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The children of wisdom

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Luke 7:33 – 35  “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

     John and Jesus were related by blood and spirit.  John knew Jesus; “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire”  (Matthew 3:11)  Although contemporaries, they were also like book ends for the history of mankind.  John, the best  of the old covenant which was to conclude and Jesus was the new covenant unfolding.  The Pharisees found fault with John because he was too austere and with Jesus because he had fun in life.

    John recognised the Pharisees for what they were;  “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”(Matthew 3:7)  Jesus recognised the Pharisees for what they were; “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”  (Matthew 12:34)

     The Pharisees being vipers struck out with venom in their mouths.  It didn’t matter how goodness was packaged they criticised and spoke against it.  Jesus warned them and us about the words and judgements we utter; “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement.” (Matthew 12:36)  I shudder at my own tendencies towards fault finding and criticism.  Jesus’ words convict me; “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned”  (Matthew 12:37)

    Scripture tells us that our tongues create huge problems for us; “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)  If no man can tame the tongue, we must look to God to do this work in our lives. We cannot look to our worldly wisdom for a cure; “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” (James 3:14,15)

     I am left where I usually end up by calling out in desperation;

     Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  (Psalm 51:10)

Fruit worthy of repentance

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Luke 3:8 “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”


     Don’t count on your parents or grandparents to get you right with God.   John Wesley says; ” . . . trust not in your being members of the visible Church, or in any external privileges whatsoever: for God now requires a change of heart; and that without delay”.  By magical thinking we hope to change ‘guilt by association’ into ‘saved by association’ as we sit piously in our pews.  It doesn’t work that way.

     The key is repentance.  Just what is repentance?  A quick answer is; ‘feeling sorry for what you have done’.  However you can ‘feel sorry’ for different reasons.  You can feel sorry that you got caught and have to suffer the consequences.  You can feel sorry that your actions have hurt someone.  You can feel sorry that you were not able to do more harm.  You can feel sorry that what you did made you look bad.  Which ‘sorrow’ is involved with repentance?  Which ‘sorrow’ looks beyond your self?

     The Apostle Paul writes; “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorrowful, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For ye were made sorrowful in a godly manner, . . .”  (2 Cor 12:9)  Godly sorrow leads to repentance.   We can rule out the sorrow of logical consequences and not getting full revenge.   In this day of emotional illiteracy we have a hard time sorting out our feelings and connecting them to their underlying attitudes.  When we work out the root of our emotional states it becomes clear that many feelings arise out of self-centeredness.

     Godly sorrow and selfish sorrow both have results – both bear a kind of fruit.  Paul lays it out clearly; “For godly sorrow is not to be repented of, but worketh repentance unto salvation; but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2 Cor 7:10)  The fruit of godly sorrow is life and the fruit of worldly sorrow (sorrow based on self-centeredness) is death.  The fruit of worldly sorrow is  often death by stagnation.  Worldly sorrow for self brings at best no change in a person and often locks the ‘victim’ into a ‘more of the same’ life cycle.

     True change arises out of a deep seated upheaval of self.  For the Christian it is called a ‘renewing of the mind;  “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  (Romans 12:2)  What opens up a person to this kind of inner process?  Paul answers this question;  “. . . when ye sorrowed in a godly manner: what earnest concern it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what requital!” (2 Cor 7:11)   The outward change of a person’s heart is visible for all to see.  It is expressed in concern for others, a desire to be right with your neighbour, a reverent fear of God and a burning desire to serve Him.

     John the Baptist knew that just going through the motions of baptism relying on outward forms and privilege wouldn’t make a person right with God.  John the Baptist looked for the fruit.  No repentance, no fruit of repentance, no spiritual change, no life.  Being sorry isn’t enough.  You have to be sorry enough to change to open your heart up to His transformation.  Every Christian must walk out repentance.  And this walk is a humbling walk.  Repentance demands that we drop any pretence of self righteousness.  Repentance demands an open acknowledgement of what we have done and what we are like.  Jesus nailed the Pharisees for their unrepentant attitudes; “Even so, ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”  (Matthew 23:28)

     The fruit of your heart does show. A repentant heart speaks loud and clear of its need for Jesus and the joy of its salvation.  An unrepentant heart speaks of its own goodness and superiority over others.  Jesus said; “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”  (Luke 6:45)  

     Repent and rejoice always.  Praise the Lord! 

It’s all in the attitude!

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Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me according to your word.”


     This was Mary’s response to the angel that told her that she was going to have a child even though she had never known a man.  In that brief interchange with the angel, Mary must have heard that her life was going to change irrevocably.  She was betrothed to Joseph and had a good reputation.  With this ‘news’ her standing among her people would be damaged.  Her life would never be the way she had imagined it.  Her life would never be the same and she knew it.  Her life was to be His way not her way!  Yet she accepted God’s Word with grace and willingness.


     Mathew Henry points out; “Mary’s reply to the angel was the language of faith and humble admiration, and she asked no sign for the confirming her faith.”  In this commentary we are guided into the same attitude of faith; “And we must, as Mary here, guide our desires by the word of God. In all conflicts, let us remember that with God nothing is impossible; and as we read and hear his promises, let us turn them into prayers, Behold the willing servant of the Lord; let it be unto me according to thy word.” (Ibid)


     God looks for this attitude in His servants.  Sometimes we come up short.  Zechariah did.  When Gabriel told him that his wife Elizabeth would have a baby in her golden years, Zechariah doubted; “And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.”  (Luke 1:18)  He wanted proof.  John Wesley observes; “In how different a spirit did the blessed virgin say, How shall this be? Zacharias disbelieved the fact: Mary had no doubt of the thing; but only inquired concerning the manner of it.”


     Jesus when facing the terrible reality of His  sacrifice demonstrated the struggle we all have with our attitude;   “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  (Matthew 26:39)  Could we  facing the loss of our life, say the same?  “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”  (Hebrews 12:3,4)


     It’s all in the attitude.  Alcoholics confronting the terrible reality of their disease of addiction came to the same discovery; “Selfishness – self centeredness! That we think, is the root of our troubles.”  We find self centeredness at the root of the human dilemma.  To be truly free you have to give it up but to give it up is a kind of dying that is immediate and scary.  Like dying physically, you can’t see beyond it or through it.  We are hard wired to be afraid of the dark.  It is never so dark as when we have our eyes tightly shut hanging on to what we want – what we think will keep us safe and secure, all the while poised blindly over a precipice of the unknown;  Never seeing Jesus, ready to help and hold us.


     Stepping out of our self-centredness and into God’s will demands faith.  The journey of faith isn’t made in huge leaps.  Rather, for guys like me and perhaps you, faith is a series of small halting steps, stumbling while going forward.  We practice walking in faith;  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)  Repent of your stumbles.  Let the Holy Spirit guide your next step.  Paul said; “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

    Yet Jesus told us; “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”  (Matthew 16:25)  Like the alcoholic we all must turn our lives and will over to God.  Mary did.  Jesus did.


     Praise the Lord!

When Manna becomes tiresome.

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Numbers 11:4,5,6  “The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!'”

     We love it when God comes through for us.  But as time goes by our eyes wander and we begin to want different things.  Not only that, we like the Israelites are susceptible to the disbelieving and ungrateful attitudes of those around us.   We like the Israelites are susceptible to the disbelieving and ungrateful attitudes of our own hearts!  We  become the rabble! 

     The Forerunner Commentary states; Whoever they were, the peoples of the mixed multitude were much more than just witnesses of God’s strength. Even the unbelieving Egyptians witnessed that! The mixed multitude partook of God’s grace, experienced it with the children of Israel. Whoever they were, these people were fellow-travellers with Israel for a time, experiencing with them the power of God as He pulled them ‘out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt'”

     How quickly we forget God’s provisioning when we travel in mixed company.  People who don’t really believe God’s word yet have a shallow fellowship with His body – the church, can often set the entire congregation ‘wailing’.  It is then when the grass gets greener on the other side of the fence and past pleasures are so fondly remembered.  Among recovering addicts this is called ‘euphoric recall’ and it is deadly.  Jesus plainly told the devil that;  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

     In our daily Christian walk if we take God at His Word then our reality is of another kingdom than this world’s.  Healing, miracles, provisioning and mercy would be an integral part of our lives.  This was the reality of the early church; “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:46,47)  Unity of belief and the Joy of the Lord blessed the early church and God did the multiplying.  What has happened?

     Unbelief, partial belief and falling away has happened.  Partial belief is worse than unbelief because it sneaks up on a person.  It may not be intentional but its influence is insidious and corrodes the walk of faith.  Unbelief is simply the culmination of partial belief.  How easily and reasonably we can fall into it.  We go so far in our journey then fall back remembering  what we thought we were rather than what we really were.   And then we begin speaking with the ‘rabble’ that John Wesley called ‘almost Christians’ urging our fellows into a desire for other food rather than the Word of God.
    
      Scientism, new age superstition, post modern gospels, and secular humanism all become appealing because they don’t require faith just a deceived heart.  Paul told Timothy about this; “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3,4)  How easily we can turn away from His Word and long for a different gospel – one  that is less demanding, less commanding and more accommodating.

     Watchman Nee writes; “Faith is always meeting a mountain, a mountain of evidence that seems to contradict God’s Word, . . . failures in deed, as well as in the realm of feeling and suggestion – and either the faith or the mountain has to go.  They both cannot stand.  But the trouble is that many a time the mountain stays and faith goes.” (The Normal Christian Life p. 38)  Even after we have been healed and delivered our human nature ever inclines to its own sensuality rather than the Glory of the Gospel.

     Watchman Nee continues; “If we resort to our senses to discover the truth, we shall find Satan’s lies are often enough true to our experience; but if we refuse to accept as binding anything that contradicts God’s Word and maintain an attitude of faith in Him alone, we shall find instead that Satan’s lies begin to dissolve and that our experience is progressively to tally with that Word.” (Ibid p. 38)  Although we crave other food, we desire explanations tailored to what we want to believe –  what we think we know. There is a way to resist.  We can refuse our nature, and insist on God’s Word as our only sustenance.

     The Israelites and those that walked with them were on the road to freedom.  They lost their appetite for their travelling rations. They fell in the desert.  We too are on the road to freedom.  The devil is right there trying to trip us up using our own nature against us.  Jesus tells us;  ”  . . ., If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  Our manna is His Word.  To give it up, to water it down, to add to it or subtract from it will rob us of our strength to make the journey.  Let us not become a ‘mixed multitude’ they never made it into the promised land.

       “For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” (Isaiah 50:7)

      Praise the Lord!

The mountains in our heads

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Mark 11: 23,24 “Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and do not doubt in your heart but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.


     When I was young I did geological field research in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  However these beautiful mountains never got in my way or dragged me down.   The mountains that cause me to stumble, the mountains that hinder me, the mountains that stop me are the mountains that I create in my head.  The mountains that chain my spirit are called guilt, self-doubt,shame and anxiety to name a few.  These mountains are no less imposing and forbidding because they are made of thought and emotion; perhaps more so than material mountains as you can’t move even a tiny bit of them with a shovel.  Those are the mountains that I need to toss themselves into the sea.  How do I do that?

     Matthew Henry says that prayer has the power to create tectonic shifts in the bedrock of our minds;  It justifies us, and so removes mountains of guilt, never to rise up in judgment against us. It purifies the heart, and so removes mountains of corruption, and makes them plain before the grace of God.”  For quite a while now I have been carrying a mountain that has placed a heavy burden on my heart.   Working at Harvest House with drug addicts I have been confronted with the struggle of these young men.  In listening to them work through their moral inventories (Step 4’s) and their confessions of the harm they have done to others  I started taking my own moral inventory.

     Over several years of a simple ministry of listening I find that there is no great difference between us;  Other than they became addicts and I didn’t!  The lust, the anger, the arrogance, the poor self esteem, the paranoia, the pride, the sloth, the greed, the self pity all live in me as well.  They are not fallen because they are addicts.  They are addicts because they are fallen.  Addiction is one expression of the greater universal disease – the fall of humanity.     An addict stops ‘drugging and drinking’ by working their program but how can someone recover from a condition that is soaked into a person’s very bones and DNA?  “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”  (Romans 7:24) My friends and I were trapped in fallen bodies doomed, doomed, doomed to struggle and fail until we died.  This had become a mountain in my mind!

      I prayed that God would cover my eyes with His blood so that I could see what He wanted me to see.  THE NEXT DAY, as I was struggling with these thoughts – my eyes were openened!  I was readling Romans 6:6 “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”;  Its great powerful import unfolded within my mind.  A heavyness like iron chains fell away from me and my spirit leapt!  Tears came to my eyes.

     Why?  For several years now Satan has been accusing me of being no more than my ‘old man’.  And I have listened to him.  I have taken the  205 pound dead rotting squirrel of my ‘old man’ up on my shoulders and gotten into a big ‘hampster wheel’ and been running with it all this time.  What a fool I’ve been!  I believed Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”  but stopped short – not realizing that God follows through in all things.  God covered my sins with His blood AND dealt with my sinning nature on His cross.  In my stupidity I’ve been tormenting myself when I stumble walking forward by looking backward and agreeing with Satan that all I am and ever will be is what I was.  All the while forgetting about the cross!

I can now throw the carcass of that big dead rotting squirrel off my shoulders, step off this exhausting wheel and LIVE!

Will I do that perfectly? No.   And when I stumble – I’ll repent.

I intend to practice my new life everyday and all day!

Praise the Lord!

    

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