and humble repentance from sin

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. (Daniel 9:3)

See also Nehemiah 9:1-2 and Joel 2:12-13

(4) Fasting teaches us self-control and sometimes reveals what controls us

More than any other spiritual discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. Things like; anger, bitterness, jealousy and fear will all rise to the surface as soon as we start fasting.

Our belly is not to be our God. Describing the enemies of God, The apostle Paul says;

Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:19)

See also Romans 16:18. Paul also talked about Self-discipline when he explained his attitude in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)

(5) Fasting is a powerful weapon in spiritual warfare

Fasting is humbling and reveals our complete dependence upon God and forces us to draw on him and his power, and to believe fully in his strength. This is what Jesus did when He fasted for 40 days and nights at the beginning of His ministry (See Matthew 4:1-11)

When Jesus heals a boy with an unclean spirit in Mark 9:14-29 Jesus says at the end “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29) Many manuscripts have “and fasting” at the end.

(6) Fasting helps us to discern God’s voice

Fasting helps us tune into the Holy Spirit’s leading and guiding and we are able to discern His will much more easily. In Acts 13:2-3 it mentions fasting in preparation and then the commissioning of Barnabus and Saul.

While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

These are just a few aspects of the huge subject of fasting. If you’re spiritual life is a bit static and you find yourself not getting breakthrough in certain areas, why not try fasting?

The beauty in the context of Jesus’ teaching on the ‘sermon on the mount’ is that this spiritual discipline is done in secret. It’s just between us and God. We do it to please Him and Him alone and what a promise goes with it – He will reward us!

 August 12, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount 1 Response »
Aug 052016

deliver us from evilAnd lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13)

Last week we looked at the phrase “Lead us not into temptation” which is the negative part of this verse. This week we will look at the positive part “but deliver us from evil” The phrase could equally be translated “deliver us from the evil one” but it pretty much amounts to the same thing.

I think that we can all agree that evil is real. You only have to turn on the television to watch the news or open up a newspaper to see a constant stream of evil happening every single day. The bible is clear that this evil has a source and he has numerous names, the two most common being ‘the devil’ or ‘Satan.’ The bible also makes it clear that this evil one wants to destroy humanity. Describing him as a ‘thief’ in John 10:10 it describes what he wants to do;

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

He is our enemy and he is very powerful and adept at what he does because he has been wreaking havoc from the very beginning.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Jesus has defeated him through his death and resurrection. Even though he is a defeated foe, make no mistake he can still cause havoc, but Jesus wants to continue to help us overcome him on a daily basis. There is an aspect of this prayer that we need to not be passive in defeating evil, but we pray this part of the prayer to show that we need God’s help. We cannot do it on our own. We are, in humility, asking for His gracious assistance and support.

If you have an enemy and you know he wants to attack you, it’s important to know how he is going to do it. That’s why reading and knowing your bible is very important.

Let’s look at a couple of ways he tries to attack us:

(1) Deception

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:9)

He will try to deceive you in every way possible, mainly through lies. Lies are his native language;

He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

(2) Accusation

As part of the lying process, he will tell you untruths about yourself constantly and try to make you feel worthless.

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. (Revelation 12:10)

(3) Temptation

He will try to expose your weak spots. We all have them. It could be sexual, anger, gluttony, gossip. Basically anything that would cause us to sin. He even tried to tempt Jesus after He had been fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights and at His weakest point. (See Matthew 4:1-11)

In this account of Jesus’ temptation, He gives us the best answer to counteracting these onslaughts from the devil – God’s word.

If you notice, each time Jesus was tempted, he replied “It is written” and proceeded to quote scripture. Yes of course God will deliver us from evil, but He has placed the tools in our hands to help ourselves. The word of God is so precious and powerful, that studying and reading it on a daily basis will really help us overcome evil and fight every accusation the devil throws in our direction.

What are you doing to get the word of God inside you?

If you want to read the bible every day and not get pushed around by the Devil’s lies and deceit, why not visit my other blog

There are two bible reading plans; one has a short reading with some useful notes and a prayer and the other goes through the bible in a year. These readings are ‘rolling’ so you don’t have to wait till 1stJanuary to start.

I haven’t had time to mention the other weapons we have to fight the evil one such as the armour of God as mentioned in Ephesians 6, but I wrote a series of blogs on this subject some while ago. If you want to read further click on the following links:

 August 5, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, The sermon on the mount 1 Response »