Jan 132017
 

Good gifts..how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

Jesus has already laboured the point that God is a good father. A perfect father who wants to pour out many good gifts to His children. He has all the resources at His disposal and on top of that is extravagantly generous. He is not reluctant at all.

We have already touched on, in previous weeks, what he means when He says “good gifts,” but let’s just analyse that a little further.

They are ‘good’ because God only gives good things;

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

This is an important point, because we can sometimes accredit the bad things that happen as coming from God. God sends no bad thing, He sometimes, in his providence, ‘allows’ things to happen but that is quite different.

They are ‘good’ because they are for our blessing. Not just for us, but for other people too. God is so generous that when He blesses us, there is an aspect that this blessing flows out to others. When we inherit God’s characteristics, we naturally want to pass on the good that we receive to others. This is how God loves to spread His goodness.

There are lots of places in the bible which talk about the gifts that God gives, but one of the most detailed places is the first book of Corinthians and specifically chapters; 12, 13 and 14. The Holy Spirit distributes gifts for the ‘common good’ (1 Corinthians 12:7). He knows us so well that these gifts are often matched to our natural giftings and character. That is why we are not to despise these gifts if they do not seem to be as important as other ones. We all have a part to play.

Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians highlights the necessity of love in the use and application of these gifts. They are not given for pride, or boasting or competition or ‘lording it over’ people, but a harmonious demonstration of God’s earthly body in action. What a beautiful sight when everyone receives the gifts they are given and use them to bless others, how harmonious and stunning!

If you are not sure what your gifts are, ask God as you read 1 Corinthians (and Romans 12) and see all the different types. He is so eager to bless you.

 January 13, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Jan 062017
 

A perfect fatherOr which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

Jesus continues with an obvious statement. If my son, Tom, were to ask for some bread, of course I wouldn’t give him a stone and I would never substitute a serpent for some fish. This is pretty obvious.

The hard-hitting part comes next; Jesus assumes I am evil! He calls all of us evil. But am I really evil? I do the best for my kids and try my hardest to make sure they are ok. And yet I am evil!

Firstly, compared to God we are evil. We are imperfect and He is perfect. We make many mistakes on a daily basis, He doesn’t. But this goes further than just a comparison. It brings us to an important doctrine of the state of mankind.

The bible makes it clear that apart from God, mankind is spiritually dead.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1)

We have no interest in God until He, by His grace, awakens a desire for Him in us. This is called the doctrine of ‘total depravity’ meaning that every part of our being is affected by sin, our intellect, emotions, desires, motives, everything. It’s all corrupted by sin.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (Romans 7:18)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

This is not to say that we are incapable of doing good, far from it. But even by doing good our motives can be impure and corrupt.

In the context of today’s passage, Jesus is saying that even we, who are sinful, do the best for our children. But our attempts at being good parents are nothing compared to our perfect heavenly father. As parents, we can have the best of intentions but spoil our kids, or the opposite; be too harsh with them.

Our heavenly father made us, knows us better than we know ourselves and is therefore in the best position to know what is right for us. Not just in what we need but the timing of it. God will often withhold things from us for a time, because He knows the precise moment to give us what we need. Sometimes delaying can result in us trusting Him more. After all, if He gave us everything we asked for immediately, where would the appreciation and the trust be?

He does not give in to our petty tantrums and He is not swayed by our attempts at emotional manipulation. Just as well, as the sight of a spoilt child is not an attractive thing.

Jesus has now repeated the same thing in lots of different ways and He really wants to get the message across;

We have a father who loves us, who wants to have a relationship with us and wants to bless us with spiritual blessings. He is the perfect father who we should be running to, not hiding from.

Which one do you do? If you haven’t been doing so already, open your heart to Him. Tell Him your worries and concerns. If you’ve had a bad model of a father or no father at all, allow Him to fill that gap in your life.

Let Him in!

 January 6, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Dec 302016
 

Prayer answering GodFor everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:8)

This verse is almost a carbon copy of the previous verse. It mentions asking, seeking and knocking, the subjects we have been looking at over the last 3 weeks. And once again it asserts that these activities will be answered positively when we persevere.

If anything is repeated in the bible, we should especially take notice because God is trying to get our attention. These two verses combine together to show that God is serious when He promises to answer our prayers of persistence.

Let me just remind you though that these prayers are for the gift of God’s Holy Spirit and His generous provision of spiritual blessings. God has no problem answering our prayers for healing, material provision or other things, but they are not guaranteed. What He will always answer in the affirmative is our requests for spiritual blessings.

When God promises, you can be sure that He will deliver. He is not a God who would lie or be deceitful (Numbers 23:19). He is honest and trustworthy and although we may need to press in and keep asking, He will certainly answer our prayers. When God promises something, there is no stronger guarantee! As we saw before, He is requesting us to ask Him, He really wants that relationship with us as He knows that is what will do us the most good. It is all for our benefit.

We need to be in tune with God’s heart and that will only come through developing a relationship with Him. When we know Him well, we are going to be praying the sorts of prayers that please Him. There are many examples of these sorts of prayers in the bible. When we are not in tune, we are more likely to pray with selfish motives or prayers that are outside of His perfect will. The trouble is these unanswered prayers can cause bitterness and resentment in our hearts. We can just assume (wrongly) that God doesn’t want to answer our prayers or that He is distant or mean spirited. He is none of these.

I have prayed many prayers in the past that I have assumed are in God’s will and certain that He will answer, but when I look back, I can see that actually He had a much better plan all along. God knows the end from the beginning and every permutation of life. That is why He doesn’t always answer in the way or manner we expect. When we submit to Him and acknowledge that He knows best, we will find that our prayers are answered much more regularly, because we are not praying what we think is best but with a quiet confidence that His perfect will is the best path.

 December 30, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Dec 232016
 

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

God has invited us to have an amazing relationship with Him, through prayer. It is clear from this passage that He is not necessarily going to answer all our prayers straight away and in the manner we want, but He has encouraged us to keep going. To keep badgering Him. He knows that in the constant seeking, our faith and trust will grow stronger and our relationship will deepen. Prevailing prayer does not mean that God is unwilling to give until we twist His arm and He finally gives in. It is so that He can develop and purify us. God knows exactly what we want before we ask, but He loves to draw out of us the desires He has first placed in our hearts. It is a mystery to us, but the bible makes it clear repeatedly that is how God likes to do things.

and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:7)

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18)

I don’t necessarily think that the list in the passage today of; asking, seeking and knocking is necessarily in ascending order of desperation. For example we’ve tried asking, so we then put a bit more effort in and seek and if all else fails we try knocking. I don’t think it matters. Jesus is encouraging us, in whatever way we seek Him, to do it tenaciously and persistently. That is the principle.

Looking at today’s word – knocking, suggests we are at a door and we are trying to get the attention of the occupant on the other side of the door. This is something that Jesus himself does, when He tries to get the attention of the church at Laodicea, who have somehow left Him on the outside!

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

If He can do it out of love and a desire for relationship, we can certainly respond in the same way, following his example.

The tenacity required is the spirit shown by Jacob who wrestled with an angel in Genesis 32. He declared “I will not let you go unless you bless me. (Genesis 32:26)

The more we ‘press in’ the more we get to know God’s ways. We will never reach an adequate understanding of God if we only shoot up a quick prayer every now and again. Prayer is jolly hard work but very rewarding. Whatever you are asking for, keep knocking until your knuckles hurt!

I’ll finish this blog with a quote from the great evangelist and missionary, George Muller

The great point is never to give up until the answer comes,” said Muller. “I have been praying for sixty-three years and eight months for one man’s conversion. He is not converted yet, but he will be! How can it be otherwise?”

 December 23, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, The sermon on the mount 1 Response »
Dec 162016
 

Why I blogI only just recently noticed that this blog was going to be my 250thso I thought I would just depart from my long running series looking at ‘The sermon on the mount’ and just write a few reflections about why I write these blogs.

The first one was over 4 and a half years ago, on 6th April 2012. If you want, you can read it here http://adrianpursglove.com/whats-so-good-about-good-friday/

I hadn’t originally intended to write Christian blogs. I started creating websites to see if I could earn some money through internet marketing. Basically, you set up websites about specific subjects and then put links to products for people to buy. Every time they buy something you get a very small percentage. Sounds great but the reality is not so easy and you have to find ways of getting up the google rankings so that people can actually find the sites.

My heart wasn’t really in it, but I discovered that God was using this journey of creating websites to start this blog. I definitely have a heart to share God’s word with as many people as possible and I have learned a lot to share in my 45 years as a Christian. I love the bible and I love it when God reveals fresh insights with me. I don’t have the opportunity to preach, so writing was the best vehicle for me to share all that I have learned.

In the early days I wrote more than one blog a week, but after a while I got into a pattern of producing one each week and I don’t think I have missed a week for a good few years. I sometimes wonder if anyone actually reads them, but every now and again I get some lovely comments and it really encourages me. I hope if you are reading this that you have found these blogs helpful. Please do feel free to write in the comments section, especially if I have not been very clear, or even if you have any future subjects you would like me to tackle. My prayer is that through the reading of these you will feel closer to God and understand His word more.

If you want to read any of the previous 249 blogs, why not check out the archive section at the top of the page?

Next week we will return to look at the third aspect of Matthew 7:7 ‘knocking’) following asking and seeking. Until then, God bless and thanks for reading.

 December 16, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Uncategorized No Responses »
Dec 092016
 

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

Last week we looked at the amazing invitation by God to ask him for spiritual blessings. This week we will consider what we do when those blessings aren’t immediately forthcoming.

If you have been a Christian for even a short amount of time, you will have realised that when we come to God in prayer we don’t always get everything we ask for immediately.

We have already encountered the word ‘seek’ a few verses back when we considered Jesus’ encouragement to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

Seeking God is a very important part of our relationship. It shows how desperate we are for Him. If someone asks for something only once and then gives up, we could conclude that they didn’t really want it that much in the first place. But if someone is tenacious and persistent in their request, it is obvious that they will not take no for an answer and desperately want the thing that they are requesting.

Jesus told a parable in Luke 18:1-8 of a determined widow who constantly badgered an unjust judge with a request. She wore him down with her persistence and eventually got what she wanted. How much more will our loving heavenly father give us good gifts when we persist?

God really doesn’t want us to give up. See what Paul says in the letter to the Galatians

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Just like asking, God has invited us to seek. It is initiated by Him

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” (Psalm 27:8)

This section of ‘The sermon on the mount’ is about prayer, but on a deeper level it is about our desire for God and determination to know Him more and have more of Him in our lives.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

If God would answer every request we made immediately, our relationship would be a lot shallower. A lot can happen on the journey of waiting. God can develop our character, deepen our reliance and cultivate our faith and so much more. The longer we wait the more glorious and satisfying when the answer eventually comes.

I want to end with an encouragement that God has promised in this verse to answer this prayer. Some things we ask for we won’t necessarily get. But when we seek after God himself He has promised He will answer. It might not necessarily be straight away, but if we pursue Him with determination and not give up, we will surely gain our reward. If you are about to give up, keep seeking, the answer could be just around the corner.

 December 9, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, The sermon on the mount No Responses »

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 »