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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 »
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 www.readbibledaily.info

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:

http://adrianpursglove.com/the-armour-of-god/

http://adrianpursglove.com/the-belt-of-truth/

http://adrianpursglove.com/the-breastplate-of-righteousness/

http://adrianpursglove.com/peaceful-shoes/

http://adrianpursglove.com/the-shield-of-faith/

http://adrianpursglove.com/the-helmet-of-salvation/

http://adrianpursglove.com/the-sword-of-the-spirit/

 August 5, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, The sermon on the mount 1 Response »
Jul 292016
 

temptationAnd lead us not into temptation (Matthew 6:13)

We are approaching the end of ‘The Lord’s prayer’ within my ‘sermon on the mount’ series. Last week we looked at the huge issue of forgiveness and forgiving others just as we have been forgiven.

Verse 13 is split up into two phrases which go ‘hand in hand’. This week I am going to look at the negative aspect “And lead us not into temptation” and next week the positive statement of “but deliver us from evil.”

Today’s phrase on the surface could give us cause for concern. Surely God is not tempting us? After all it says in James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

We understand the word ‘temptation’ today in purely negative ways, however at the time of Jesus it did not just mean to cause to sin. The meaning had the idea of being tried and tested or put under trial. It is clear from the bible that God did allow certain trials to come people’s way to see if they would prove true. A classic example is Abraham who was prepared to sacrifice His son Isaac. When Abraham passed the test, God said “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:12)

Joseph too, in Genesis 39, was severely tempted when Potiphar’s wife kept pressing him to sleep with her. He passed the test even though it meant being in prison for at least another 2 years. Through this trial, God had seen his character and rewarded Him in due time.

And what about Jesus? He was tempted in the wilderness after fasting for 40 days, as recorded in Matthew 4. This was of course not the only time Jesus was tempted. Even in the garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion He was in torment and asked the father if there was another way possible. But He stood firm. The bible makes it clear that Jesus went through every temptation that we go through, He did not receive special privileges;

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

I believe this prayer about God not leading us into temptation, means we are asking not to be tempted prematurely or unnecessarily. We are asking God to restrain us from heading into trials and temptations of our own making. We want His help rather than coping on our own. Praying this prayer earnestly, reveals your utter dependence on God and a realisation of your own weakness and a determination to do what’s right. You will do all in your power, as far as it depends on you, to avoid temptation. You are following the example of Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Notice that the first thing to do is ‘watch’, you need to be mindful of what temptations you are vulnerable to. The phrase “Don’t play with fire” springs to mind. Find out what the fire is and then don’t play with it!

After we have done all we can to avoid temptation, sometimes God still allows them to get through, but take heart that He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Next week we will look at what it means to be delivered from evil.

 July 29, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, Temptation, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Jul 222016
 

Forgivenessand forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors……For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:12, 14-15)

Today we arrive at a key point of the ‘Lord’s prayer’. I don’t think I am overstating it, but this subject is crucial if you want to be a true follower of Jesus. It’s such an important subject that straight after Jesus taught His disciples about prayer, He reiterates the point again in verses 14 and 15 to accentuate the importance of this subject.

I know I’m generally going through the ‘sermon on the mount’ verse by verse, but rather than cover the same subject in two weeks’ time, I thought I would do it all today.

Forgiveness is a key aspect of Christianity, because anyone who is a follower of Christ has asked for and received forgiveness. If anyone just follows Christ because they think they are already a good person, they have missed the point. Before we come to Christ, we are all sinners and a long way from God. In fact the bible refers to us as ‘dead’ in our sins (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13 etc). We cannot reach God through our own efforts. We come to an acknowledgment of our sinful state before a Holy God and receive the forgiveness Jesus offers that is available through His death and resurrection.

The important point of our verses today is that when we have received forgiveness we should in turn forgive others. God has given us the example to follow. It just isn’t right to receive God’s forgiveness and not extend forgiveness to others. Jesus makes this point in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. In fact the consequences of not forgiving somebody are quite shocking.

God knows that forgiveness is one of the hardest things for us to do. It is not just a ‘one-off’ process either. We have to forgive some people over and over again. We do it continuously, because every now and again the same old hurt and resentments come back to us. That’s why we should repeat this prayer, if not daily, then very regularly.

This subject is so important because we are all part of God’s family. As a parent I hate it when my kids fall out and fight, God is just the same. He loves it when His children get on with each other and forgive one another. In fact the bible says that when it happens He has reserved a big blessing for us:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!….. For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore. (Psalm 133:1,3)

There is generally a lot of misunderstanding regarding forgiveness. Forgiveness is not necessarily restoring a relationship to its previous state before things went wrong. Sometimes when trust has been broken it can take a long time to win back. It’s not becoming a ‘door mat’ either so that someone sins against you multiple times and you are stuck just having to forgive them without them facing up to the consequences of their sins. Sin needs to be confronted and not tolerated.

I will finish with just a few more points about forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness is a process. People can be very hurtful and especially those closest to us. Some emotional problems can take a long time to heal. Start with the intention to forgive and then let God help you achieve it.
  • We forgive if they repent or not. Some people can hurt us and they seem to be quite happy to do so. Remember this; Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
  • We don’t always have to tell them. Some people can be blissfully unaware that they have hurt us. Telling them we have forgiven them can be a bit of manipulation to make them feel guilty. It can also be a form of pride. Some people need to be confronted though, so make sure you are confronting with the right attitude.
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When we get these memories, it’s what we do with them that counts. Many times we have to forgive over and over again. It should get better the more you do though!
 July 22, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm forgiveness, Prayer, The sermon on the mount No Responses »