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.

 

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

Luke 11: 4 “Forgive our sins, as we forgive everyone who has done wrong to us.”

The world wakes this morning to another tragedy.

“The family of British teenager Nora Quoirin, whose body has been found in Malaysia, have said their “hearts are broken”. (BBC)

Every day there are wrongs done to people. You may be reading this carrying such a horrible weight of wrong that has been done against you.

There are unbelievable tragedies today. There are many victims. Since the beginning of time God has seen what mankind can to each other. “The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10).

God has given mankind the freedom to choose.

We choose to love which blesses or we choose to sin which hurts.

Today you may be the victim because someone made the wrong choice.

When we are the sinner we cry for mercy. But the natural response when we are sinned against is to cry for justice.

The blood of Abel in Genesis 4 cried for justice. It was a prayer of ‘Get him God.’

The blood of Jesus is not ‘Father get these murderers’ but “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

What name needs to be mentioned that would cause you to react with? They may have died years ago. The event is not far from you. Is there unforgiveness still there?

Eva Mozes Kor died in June of this year as she was once again visiting Poland. She was a survivor of Auschwitz. “Forgive your worst enemies,” Kor said in a video recording of her last visit to the Auschwitz Museum posted to its official Facebook page. “The moment I forgave the Nazis, I felt free from Auschwitz and from all the tragedy that had occurred to me,” she added. Eva and her twin Miriam were cruelly experimented on by the ‘Angel of Death’ Josef Mengele but survived until the liberation of the camp in January of 1945. They lost their parents and two other sisters there. Before she died this year Eva was filmed at the site and she told of how she forgave Mengele:

“After we were set free I went home, closed the door and picked up a dictionary. I wrote all the nasty words I could find from the dictionary and spoke them out clear and loud. I then said “In spite of all that I forgive you.” I found that as a little victim I had power over the Angel of Death and I wasn’t hurting anybody. I had an interesting thought that he could never change my forgiving him. I am in charge of it. It was a very powerful feeling. If I can forgive him I can forgive anyone who ever hurt me.”

Who still needs your forgiveness?

Do it now and then ask the Father to forgive you your sins.

 

 

 

 

Our daily bread

Our daily bread

Luke 11 v 3 “Give us each day our daily bread.”

We go every day.

We don’t miss a day.

We don’t have a holiday.

We never get too busy to go.

We enter in to the presence of the Father’s care, honouring His beautiful name and desiring His kingdom to rule our lives. We then ask in light of the benefit to others.

We do this daily.

Daily persistence means that you and God are together every day with thoughts of others.

AND it is this persistence that changes you as you see the world through God’s eyes.

We don’t have to be like Moses wanting to give up and for God to end it all or like Jonah wanting to curl up and die or Elijah running into a cave of self-pity. We choose persistence. Daily.

What do we ask for? Bread. It is a physical and a spiritual matter, the source of life.

So often church prayers are reduced to a language we don’t understand:

“I I come before your heavenly throne and beseech you to endow us with an empowerment that may cascade from your throne and take us into dimensions of glory. I am a member of the crystal shore citizens blah blah blah.”

OR

Give us each day our daily bread.

God doesn’t need to hear such lofty prayers.

He longs for reality from us.

He wants to hear prayers over what may even appear trivial matters.

He heard the prayer for wine at the party.

He hears the prayers from the hungry and the tired.

He hears the prayers from the poor, the powerless and the sick.

Today your daily bread may be so insignificant, but tell Him, don’t hold anything back.

Abba bread please. The bread I need today is …………………

Give us each day

Give us each day

Luke 11 v 3 “Give us each day our daily bread”

This is more than praying for other’s needs. This is praying for what you need in light of others.

The Jews thought the Messianic age would be a golden age for them. In fact it would be all about them. But the response of Jesus is what can God do through you for others?

So we bring our request after we have acknowledged the Father’s care, once we have honoured His name and desired His kingdom rule in our lives. But we bring our request in light of the benefit to others.

What do you need that will benefit others today?

This is not some random vague request for God’s provision sometime in the future. Rather, it is today. He will provide for us each day, for today.

Today is the most important day. Tomorrow has not been made yet, but it waits for you to think, speak and behave today before it comes into being.

Today is the day the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24)

You are now in a 24 hour period that you will never have again. You didn’t have it yesterday and you won’t have it tomorrow. Satan is out to attack your today. He’s not interested in tomorrow but today. He is planning to mess it up, cause problems and to do everything he can to make it into a bad day. He uses yesterday to do that and he knows if he can destroy today he has broken your tomorrow.

The words ‘each day’ are mirrored to the word in the same sentence, ‘daily’.

Behind this prayer is a truth: God loves us totally and we are dependent on Him.

Jesus lived dependent on the Father, “I cannot do anything on my own,” John 5:30.

Jesus is teaching us in this prayer to acknowledge our total dependence on God each day.

He is waiting for a heart today that is dependent on Him for who He is and what He does and of course for what He will do each day!

GIVE

GIVE

Luke 11:3 “Give us each day our daily bread.”

After all God has done for us….

He has loved us.

He has raised us to a new life.

He has saved us by grace.

He has made us a new creation in Christ.

So is this not a bit self-centred to be asking for things?

No.

We ask in the shadow of what we have already said.

We come into HIS intimate, personal presence acknowledging HIS Fatherly care.

We desire HIS name to be honoured.

We welcome HIS rule over our rule, HIS kingdom to invade ours and the lives of others.

It is then from that place we are ready to pray, “Give.”

The illustrative stories Jesus then shares shows us we pray for good gifts or indeed the Holy Spirit.

But like Peter who prayed for food but was given a lesson on prejudice.

Or like Paul who wants his pain gone but is given grace.

We may also pray GIVE but we get strength to go through the trial not relief from it. Why?

Because we ask in the shadow of the Fathers care of HIS Name and HIS Kingdom over our lives.