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Ask

Dec 022016
 

AskAsk, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

I’m going to look at the 3 aspects of this verse (asking, seeking and knocking) over the next few weeks as they are all slightly different.

This verse, like quite a few others we have looked at recently, has been misinterpreted and taken out of context.

It has been misused by people who take this verse to mean we can ask for whatever we want. You may have heard of the phrase ‘name it and claim it’. Basically the idea is that we can ask for whatever we want and as long as we have enough faith and enough tenacity we will get it. People have taken it to extremes to ask for cars, houses, boats, lottery wins… you name it they’ll claim it!

In the context of what Jesus has already been speaking about, this cannot be the application. He has already been speaking about providing for our material ‘needs’ but has never suggested that we can ask for everything we want. This verse comes soon after Jesus told us to seek first His kingdom and I believe in these verses He is encouraging us to pray and ask for spiritual blessings. Let’s look at the parallel passage in Luke 11 which is more specific;

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)

So it is the Holy Spirit we are to ask for. The Holy Spirit is the source of all our spiritual blessings and greatest joy. So much better than any material possessions we could ever acquire.

Today’s word is simply ‘ask’, which highlights our relationship we are to have with our heavenly father. Throughout the bible it is clear that God loves to have a relationship with us and us coming to him and asking Him is a great way of maintaining and even strengthening that relationship. I immediately think of my own relationship as a parent with my children and how I love to give them things when they come to me and ask.

We can often think of prayer as a last resort, after we have tried every other avenue with our own resources. But God wants us to come to Him first. It would actually save an awful lot of trouble. I’m sure we would see a lot more answers to our prayers if we did so. The actual phrase is in what is called the ‘present imperative’ so the phrase should be ‘keep on asking’.

The word ‘ask’ is found 71 times in the New Testament alone and many times in the Old Testament such as:

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:8)

It is God’s invitation. He has taken the initiative by saying we can ask, it is now down to us to actually do the asking.

I’ll leave you with a thought provoking verse on this subject from James;

You do not have, because you do not ask. (James 4:2)

 December 2, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Nov 252016
 

pearls before pigsDo not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6)

The bible is not always an easy book to read. Some passages are straightforward and the meaning is obvious, whilst passages like the one today require a little more thought. You cannot just read today’s passage and move on; we need to dig a little.

The first thing we need to do is look at the elements of this verse. What (or who) is Jesus referring to when He talks about dogs and pigs. There are clues in the bible.

Dogs in the bible are not ‘man’s best friend’ like they are today. They were not treated as pets, although they were used to guard houses and protect sheep, the majority were scavengers and would hunt for food in packs, they would have been wild or ‘feral’. They were known for hunting and eating dead carcasses and so were classed as unclean animals.

And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.” (2 Kings 9:10)

Evildoers were classified as ‘dogs’ in this prophecy about Jesus’ death;

For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet (Psalm 22:16)

There are many other places in the bible where to call someone a dog was an insult.

Pigs too were considered unclean. They were forbidden to be eaten (Leviticus 11:7) and Jesus made a point to His listeners when He told the story of the prodigal son who became a pig herder, the most utterly shameful job that an Israelite could do.

I think the reference to pearls is obvious. If you recall the parable Jesus told about the merchant who found the pearl of great price;

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

So a pearl represents the precious gospel we present to others.

So dogs and pigs in this context represent unholy people and in the way that Jesus is speaking, people who we are not to waste the priceless pearl of the gospel with. Strong words indeed!

So what does that mean for us, should we not even present the gospel to certain people?

I believe Jesus is calling us to be wise and discerning and to be led by the Holy Spirit just as He was. We certainly need to always be prepared to share our faith whenever an occasion arises;

but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)

But there are some occasions when we encounter hostility and antagonism on an ongoing scale where we just need to move on. As I said this requires discernment but sometimes it just has to be done. Jesus was clear about this when he sent out the 72 disciples:

But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say,‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:10-12)

I think for many of us (and I include myself in this), that Jesus’ warning is a little redundant for us.

This is what the bible teacher Sam Storms has to say:

Matthew 7:6 probably does not need to be taught in certain churches or to certain Christians. Their problem is not that they are inclined to be undiscerning and often cast their pearls before swine. Their problem is that they aren’t casting their pearls at all! This verse is addressed to those who are so zealous for evangelism that they fail to discern the scoffer from the hungry soul. Most likely, our problem is that we have no such zeal to evangelize in the first place.

Something I am certainly going to consider.

 November 25, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Nov 182016
 

Plank eyeWhy do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

It just so happens that I visited the optician this week to have my eyes tested. Using various implements to see what sort of health our eyes are in, they get very close don’t they? I was thinking about how difficult that would be if the optician had a plank in their eye, actually impossible!

In this part of Jesus’ sermon, He injects some Hyperbole to get His point across. He used this form of exaggeration on a number of occasions and I’m sure His listeners found it quite amusing (well, not all of them anyway!). He used it in a similar context when He told the religious leaders that they strained out gnats and swallowed camels (Matthew 23:24). He also talked about camels passing through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). This form of exaggeration and ridiculousness really drives the point home.

The simple point made in today’s passage is to stop focussing on other people’s faults before looking at and addressing your own.

Jesus has been looking at the whole subject of judging other people and He has an eye on the scribes and Pharisees as He recognises their hypocritical spirit. They need to get their own house in order first before they even consider focussing on other people’s problems.

Jesus is speaking against ‘meddling’ in other people’s affairs, especially without having all the facts. I mentioned in recent weeks that it is God’s job to judge our thoughts and motivations and His alone.

I am reminded of the story of Job in the Old Testament who had a number of ‘comforters’ who were intent on meddling and presuming to tell Job where he had gone wrong. In the end God firmly rebukes them for their meddling and tells them outright that they were wrong. If we are not careful, we can be very much like Job’s comforters, we may have the best of intentions, but we should be very careful when we make assumptions, especially when we can never be in full possession of all the facts.

As I have said previously, Jesus is not condemning every type of judgement. Sometimes we need to correct people when they are clearly in the wrong, but that involves humility, honesty and kindness, with a view to loving restoration. Verse 5 even shows us that when we have removed our own logs we will then see clearly to help our brother or sister with their speck. When you think about it a log in your eye would be pretty obvious to everyone, especially the one you are trying to help. Most of us would refuse any help from someone so hypocritical to presume to correct us when their fault is far worse than ours. By removing our plank we are much more likely to be received.

 November 18, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Nov 112016
 

Judged by your own standardsFor with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)

Human beings love to judge, not always audibly or so that it’s obvious to others, but often in our thought life. We can do it all the time without even realising it. Many times we judge others for the simple reason that we want to feel better than them. We are very good at noticing the faults of others but completely incapable of seeing those same faults within ourselves.

Judging others is one of the most basic of human sins, it produces all sorts of evil within us including; hate, pride and jealousy.

In this part of His sermon, Jesus is very keen that we should view ourselves honestly. He wants to expose the sins of the Scribes and Pharisee’s who couldn’t see the wrong they were doing. The bible talks elsewhere about our ability to perceive ourselves honestly as ‘sober judgement’. That is a very good description. If you can imagine the opposite as ‘inebriated judgement’ when people have had a few drinks they start to lose their ability to see clearly, to maybe over exaggerate and view things in a distorted way.

The Scribes and Pharisee’s were very prone to making harsh judgements on other people and being a lot more lenient on themselves. They were so proud, self-righteous and smug. So convinced about their own superiority that they found it very easy to be condemning and judgemental. They would even go as far as adding to God’s law, lots of extra regulations and rules, as if to say “God, you haven’t quite covered all the bases, your laws aren’t quite good enough. Here, let’s give you a hand!” No wonder Jesus got so angry and came after them.

Do you see anything of yourself in the Scribes and Pharisee’s? Perhaps if you don’t you are more like them than you think!

Today’s passage is very sobering. God says that He will use the standard we use to judge others to judge us. Think about it, unchecked we can be very harsh in our judgements. God is going to be just as harsh with us.

As we saw last week, this verse doesn’t mean that we don’t judge at all. It also doesn’t mean we are blind to others’ faults and pretend that everything is alright when it isn’t. It also doesn’t mean we are not critical sometimes. We need to confront sin when it presents itself.

What we are not to do is judge motives and intentions, second guessing why people are like they are and do what they do. Only God knows the motives of people’s hearts and it is extremely dangerous to try to muscle in on His territory.

We can make these sorts of judgements very easily, almost subconsciously. When I was analysing my own attitudes, I was thinking how easily I can make judgements about people because I perceive they are not committed to the church as I think they should be or don’t serve or attend prayer meetings or many other reasons that I consider important. I have to constantly check myself now and repent of any wrong attitudes. When we are in tune with the Holy Spirit, this becomes a lot easier. We need to be sensitive to His leading and not ‘sear’ our conscience by ignoring his promptings. The Holy Spirit is the most precious guide to help us maintain good relationships and attitudes.

In today’s verse, Jesus is giving us a choice. Choose to forgive and you will be forgiven, choose to show mercy and you will receive mercy. God will judge you in the same way you judge others. It will be far better for you if you show grace, mercy, kindness and forgiveness because guess what? That is what you will get!

If you don’t show mercy and kindness, know that you will be judged as harshly as you judge others, because God is very fair. Judgement may not happen instantly, but know that it will surely come. It can be very dangerous to think you are getting away with something when in fact Judgement is being stored up against you. It would be much better for us if it did happen sooner so that we can deal with it immediately. I for one would much rather get things sorted now and be in good relationship with God and others than to wait for stored up judgement, wouldn’t you?

Next week we will continue in this theme and look at what Jesus said about fixing a speck in someone’s eye when we’ve got a plank in our own.

 November 11, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Nov 042016
 

Do not judgeJudge not, that you be not judged. (Matthew 7:1)

I believe this verse is one of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the whole bible. It is probably one of the favourite verses for unbelievers who want to carry on doing what they want to do, usually in rebellion to God and His ways. They direct it at God himself. “Who is He to tell me I am wrong what I am doing? It’s my life, I’ll do what I want.” “Don’t judge me God.” And if they direct it at Him, they will most certainly direct it at His followers.

In today’s society, judging other people is very wrong, but is Jesus saying we shouldn’t judge at all? I don’t believe so, because there are other passages that call us to exercise judgement;

You have to exercise judgement to fulfil these two verses:

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

And what about:

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? (1 Corinthians 6:1-2)

It is so important, as in all scripture, to look at passages in context. This verse should not be taken in isolation. Jesus has been talking in ‘The sermon on the mount’ about our attitudes, about our humility and singling out the religious leaders who led in a hypocritical way. They pronounced moral judgements on others whilst being guilty of those same sins themselves.

Jesus is not condemning all moral judgement or accountability but rather the harsh, prideful, hypocritical judgement that condemns others without first evaluating one’s own position and spiritual condition. We should judge lovingly, not self-righteously. There is a big difference and it is all in the attitude.

Jesus said himself in John 7:24 “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.

Let’s look at what sort of judgement is right:

Not judging superficially– We shouldn’t judge solely based on appearances, ensuring we don’t jump to conclusions before establishing the facts. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13) We do not judge motives and intentions of the heart, only God can do that.

Not judging hypocritically– Jesus has already been confronting, in this same sermon, hypocritical behaviour (see Matthew 6 verses 2, 5 and 16) and He will continue challenging this behaviour as He goes on.

Not harsh, unforgiving judgement– We need to be gentle towards one another. to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy towards all people. (Titus 3:2)

True judgement- The bible clearly forbids ‘false witness’ A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape. (Proverbs 19:5)

The world says “Do not judge, do not make moral evaluations, don’t condemn anything!” but Jesus is not saying that. He is saying don’t be hypocritical in your judgements or judge people with different standards than you would hope to be judged by. When you judge; be loving, kind and gracious with a spirit of restoring people to their right relationship with God. But don’t tolerate sin!

We will start to look at the consequences of judging wrongly next week.

 November 4, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 282016
 

worrying about tomorrowTherefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34)

We have now spent quite a number of weeks looking at all different aspects of worry and anxiety. Today I am going to wrap up this subject with an overview of what Jesus has been saying in these few verses and then finish with some personal reflections.

In these 9 verses (Matthew 25-34) Jesus has been showing the utter futility, for the believer, in worrying. Worrying cannot do you any good. Firstly, it’s not going to add any length to your life or improve it in any way. Secondly, look around you! See how God provides for and feeds the birds and clothes the flowers of the field. Thirdly consider that God is your loving heavenly father who loves you and wants to provide for you. You are far more precious than birds of the air or flowers in the field, so of course He will look after you! Conclusion; worrying is not just pointless it is counter-productive and demonstrates a distinct lack of faith!

When you look at these arguments, in the cold light of day, they make perfect sense. So why do we still worry?

I’m reminded of the story of Peter in Matthew 14:22-33. All the time he had his eyes and trust on Jesus he was able to miraculously walk on water, but as soon as he looked at the wind and the waves and the circumstances, he started to sink. I am convinced that is the same as our worry and anxiety. We have taken our eyes off God and started looking at all the circumstances. The answer of course is to spend more time with God; to read His word, pray, worship and meditate on His goodness.

This series on worry has come at the perfect time for me. I have just changed career and have started driving buses for a living. Before this summer I had never driven anything bigger than a small van and now I am driving double-deckers down some very narrow roads. The temptation to worry and be anxious has been huge. I can’t say it has been easy and I have certainly had my moments where I have lost some sleep and found it really difficult. But God has been so good and helped me as I have leaned into Him. I have had to constantly hand over my concerns to Him and press in through prayer, but He has been so faithful.

If you are finding life difficult, with worries and concerns besetting you, let me encourage you to draw near to God. He really is the only answer.

I’m just going to end with a few quotes which I found quite thought provoking:

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
(Leo F. Buscaglia)

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere” (Erma Bombeck)

“Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow.” (Philip Gulley)

I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize the Lord is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient.(Hudson Taylor)

And finally from the straight speaking John Stott

“To become preoccupied with material things in such a way that they engross our attention, absorb our energy, and burden us with anxiety is incompatible with both Christian faith and common sense.  It is distrustful of our heavenly Father and it is frankly stupid.”

 October 28, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 212016
 

seek first the kingdom of GodBut seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Today’s verse is one of the most well known in the bible. It can be found on inspirational posters and bumper stickers and probably coffee mugs. It is a great verse which rolls off the tongue, but what does it really mean? It is not always quoted in the context of worry, it is often just quoted as a nice thought, but if you have been following these blogs for the past few weeks, you will know that Jesus has been explaining why we don’t need to worry and this verse is a sort of summing up of what He has just been saying. Let’s break it down and look at it carefully.

Seek– To seek for something denotes action, it is not passive, not hoping that something will just turn up. It’s going ‘all out’ to get something. Jesus summed it up well in Luke 15 when He told parables about the lost sheep and lost coin. The searcher was single minded in their seeking, which is the sort of seeking Jesus is referring to here. It’s not a ‘one off’ seeking either, it’s a daily choice!

First– This is the thing we should be doing above all other things. Making it a top priority, not settling for a lesser target or compromising. We are talking about ‘the pearl of great price’ which takes precedence over all other things.

Kingdom of God– For many years I didn’t really understand what this phrase meant, but Jesus used the term a lot. In fact it was the central theme of His ministry. He would often say “The kingdom of God is at hand” or even “The kingdom of God is within you”. Many people have differed on the precise meaning of this term, but I think it is clear from the context of what Jesus was saying and doing. A Kingdom denotes a ruling and a reigning of a King. When Jesus demonstrated the nearness of His kingdom He would generally be; healing people, delivering them from demonic activity, working miracles or preaching the good news. You could liken it to heaven touching earth. There is no sickness in heaven and so when Jesus healed somebody he brought heaven’s kingdom down to earth. There is no lack in heaven and so when Jesus fed the five thousand he brought the provision of heaven down to earth and so on. He demonstrated love, joy and peace, all attributes of His heavenly kingdom.

When we seek God’s Kingdom first we are looking to act like Jesus in our everyday lives. It could be by; blessing people, providing for them, loving them, feeding the poor, helping the helpless, being kind, being generous and hundreds of other things that happen because we love Jesus and we want people to know and love Him too. It doesn’t have to be big things either. Just the mundane, every day, Christ-like attitude we demonstrate on a daily basis. It all shows a seeking first of Christ’s kingdom. It’s in every decision we make to do the ‘right’ thing. That leads me on to the last bit;

Righteousness– God’s righteousness is what we are given as a free gift when we are saved. It is nothing we have earned or could possibly attain for ourselves. One of my favourite verses in the whole bible is:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Let that sink in; you have become the righteousness of God. God looks at you and sees the perfection of Jesus. But it is still something we need to take on, it’s a daily choice. We can choose to seek first and pursue God’s righteousness or we can just do what we want to do. Jesus is encouraging us today to seek first the better thing, to go after God and all He has for us with all of our might, to make it our top priority.

Jesus says when we put Him first, all the other stuff will be added anyway. We pursue the kingdom and we won’t be lacking in food, clothes or provisions. He takes care of all of that.

Next week, I’m going to attempt to sum up all we have been looking at over the last few weeks and again see why it is pretty pointless worrying about things. Until then..

 October 21, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 142016
 

Dont be like unbelievers1Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (Matthew 6:31-32)

In our verse by verse study on the ‘sermon on the mount’ we have spent a number of weeks recently looking at the whole subject of worry. Jesus has stated clearly that worry is unnecessary based on the fact that we have a loving heavenly father who is ready, willing and able to provide for us and yet we can still find ourselves worrying unnecessarily.

As we draw to the end of this subject, I want to consider again what Jesus is telling us from the verses that are before us today.

Let’s start with His conclusion; we have a heavenly father who knows what we need.

We looked at a similar subject a few weeks ago when we considered the question why pray?

So on a similar vein, if God knows what we need, why do we need to ask?

· God is looking for humility – a trusting spirit. Asking Him for things is a humbling experience. We are admitting that we cannot provide for ourselves.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you (1 Peter 5:6)

· Trust – You come to Him trusting He will provide for you. You are showing that you believe in Him and His promises and His willingness to provide.

· Guarding against complacency. If God just handed everything to us on a plate we would pretty soon forget where it came from.

· Relationship. It says in the passage today ‘heavenly father’. He is a responsible and loving parent and part of our coming to Him is a development of that relationship. It’s not a good relationship if we always turn up with a list of requests and never want to spend time with the giver of those gifts.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13)

Jesus is comparing God’s provision with what the Gentiles have to hope for. The word ‘Gentiles’ could also be translated ‘Pagans’ or ‘unbelievers’. Basically, anyone who doesn’t know God or have a relationship with Him. You probably know quite a few!

As I have said previously, we live in a society that is obsessed with ‘things’. Things to eat, drink or wear. Materialism. The daily pursuit of these things causes worry and anxiety and is ultimately unfulfilling. Those without God don’t have any trust that these things will be provided for them, they are left to fend for themselves.

The difference between a believer and an unbeliever should be stark, but sadly sometimes the difference is not obvious and not immediately clear. If we worry like unbelievers, what are we saying about God and His ability to provide? What sort of message are we sending out about His love and compassion?

We should be living in the reality of these verses. We have lasting hope and they have none. We have a heavenly father who loves and cares for us and they don’t. They have to rely on their own wit and abilities, we trust in the care of a compassionate generous father.

As we trust in the reality of these truths, we send a signal to the world of what they are missing. We are much more likely then, to have the opportunity to share with them the hope that they can have this relationship too. Let’s determine this week to live a life free from worry and full of trust and see what opportunities our father gives us to share this hope with others.

 October 14, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 072016
 

O you of little faithwill he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)

I wouldn’t say this is one of Jesus’ favourite phrases, but He does use it a few times.

When the disciples got anxious in the storm: And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26)

When Peter started to sink after walking on water: Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

And when the disciples completely misunderstand Jesus when they think He is talking about physical bread: “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?” (Matthew 16:8)

And lastly the parallel passage to the verse today in Luke 12:28

The other examples are Jesus talking to individuals. But today He is talking to a whole crowd from many different backgrounds. Did they all have little faith?

Jesus knows we have little faith, He knows because He made us. He knows our weaknesses and failures. I believe this phrase is a very gentle rebuke, where Jesus is tenderly pointing us in God’s direction and saying you can have more faith if you simply look towards Him. When you take your focus off your concerns and instead fix your gaze on Him as a loving heavenly father who is passionate about us and wants to provide for us abundantly, then faith will grow.

Jesus is not judging us, He is pointing us to the truth of His commitment for us. When we lose our trust in His commitment to us, it causes us to worry. Worry is doubting God. It is saying “I don’t think you can come through for me this time God” We often sort of believe that He can but doubt that He actually will. This is sin. This is placing the problems above our trust in God and doubting His willingness to help and His ability to fulfil His promises.

God never rejects those whose faith is weak, He wants to inspire them and to increase their faith

a bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not quench (Matthew 12:20)

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him (Romans 14:1)

But he does commend those who are strong in faith:

When Jesus heard this, he marvelled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. (Matthew 8:10)

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:28)

I am convinced that the more time we spend in Jesus’ presence; praying, reading His word and worshipping, the stronger our faith will become. Because our focus is on Him rather than the problems we are worried about. It’s all about shifting our focus.

It’s important to recognise that Jesus didn’t say “O you of no faith” as Christians we have enough faith to save us. That is the easy bit. To grow stronger we need to develop that faith by recognising that God cares for every area of our lives and is ready, willing and able to provide for us in every aspect of life.

 October 7, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
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 »