Our reading speaks of a hope, a promise, a future and a new heart. A new heart from mankind to God; given not under obligation or duress but because they want to. Why? Because God is a generous God bringing forgiveness, love, peace, freedom and hope.
Advent is primarily a season of hope where we look to the future with expectation and anticipation. Remembering and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ into our world and looking forward to his return. In a world where we are so used to having things exactly when we want them, it’s also good to remember and experience that there can be joy in the waiting. But what are we waiting for I wonder?
Perhaps it’s counting off how many sleeps are left until the 25th, or waiting for the greeting card from family or friend to hear their news, or waiting for that longed-for gift, or for family to arrive – for better or for worse(!) – or maybe it’s waiting for the feasting that is to come. In amongst all the business and frantic activity there is perhaps an expression of the basic human desire to know love, be loved and share love. God’s nature is to love, and his desire is that mankind might know and experience that love.
Things and people will always disappoint – even with the best will in the world we will at some point let someone down – but God never does and never will and His promise has been revealed in the presence of Jesus Christ, made man.
In all the rush, we stand the risk of missing out on the blessing of Advent and the giving of God’s perfect gift. I wonder what you consider would be the best gift you could receive? What might it look like? How long might it last? The best gift we can ever give ourselves is spending time with God this advent, and the best gift we could give God? … have you ever even thought about that before? … would be creating the opportunity for him to spend time with us. Spend time in his presence. Be still, listen, read some scripture, read some study notes, watch a podcast, (I can suggest some good ones), listen to some worship music … whatever works for you, but spend some designated time with the God who made you, loves you and longs for you to know him better.
I read the other day that if we arrive at the 25th having had enough of Christmas, then we will not have experienced advent as we should have.
May you know his peace and his presence in these days that lead to the celebration of his birth.
With the Lord’s blessing
As a nation we’ve had our fair share of powerful, dominant and excessive Kings imposing their power and will over us, but their excesses have for the most part been curtailed and controlled through law since the signing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215.
In these modern times we have for the most part lost our understanding of what it means to be a subject of the crown; to be ruled, controlled, even owned by someone else. The Kings word was law and what he said, was what was done. You were ruled by his system, ruled by his justice, ruled by his opinion. His law was life and death; so: if you wanted to live and survive in their kingdom, you needed to know the law.
We see the reality of that situation today with the plight of Laura Plummer, languishing in a small Egyptian prison cell with 25 others because she didn’t realise the pain killers she was carrying were a banned drug in that country. The authority’s response has been short and to the point. Not knowing the law is not an excuse for breaking it.
Our readings today support an essential Scriptural truth: that Jesus Christ is King.
Scripture is loaded with declarations to that effect. God’s authority is complete and absolute.
The psalmist writes that God has established His rule of justice and righteousness, it cannot be changed, His throne and right to rule was established long ago and will last for all eternity. That’s a long time. God’s law is not a law of restriction but of freedom. It’s a rule of blessing, justice, grace, mercy, power and authority and Jesus is the King. Perhaps we should all ensure that we know just what it is and what it isn’t as there are some very strange ideas about the nature of God in our modern world. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to others that we should.
As we approach Advent and the Christmas celebrations that follow we will be reminded once again of how the Jews were waiting for a King to establish peace and justice.
The Magi travelled a great distance to find the King. As Jesus began his ministry he said the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Our Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus will stand in judgement over the nations and all people as King. Jesus said to Pilate that ‘you’re right to call me King’ and Pilate wrote that Jesus was ‘King of the Jews’.
Having a King is to accept that we’re not King and that we don’t do life on our terms anymore. This requires trust and has caused problems in the past and so kingdoms of the world have gone out of fashion because so many of them have violated people’s freedom in establishing their own power and authority. But the kingship of Jesus is unlike any other.
He was born in a manger not a palace. He wore a crown of thorns not of gold. He renounced wealth and earthly status but was lifted high … on a cross. As a King He has a kingdom, but this kingdom has no boundaries. As a King He does not force his rule over our lives and minds and will, but invites us to accept it.
This acceptance has implications upon the way we live our lives that must go way beyond what we might or might not do with our Sunday mornings once a week. In our gospel Jesus reminds us that this is a lifestyle that we are called into; a lifestyle that affects everything we do, think and say.
Celebrities are often awarded the keys of the freedom of a town or a city as a sign of respect to them, but Jesus gives us keys of a whole kingdom. Keys of freedom from sin, self-centred-ness, guilt, shame and death itself. Paul reminds us that they are keys of power, wisdom, revelation, authority and hope. All this is ours because it is His. With a decision made to follow Jesus, we are more than subjects of a King. We are heirs of that kingdom but heirs who are called to serve because Jesus first served us.
Jesus is King. The essential question is: how much does He rule in our lives?
I enjoy reading. Have you ever read a book where the more you read the more you want to read? The Bible can be like that, but many don’t even begin it because they think it’s too hard to start; but for those who do it never fails to reveal exciting truth about themselves, about God and about what happens when we get to know Him.
One of the exciting things about the Bible are the prophecies held within it. One trusted academic source estimates some 1,239 prophecies exist in the Old Testament and over 578 in the New. The precise number may vary because some scholars subdivide a prophecy into different sections, but the one thing agreed upon is that the only prophecies that remain to be fulfilled (speculated to be between 7 and 14) relate to those surrounding the return of Jesus Christ. Now I’m not a statistician, but I would say that there’s a pattern emerging!
St Paul in his letters repeats the call to the early church to be ready. It’s a call which still resounds strongly today. Get ready because history is going somewhere. Jesus will return; we don’t know when, but we are told it will be sudden and take many by surprise but for those in relationship with Jesus there is nothing to be afraid of because they are children of the ‘light’ and of the ‘day’ with a future that is safe and secured. But knowing Jesus is so much more than an eternal life insurance policy. It’s about living and knowing life in all its fullness now.
Every person I have ever met who has given their life to Jesus says they just don’t know how they ever lived before their heart was opened to the reality of God in their lives; but a decision needs to be made and God honours the trust placed in that decision.
Even when that decision has been made, Paul warns against us sleeping and encourages us to remain alert and in control. How might we help one another in this? The answer is in the last verse with the call to action to constantly encourage one another and to build one another up in the faith and in our relationship with Jesus. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to one another to ensure that we discover all that Jesus has for us that we might live our lives in the freedom and fullness that Jesus promises for us. There are so many different ways we can do that these days with recordings of the Bible for our smart phones, podcasts, video teaching on You-Tube, study guides etc etc.
Let’s encourage one another in the faith, but remember to do that effectively we need to stay alert ourselves and to grow daily in our knowledge and understanding of all that God has planned for us.
With the Lord’s Blessing
It’s been a busy week – All Hallows Eve (Halloween) All Hallows Day & of course, All Saints Day. I wonder what pictures come to your mind with the word Saint? Halo’s? Shining faces? Statues? Very spiritual dead people? How many do you know of? We might begin to think now about patron saints of nations or churches who were frequently tortured and put to death in the most dreadful ways imaginable. Of the four churches dedicated to Saints in the Benefice, it is St Margaret of Antioch in Hawes who certainly suffered more than most; but what or who is a Saint?
The Bible answers this question for us. A saint is the opposite of a sinner. With our modern sensitivities we don’t care much for terms such as ‘sinner’ but the truth is that it is used to describe a state of condition and in the new testament there are over 300 references to unbelievers being known as ‘sinners’ and over 200 references to believers being called ‘saints’. The apostle Paul in his letters to the various churches frequently begins by affirming this condition with the statement: ‘To the Saints in …’ Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse etc.
Our readings today make for a wonderful combination of truth. Revelation tells us that knowing God is not a passive activity but one in which we must make a conscious decision over. John’s letter informs us that this decision results in a new identity and Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, lets us know of some of the qualities we acquire as part of this new identity. Let’s look deeper into what this identity is and how we might gain it.
The imagery in the book of Revelation is very vivid with statements of washing robes clean in blood but what does this mean? In our modern western culture, blood is usually associated with death but to the Jews, blood was strongly associated with life. For the Jew, new life (after sin) came only by the offering of a sacrifice, the shedding of innocent blood, usually a lamb. White robes were associated with purity and victory and it took a great deal of time and effort to make them so, but here the robes are cleansed by washing them in the ‘blood of the Lamb’ – surely a bizarre contradiction, but the lamb referred to here, is Jesus; and notice something very important: Jesus has made redemption possible, but we have a part to play in our own salvation, for ‘they’ chose to wash their robes. They made a decision.
So how do we make this transition? Simply by placing our trust in who Jesus is and all He has done for us. By seeking forgiveness from the way in which we have separated ourselves from God by our sin and desiring a change in our circumstance and in our future. By asking Jesus to come into our lives and make a difference. We do it in faith and by God’s gift of grace, but it is a decision we must make. John tells us that we then become ‘children of God’ and Jesus speaks of the faithful as having the ‘kingdom of heaven’, being ‘blessed’, ‘comforted’ and, amongst many other things, receivers of ‘mercy’. If you have asked Jesus for forgiveness and invited him into your heart … good news … you are a saint. Not will be .. you are. Now, because you’re human you will still mess up and fall short of God’s desires for you, but this will not change your new identity - you will still be a saint, but from a biblical perspective, a saint who sins is still very different from being a sinner.
Over the last few weeks as the world has prepared for celebrating Halloween, the churches and schools within the benefice have been focussing on how the Pumpkin may be used as a positive symbol for all Jesus can do in our lives. The Pumpkin lantern can be a wonderful picture of that transition in status and identity, for God lifts us up, takes us in and washes us clean. He creates a new smiling face in us and then brings us to life by putting his light inside of us, so we can shine out for others. As a saint in Christ Jesus, may you know and celebrate your identity each and every day!
With the Lord’s blessing
Jesus speaks of the importance of giving to God that which is His, Paul gives testimony to the beauty and the power of lives that are changed by being given to God and the prophet Isaiah tells us of how God takes all things and uses them for good, for that is His nature. So, let’s take a look at that nature.
Isaiah is writing some 700 years before Jesus is born and - take this in … some 200 years before a Persian king named Cyrus would defeat the might of the Babylonian Empire and be responsible for the liberation of the Jewish people from 70 years of captivity. It is perhaps, next to the prophecies of the birth and life of Jesus, the most amazing declaration of an event that is yet to be, that exists in the Old Testament. God declares the name of a pagan King whose gt, gt, gt, gt grandfather hasn’t been born yet, to bring His people to liberty from a captivity that hasn’t yet taken place – astonishing … and yet, it all took place just like Isaiah declared it would.
God plans all things for good & uses all things for good to bring glory to His name. There is a scriptural pattern of operation at work here: God declares and then God does it.
God describes this pagan King as ‘anointed’ - a sign of authority being given over for a purpose.
God gives him a new name: ‘I surname you’ – He gives Cyrus a title, an honour
God gives him a purpose and a mission and ensures that he is equipped for it.
God blesses him with gifts –treasures and riches and strength
Why? Because; ‘I am the Lord, I am the Lord and there is no other, apart from me there is no God.’
Consider the parallel here with those who have put their faith in Jesus. God calls us and gives us a new title and a new identity – here are but a few: child of God, forgiven, saved, salt, light, appointed, fruitful, wise, protected, significant, accepted etc, etc
God has anointed us with His Holy Spirit: 2 Cor 1,v21, 1 John 2,v27 – we have authority in spiritual realms – it’s up to us to know it and then to use it as God intends us to.
God gives us a purpose and a mission – to bless the world and through the gifts of His Holy Spirit available to us all, we have the means to fulfil it – for we are powerful in Him.
God blesses us with treasure and riches – we have abundant life in Him now and always for that is His nature.
I recently came across these words by Priscilla Shirer which describe further the nature of our God and I include them for you to ponder and for you to enjoy. ‘Who’s your Daddy?’
With God’s Blessing
‘Who’s your Daddy?’
‘He is the first and the last, The beginning and the end
The keeper of Creation and the creator of all
The architect of the Universe and the manager of all time
He always was, always is and always will be
Unmoved, unchanged, undefeated and never undone
He was bruised but brought healing, pierced but healed pain
Persecuted but brought freedom, dead but brought life
Risen to bring power and reigns to bring peace
The world cannot understand Him, armies can’t defeat Him
Schools can’t explain Him and leaders can’t ignore Him
Herod couldn’t kill Him, Nero couldn’t crush Him
He is life, He is Love, He is everlasting and He is the Lord
He is goodness and kindness and faithfulness and He is God
He is Holy and righteous and powerful and pure
His ways are right, His word eternal, His will unchanging
and His mind is on us
He is our Saviour, our guide, our peace, our joy, our comfort, our Lord
And He rules our lives
I serve Him because: His bond is love, His yoke is easy,
His burden is light and His goal for us is abundant life
I follow Him because: He is the wisdom of the wise,
the power of the powerful,
The ancient of days, the ruler of rulers, leader of all leaders and His goal is a relationship with me,
He’ll never leave you, never forsake you,
never mislead you and never forget you,
He’ll never overlook you and never cancel your appointment in His appointment book
When you fall He’ll lift you up, when you fail He’ll forgive you
When you’re weak He’s strong, when you’re lost He’s your way,
When you’re afraid He’s your courage, when you stumble He will steady you
When you’re hurt He’s going to heal you,
when you’re broken He will mend you
When you’re blind He will lead you,
When you’re hungry He will feed you
When you face trial He is with you,
When you face persecution He shields you,
when you face problems, He will comfort you
When you face loss, He will provide for you
and when we face death He will take us home to be with Him
He is everything for everybody, everywhere, every time in every way
He is your God – He is your Daddy’
‘I am the Lord and there is no other, apart from me there is no God.’
If there is a theme that might join our two readings together it might be said to be this: Develop an attitude of Gratitude.
Moses is reminding the people that they should be a people full of thanksgiving and gratitude and Jesus speaks of the importance of recognising the blessings we have and of living a life of gratitude and contentment. Being grateful is a characteristic we like to see in others and certainly to develop in our children, isn’t it? But there is something deeper and greater taking place here that goes beyond ‘good manners’. Thankful, grateful people have a different perspective on life. The Bible tells us to: ‘Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances. For this is the will of Christ Jesus for you’ 1 Thes. 5:16-18
Why? Because when we do, our lives have a different focus – a different perspective – when we ‘frontload’ our lives with God things appear differently. Have you ever noticed the fact that we rarely need any help or practice in being grumpy? We do however, need to be ever mindful about being thankful.
I love it when scientific research finally catches up with what the Bible has been saying for thousands of years; for example: I was recently reading an article on some research that had revealed that an ‘attitude of gratitude’ generates better physical and mental health, develops relationships, reduces anger and aggression and helps you sleep better. Wonderful, if a little late in discovery. How great it is to know that God loves us and cares for us so much that these truths were laid down so long ago. They also help to create what might be called a ‘genuine church’ – a Happy, Praying and Thankful church.
Even amongst the turbulent and uncertain world we live in at the moment, we still have a great deal to be thankful for – when we thank God for all He has given us, we feel better, God receives praise and the enemy hates it. There is nothing the enemy despises more than a happy, thankful rejoicing Christian, so let’s help to shut him up and praise God more and more regularly.
The Christian Pastor and writer John Ortberg puts it like this: ‘Gratitude is more than making sure that God knows how much trouble He’s gone to for us – it’s so much more than that. It’s the gift God gives us that enables us to be blessed by all His other gifts. Without gratitude our lives degenerate into envy, dissatisfaction and complaints – taking what we have and always wanting more.’
Our lives will always have times of challenge, difficulty and sadness; times when life’s shadow will fall across our path, but here’s a truth; when you look to the sun, the shadow is always behind you but when you turn your back to the sun the shadow is always there in front of you – covering every step you take. I encourage you then, to look towards God’s Son with thanksgiving and to keep the shadows of life behind you. Let us free ourselves up, live the lives God intended us to and be known as a people of gratitude – Praising God, trusting Him and serving those around us. For when we look to God we will always see things differently.
Our children may all be adults and even with children of their own, but they still take great delight when opening cards together at Christmas to suggest that they have been the recipient of an act of greater generosity than any of the others. “Wow.” cries one when opening a card from an Aunt, “She’s given me £20!”. “£20?” enquires another … “She’s given me £30!”
Human nature loves a generous heart and instinctively warms towards acts of generosity, but less so if those acts of generosity are not directed towards ourselves. Consider how Jonah responds to God’s generosity over Nineveh. The story Jesus tells in Matthew, is one in which conventional thinking and understanding is turned upside down, for it is the account of an act of scandalous generosity, and in that, it is an account that serves to illustrate God’s wonderful heart of love towards both you and me.
As hired labourers, these men were already living at the mercy of chance employment. A day’s lost wages meant empty stomachs for the family at the end of the day and so they would stand in the market place seeking work.
Those who began their work for the landowner at the start of the day and those who were hired soon after, do so under a contract. They know what their reward will be. The world’s system of justice would see that anyone working for less than the full day, have their pay incrementally adjusted downwards, but here, we encounter the heart of the landowner. The days wage would just about cover the cost of a meal for their family so anything less would result in a worried wife and hungry children. The landowner goes way beyond accepted justice and provides them with far more than they were due, and in so doing, reveals the true heart of the men hired at the start of the day. They are not happy at all and let it be known.
They think that they are worth more. ‘Beware when drawn to compare; for it can lead to despair.’
In these few verses, Jesus communicates the compassion and the generosity of God to mankind. The men are rewarded out of the grace of the landowner. They did not deserve to be treated the same, but were none the less. But surely, ‘that’s not fair?’. To arrive at such a statement is, however, to reveal our desire to judge God by our own standards, for the startling truth is that fairness has nothing to do with it. If God was being fair, we would be left in a situation of eternal separation from His presence. We cannot earn what God gives us and we most surely don’t deserve it.
What God gives us is not pay, but a gift. Not a reward, but a grace. A scandalous grace.
The reality is that the life of a disciple of Jesus is spent in an atmosphere of grace from its very start to its finish. All mankind, no matter when they come to God, are equally precious to Him. Peter and Paul both remind us that the Father’s heart is that none should perish and that everyone should live their lives with the knowledge of His love. My cousin came to faith in her early 20’s, lived and walked her life as a disciple of Jesus and died a year later. My mother came to faith in her early 20’s, lived and walked her life as a disciple of Jesus and lived another 60. Their gift is the same. Eternity in the presence of God himself. All service ranks the same with God as it is the heart with which it is undertaken that matters. ‘Are you envious because I am generous?’ asks the landowner. Praise God, that He is precisely that.
With the Lord’s Blessing
A Sunday School teacher had just concluded her session with the children and wanted to check that the group had understood her and so she asked:
‘So .. who can tell me what we must do before we can receive forgiveness of sin?” There was a short pause and then, from the back of the room a small boy spoke up. “Sin!” he said.
We don’t usually have a problem with sinning, do we? I wonder how many of us are upset or angry with someone right now? Left unresolved, unforgiveness has the power to destroy relationships and break up communities. Jesus is directing us towards a successful way of resolving conflict and dealing with offence and it’s a way that avoids self-righteous vindication.
Perhaps the first thing to understand is that forgiveness is not a feeling we have but a decision we must make. Our readings today all deal with the reality that God wants us to live in love and freedom and to experience the fullness of His life within us, but we cannot do this or experience this whilst holding onto a grievance. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read of the need for it to work in both directions. Matthew 5:23-24 directs what we should do when we realise we have upset someone, and here in chapter 18, what we should do when someone has upset us. The objective is the same; reconciliation and in both instances, we are directed to take the initiative.
At the time that this account was being written, the church was experiencing persecution from outside of its body and from within it. There is a concern for the well being of the individual, yes, but also for the survival of the Church itself. The Church must be seen to behave differently and to deal with conflict resolution differently. I often repeat a saying that I heard many years ago; that the Church must not have any ‘lumpy carpets’. Hiding a difficulty does not make it go away, it just creates a trip hazard for later.
God’s way of doing things is different to the world’s and we are meant to be different. The world tends to focus on encouraging our own personal rights and if followed through this can often result in relationships being broken far too easily as a response to a feeling of our individual freedom being restricted by someone else. I have known of many church congregations being blighted and broken by just such a response. The enemy seeks to divide us as what he can divide he can then begin to dominate and we must seek to never give him any such satisfaction. David reminds us in Psalm 133 how much God loves unity, for it is there that He commands a blessing.
The process Jesus directs us to, begins with the opportunity to retain personal integrity and avoid public embarrassment by speaking privately together. Not writing or sending a text or an email. These can always be misinterpreted. A face to face encounter is always the very best way forward. If this fails to resolve the situation then we are encouraged to gradually increase the level of response but always, as Paul writes in Romans and in Galatians 6, in love and in gentleness. The reference to the tax collectors can be seen as Jesus acknowledging that sometimes people are just not ready to live in peace and as a result they may become distant, but reminding us that no one is beyond hope.
If they will not listen, then pray for them and move on as you will have done all that can be done at present and, in effect, it is they who are removing themselves from you. But, in all things … work from a principle of Love. I encourage you, if you are aware of any unforgiven grievances to seek Christlike resolution and reconciliation for your own personal freedom and the life that Jesus has promised, but also for the sake of the Kingdom, that nothing shall divide us.
With the Lord’s Blessing
The song ‘I am what I am’ became a huge hit for Gloria Gaynor back in 1983. It’s a song that proclaims individual liberty and freedom by focussing on self. Self-help and self-affirmation groups are incredibly popular and one quick internet search released 112 million sites designated to the concept. Perhaps their popularity lies in the assertion of a positive identity over ourselves and that’s good and right but in doing so, apparently denies the positive identity we have already been given in and by God himself. It is when we forget this that so many problems can arise. Take a look at Genesis 3 to see where that ignorance can take you.
Last week’s reading focused on the new name and heavenly identity that Jesus gave Simon once he had realised and declared the truth of who Jesus is. Simon became Peter; a name loaded with significance for his future and for the life that God had ordained for him to live. Today we are reminded of the name of God himself and how, like Simon, once we know it and own it for ourselves it has the power to transform our lives for ever.
Like Moses, sometimes God does things in our lives to gain our attention. It’s interesting to ponder just how many times we may have missed those appointments with God or ignored His voice or His intervention. Look at how Moses responds. He investigates. We might choose to ignore it but Moses chooses to seek it out – ‘I will go over’. As soon as God sees his response He moves up a level and speaks to Moses and Moses responds. The fact that Moses listens is very significant as it suggests a lifetime of being taught about God and the heritage that Moses and the Hebrew people have in Him. Be mindful then of how important it is that our children are introduced and matured in that critical truth.
God reveals His mission for Moses and it is at that point that Moses hesitates and enters into his first expression of reluctance, for there are several more to come, but notice why that occurs. ‘Who am I, that I should go …’ It is as soon as Moses focuses on himself rather than on who God has made him to be that fear and doubt begin to take hold. The truth is that in God, Moses is everything he needs to be otherwise God would not have trusted this mission to him. God has made Moses and knows and sees his destiny but for that to be released Moses must understand the truth behind the one who asks him. Note the promise God gives him. God promises to be with Moses … (Yeah!) but the sign of that being so will be at the end when everything is accomplished. Hmmmm – maybe not quite what Moses was wanting to hear! God is asking Moses to trust Him, to work with Him, to walk with Him into victory; and that trust and that faith must be rooted in the identity of God himself.
‘I AM who I AM’. God identifies himself as ‘I AM’ 719 times in the Bible – 508 of those in the Old Testament. ‘I AM: …. The God of your father … the Lord …The one who comforts you … the one who is … I AM God … In the New Testament Jesus states: ‘I AM’: … the bread of life, the light of the world, the gate, the resurrection and the life, the way and the truth, the true vine, the beginning and the end, your salvation, … I am with you always.
Basically … I AM everything you need … I’ve got it covered, now and always and if the answer doesn’t exist .. I’ll create it!
I wonder where you need God to be the great ‘I AM’ in your lives today. Seek Him. Talk to Him. Trust Him. For in Him, we are who we were created to be & have everything we need.
With the Lord’s Blessing
Jesus is once again tackling the issue of religious rules and the Pharisees fixation on their observance instead of focussing on the attitude of the heart. I wonder how many times this week you and I have done something because we thought we should rather than because we wanted to? I can often find myself falling into this situation all too easily. How many times have I said “I’ve got to go to … ” or, “I’ve got to do this ”or, “I’ve got to do that.” If the person I was on my way to visit heard me speaking like that, they may end up thinking that I didn’t want to be with them and that just wouldn’t be the case at all.
The truth is that when we do something out of love rather than out of compulsion, we respond in a different way. Negative thoughts and attitudes are replaced with positive ones. Our attitude is right. Our desire is right. When these things are right we begin to live our lives in a different way, for, as Jesus tells us, what comes out of our mouth matters as that is a reflection of what is taking place on the inside of our heart; and the state of our heart comes down to what we decide to feed it – what we focus and build our lives upon.
It was the French scientist Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826 who first made the connection between our diet and our behaviour. "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es." [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are]. But as Jesus reminds us, physical food is eaten and then it is discarded. Its benefits are temporary. What truly matters is what we feed our spirits on. We need to feed upon God himself and this will change the way we live fundamentally.
The attitude of the Canaanite woman is attractive to Jesus. She is sincere, passionate, honest, persistent and full of faith. Notice what happens to her during her conversation. She begins by pursuing Jesus yet ends by worshipping Him. She begins with a demand yet ends with a prayer.
She begins by grabbing his attention yet ends on her knees.
Jesus’ words may seem harsh here, but the term ‘dogs’ in this context is ‘Kunaria’ which refers to a household pet and not the scavenging, diseased animals of the street. I see the compassion in his eyes and his smile as he speaks to her and the delight at her typically Greek, quick witted response.
So, what does this teach us? That we need to pursue all that will make for a clean heart.
We need to pursue Jesus. We need to know more fully who He is – the woman experiences a revelation and moves from an academic understanding to a spiritual one. We need to know more fully who He is – the woman moves from accosting attention to worship. We need to know more fully who He is – the woman moves from demand to prayer. Persistence in pursuing God’s influence on our lives is critical to our fruitfulness and prayer is a crucial factor.
When everything seems to go wrong … just P.U.S.H
When the job gets you down … just P.U.S.H.
When people don’t react the way you think they should … just P.U.S.H.
When your money is gone and the bills are due … just P.U.S.H.
When people don’t understand you … just P.U.S.H.
P = Pray, U = Until, S = Something, H = Happens
With the Lord’s Blessing
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale