Sep 302016
 

What shall I wearAnd why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:28-30)

We have spent a number of weeks now on the subject of worry. We live in a very anxious society and our appearance seems to be a large part of that. How we dress, what sort of clothes we wear and how we present ourselves seems to be hugely important. Whether it is a desire to impress, to fit in or even to stand out, the subject is hugely significant for many of us.

I am amazed how many hours are spent by an increasing amount of people in society, obsessing about fashion, make-up, clothes and having the perfect body. I am more aware of it now, having a teenage daughter in the house, than ever before.

As I was thinking about this subject, it occurred to me that God’s original intention was that we shouldn’t need clothes. Adam and Eve in the beginning were perfectly happy naked. The need for clothes has only come about through sin and shame. Now I am not suggesting we go back to not wearing clothes, we can’t undo the mess that our original parents created. We all know instinctively that nudity is wrong. We have to wear clothes, the question is; how much time and attention should we spend on them?

As with so many other things, we need to get a balance. It is good to dress well and look respectable. We shouldn’t be unkempt or slovenly. The bible says that we can actually glorify God in our body;

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

The point today is that we should not obsess about our appearance.

In our passage today, Jesus is once again comparing the way God looks after the rest of his creation as a reason not to worry about our own appearance. Solomon was the richest king in Israel’s history with unprecedented wealth. And yet Jesus says that even a flower of the field looks more magnificent than he did. There is something beautiful about God’s created order that man just cannot reproduce. Even the most elaborate artificial flowers are nothing compared to the real thing.

The obsession with appearance is rooted in the need to feel attractive, needed, wanted. When we realise how God feels about us, the pressure is off. He made us as we are and He loves us as we are. It’s time we saw ourselves as God sees us and not as society does.

God’s view of beauty is so different to ours. The bible gives a few hints about this in the following passages. They are addressing the attitude of wives, but the principal remains. For men as well as for women, God is much more interested in the heart than the external appearance;

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewellery, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

 September 30, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Sep 232016
 

adding an hourAnd which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (Matthew 6:27)

Even to those of us without any medical experience, it would seem obvious that you just won’t add any time to your life by worrying. Jesus asked a lot of questions like this to show the futility of this kind of thinking. In fact the opposite is true. You are much more likely to reduce your life expectancy through worrying.

Worrying can affect the body in many ways. It can cause amongst other things; high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, acid reflux, dizziness, fainting, hyperventilation, disturbed sleep, and bowel disorders. Another side effect is damage caused to our bodies by the way we try coping with worry. Too much alcohol and an over dependence on anti-depressants or other medication will damage our bodies as well.

Actually, anxiety and worry are a normal reaction to stress. If we had no worry at all in our lives, we would probably have a bit of a problem. We sometimes need a little bit of stress in our lives to help us perform well and achieve more. For example the pressure of an interview or upcoming exams can motivate us to study more and focus our attention. Psychologists call it the ‘fight or flight’ response. This is our body’s instinctive reaction to stress, where adrenaline and cortisol are pumped into our bodies causing our reactions to heighten and our performance to improve. This is natural. The problem occurs when this reaction is triggered daily by excessive worrying and anxiety. This leads to the illnesses I listed above.

If you have a tendency to worry, I just want to give you a few possible practical solutions, followed by some spiritual ones;

· Talk to your doctor or a medical professional. They are trained to notice certain signs you may be exhibiting. They also have knowledge of the best medication to prescribe. Don’t just assume that because someone else had the same symptoms as you, it should be dealt with in the same way. This can be the first step to admitting that we have a problem and that we need help.

· Exercise – exercising produces different chemicals which are beneficial to the immune system. It also helps you feel better in yourself.

· Eat a healthy diet – Stress can cause you to eat too much or too little. Again, the right kinds of food are beneficial to the balance of your body.

· Learn to relax – We need to know when it is time to slow down or just switch off.

· Accountability – There are many reasons why God gave us His church to be a part of, but one of the most important is so that we can be in community and share one another’s burdens. Worry is heightened when we are isolated and it is reduced when we share. Other people can help us put our problems into perspective.

· Submission – Anxiety and worry is often rooted in proud, self-sufficient or controlling people. Anxiety comes when they can no longer control the things or situations around them. Those that trust God are submitted to Him and find it much easier to let go and rely on Him.

· Focus on God – It is far better to look at the solution than worry about the problem. By gazing on Him everything gets into the right perspective.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4)

 September 23, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Sep 162016
 

God feeds the birdsLook at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)

Jesus is continuing on his discourse from ‘The sermon on the mount’ on the subject of worry. You can almost imagine him looking up into the sky as he is speaking and pointing at some birds as an illustration.

It’s a simple but profound image. Birds are seemingly carefree, they fly around, gather food, sleep and repeat. They seem quite happy about it too, given the amazing morning birdsong you can here as they sing to each other. One can almost get quite envious of this simple lifestyle.

It’s not that they are unproductive, even though the worms (or whatever) have been provided by God, they still have to dig and search around for them. Jesus is not saying that we won’t have to toil to get what we need. Birds don’t just sit on a branch with their mouths open waiting for worms to drop from the sky (unless they are the baby birds in the picture). What we need to do, like them, is to work hard and then, the important thing is to not worry. Worrying is what they don’t do. They are not sowing or reaping and stockpiling worms for the hard winter. They go out, get their food and then do the same the next day.

I don’t think Jesus is warning about making provision for the future, that is a wise thing to do. What He is highlighting is not to worry about the future and simply trust that we have a loving heavenly father who wants to provide for us.

God’s provision for all creation is called ‘common grace’. This is the idea that God is gracious to all he has made, whether deserved or not. He blesses all. He looks after and sustains all of nature, the things that man cannot control and is not even aware of. There are probably fishes in the deepest ocean that God sustains that haven’t even been discovered yet. What a generous, kind and gracious God He is.

The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Psalm 145:9)

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)

The point Jesus is making is that if God looks after the birds, how much more will He look after us. It is not a popular concept in our society at the moment, but in God’s eyes, humans are more important than animals. It is humans who were created in God’s image. He bestowed on us more worth than everything else He created. So if He looks after each little bird on a daily basis, He will certainly look after you and I.

 September 16, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Sep 092016
 

Dont be anxiousTherefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
(Corrie ten Boom, Clippings from My Notebook).

Worry can be quite a pastime for many of us. I’ve even known some people who are worried that they don’t have anything to worry about, if that makes any sense. Worrying can become a big part of our lives and the more complex our lives become, seemingly the more we have to worry about.

Over the past few weeks we have been looking at the subject of money and that is a subject which can often cause anxiety, whether we have money or not.

Jesus has been encouraging us to take our gaze off this world and look to the kingdom of God. The more we focus on the here and now the more we will get wrapped up in this world. Jesus is very much talking about the everyday cares of life; what we eat and what we drink and what we have to wear. He is saying that life is so much more important than the mundane and the everyday worries of life. If we change our gaze towards God we will see a father who is loving and kind, whose every instinct is to provide for His children, who has called us to a purpose and who will give us the tools to achieve that purpose.

If you are a person who worries too much, I would suggest your gaze is in the wrong place. In my own life, the more I pray, worship, read my bible and seek God for who He is, the more content I am and the less anxious I tend to be. I also have my gaze lifted away from the cares of life and get excited about the many possibilities God has given me. When I focus on God, I get real purpose for my life and an excitement about what God can do with me.

Even this week, I have felt anxious. We all do at some point. I am doing a new job and it is very different to anything I have done before and every day has new challenges and opportunities for fear. But I can testify that when I have given these fears over to God, He has brought amazing peace to me. He will do exactly the same for you.

We will spend quite a few weeks on this issue and look at different aspects of this very important subject. If you have any examples of God helping you in this area, why not leave them in the comments to encourage us all.

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

 September 9, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Sep 022016
 

MammonNo one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24 NKJV)

In the ‘sermon on the mount’, Jesus talks about the way we should live and the attitudes we should have if we want to follow Him. Over the last few weeks we have been looking at money. In fact this subject is covered by Jesus a lot in all His teachings. He talked about this subject more than heaven and hell, because He knew the power it could have over us.

I have used the New King James version of the bible in our verse today, because the word ‘mammon’ means a lot more than just the word ‘money’ which many modern translations use (probably for simplicity!)

The word ‘mammon’ comes from the Greek word ‘mammonas’, which has a similar root word in Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic, Chaldean and Syriac. The word means; money, wealth, material possessions and worldly gain or even the idol of materialism.

Worship of mammon can show up in many ways. It isn’t just about being greedy for more money. It could be when we envy what others have, or are anxious about our own financial abilities or unmet needs or just a failure to trust in God’s provision. It is a sin that can easily entangle us in its grip without us even realising.

It has not been proved, but some scholars believe it to be a Syrian and Chaldean demon God, similar to the Greek god of wealth, Plutus. The city of Babylon in Revelation 18 with all its avarice and greed, is a description of a world given over to the spirit of Mammon.

Many writers over the centuries have personified mammon in various books including the classics ‘The divine comedy’ by Dante, Milton’s ‘paradise lost’ and Spencer’s ‘The Faerie Queene’. The picture at the top of this blog is from Collin de Plancy’s ‘Dictionnaire Infernal’, not a very edifying book, but I thought the picture demonstrates the effect of mammon quite well.

The apostle Paul describes, really well the contrast between being content and the effects of mammon:

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
Solomon writes of the futility of chasing after mammon: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

Notice the emphatic words used in today’s passage. It doesn’t say you shouldn’t serve two masters, it says you cannot. The idea is taken from slavery in the ancient world. A slave was the complete property of their master, no free time or time to themselves. It was expected that they would be on hand to attend to their master 24/7. In this context it would be impossible to serve another master. It would be like trying to walk in two directions at the same time. The bible makes it clear that we were once slaves to unrighteousness, but now we have been bought with a price and are slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:15-23) God is now our master and we do what He says. If we are serving God, we are not serving Mammon and vice versa.

As I said before, mammon can easily lure us into its trap without us being fully aware. It would be a good idea to pray and ask God what areas you are being influenced in. To finish, I have given a few indicators which show where we may be susceptible to Mammon’s influence:

  • When we are worried or anxious over money
  • When we are not able to manage money well
  • Impulse buying
  • Stinginess or lack of generosity
  • Not tithing or giving
  • Tithing is actually an Old Testament principle. Under the New Covenant we should be even more generous in view of God’s grace towards us.
  • Not being satisfied with what we have
  • Bondage to debt
 September 2, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »