‘Denial – my trademark’

Just for a change, I’ll start with the verses set for reading and meditation. On reading these verses listen to what Jesus is saying to the Pharisees  and consider if the main point he raises (being a hypocrite) applies to any of today’s church leaders or teachers.

Luke 11:37-52 (NLT):  ‘As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table. His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom.

Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside?So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.

What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you love to sit in the seats of honor in the synagogues and receive respectful greetings as you walk in the marketplaces. Yes, what sorrow awaits you! For you are like hidden graves in a field. People walk over them without knowing the corruption they are stepping on.”

“Teacher,” said an expert in religious law, “you have insulted us, too, in what you just said.”

“Yes,” said Jesus, “what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden. What sorrow awaits you! For you build monuments for the prophets your own ancestors killed long ago. But in fact, you stand as witnesses who agree with what your ancestors did. They killed the prophets, and you join in their crime by building the monuments! This is what God in his wisdom said about you: ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them, but they will kill some and persecute the others.’

As a result, this generation will be held responsible for the murder of all God’s prophets from the creation of the world from the murder of Abel to the murder of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, it will certainly be charged against this generation.

What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent (hinder) others from entering.” ‘

I’ve included all the verses to maintain the context – and, I think that these verses highlight another interesting point – Jesus was not always nice to everyone. He agrees with the expert in religious law that what He has just said, has caused insult; and what’s more, He then continues to judge and condemn the religious experts. Do you think that this is a side of Jesus, which most people tend not to think about?

Selwyn, in today’s discussion, continues to examine ‘the imbalance that characterises us when we look at what is happening in the life of others but give little or no consideration to what may be happening in our own life’.

He concludes by saying: “Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites because they never paused to search their own hearts. … The principle Jesus was enunciating is this: before you look at how others are developing, take a long look at yourself.”

Yet, we can’t see ourselves as God sees us – that’s why it so ‘easy’ to be a hypocrite! Going back to what I wrote earlier; we need to spend some (structured) time in God’s presence, and ask Him what He sees in our lives that needs urgent attention. There is indeed, a sense of urgency in doing this – an examination of our spiritual health – on a regular basis. Jesus words to the religious teachers were, ‘you don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves’; it is a life or death exercise – do you agree?

‘Take heed’

I liked Selwyn’s quote (as follows), regarding what his father used to say.

“If some people were as good at telling themselves what is wrong with them as they are in telling others, they would be wonderful Christians. Now they are just wonderful Pharisees.”

Selwyn continues: “A self-focus is good – as long as it is in balance. Repeatedly in Scripture we are called to self-examination. Those who concern themselves with examining the lives of others and do not occasionally embark upon a few moments of self-examination, will wake up one day to discover that their virtue has become a vice.”

In Mark 6: 37-42 (NLT), we read:  “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

I believe it’s essential that we spend more than a few moments of self-examination (a close look at our spiritual health) on a regular basis. That is, we should schedule a quiet time;  when, through prayer we request God’s assistance in examining our eyes to identify the large logs, and to ask Him to help us remove these obstacles.

[As an aside, the verse; ‘Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others … ‘,  is often misused. It does not mean that we don’t make judgments (based on Scripture) about ‘thoughts and actions’; I think it does mean – in a general sense – that we don’t make judgments about a person’s spiritual standing with God (God alone, is in charge of that area!) It would take a very lengthy article to fully explain my last few statements. However, Jesus’ concluding comment, gives an indication of the context, “then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye“. ]

For me, the following verses (taken from those set for reading and meditation, Hosea 7:1-10), contain a powerful commentary on, our own age. Hosea 7:8-10 (NLT): “The people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, making themselves as worthless as a half-baked cake! Worshiping foreign gods has sapped their strength, but they don’t even know it. Their hair is gray, but they don’t realize they’re old and weak. Their arrogance testifies against them, yet they don’t return to the Lord their God or even try to find him.” Substitute, those who call themselves Christians, for Israel; and consumerism, etc, for foreign gods – and reflect upon how our strength has been sapped. What are your views?

The Divine Optician

Selwyn now looks another pair of opposite virtues: ‘a pair of opposites which if not balanced can cause us a grest deal of diffculty in life; self-concern and concern for others. …  (Many) either focus on the spiritual life of others and pay no attention to themselves, or they pay attention to themselves and have no concerns for others.’

Not too sure about Selwyn’s use of Revelation 4:6; and to be honest nothing really stood out for me, in the rest of the study.

If, we allow our lives to be guided by the Holy Spirit and our highest priority is the love of our God and the love of our ‘neighbour’, that is, ‘everyone’; then we should totally depend upon His love. Consequently, if we go out of balance in areas such as the one being discussed by Selwyn – then we can trust that the Holy Spirit will  – in one way, or another, bring the issue to our attention.

God did not leave David in his sinful blindness; instead He sent Nathan to open David’s eyes, in 2 Samuel 12 (NIV), we read:  ” … David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! …  Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!  …  Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? …  Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

 If you have given your heart to Him – you can trust that He loves you in the same way that He loves David. [The tense of the word ‘love’, is deliberate – this time.  🙂  ]  Jesus will open your eyes, by some perfect means, if you find yourself in a similar situation; yet, you should be talking to Him and listening, for His words; which can be delivered by a variety of means, including by your own ‘Nathan’. Do you agree?

Full surrender

This is another good study. The introduction basically sums up the overall topic: “We need to learn to yield to God before we can properly yield to others. Being yielded to God means that we are His and wholly His.”

First we are called to follow Jesus; and, as we do, we gradually change to become more like Him. It’s an on-going process, called – by some – ‘sanctification’. As Selwyn says: “God brings about a change in you as you yield, but up ahead you discover that there is more to yield.”

If, you look back over the past ten years of your life and you can’t recognise any positive change in the way you live your life for Jesus – then, something or someone, is blocking your way. If so, you need to pray about it a lot, and listen intently, for God’s response.  He loves you so much; He will always respond.

Any comments?

Be sure of the big

 I agree with Selwyn – until we develop, and continue to develop, our relationship with God; we have no reference point to help us decide what are the important issues. We have no reliable standard on which to base life’s priorities.

Selwyn writes: “… Our life works best when we are whollysurrendered and yielded to God. When a person is yielded to God then that person doesn’t mind yielding to others over minor matters – matters that are not matters of principle, of course. But when a person is not yielded to God, not sure of the big, he or she makes an issue of every little thing. (Or, not to make an issue out of anything – that is, to opt out of life.) … Be sure of the big and the small things will take care of themselves.”

In regard to some Christians – there is a dangerous situation to avoid – and that is: those times when we are not wholly surrendered to Jesus and we still have one foot in the ways of this world. The danger is to confuse our priorities as seen through the eyes of Jesus with those priorities formulated by current world views. To me, this confusion becomes even more evident when some churches spend all their energy getting the small things right, and ignore (by their silence) the big issues. Perhaps they have lost confidence in their ability to discern what is important and what is just noise? What do you think?

I’ve taken some verses out of the text, set for reading and meditation, and rearranged the order of one verse, to make the excerpts flow a little better (Matthew 23: 1-25 [parts of], NLT): “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. “Everything they do is for show.  …

 … And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah (Jesus); and, all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.

The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

(23) “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel.”

I feel that many churches are now,  modern examples of the Pharisees – they are by far, too interested in looking at ants, while they get stomped on by a herd of elephants – and, often their hypocritical ways, come about by trying to be friends (relevant) with this world.

In addition, I really like – this: ‘ … you have only one teacher, the Messiah (Jesus).‘  That is, not Pastor ‘so-and-so’, or Pope XYZ (btw, I’m not anti-Catholic); we only have one teacher – Jesus, listen to what He has to say, and live it.



[My dear wife, Neroli has left for the week-end to attend  a Christen Women’s Conference (Designer Women), at the Katoomba Christian Convention Centre: What’s it all about, ‘designer women’, you may well ask? Well, here’s a summary taken from their web site:  “Have you ever stopped for a moment and wondered why you’re here? Ever pondered if you were made to a design or just random? Or really asked yourself…who am I?”

Yet, I thought most women know, why they are here – to organise their husbands and children – well, that’s what I get told.  🙂  ]

Big – yet small

Selwyn, now moves from looking at assertiveness to a focus on its opposite – yieldedness.

I like this statement: ‘The bigness of a person can be measured by the size of the things on which he or she takes a stand.’

Yet, this takes a special type of skill – the ability to measure the size of things! Perhaps, some assertive people are more interested in expressing their view on every available occasion – because they are blind to the size of things. What do you think?

Again, the verses set for reading and meditation are fantastic. (I’ve highlighted the verses I think really stand out.)

Titus 3:1-11 (New Living Translation): “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.

Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.”

This verse; ‘Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”  Should be stuck on every believer’s fridge or bed head – so that we see it every day, and live that day with the confidence that we will inherit eternal life – if we believe and follow Jesus.

Why is it, that some people who call themselves Christians, do not have this confidence?

Take the first step

I guess it’s one of those days! Just lost my first attempt to write this post.

Today’s study is fairly straighforward, the bits I liked, are: “How can those who feel non-assertive start to act more appropriately? The first step is to talk to God about the issue. … If God is not in your life, and not the centre, then you can never be a truly secure person.”

Best of all, I think, are the first ten verses taken from those set for reading and meditation, James 4:1-10 (NLT): “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

You adulterers! [James uses this word to signify the turning away from God and loving what the world has to offer.] Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires.

As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”