The spirit of the Pharisees, Lives on in the Church.

“Open my eyes Lord, I want to see Jesus”.

“Open your eyes – I am all around you – I am especially present in My Word – but I am also present in My creation – and in the love shown you by others. I am present but you can only see Me with the eyes of faith, hear Me with the ears of faith, feed on Me and obey me with the heart of faith. I am there with you ‘active’ in My Word, as in Hebrews 12, like a two-edged sword.”

Yes Lord I want to meet with You, not just in the written word, but in the Spirit who inspired that word, to understand the purpose, the ‘telos’ of each passage- verse- word – story – injunction. The written Word must lead me by the hand to meet the majesty of the Author of the Word – spoken to all, jointly – but to me personally – to meet me at the point of my need and instruct me. So Lord please continue to open your word to me, so that I may enter your rest (Hebrews 4:3, 11) that I may fully experience the state of blessing I am in.

My reading in Luke today 12:1-13, is a continuation of the confrontation that Jesus is having with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. The various specific sins Jesus highlights are not difficult to understand. As I meditate on this whole section, it comes to me that it is often the “religious” people who are the biggest problem in the church and the world. Their witness is distorted by hypocrisy – the danger of their teaching is that they twist the word of God, taking away its power to liberate and laying burdens on people’s backs. It is the religious people who often turn on each other and tear each other apart, often over unimportant points of doctrine. It is they who seek to form cliques of “like-minded” individuals, effectively excluding others from the gospel. It is the religious people who so distort the word of God to make it suit their particular petty sins eg the whole gay issue.

My unbelieving son Jean recently made a telling statement: I asked him how the people in England are taking “Brexit”. His answer was it is a fait accompli, now people either believe in it and embrace it or reject it completely. It is like religion he said. In other words you either believe in “religion” or you don’t. How much of a role have religious people played in causing him to make choice not to believe? So the outsider often sees the church as a sea of frowning religious faces looking down on them, ready to condemn them, instead of a kaleidoscope of beautiful flowers in the garden of God, ready to enfold and welcome others into the warm embrace of a relationship with the Father.

The frightening thing is that the seeds of the Pharisees lie within each one of us, hypocrisy, showing one face to the world and the church and having another private one, the seeds of pride, wanting to be seen doing good works to get accolades from others and maybe even from God, The seeds of legalism, finding your Christianity a burden and laying burdens on other’s backs and so on, the list is there in Luke. The solution is simple yet difficult to maintain. The writer to the Hebrews writes “Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall…..” (Heb 4:11) Yes the abundant life, the life of God’s promise is described as that rest, where we cease from striving to please God, but the apparent contradiction is that we must make ever effort to enter. There are so many forces working against our entering His rest on a daily basis, that we need to face them head on, with the knowledge that we have the full power of the Holy Spirit with us. Without being constantly alert we will fall into the trap of become legalistic, becoming religious.

Friends, let us go out there and become part of the solution and not part of the problem. We have the potential, through God’s Spirit of being the most beautiful, desirable flower in His garden.

Its the Inside that needs washing.

I see the sea – glassed off – calm, with light reflecting off the slow and slight swells – then I see Jesus walking on the water towards me – behind Him a great light is shining – brighter even than the sun. “Praise the Lord” the words of the hymn flow off my tongue, “let the whole earth rejoice – let the whole earth hear His voice”.

Then He speaks to me “Yes there are a myriad voices out there of those who love Me, who are praising Me – those past and present – you can look into the chambers of heaven and see all the saints you know who have gone before you – praising Me. Yes but even so, although the mighty throng sings in unison – each one is different – each one is unique – created and sculpted by Me as a masterpiece – together an enormous choir – individually fused to Me. You are not greater than any other, neither are you any less – I love each one of you to the same degree. Your eye is good so you will receive My word and understand it – so pass it on, that is your task at the moment”.

My reading is Luke 11:33-44, even though I already included 33-36 in yesterday’s reading. (Hence the reference to the good eye.) But reading 37 – 44 I realized that the previous few vv were really introductory to what I was reading today. So the message to the Pharisees was that they were so busy polishing up their outward appearance that they were completely neglecting the evil inside their hearts. Who did they think they were fooling? Was their view of God so small that they thought He would be satisfied with their behaviour. Well I suppose they were first of all spiritually blind and unable to comprehend the superficiality of it all. We have been reading in the last few paragraphs of the importance of “hearing” God speak through His word and demonstrating the transformation which takes place by our “obedience” to His word. 11:28. Secondly their motivation appears not to have arisen from the “love of God” 11:42, but rather the desire to be worshiped themselves 11:43. Their pride, like most unbelievers, was making it impossible to understand the real message of God.

So coming back to the piece describing the body being “full of light”, I can now see that the true believer’s whole body, especially the inside is lit up by the gospel and the Holy Spirit, which can be seen and appreciated by many.(Lamp on a hill). Whereas those who legalistically try to “live their Christian life” by applying a series of rules and rituals, find that the light only shines on the outside and the windows of their souls are ominously dark.

For me: The question I had to ask myself and I ask you dear reader, stop and take a deep draught of thought, is “how much of my life is governed by keeping rules and rituals, without my being sensitive to it?” If your answer is “none” then I ask you to apply to the Lord the question in Psalm 139:23,24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is ANY offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.

So I again realized that I, and maybe you also need regular washing? It came to me that we should be seeking two biblical washings regularly: Ephesians 5:26, “a cleansing through the washing with the water through the word” and Hebr 9:14 “let the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences….” Which is just the practical way to reach the point the Ninevites had reached of true repentance Luke 11:32. What are you saying Ian? Read and study the word of the Lord, applying it through the Spirit to yourself and your heart and then run to Jesus to cleanse you in confession with His blood shed for you for this purpose. Then go out and obey.

Friends I have said it many times Christianity is often really unattractive to the outsider because all they see is a condemnatory set of rules to live by, whereas it is actually a life of great joy as we draw closer to God through Jesus who continually washes us from the inside.

What fuels your service for Jesus?

In my mind’s eye I see I hugely bright light. What is it? A Furnace – and I hear God say: “You have a furnace burning inside of you – a furnace which I have lit – a furnace which is burning with My love – a furnace which is empowering you, a furnace which is producing a burning light. It needs to be on a hill so that people can see it. But a furnace can only burn if it receives enough oxygen – enough air – that air is My love. So for the furnace to keep burning brightly you need a constant revelation of My love – you need to open the doors of your heart – so that I can feed the furnace burning inside you with my love – receive my love NOW – and continue to receive it. A furnace does not continue to burn brightly if it only occasionally receives oxygen – it needs to be fed repeatedly and continually – so keep reminding yourself of My love for you, so that your furnace burns more and more brightly”.

My reading today is Luke 10:38 – 42. Why don’t you join in by reading this very well known passage carefully and listening to what Jesus is saying to you from it, despite the fact that you may know it so well? Then though, reflect on the context from vs 25. How does this help you understand the purpose of Luke telling this story here, better. Now write down your observations as you remember to ask Jesus what He is saying to you.

What struck me immediately was the phrase in vs 39, which reflects what our blog is about again. But why does Luke tell this story here and what is the application? So the context helped me.

What did the expert in the law ask Jesus? How did the story of the good Samaritan fit with that?

OK so this is what I saw. I would be interested to hear what you heard Jesus say to you. The most important or the summary of God’s law is that we must love Him with all our heart, soul. strength, and mind and our neighbour as ourselves. But the question is how does this show? How do we demonstrate our love for God? Well here is a practical example. Treat the person who comes across your path in need, with compassion, in a practical, helpful and compassionate way, no matter who they are. That is a visible way of living out God’s law. And the next story? Well, mere practical actions on their own don’t necessarily show your love of God. Many people do loads of good without even knowing God. But in a way there is a difference here. the Samaritan is a despised outcast of a different race, who the average person would ignore.

But most important is what the story of Mary and Martha is about. Your actions need to arise from a living relationship with God, which here is reflected as sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him. So the very act of listening to Jesus is the heartbeat of everything we do in His name! That is why our time of listening is so important. It needs to be the sort of listening where your heartbeat meets God’s. But equally important it must demonstrate its reality by practical fruit.

Oh and by the way, a little further back (vs 21), if you remember is the teaching of Jesus where He explains the secret of hearing His voice. He reveals Himself to us when our attitude is that of a little child.

So now, why don’t you open he door to the furnace which is burning in your heart and let the oxygen of God’s word feed it.

The Beach is Bare, but the Waves Roll in.

This morning I’m supremely conscious of the fact that I am meeting with the Lord at His invitation. It has not been appropriate for me to call on Him to meet with me, He is calling me. What a privilege! And that goes for all of us.

“The beach – the beach is bare – the waves roll in and wash up onto the beach – the waves are like My love, represented in waves of grace which I lavish on you – which come in to wash you clean and prepare you for more/new service for Me.”

What a strange message I think. Am I really hearing the Lord? Why the statement “the beach is bare?” His answer to me “It may seem like there is no-one out there hearing what you are saying, hearing what I am saying to you to pass on. That is not true – but my word to you is don’t concentrate on how many may be on the beach. First and foremost concentrate on the waves – the beauty, the power, the colours rolling over and over, dancing as the light catches the water from different angles, the smell, the experience of being pounded by the force of the water when you swim, the exhilaration as you catch a wave while you’re surfing – that is a little bit like vast kaleidoscope experience of My love, constantly surprising you by its incredible variety and beauty and unplumbed depth, which is a picture of my grace to you. I know you want to shout out and share his beautiful picture – but there is no-one there. Now my message to you is that is just your perception – that the beach is bare. Those who I want to hear from Me are listening. Its just not for you to know, so that you will not seek glory for yourself, but by faith just go on reflecting My glory to the readers”

Coming now to Luke my, reading is 10:20-37, which embraces the well-known story of the good Samaritan. Firstly I remember the context in vv 21-24, where Jesus warns the disciples that they should be like little children to be able to receive the full revelation of the “Father, Lord of heaven and earth”. Reminding us that His (Jesus’) words are actually a reflection of the Father’s word to Him. In the process He is also taking a bit of a swipe at some of those who are listening and regard themselves as wise and learned, ie the chief priests and the scribes.

So it is not a surprise that one of the main points of the good Samaritan story is one of judgement against those very people. What strikes me today about that story though, is a similarity to the story of the prodigal son. Firstly the Levite and the priest who pass on the other side of the road are like the elder brother, reminding us of the distraction of the religious establishment by their perception of their own importance. Then the wounded Jew is like the prodigal son, who represents the unsaved people, broken and wounded by the influence of the world, the flesh and the devil. And of course the rescuer is God, in this case more like Jesus who comes to bind up his wounds and heal him and who doesn’t just leave him alone, but makes provision for him and returns to follow up his progress.

In the end though the simple message of the parable, like all parables, is quite clear. “Go and do likewise”. The real question though is: how do I put this into practice? How does this change my way of thinking? Are you acting like this towards the neighbour who irritates the living daylights out of you, the one whose ideas and morals are totally in conflict with yours? Maybe God is going to bring a “Samaritan” over your path today.

This reminds me of a person, Mark, many years ago who became intimately involved with us through my Christian work. He was single and would pop in to our home, often at the most inconvenient times. One evening as we were sitting down to eat he walked in. We each gave up some of our supper so that he could join in and have some too. After polishing his plate clean he leaned back, wiping the juice off his mouth, announced: “Wow that went down well with the burger I’ve just eaten at the Spur”. Emily admitted to me that she had great difficulty in being loving towards him. Then he Lord intervened and he became very ill. Arriving at our door looking awful, Emily took him in and nursed him for several days. Later she confided in me how difficult it had been to take him in, but after caring for him she found that the Lord had helped her to change her attitude towards him totally and that she had actually grown to love him. So that’s how the Lord sometimes helps us to learn obedience to His word.

So who is your neighbour at the moment?

” Lets Listen to and Follow Jesus”

This morning I start with the song “He will Hold Me Fast”, ringing in my ears – I hear God’s voice from His heart: “You were right (when you spoke to Lilly last night), I am orchestrating my plan all the time – although I have given you a completely free will, yet my plan is as sure and secure as it can be. Your voice goes up with billions of others all over the world – in a huge symphonic choir – no voice is pitch-perfect when it leaves the person – but I adjust it so that they will all fit together so that when they reach Me it is a perfect harmony. That’s not all – I am busy with a video – the greatest story, the story of the world and mankind – My story – I am the director and the scriptwriter. I decide the cast and I direct the whole video so that it will reflect My story perfectly – now you only see and experience a small part of that – but one day, when I come again it will be complete and wrapped up – and it will play over and over to show Satan and all those who are on his side – who have rejected Me -so they will be forced to watch it over and over.

“So go out and continue to play your part – speak often to Me and hear My guidance – LISTEN TO ME. Listen to me with ALL your senses, sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch and ESP – that deep touch, that nudge – down in the bottom of your heart, hear Me in the music of every part of My creation – that is all Me directing your story to fill its part in My story. Above all worship Me and give Me glory because that is the central melody line of the story”.

So what has Jesus to say to me through Luke today? The reading is from Luke 9:51-62. Gooding makes the point that this is the beginning of the description of a journey. The journey commences with Jesus resolutely setting His face towards Jerusalem. The key to what s going to happen in Jerusalem is “As the time approaches for Him to be taken up to heaven. The villains of the story, in vv 52,53 , become the hero in 10:25ff.

To me, at this point in Luke’s gospel, the few vv from 57 – 62 reflect back to 8:23 where Jesus says – “if anyone would come after me he must deny himself and follow me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me …. etc” These few vv in ch 9 then show something of what that means practically and are extremely important. Maybe read them through and avoid the temptation to say to yourself “this doesn’t apply to me.”

What is your perception of Jesus’ statement “foxes have holes etc”? Is He calling you to examine where your security lies? Does your security lie in Him alone or are you clinging to other things to give you security? Remember no amount of money can buy your way into heaven. Then the excuse of the chap who says he wants to go and bury his father first. Does this resonate with you at all? Are you putting off some part of your true commitment because of some “unfinished business” you may have. And then the one who wants to say goodbye to his family first. Does your commitment to your family, prevent you from making a complete commitment to Jesus? Are you allowing your family or someone in your family to dictate to you where you should be going with your life?

For me personally this meant some severe self-examination. Have I truly taken up my cross and died to all my personal wants and priorities and bought into following Jesus, no matter what that may mean, in a practical sense? I know I have said the words before, but what was my heart saying? It is so easy to gloss over these things and presume you are ok without asking God to help you “search your heart and see if there are any wicked ways within”.

Come, join with me and lets listen to and follow Jesus fully with our whole hearts.