Be generous with your mouth

Be generous with your mouth

Luke 11: 44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”

V41  But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

Be generous with your mouth

Our experience of following Jesus is often filled with wonderful moments of revelation, of worship and wonder at who He is! His love and care for our lives overwhelms us. But there are times when we wonder just who it is we invited to dinner tonight! Jesus seems anything but polite. Offensive, challenging, he is anything but a fun guest. If our Jesus is not challenging to us like this then what Lordship is truly over us?

You are an unmarked grave!

The Law of Moses said that if anyone touched a grave in any way they were deemed ‘unclean’. The Pharisees would white wash tombs so that people could see them and not go anywhere near them.

Jesus’ accusation is that they are unwashed, unmarked graves. When the ordinary Jew hears from them it is like they have come into contact with the deceased and they become unclean. The influence of the Pharisee is hugely negative on the ordinary Jew. That’s what Jesus is saying.

Have you ever come away from that conversation and felt worse than going into it? Have you ever come away feeling small, shrunk in vision and hope? If so then that person is not generous in their heart nor their mouth. Be careful for you may just be walking over an unmarked grave and you may need the cleansing from Jesus.

But you can be different especially to those who are in need. You can be generous with your words and be a huge influence. Many can walk away from you better for being with you. Many can want to return. What comes out of your mouth is a huge factor in this.

Be generous and come second.

Be generous and come second.

Luke 11 v 43  “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.”

They wanted to be noticed.

Maybe the important seats had special padding, maybe a nice back to them, maybe even their names printed on them. Maybe when you bumped into a Pharisee you bowed and went into some long-winded greeting of praise for who they were and what they had done. The other gospels of Matthew and Mark indicate how they loved their titles.

We need to remind ourselves who has the best seat, who deserves the greatest greeting and who has the better title!

Philippians 2: 9-11 “God exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The Pharisees would first see Jesus sacrifice his place on earth and be slandered on the cross, the Lamb of God slain for the sin of the world.

Be generous and give up your seat.

We had just taken a bumper offering for new chairs in the Church. I had advertised it as ‘buy a chair’. What I hadn’t anticipated was that for one of the members they heard ‘buy your chair’. It wasn’t long before that person was causing problems when a visitor unassumingly sat in ‘my chair’.

Be generous and don’t use your title.

I was just about to join the singing with the congregation as the evening service began when I was handed a business card by a new person who had begun attending the Church. I knew it was coming and I was glad to receive it so that I had their full name and address. What I hadn’t anticipated was the number of titles under their name: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher. I got the hint that they were looking for a position in the Church however, with all those titles I wondered at what grandiose a position I could create for them!

Jesus didn’t flaunt his titles and He has all the titles. He came to fulfil a mission not a position.

Be generous and give a true blessing.

Over the last 20 years of travelling around the world the one thing I have had garlands of flowers, head dresses, cloths placed over my shoulders even offered a powder from a plant (I think it was a drug!). All these and many more were given to bless and to honour me. I live in a culture where even with our close friends we playfully plague and belittle each other. We seem incapable of honour unless it is on a big stage. We must bless more in private. We need to start by being generous with our words in honouring one another. Bless their days. Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

Jesus said in v41 “But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”

Do you like to be first? Today purposely come second in everything. Be generous. Especially to those who have less than you. Be generous, don’t be first.

Be generous

Be generous

Luke 11: 39-42 “Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

Be Generous with love

The outside can look perfect but inside your heart it can be tight, stingy and impoverished.

We need to learn to be generous in our hearts.

I was a Pastor for 21 years and led 2 churches. In all that time I never got involved in the banking of the church offerings except for one occasion in the early years when on one occasion the treasurer was unable to go because of illness. As I was depositing the money I noticed one of the cheques had a strange amount registered. It wasn’t the size of the amount that was of concern. It was how the amount was so exact. In fact all that is etched in my memory is that the cheque ended in .33 pence. This was a member’s tithe cheque and I was amazed that they had not thought of at least rounding it up or even down! It was so exact!

 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

The Pharisees were not even putting exactly .33 pence in terms of their dealings with people. They had no thoughts towards those who needed help, justice and love. If only they had given such meticulous attention to their cause never mind being like God who is lavish and extravagant.

Their hearts were not seeking justice and love for the people around them. Jesus would soon show that to carry justice and love in your heart is to suffer but is the pathway to resurrection and new life. The Pharisees had a word for this justice in their language, ‘tzedek’ it meant for right relationships with God, mankind, ourselves and the world they lived in. Jesus came to reconcile all 4 of those relationships where love and justice met on the cross.

TODAY let our hearts to be large and loud towards people and our relationships. Let us not be stingy or even exact but let us extravagantly, generously love and help people who are in need.

Kurios

Kurios

Luke 11:37-39

When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”

Luke in his gospel stresses the humanity of Jesus (in comparison to John who focuses on his deity). However, Luke does not hold back from using a title for Jesus that actually had the greatest significance for the early church: Kurios, Lord. Luke uses it over 70 times. On some of those occasions it could mean master or owner. But by the time Luke is writing his gospel it was definitely used by the followers of Jesus to express their worship of their risen and ascended Christ. It is the equivalent to the Hebrew word Yahweh or Jehovah. If there was one declaration that a follower of Jesus needs to make throughout history and in every part of the globe it is this: Jesus is Lord. It is a declaration of obedience.

Kurios declares that Jesus has the supreme power, control and authority.

Now look at what Luke does when he writes, “But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. Then the Lord said to him …”

Do you see it?

In the context of Jesus being accused of being a servant of Satan and a talk from him regarding light over darkness and now in this Pharisees home who becomes offended because Jesus doesn’t follow the ritual washing of hands: “Then the Lord said …” He doesn’t use the name Jesus but the title, Lord.

There is a Pharisee in all of us and before Luke goes any further he reminds us that Jesus is Lord.

Maybe today you are anxious about some things in your life. Maybe you are a little surprised or even offended at what God seemingly has permitted to come near you. Maybe you are confused as to what God is doing.

We need reminding not only of the humanity of Jesus but His Lordship. He is supreme. There is no argument. We have no entitlement to being offended. He is God.

LORD, search me and know my heart. Look deep into the very depths of my heart. Into the places I hide so well from others and which I cover with religious and spirituality.

Offence at ‘lifting up the hands’

Offence at ‘lifting up the hands’

It seems that it has become a lot easier to offend people now.

We have to be really careful in what we say and what we do.

People get offended by language, appearances, politics, bad habits, affiliations etc. The list goes on and on.

There is a purity that not only isn’t pure it isn’t very happy either.

Can God offend your purity?

Jesus has just finished responding to the Pharisees criticism of him healing a man who was mute. Then this happens:

Luke 11:37-38 “When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.”

(The Message) “When he finished that talk, a Pharisee asked him to dinner. He entered his house and sat right down at the table. The Pharisee was shocked and somewhat offended when he saw that Jesus didn’t wash up before the meal.”

Since I was knee-high I remember the golden rule of washing the dirt off my hands before I ate. It makes sense. This is not that. If Jesus had dirty hands he would have washed them.

The Pharisees adopted a purification rite of washing their hands before a meal because they based it on the instruction given to Aaron and his sons before they brought a Temple sacrificial offering (Exodus 30:20). They were not priests in the Temple (that was left mainly to the Sadducees) so they applied this rule as an attempt to carry a ceremonial standard for their own homes, so that every meal is like a sacrificial meal in the Temple. The practice is called ‘lifting up the hands’ and it is still performed today by the Jews.

Jesus comes in to the Pharisees house for a meal. But he doesn’t perform the ‘lifting up the hands’ and the Pharisee becomes offended.

Jesus will offend our paltry attempt at being pure and righteous especially when it is an interpretation of the Bible handed down by generations and applied to our lives in a way it was never meant to be. They exist in our lives and our churches. Every Sunday there is someone becoming offended in church because it wasn’t done the ‘family way’. The irony is that we can lift our hands up and at the same time be offended with the fact that the leader or someone isn’t performing the ‘lifting up the hands’ or is doing so in a wrong way. Offence arrives unknowingly because we don’t usually believe we are offended for we know it is wrong to be so! We just sit in judgment and the meal becomes awkward (the communion meal perhaps).

Are you easily offended?

LIGHT

LIGHT

Luke 11: 33-36 ““No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

 

The Pharisees had been accusing him of serving Beelzebub, of being from the darkness. They had been wanting a sign from heaven as proof of who he was. This is what Jesus says next: I am the lamp shining the light. I am not darkness.

Jesus is still shining brightly all across the world.

Madam X is an Elim Church planter in an Islamic nation. One Saturday in September 2016 having never been told the truth about Jesus she began to meditate on a verse from the Quran in Surah 1:6 “Guide us in the right path”. Suddenly in the corner of the room a ‘bright light’ filled the room as Jesus revealed His identity to her. She fell to the floor and her life was never the same again! This was noon, it was light, but THE light was so much brighter.

I have heard first-hand accounts from many who have met Christ and every one of them saw a bright light. The light of Christ is more than just shining brightly in the darkness, any light can do that, but it shines brightly at noon, in the light. That is bright! Christ can penetrate the light, any light. He is brighter than the mid-day sun.

I have been reading of an Afghan woman explaining to a correspondent that the women who continue to wear burqas (the full-body coverings mandated by the Taliban) do so even though they don’t like them and are no longer forced to wear them because: “We have lived in darkness for so long that now we are afraid of the light.”

Some today even though they may have faith cannot see the stars in the sky. They are unable to see the sunrises that happen every day. They only see clouds not the sun, not even the rays through the clouds. The lights have gone out. Actually the light is there, but they cannot see it.

Today come out from the darkness, forgive and let go where that is needed, trust the God of light again. Do not be afraid to change. Do not be afraid to step into the light. He is waiting for you. He has not stopped shining.

 

 

 

The Critics and how to be a good one

The Critics and how to be a good one

Throughout this year I have become increasingly disturbed by comments and statements posted on social media and the press about what appears to be God using someone, a denomination/network, a conference and the denunciation of those people as being nothing more than deceivers. When it comes from those outside the Church then it is in some way to be expected but when it comes from within the Church, that is what disturbs me the most.

Church leaders and experts of this-and-that can be the ones who are the most vociferous.

The world looks on as the kingdom of the Church divides and falls.

What is it that brings the most outrage? It is based on how much attention the crowds give. Is this person popular? Do they have a following? More to the point are they doing things that we have longed to do? When they are packing stadiums and we are packing a pew then we are tempted to use the purity argument, what is pure is small, what is large is to be feared.

Here are some thoughts from a long passage of Luke 11: 14 -32

“Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.”

 

  1. The man was free. He had been mute. Matthew and Mark write of him being healed of blindness also. So, the mute blind man is healed. Set free. The crowd were amazed, stunned, marvelling at this miracle! There would have been no opposition if this miracle had not happened. The good attracts the criticism. If people are being healed, saved, added to the church. If the Church is growing and impacting the community then critics are not far behind. It is difficult to criticise nothing.

 

“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them…”

  1. It is easy to dismiss critics as enemies. Some have said they never allow any negative comment or person near their life. Some have said that the Jezebel spirit should not touch the anointed. Those who handle criticism are sometimes as guilty as those who criticise. We must find a way to get into the mind of those who oppose. We must know their thoughts. A parent who refuses to understand why their teenage child is unruly will become even more distant to them. Getting under the skin and knowing the history is important. The importance of the Pharisees to hold onto the purity of the law at a time of the nation being oppressed by Rome and Gentile behaviour and beliefs was so important. But they had other pressures. Frome the Essenes who were a separatist group, they had the Dead Sea Scrolls and considered themselves as holders of the truth. Then the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead and then all kinds of revolutionaries. However, it was the plain Jew that the Pharisees felt the pressure from. The Jew who went about their own business, trying to follow the jewish laws, cultural practices, observing the holy days and above all following their own family oral tradition. The Pharisees felt the pressure to get these Jews to follow them. But by and large they were not successful. Jesus knew them and he knew how they thought. The Pharisees were genuine people who had sincere motives, but they were wrong.

 

 “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder… “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

  1. With two short parables Jesus responded calmly, logically, unpacking their criticism, disempowering their argument. The point is of course that the only way this man has been healed and set free is the source of Jesus’ power which is God. Secondly, the only way this man was set free was because Jesus came and restricted Satan’s powers over the individual. But Jesus says one more thing. Being free doesn’t automatically mean you will stay free. Without the house being given over to the kingdom of God, it may have been cleaned but it is not filled and given to the rule of God. Therefore it is more open to being in a worst state than before meeting Jesus.

But there is more which helps us in this third point I am making.

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you. He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.

 

  1. The Kingdom and the rule of God are crucial and therefore obedience to God’s word is too. Is the person in obedience to God? This can be difficult. The Pharisees would say NO. They would say he blasphemes because he says he forgives sins, he associates with sinners and now he casts out demons and no priest, prophet or king has done such a thing. It is not conducive to the Scriptures. He is leading people astray and so must be stopped. Their interpretation of Scripture says He is a deceiver.
  2. Here are the signs from heaven: Jonah and Nineveh. He will do something far greater than Jonah in the laying down of his life. Is the person surrendering to God? Is submission near? Are they giving and helping, loving and living for others?
  3. The Queen of the South, the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings10) who also had a repentant heart as Solomon spoke to her. But Jesus claim is he is greater than Solomon and so will build the end times Temple and restore David’s Kingdom and therefore is the Messiah.

The point is this: how do we know if someone is genuine?

  • Is the rule of God seen in their life?
  • Are they obedient to God?
  • Are they going the way of the cross in submission?
  • Do they elevate Jesus in who he is? Do they glorify God by lifting up Jesus above all others?

ASK

ASK!

Luke 11:5-13 “Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

In a culture of hospitality this story is not only unusual it is funny. No one would stay in bed. That is the point.

Jesus teaches his disciples and us how to ask for what we need.

  1. Know what you need, be specific. Culturally asking for 3 loaves meant “I need enough for a man’s meal.” It means ‘provision for an unexpected guest.’ Not necessarily loaves, it could be anything substantial. Two loaves meant the unexpected guest was a woman. The unexpected may have occurred, so ask for what is needed.
  2. It is not impossible. Just because the door is not only closed but locked; just because the answer is NO; this does not render it impossible.
  3. Do not be afraid of what others think. The children are in bed in what is most probably a one-room house and there is danger they will be wakened. Your asking disturbs.
  4. Don’t think there is no need to ask because God already knows. Jesus says if you want to be given to then to get the door of provision open you must ask, seek and knock. That is just the way.
  5. You are not direct enough. The Message says “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in.”
  6. You are not selfish. There is never the perfect time to ask. It is midnight. The time is what it is. Ask now.
  7. You don’t think you are good at praying. This man had nothing to give his guest but he knew where to go. Having nothing is not as bad as having nowhere to go or not knowing what to say when you get there. Jesus leads us to the Father and he knows how to give good gifts to those who simply ask.

 So get asking right now!

Temptation – 2

Temptation – 2

Luke 11 v 4 “And lead us not into temptation.”

I have faced and seen many temptations in my life. They generally fall into the following categories:

  1. The temptation of not having.

Temptation will come in the area of your lack, what you need or think you need, in the place of emptiness. It strikes at what you previously held as a personal belief or value for your life.

“Did God really say? Maybe not!” “Why not? Maybe God understands.”

Temptation comes to emphasise your restricted life. It will highlight freedom as being the most important thing and cause you to forget that you are already free. The temptation of lack occurs in marriages, finances, work places/positions, in every place of society, in churches, in poor and rich nations.

  1. The temptation of being secretive.

Temptation will try and fool you into thinking you can manage the consequence of sin. It will blind you to the effect on the people you influence.

  1. The temptation of needing to be needed.

There is a temptation that tries to move the person from the place of adding value to focusing on feeling valued.

The craving to feel value can hinder a person from being valuable. We are most valuable when we get to the place where we do not need appreciation from people.

The craving to feel valued is one of the most common reasons people make bad decisions, “I’m leaving. I just don’t feel valued anymore.”

The craving to be valued causes people to assume they are most valuable when they are most valued.

  1. The temptation of needing answers for your suffering.

God did this to me, Satan did this to me, maybe I did something wrong that brought this suffering?

Sometimes, stuff just happens and there is no one to blame.

But temptation draws you away from the treasures that can be found in suffering. It slows up the process of all things working together for good.

 

However, when temptation strikes these reasons don’t seem to have loud voices.

May we all strengthen our lives with these lessons so that when temptation strikes we do not fall.

Temptation

Temptation

Luke 11 v 4 “And lead us not into temptation.”

If only the destruction of temptation lay in whether or not you had a chocolate too many.

The cream cakes are ‘naughty but nice’ so we have been told for many years.

There is a fragrance called ‘temptation’ which I guess if you wear the idea is to attract.

Adverts after adverts carry so many slogans, ‘Go on you deserve it,’ ‘One won’t matter,’ ‘Pay for it later,’ ‘live now.’

These are examples perhaps at the small end of the scale of a path that knows no end and which has ruined and continues to ruin countless lives, families, churches, communities and yes even nations.

No one really knows what it is that causes a person to be tempted to such destructive means, No one really understands the mind of the one being tempted at the time.

What was Samson thinking when he kept going back to Delilah, even when he knew she was trying to kill him through a sexual trap?

Why did Judas betray his friend even when there must have been doubts in his mind over what he was doing?

Why did Ananias and Sapphira pretend they were giving everything when they weren’t, they must have wondered if anyone would find out?

Temptation is irrational.

We will not know the answers to these questions, they are held within the mystery of fatal attraction.

James 1: 13-15 “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

At the end of this prayer Jesus is teaching his disciples, he tells them to pray about the spiritual battle. It is a path that we will all face to go down which in hindsight we would not want to go down.

The temptation to say NO to the cross, NO to surrender, NO to the leading of God’s Spirit in your life.

There are times the Holy Spirit will lead us into a desert experience where for a period of time we are tempted by our own desires in that place. If we give in to those desires we sin. If we surrender to God we mature in the power of the Spirit, just as Jesus did.

This final sentence is asking for the ability to control our desires and not be controlled by them.

1 Corinthians 10: 12-13 “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

The dangers of temptation are obvious but it will:

  • Pull you from your focus.

Floyd McClung: “An unfocused vision results in taking the side-roads of life and then calling them the main road.”

  • Pull you from faithfulness.

Paul described the shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments, personal attacks and physical hardships as like being ‘under a sentence of death.’ But he believed God was using these attacks to strengthen his faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 1:9 “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

  • Pull you from the fellowship of God.

Adam had it, Moses asked for it, Israel lost it, but Jesus gave it! God’s awesome, amazing, dazzling, beautiful presence, His glory.

 

As we resist temptation we will remain focused, faithful and in fellowship with God.