Precious Welcome into the Kingdom.

Having experienced several bouts of severe facial pain in the last few days, I come to meet with the Lord this morning, in danger of being preoccupied by that.

“It is easy to trust Me when it is light, when all is well, when the path ahead is level, and when you have sufficient. However when the night descends or when obstacles arise in your path, you are brought to the point of putting your trust into action. When you reach that place where you are no longer in control, where you have no plan – then the test is – can you now place your trust in Me or do you give yourself over to confusion, anxiety and even panic? It is in that dark spot that My light shines at its brightest and I can bring you to focus on Me and My salvation. That is why I have said, “Consider it pure joy when you are faced with all kinds of trials” – the challenge is to trust and not to waver and start trusting in something else – “Then you will be like a wave of the sea tossed and blown by the wind”. This is my gift to you to benefit you and not to harm you.

My reading today is Mat 8:23-27. These few vv focus on the question Jesus asked the disciples when they were faced with a severe storm and He was sleeping in the boat, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” This is a stark reminder, almost a rebuke in the light of what I have written above. The question today though is, “Where does this faith arise? Can everyone have it?” This takes me back then to the “Sermon On The Mount” which we have been looking at the last few weeks.

Having spent some time describing the Kingdom of Heaven, what the members look like and how they are to live in the light of their citizenship, Jesus comes to a conclusion describing how this citizenship is obtained in this section. Matthew 8:13-27. (I.O.W. Entry into the Kingdom). The key for that section lies in 7:23, where Jesus places the stress on “Knowing Him“. In John 17:3 Jesus prays, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. If you tune yourself into it you will see that “Knowing Jesus and God” is a recurrent theme in John. But here in Matthew we just have this reference, so what does He say further to this to show us the “way”?

You see Jesus introduces this section on entry into the Kingdom with the words of 7:23,24. Stark words of warning, in our modern society where anything goes and there are, “Many ways to heaven”. Jesus says there are only two ways to live. The true and right way is narrow and difficult and only a few find it!. He follows this with a strong warning to be careful of the teachers you follow. There are many, some even wearing all the right garb that are actually ferocious wolves, leading people to destruction.

So there are many out there doing “religious acts” and other “highly commendable good things”, who are going to be shocked on judgement day when Jesus says those frightening words, “Depart from Me I never knew you”.

So what is the right and only way? Jesus proceeds with the word “therefore” in the next paragraph, to link it with this question .”Everyone who hears My words and puts them into practice.” Does this mean we are saved by our works? Well no, He has just said works won’t get you into heaven. What He is saying here is that the only way to heaven is to follow His way. The way and the route He has laid down. There is no option to do it your way that is acceptable. And note the words “hear” and “act”. You need to hear first, truly hear from the heart. Therefore it is important to listen. And then to understand that to just know is not enough, you must do what He says. You must follow His way from your heart.

But, “What about faith”, you say? This is where we need to understand the wonderful mystery and complexity of God’s word. One must always read and understand the bigger picture. Because “faith” is there. Yes? In the passage about the storm, which comes just after this section. God’s word is not carefully packaged so that you can read a little bit and know everything. His message is carefully woven into His story and all the facets are there. As you read and meditate on His word you start seeing the Kaleidoscope of His message which embodies a multitude of colours.

In Matthew Jesus said, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. In John 6:40, Jesus said, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

There are tens of 1000’s of people who flock to church, but are doing it their way. Many will say, “This is how I see Jesus”, “I can’t believe in a God who is angry, the God I believe in is all about love” etc We must reach out, we must pray for these people who are doing it in the words of Frank Sinatra, “My Way”. The fruit of the false teachers can be seen in the behaviour and actions of their followers. Just because someone has a degree or is ordained does not mean they are “Good Trees”, producing good fruit. It is not up to us to judge but to warn and pray and reach out with the wonderful message of Jesus’ gospel of judgement and mercy which meet at the cross.


With the notes of the songs I have been listening to and singing still fresh in my ears, I am surrounded by quiet. Asking God to help me quiet my thoughts and the inner voices clamouring to be heard. “Cleanse me and my thoughts Lord that I may hear you speak”. I picture myself sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary. “Be still and know that I am God .I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jesus. I am here with you”.

“You have been singing of the joy that awaits you when you pass into the new world – the new heavens and the new earth to be in My presence forever – yet there is a reluctance on your part to want to part with this world and the known – the comfort and love of those around you – you are not totally convinced of the huge joy that awaits you on the other side of the ‘divide’. In fact your thoughts stop at the divide – allow yourself to focus on Me and what I have demonstrated in the past – how I opened up the Red Sea for my people to pass through, how I opened the Jordan to allow my people to pass into the Promised Land. Remember the empty grave. I have the power, I have the plan, I am The Way through the divide – keep your eyes fixed on Me and allowing the thought of the great wedding feast of the lamb to fill you with joy and anticipation– knowing you are going to be there. Don’t cling to this world don’t stare at the divide with fear. Trust Me trust My love and grace. I am for you”.

As I pass into ch 7 of Matthew, let me share a few thoughts that seemed to be what Jesus was saying to me today. Coming to vs 7 Jesus says we should, “Ask, seek, knock and the door will be opened to you”. This spoke to me of an attitude towards God that seemed to connect with earlier thoughts expressed in the Sermon. 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst.…”. 6:31 “Seek first….” This brought to mind the words of Psalm 42, “As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants…… My soul thirsts…”

This speaks to me of an attitude of deep longing, of a continuous desire. So what is the desire to be for? Well it is not for mammon or treasures on this earth 6:19. It is not even for the ordinary mundane things that make up our lives, “The Father knows already what you need”. 6:25-31. 6:32, “Your Father knows you need them”.

So what should we be seeking? 5:6 speaks of ‘righteousness’ . 6:31 expands that to “His kingdom and His righteousness“. 7:7 invites the hearer to seek, with a promise that they will be heard and God will respond. In the parallel passage in Luke we read, “…How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”. Then in Psalm 42 we see the key to this search in David’s words. Three times he repeats that he is panting, thirsting and seeking God Himself, in vv 1,2.

So what did I hear Jesus say to me from these words? Firstly God wants us to know that He is available. He invites us to seek Him and in return gives the very real promise that He will hear and respond. The second thing is that, while the theme of the SOM is God’s kingdom, how the members look like, how they should behave and function, the word ‘righteousness’ sort of summarizes that. But it is not just any righteousness, it is HIS righteousness, which is the feature of the lives of the people of His kingdom. But where does that righteousness come from? Well from Him and our relationship with Him. Therefore David is right when he says He seeks God, because God is the true source of righteousness, that is where we will find it.

So where does this all spin down to? Well God is looking for those who have an attitude of longing for Him and everything that has to do with His area of reign. Can we ask for more of Him? He has already given us Himself completely ‘in Jesus’, so when we are born again we have everything of Him. What we do need is more of is a greater awareness and appreciation of Him and everything about Him that we already have. That is why Paul, for instance in Ephesians prays the we may ‘know’ His love. Experience in our hearts that which is freely available. He wants us to know Him better and He wants more of us and our love and obedience and trust.

Does that mean we should not speak to Him about all the other things on our minds? Of course not. Why, he includes “give us this day our daily bread” in His prayer. But this is a matter of priorities. On a personal level. If you have a friend and all you always talk about when you are together is yourself, your struggles and needs, where will that friendship go? So if we are to grow as Christians it makes sense to tune into God’s program and seek to be part of that, to hear what He wants of us and to speak to Him about that. In that way our friendship will grow in leaps and bounds. In return He will of course want to hear about your personal issues as well. Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how much more will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things”.

Do you have that sense of longing for Him that David describes as a deer, having fled into the mountains to escape, finds himself panting for water? If you don’t why not ask God to give it to you so you too will seek Him, His kingdom and His righteousness often and continuously.

Thy Kingdom Come.

In the dark of load shedding I have a different experience of my time with the Lord – no electronic helps, songs, et cetera.

“I have invited you to spend time with me, which does not depend on any outside help. I am here I am your light, I light not only what you can see but into the depths of your heart. Look up and away and see My glory filling the sky– Glorious light, multiple colours, power and beauty pouring forth from Me. But I am not only out there I am in the depths of your soul – there is no place there that is dark enough to hide from me. I seek to bring you light and hope – my light is not a cold white light but I warm glow bringing you the warmth of my love. Yes I am here with you, just as I am with everyone of my children when they draw aside to focus on me and their relationship with and dependence on me”.

We move on to Ch 6 of Matthew. There is much teaching here, but I will lay out a framework to bring the different strands together.

The theme continues to be God’s Kingdom, as Jesus is interpreting it in the light of His coming connecting up with the Old Testament. (cf 6:10,33). Chapter 6 is about “practicing righteousness” (cf 6:1, 33), in other words the practical application of practicing ‘religion’ or we would say expressing our relationship with Jesus.

The opening section deals with the motive behind the religious practices. He condemns the open showy practice, instead repeats the need for secrecy, not desiring to be seen giving alms, praying, fasting etc. Now this almost seems a contradiction to 5:14 ff where He has said the people of the kingdom must be seen, demonstrating their relationship with Him. Underlying this then is the question, “What is our motive in our religious practice? Are we doing it to get attention for ourselves or focusing on His kingdom and His righteousness?”

So the underlying principle, which defines the people of the kingdom? It is buried in two places. Our lives and everything we do must be for His glory (6:9). Secondly we are to be single minded, focusing on Him and His righteousness. So in vs 21 He states the age-old conflict for all men (and women). The conflict of self. Self interest and self enrichment. When He says in v 22, “When your eyes are good,…..”, the Greek word for good could be better translated as “single”. Meaning focused on one thing somewhat like James warns us in James 1:6-8.

Running through this whole section is the thread of prayer which is the connection point between the citizens of the Kingdom and Jesus (or God). There is much there which each of you can unpack, from the warning not to babble a lot of words, to the reassurance that He already knows what we need and the beautifully laid out Lord’s prayer. Once again there is a warning that unforgiveness is a hinderance, a great hinderance to our prayers.

Then finally he deals with our relationship with our possessions, with the subtle and often repeated in this gospel, motivation to have faith, rather than fear. I read recently the suggestion that our fears are an indication of where we are trusting God the least.

And fasting? Well whether you actually fast or deny yourself in other ways, that is meant as a demonstration of the kingdom life which expresses itself in self-denial. Jesus says later in the gospel that if His disciples wished to follow Him the should take up their cross, daily.

So I must ask myself and maybe you should as well. “How is your practice of righteousness doing?”

How is your prayer-life? What are you focusing on? Why not keep a diary of how much time you spend on prayer for yourself and how much on other needs and kingdom issues.

More on the Law.

The last two days I have been meditating on whether I truly know Jesus’ love in my heart or whether it is mainly intellectual. This morning I imagine I am sitting at Jesus’s feet like Mary, looking to Him and listening to Him.

“ Some days you are like Mary – able to focus on Me and my love flowing out to you. Receiving everything I want to give you, other days you are more like Martha bustling around – busy with this and that in your mind. You, like all other people are a human being with changing emotions, depending on many things. Now know this I am not like that, my love is constant – it does not depend on how I feel about you – my love is fixed. It is present and focused on you to the maximum – held to you like the power that holds the atom together. When you feel any doubt, remind yourself of the many faces of My love, but start with Me giving My Son Jesus for you – for you on the cross – that is the ultimate sign – stop and meditate on that fact and let your soul rest in it.“

I want to stay with the law a bit longer in Matthew 5:21ff. The law plays such a huge part in the lives of many people. On the one hand there are those who believe, for whatever reason that to be accepted by God they simply must obey the law. “I live my life by the sermon on the mount,” they may say. To them Jesus says “You want to satisfy my demand from you? Then, ‘Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect'”. To a greater or lesser degree such people then spend their lives in bondage to the law, trying to reach that standard. There are many forms of this, especially in the Western world which is post Christian and people are third and fourth generation “Christians”, who have had some exposure to “Christianity” without the real gospel. There are tens of 1000’s who stream to church on a Sunday who fall into this category.

Then there are many real Christians, as we have seen in Galatians, completely devoted, who, having been saved and having received the Spirit by believing, they nevertheless fall back into a life of trying to please God by obeying the law to perfection, but in their own strength (cf Galatians 3:1-5). This often follows their conversion because of soft teaching, which does not explain the gospel clearly or just not maintaining a living relationship with the Lord, through the means of grace He has given us.

It is a fact that every human being craves affirmation. There is only one place where one can receive full affirmation and that is in the love of God. John tells us that Jesus prayed in John 17:23 (last phrase of that vs) that ultimate obedience would result from Christians understanding that God has loved each one of us, as much as He loved His own Son. “You loved them even as you have loved Me”. That is surely the greatest affirmation one can get. The challenge is to believe it, every day and not try to seek more by our behaviour or what we say.

So do we ignore the law? Of course not. It reveals God’s very own heart and desire for us. What is necessary is to have the right perspective. The desire to obey the law flows from a realization of God’s infinite love for us. We respond to this love by walking in the Spirit Gal 5.16. Following His guide through the word and responding to His Spirit within us.

So as I worked through these vv of Matt. several challenges came to me on a personal level: 1. Not saying anything derogatory about anyone. 5:22

2. Not resisting an evil person. 5:39.

3. Giving to the one who asks and not turning away from the one who wants to borrow from me. 5:42.

4. Loving my enemy. (My neighbour has gone out of her way to be obnoxious and aggressive towards me. God has surely allowed this to test me). 5:43.

5. Greeting and being cordial to everyone even to those who seek to harm me.5:47.

I suppose the biggest challenge is to just keep living the gospel and all that entails.

Next time lets look at what Jesus tells us in the next chapter about prayer.