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Munching with the Word

GodSprings – June 13, 2017 – Matthew 7:7-8

Am I Satisfied With Asking When I Am Supposed to Knock?
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened .”
Matthew 7:7-8

William Wilberforce, English politician, philanthropist and a leader of the movement to stop the slave trade, was discouraged one night in the early 1790’s after another defeat in his ten-year battle against the slave trade in England. Tired and frustrated, he opened his Bible and began to go through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. It was a letter written by John Wesley shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again: “Unless the divine power has raised you up…. I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that (abominable practice of slavery), which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God. Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go in the name of God, and in the power of His might.

Some people think verse 7 is a blank check. Is it really? Verse 8 says that for everyone that asks receives and everyone that seeks finds and to him that knocks it shall be opened. Is it that simple? I don’t think so.

These verses are not blank cheques. There are certain conditions that Jesus has already mentioned in the Sermon he was delivering. So we need to consider this verse in purview of the whole of the Sermon on the Mount. This becomes a blank cheque when the conditions are right. Which means that we are His obedient child and we ask according to His will, in order that He may be glorified.

When we look at the verse we can notice that it’s not that simple. There is progression and perseverance involved in it. We need to keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking.

Asking is very simple. Every child does that. But there is no involvement and participation. We just ask. Seek on the other hand is stronger than just asking. There’s a participation in it. It can be said that at least we are moving our eyes to seek. But when it comes to knocking there’s a greater participation.

For example, I cannot just sit at my home and say, “Lord, I want to preach a great sermon this coming Sunday. Please, I ask you, give me a great sermon.” Just by simply asking I won’t be able to deliver a sermon. What I have to do is that I have to ask the Lord all week for that and then I seek that by going through the Word of God and reading and reading. And then I begin banging on the Lord,  which on most occasions happen on Saturday night saying, “Lord, I’m struggling with this portion and I want to understand it.” I realize that God is the only one who can produce through me, but at the same time, I have got to be involved in the process.

Why does God want us to be involved in this fashion? Is it because He loves seeing His creation banging for certain things? I don’t think that we have to bang to get God to act, but the more we are involved in the process, the greater the relationship becomes. The deeper, the richer and the more meaningful communion I can have with Him.

Let us pray – Dear Lord, help us to have the attitude of perseverance when it comes to having a relationship with You. Amen.

 

GodSprings – June 12, 2017 Matthew 7:6

Do I Proclaim The Gospel With Discernment?
“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”
Matthew 7:6

In his book The Gospel According to Starbucks, Leonard Sweet tells the story of Ed Faubert. Faubert is what you call a “cupper” – in layman’s terms he’s a coffee-taster. And his sharp taste buds are actually certified by the state of New York. So refined is Faubert’s  sense of taste for coffee that even while blindfolded, he can take one sip of coffee and tell you “not just that it is from Guatemala, but from what state it comes, at what altitude it was grown, and on what mountain.”

Spiritually we need to cultivate this skill of discernment that will enable us to know right from wrong, best from better, pure from defiled and principles from pragmatics.

In verses 1-5 we saw that Jesus says we should not be overly judgmental. And here Jesus says that we should do things with discernment. What exactly does Jesus mean in this verse? Dogs, holy things, pigs, pearls. Who and what is Jesus talking about?

The dogs that Jesus is referring to are not the cuddly pets with friendly behaviour that we keep at home. Pigs and dogs are often coupled together in the Bible and are both emblems of uncleanliness.

What did Jesus mean when he mentioned dogs and pigs? In the Messianic Psalm it is recorded “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare  and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (Psalm 22:16-18). Who are these dogs? These are the people who did not pay any heed to the gospel that Jesus told.

Jesus is saying that we should not take the gospel and throw it to those people who glory in their shame like the dogs and take the precious pearls of the gospel and throw them to those who love sin like pigs. Why shouldn’t we do this? Because these people don’t appreciate the gospel. They regard it as foolishness. The dogs and pigs are not just unbelievers. They are unbelievers who had an opportunity to hear the gospel but have decided to reject it.

The word of God is not to be laid open to abuse and mockery. We must use discernment. It is no use to try to explain Christianity to someone who just want to mock, argue and ridicule. When we persist beyond a point in offering the gospel to such people, we are just inviting them to reject it with contempt. And Jesus advices us not to push it.

Jesus applied the same principle to the twelve apostles when He send them on their first mission. He warned them that they will meet two kinds of people. Some will be receptive to their message, others will not be receptive. Jesus said in Matthew 10:14 – “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”

So, what Jesus is asking from us is some discernment. But then it doesn’t mean we keep quiet. Jesus’ life is an example. The gospel can be proclaimed both by our words and by our life. When we don’t talk, let the holiness of God be seen in our life. St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:3 – “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

Through us let them see the gospel. And let us hope that one day they too will long for holy things, for these pearls that we have been blessed with, and they will come to us and say, ‘What must I do that I may have these pearls too?’

Let us pray – Dear Lord, help us to have the discernment in proclaiming Your gospel at the right moment and at the right place so that it will never be brought to condemnation but will be for life and salvation to all. Amen.

 

GodSprings – June 11, 2017 – Matthew 7:3-5

Am I Able to Judge Who I Am?

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:3-5

Once upon a time in Persia there was a judge. This judge was bribed. And so he rendered a wrong verdict, for money. Cambyses was the Persian king. And he heard what happened. And so he ordered the judge to be executed. And after the judge was executed, he ordered his soldiers to skin him. Strip off all his skin. He took all of the skin of that judge, and with it, he covered a chair. And on that chair sat every judge from then on who judged in that court in Persia.

We are prejudiced by our own egos and so we are unfit judges. We are partial in our own favour and tend to think we have a different standard than everybody else, because we are hopelessly and utterly blind when it comes to perception.

Most of us when we have a problem with someone else, we focus on what that person did wrong. We think the problem will get better if the other person would change. Jesus tells us what to do in such situations. Jesus says that we must focus on our own weakness and changes we need to make. This does not mean that those around us don’t have faults in their life. Jesus wants us to focus first on what we must do and how we can and must change.

The plank referred to here is the word used for a plank in a large building often 40 feet long and 5 feet around. In other words, if we have a plank this large in our eye it would be utterly impossible to see the speck in our brother’s eye.

The plank is a picture of our self-righteousness. We are totally blinded by it. When it comes to seeing the sins of others we think we have 20/10 vision not realizing that we are blinded by our own self-righteousness. Or to put it in the words of Charles Spurgeon, “we see our brother’s sin with a microscope but we see our sin through the wrong end of a telescope”

As long as we’re self-righteous, and we think we’re all right, there’s no way we are going to help anybody. We are blind and it’s a plank in our own eye.

Let us pray – Dear Lord, help us not to pull splinters out of people’s eyes with a plank in our own eyes and help us see ourselves the way we are. Amen.

 

GodSprings – 10, March, 2017

Am I a Murderer?

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Matthew 5:21-22

There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say ‘I’m sorry’, the wound is still there.”

Murder was the very first crime in the Bible. It didn’t just happen. Before the outward crime many things happened inwardly in Cain which made him to murder Abel.

If we think that when God said that you should not murder, it is only the outward expression of murder then we too are like the Pharisees. This is where Jesus precisely wanted to attack them and us. As we saw yesterday Jesus is raising the fallen standard of righteousness. The Pharisees had convinced themselves that because they didn’t kill anybody they were holy and righteous. Jesus blows that concept to bits.

Jesus says that they have interpreted the law only partially and have satisfied themselves and justified themselves. Jesus is not adding a new commandment but just making them realize that they left God away from the commandment. They didn’t mention God or divine judgment. They didn’t read the whole of Old Testament together. Psalm 51:6 we see that God desires truth in the inward part.

The part of the law they left out was internal part. Jesus adds on to that and says. It wasn’t enough for you not to kill. God is concerned about what is going on inside.

Jesus simply says that it isn’t murder alone. The issue is also of anger and hatred in your heart. If there is hatred in your heart, you are same as a murderer.

You have hatred, you are a murderer. You have anger, you are a murderer. And Jesus says that in God eyes, it’s no different than a man who goes out and does the crime.

This Lenten season can we just try to recollect how many murders we have committed? Can we resolve not to be angry and leave out hatred and accept love which was shown on the cross?

 

 

 

 

 

GodSprings – February 04, 2016

God’s Plan: Illogical But Best

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. Genesis 16:1-2 (NIV)

Logic/Reason Vs. Faith is beautifully described by Charles H. Spurgeon using a story: Faith and Reason were often fellow travelers. Faith was a healthy man and he could walk 30 to 40 miles a day without any problem. Reason was more child-like and could only walk 3 or 4 miles. The whole walk Reason complained and griped each step.

One day Reason asked to walk with Faith. Faith said, “Reason you cannot walk with me, we have different purposes.” Reason persisted and the journey was begun. As the journey progressed, Reason could not keep up the pace that Faith set. Faith quietly marched onward. Reason discussed all the possibilities and the potentials and lagged far behind.

The two neared a large river. Reason says, “We can never ford this massive stream. Let us wait and build a bridge.” Faith waded into the river and sang a song of praise, as the river was no obstacles at all.

Faith and Reason approached a big, high mountain. In great despair, Reason said, “This mountain is too great, we can’t climb this. There is no way we can climb such a great land mass. Let us sit down hear and evaluate this situation.”

Faith looks at Reason, and sees his value, so in order not to leave Reason behind, Faith is obliged to carry Reason over the mountain.

There is a lesson we must learn: Oh! what luggage reason can be to faith! We need balance to understand: Faith launches, where Reason is idle.

Sarah was a woman of God. She had seen, time and time again, how God had miraculously provided, saved, and promoted her husband Abraham. But the lack of one thing continued to eat at her: a child. Sarah refused to wait any longer and decided to take matters into her own hands. Her idea was a perfectly legal solution to the problem. She would give Hagar, her servant, to Abraham, and the child Hagar bore would belong to Sarah.

Having a surrogate mother was the logical answer to Sarah’s infertility. But God had other plans. God’s plans are not always logical, but they are the best option.

GodSprings – January 21,2016

The Bigger Picture

This is the account of Terah’s family line. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot…But when they came to Harran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran. Genesis 11:27-32 (NIV)

I recently saw an ad on Facebook about Channel 10 News. There was a woman sitting in a car. She’s minding her own business, and suddenly this man comes out of the blue, rips the door open, grabs her, and pulls her out of the car roughly. It looks like he’s attacking her, and we look on in horror. Then the camera pulls back, and we see that the car is actually on fire, but the woman didn’t know it. The man wasn’t assaulting the woman; he was rescuing her. The ad finishes by saying, “You need the bigger picture. Channel 10 News gives you the bigger picture.” The ad makes a good point. We need to have the bigger picture.

Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. Chapter 11 recounts hundreds of years of family lines down to when, Abraham, was finally born. This illuminates a key point in Abraham’s life and in the lives of all Christians. Over and over again, the Bible begins a person’s story by telling where they came from, who their parents were and what land they originally inhabited. This is all to show that our story begins long before we do.

Before Abraham ever lay Isaac on the altar, before he married Sarah or traveled to Egypt or even heard the voice of God, God was planning his story. God knew He would bless the nations through this one man. He knew Abraham would be a very important marker in the long, beautiful story of human salvation. But God also knew that, as important as Abraham’s story was, he was still only a part of something much larger.

The story of Abraham tells us one truth: there was a before Abraham and an after Abraham, and the same is true for us. Countless stories have taken place to allow us to live at this precise moment in time. Countless more will be written after we are gone.

Our story is part of something infinitely larger. We are God’s children, God’s chosen. To God, we are every ounce as important as Abraham, and he will take care of us with the same amount of care and love and power as He did for Abraham.

GodSprings – January 20, 2016

Fear or Faith?

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”Exodus 4:1 (NIV)

There is a story that the midshipmen at the US Naval Academy are told as an inspirational legend. The story, entitled “A Message to Garcia,” goes back to the Spanish-American War in the late 1890s.

When the war broke out between Spain and the US, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Cuban insurgents. A certain general named Garcia was somewhere in the mountains of Cuba … no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. President William McKinley, however, needed to secure Garcia’s cooperation, and quickly. But how would he get a message to Garcia?

Someone told the President that there was a man named Rowan who could find Garcia and deliver the message if anyone could. They sent for Rowan, and standing before the President of the United States a letter was placed in his hand as he was given the charge to deliver the message to Garcia.

The story goes that Rowan took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, and just four days later he landed by night on a beach in Cuba. He instantly disappeared into the jungle, and three weeks later he came out on the other side of the island, having traversed the hostile countryside on foot, delivering the message to General Garcia.

Now the legend is passed on to the midshipmen at the Naval Academy because it carries a powerful example. President McKinley gave Rowan a message to be delivered to Garcia. Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where do I start? Where do I find him? How will I get there and back? Will there be pay for this?” He simply accepted the assignment and the message. He acted promptly without question, concentrated his energies, and accomplished his assignment to “Carry a message to Garcia!”

We all have been afraid of what people might think of us at some time or other. Maybe you felt this way during that awkward, overly self-conscious period in the first year of college or high school, where popularity and acceptance from peers meant everything. We all have been concerned at one time or another about what others may think about us.

Moses was certainly afraid of how he would be perceived by his fellow comrades, and he wondered if they would even receive him and God’s message of deliverance. God had a Promised Land flowing with milk and honey awaiting Moses and the children of Israel, but Moses seemed content to stay in the desert.

We can do the same. We can limit the fullness of God’s blessing in our lives when we allow ourselves to be swayed by fear. By faith, we can overcome any fear. Let us not miss out on the abundant life that God has planned for us by allowing fear to keep us from serving and following God’s plan for our life.

GodSprings – January 19, 2016

Have I Said My Story?

Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19 (NIV)

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” is often called the shortest complete story in English, supposedly written by Ernest Hemingway. It is only six words long but yet it contains elements of death, loss, brokenness, and a longing for peace.

God has given us all a story that speaks of how God came into our lives, how He changed our lives, and how He is currently working in our lives. Our story is a powerful bridge that gives us easy access into the lives of the people that God has placed in our world. While being in the villages of Jammu Mission Field I found that sharing the gospel can be an intimidating task at times, but sharing my story is a natural and stress-free way to talk about God with anyone, anytime.

In the gospel of Mark, chapter 5, we learn of one man’s startling story. Up until this point, this man’s story was dark and dismal. He was forced to live in a cemetery just outside of town because he was untamable, uncontrollable, and terrorized by an unclean spirit. His life was filled with such shame and despair that he would often resort to cutting himself in a twisted effort to feel anything. In pain, he was often heard in the nearby towns as his tormented soul caused him to cry out like a coyote, night after night.

But everything changed the moment he met Jesus. His demons were cast out, his sanity returned, and his soul, which had been supernaturally hijacked, was finally free. Full of amazement and appreciation for all that Jesus had just done, this man wanted to leave his home and travel with Jesus, but Jesus told him to stay and tell his story to anyone who would listen.

God wants to use your story and my story, too. He wants to use our experiences, what we have seen God do, how God has spoken into our life, and the ways in which He has changed our life so that other people will begin to see that God is real, that miracles happen, that prayer works, and that their lives can be transformed too.

God wants to use us just the way we are and our story just the way it is, because the story really is not about us anyway; the story is all about God and what God has done and is doing in our life. Can we take the time to think about our story and be ready when Jesus gives us an opportunity to share our story with someone.

GodSprings – January 18, 2016

What’s My Excuse

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11 (NIV)

The German poet Christian Hebbel once said, “Whoever wants to be a judge of human nature should study people’s excuses.” Whether it is “I forgot,” “I’m too busy,” “I had car trouble,” “There was traffic,” or the all time favorite excuse of students, “I just forgot to keep it in my bag,” we have all heard them and maybe even used them ourselves at one time or another. People fundamentally use excuses to justify their own actions or avoid getting involved in something they would prefer to stay out of.

Have you ever made an excuse to God? Have you ever sought to justify your actions before God or attempted to offer an excuse to avoid involvement in some opportunity that He was making available to you?

Moses’ reaction to this phenomenal opportunity that God placed before him was to make an excuse: “Who am I?” Perhaps Moses was thinking he was too old, or perhaps his past failures haunted him, or perhaps he had fear of being rejected. I suspect that all of the above, and more, that led Moses to offer God a series of excuses.

God took the time to reassure Moses that He would be with Him, that He would guide Him, and that He would give Him the words to speak and the miracles to perform. In short, God was telling Moses, “I will take care of everything.” All Moses had to do was trust God.

We need to keep in mind here that Moses’ reluctance to do God’s will was not a rejection of God’s will, but the starting point for Moses. Through Moses’ reluctance he recognized his weaknesses, was able to admit his failures, could see his inadequacies, and was able to understand his need for God’s help. God used Moses’ excuse to reveal to him that who Moses was did not matter; what mattered was who God is!

Let us recognize our weaknesses, because the reality is, we all have weaknesses and limitations. But we cannot allow them to keep us from what God wants to do in and through our lives. If we allow our excuses to get in the way of following God, then we are demonstrating a lack of faith in God’s ability to accomplish His plans and purposes through us.

Do not let reluctance turn to rejection. Do not let inadequacy lead into inactivity. God gives us what we need, in His perfect time, in order to accomplish what He wills. What excuse is holding us back from obeying God and serving Him with all our heart? Do not let excuses keep us from experiencing the blessings that God wants to give us.

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