Coming and going

This is how it feels my head has been this last couple of months. It’s been busy in a good way, but has meant that I have been a bit abcent from Word press for which I am sorry. But…..

I am so excited to tell you all that I have spent time writing my first devotional 21 day book! I am releasing it as a Kindle ebook and should be available soon. I am keeping the price low to make it as affordable as possible. 

I will let you know as soon as it is available and will try to link it through my page. 

It has given me some new perspectives on things while writing. Giving a lot more thought to what I am putting down in my notes and my pages, has had made me think so much more about my own head and what others see in me. Do I care or should I care? Should I only care about what God sees? 

Thank you to all who have supported me on this journey, and all the lovely messages I gave received. They mean so much to me. 

Blessings to you all.

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Butterfly

How beautiful are butterflies? Their gorgeous wings all the different colours of nature. So delicate and light as they float from one flower to the other. All the many colours and sizes. Amazing.

I think they are such a beautiful sight. But, the little butterfly doesn’t see itself as beautiful, if it even cares about what it looks like. Does it see the colours? Does it see the beauty that everyone else sees?

Are you like the butterfly? Beautiful but can’t see it? All around you can see your beauty, you seem to look in a different mirror or look through clouded glasses. Walk your life journey without realising how stunning and colourful you are. All who have their lives touched by your quiet spirit will remember it. 

You are beautiful. More than butterflies. No one is like you. You are bought by the King of Kings. He has clothed you in His glory. 

The SHEMA

So as we saw in the last message, Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, and He replied in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?And He said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

To see these verses in context, we looked at Deuteronomy 6:4-9…..

We looked at the Pharisees and how they looked from the outside that they followed the law, but on the inside they were still sinning and hadn’t taken the law into their hearts. Outward religious observance without a changed heart is not what the Lord looks for.

I want to look a bit more at the Shema and what it means and look a bit more at the meaning of each word@

“SHEMA YISRAEL ADONAI ELOHEINU, ADONAI ECHAD.”

So, the Shema is a section of the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, written by Moses in the wilderness at the creation of the 1st temple Israel had to worship their Lord in. It is a prayer that serves as the centrepiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. For many Jews this is stated as “receiving the kingdom of heaven”. These words are seen throughout the new testament, and the word heaven is used by Jewish people as a metaphor for God.

The 10 commandments were said at these times as well as the Shema but were removed from the daily prayer books during the years 70-200ce. The Shema prayer is seen as an opportunity to commemorate the 10 commandments.

It is thought that the recitation of the Shema shows that they are a living witness testifying the truth of the message of the Shema itself. Some of the more Kabbilistic schools, (which is a form of Judaism – seen as a cult) teaches that when their members recite the word Echad meaning “one”, he is to intend that he is ready to die into God.

Judaism does not speak or write the actual name of God. Out of respect and honour to Him, they replace it with Adonai or Lord. This is why in the Shema, the name God was changed to Adonai.

So if we look at the words of the Shema

Shema – This word means to listen, to hear, to do. It is an active word not passive

Yisrael – Israel, the people or congregation of people, not the land on its own

Adonai – trandlated Lord from YHWH. Interestingly, Samaritans, who the Jewish people despised in bible times, they say Shema, which is Aramaic for the “divine name”. We know Jesus spoke Aramaic and therefore would have know this and was able to speak to the Samaritan woman at the well with her own tongue and words that she worshipped with.

Eloheinu – A plural word. Meaning our God.

Echad – Unified and cardinal number 1

The Shema relates to the kingship of God. It is the confession of belief in the One true God. There are other translations which say the same thing but with words mixed around. They are

Hear O Israel! Adonai is our God! Adonai is One!

Hear O Israel! Adonai is our God! Adonai alone!

There is an addition, which is expanded. It was added rabbinically, and is used for silent congregation worship, except during the time of Yom Kippur where it is recited aloud together as worship. Yom Kippur means to atone. It is the day of atonement and is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, and for Jesus Himself. It is a day of atonement and repentance and the Jewish people even now spend the day in the synagogues worshipping and spending time with God. This is such an important day, even for us. It foreshadowed Jesus and His death and resurrection.

Baruch shem kvod l’olam was added which means blessed be His glorious name.

Over time, the words Malchuto, meaning His kingdom, and va’ed meaning forever and ever were added. Malchuto was added during the time of the Romans, as a counter claim over the land of Israel against the Roman emperors. Va’ed was introduced at the time of the 2nd Temple as a contrast to those who believed there is no life after death, which we can see around the times of Ezra and Nehemiah.

I was brought up in a messianic fellowship, which is a merge of Jewish and non Jewish believers, who come together as a congregation to worship the same Lord and risen Christ. There are many of the old traditions practised together with new and ground breaking songs and styles of worship. We were all taught the Shema in its full added to form which is:

Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinh, Adonai echad.

Baruch shem kevod, malchuto

L’elom va’ed

So, today. These words from the Shema are straight from the Bible, and are correct. We have open eyes to see their true meaning, and have had the veils taken away by the blood of Christ. Sadly, most of the people who love God and say these words in worship every single day, have still got the veils over their eyes, and can’t see the risen Lord. They are still in darkness. They can’t see the joy and wonder of all that Jesus has done for us, or the Holy Spirit given as a gift for us, and who is at work within us all the time making us more and more like Jesus. I think it is time that more of the church prayed for these friends. Pray for the Lord to show Himself to them, so they may join us as brothers and sisters on the same vine, worshipping together with freedom.

I looked up the word Messianic and found these definitions

  • Relating to the Messiah “the messianic role of Jesus”
  • Inspired by the hope or belief in a messiah “the messianic expectations of that time”
  • fervent or passionate “ an admirable messianic zeal”

or these definitions

  • the promised and expected deliverer of the Jewish people.
  • Jesus Christ, regarded by Christians as fulfilling this promise and expectation. John 4:25,26
  • Any expected deliverer
  • a zealous leader of some cause or project

If only every eye could see who Jesus really is and how He really is the deliverer and saviour of the whole world and all peoples. We could give the whole earth back to God and live as we should have done in the first place, as it was meant to be before sin.

Love your neighbour, Love yourself

I have a simple message for you tonight, prepared at short notice. I would contend though it is a very important message and a clarion call to authentic Christian living in a society that is increasingly hostile to the true Christian Gospel.

We are going to have a look at some of the most significant words our Lord Jesus Christ uttered whilst He walked the earth among us – words in which our very relationship with Almighty God depends. Before we apply these words to ourselves it is vital that we understand the proper historical context of the word and the source of Jesus words from the Old Testament. So we’ll start with that, and we’ll move on to how it impacts us today……

Toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus was asked the following question by the Pharisees – the religious leaders of the day:

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

He replied

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

38 This is the great and first commandment.

39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

To fully understand how radical and important His reply was we need to look at the significance of these words and where they come from. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 6:4….

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV)

This is THE most important of all Jewish prayers, the ‘Semah Israel’ (the Jewish word for ‘hear O Israel’) It is a declaration of faith and a pledge of allegiance to God. Twice daily, recitation of the Shema Israel is a commandant for the Jewish people — it is said upon rising in the morning and going to sleep at night. It is said when praising God and when beseeching Him. The Shema Israel is the first prayer taught to Jewish children (as soon as they can talk) and it is the last words Jew says before death. It is a prayer of praise to God and it is a prayer of pleading, as well. The Shema is recited in preparation for the reading of the Torah on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays and at the end of the holiest day, Yom Kippur.

His audience, the Pharisees of Jesus’ day prided themselves on meticulous observance of the Law, so they would practice all of the above observances. Along with the Ten Commandments, they would have paid rigorous attention to all the laws in the books of Moses some 613 according to tradition. They would spend their days reasoning out the implications of the laws, and to make sure that they avoided even the possibility of violating any of them – an outward perfect observance.

However, Jesus makes it clear here that religious observance is not enough – and indeed mere observance of the law without LOVE is a perversion of what the Shema teaches.

You see Jesus understood that the Pharisees had lost sight of the very heart of the matter; they were observing the law externally, but not observing the law out of a motive of a love for God.

A paraphrase of that verse reads “Love the Lord Your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence Matt 22:37 (MSG). So, it’s bluntly clear that outward observance of the law was not enough. Without the pure motive of obedience out of a love for God, the external observance of the commandments becomes just a ceremony. In another place in the scriptures we can see that Jesus specifically warned the Pharisees of the danger:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean”

Matthew 23: 25-26 (NIV)

So, Jesus answers the Pharisees question with an extract from the Law. These are the highly religious men of the day – the very same men who constantly question Jesus’ authority, His teaching, His credibility; the men who out of ignorance and veiled eyes contrive his crucifixion. I don’t know what answer they expected to their question, but I am certain they did not expect Him to refer to the THE most important prayer that ever fell across their lips! But in doing so, He does not affirm them, He actually convicts them for their pious religious observance, which is rooted in self-indulgence, hypocrisy and outward appearance.

He takes it still further and contests that they should not only love God with every ounce of their being, but they are to love their neighbour and they are to love themselves. I shan’t be looking at the historical context of that second command today, but we shall certainly refer to it when we consider how this command of Jesus impacts on us as Christians.

Outward religious observance without a changed heart is not what the Lord looks for – it wasn’t then and it certainly isn’t now!

“……for the Lord sees not as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7 (MEV)

So in summary, Jesus uses the most important prayer in the Jewish tradition to condemn the religious leaders who consider themselves to be the role model and the pinnacle of that religious practice! The point that Jesus makes so clearly is you can look religious but if you are hardened and dirty inside it is just a show and a sham.

So much for the historical context, but what does this mean for us today?

I am going to make it simple (because I’m simple!) God is not interested in how many times a year you go to church; He is not interested in your service for Him week after week, year after year; he is not interested if you know your Bible inside out; He is not interested that you have watched Songs of Praise diligently for 30 years: he is not interested if you give money to good causes

UNLESS

you are doing these things out of a right heart attitude!!!!!!!!

Friends, I want to reassure you that our Dear Lord is not looking for perfect Christians. I’m glad about that because I would fail miserably on that count; He is looking for passionate Christians. He is looking for disciples who will follow Him through thick and thin and love Him because He first loved them.

“…….[his/her] sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much”

Luke 7:47b (KJV)

I know that many if not all of you here know the Love of God. Therefore I challenge you (and first and foremost myself) do you Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind? Or has that love grown a little – dare I say – lukewarm, cold even over the years??

You see it is my contention that when we look at that command of Jesus in it’s entirety, I believe that if we are following / experiencing the first part of the commandment (to love God first), then the second will follow WITHOUT US HAVING TO THINK ABOUT IT TOO MUCH!

What Jesus commands to is an ACTIVE love, not a passive love. You see, to love the Lord your God with all of your mind, soul, strength requires commitment and effort; although it does overflow from a heart full of thankfulness , there are of course times when it doesn’t come so easily such as times of sadness and testing.

I confidently believe that if a believer has a wholehearted, full-on relationship, Spirit filled with God – i.e. loves God with all of him or herself, then loving others will come naturally – or more correctly, supernaturally. This is because His love will be apparent in all that we do or say; it comes across in our appearance; our body language; our compassion for the lost and the disadvantaged; sinner or saint alike we cannot but love our neighbour.

Now…. I am the first to admit that I fall far short of that standard, so what am I do do? Try and love my neighbour more? Be a better person? Well, that’s no bad thing I guess, but the single most important thing I can do is ASK GOD TO HELP ME FULFIL THE FIRST OF HIS COMMANDS – TO LOVE GOD COMPLETELY. This is because if I do so, then the second command will be a natural extension of who I am.

Which brings me on to the last part of my talk and there are some sensitivities here, so I will try to tread carefully. Out of our love for God, we ought to love ourselves too. For some, this is actually the hardest part of that command of Jesus to fulfil. Some are damaged by life events, or the way they have been treated during their lives and they have a negative view of themselves. This can present itself in many ways and none of them positive. We can suffer from clinical depression (which is NOT a sin or failure in God’s sight!), or low self-esteem. Very often if we show a lack of love and respect for others because we do not love and respect ourselves, and that is not an easy one to offer an answer to. It’s certainly beyond the scope of my talk tonight.

I would merely point you to who our Almighty God says you are, and if you struggle with this area in your life I am just pray over you now that the reality of this scripture would hit home to you.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Pet 2:9-10 (NIV)

In conclusion:

Friends, be lovers of God – not lovers of religion!

Religion is not a dirty word (in some charismatic churches they pray for religion to be removed from the church). I don’t agree; religion is good BUT only when practised by the born-again believer. God does not require and indeed is grieved by empty religious activity, as evidenced by our passage tonight.

Keith Green once said “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more that going to McDonald’s make you a Hamburger” (great quote!)

So I would urge you to look at your walk with the Lord this evening. Is all well? DO you do things you do in God’s name out of your love for him, or is it just something you do because you have always done it?

Has your love grown a little cold?

DO you find yourself not loving yourself or your neighbour as you should?

Then I would urge you to pray with me as we close this message. That all of us would be so transfixed on the loveliness of our Lord Jesus; so captivated by His sacrifice; so astonished that He would love a sinner like me; that we offer all of our hearts, minds and souls afresh to Him.

 

True Worship?

What do we see as worship? Do we see the fast songs as praise and slower songs as worship? Is this the only worship we experience or take part in? Are we missing out on true worship?

Worship is not limited to songs and times with music within our church services. It is beautiful to be in a service and experience the powerful and important times of worship. These are needed in our walk with God and it is vital that churches include these times during services. Worship though is not only these times.

William Temple describes worship in this way,

“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God; The quickening of our conscience by His holiness; The nourishment of mind with His truth; The purifying of imagination by His beauty; The opening of the heart to His love; The surrender of will to His purpose – and all this gathered up in adoration with the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable, and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centredness which is the original sin and the source of actual sin.”

So should our worship be a ongoing, continual event? I think it has to be. If God loves and desires us to be in a continuous attitude of worship and it is evident in our lifestyles, hobbies, relationships and friendships, then it must be a constant in our hearts. Everything we do and say should be showing our worship and love of God. God sees our hearts and minds, which no one else can see. He can see how we worship and how we love.

2 Chronicles 16 v 9, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him”

How amazing is it that God is loyal to those who love Him in all circumstances and desire to do His will. Worship is the start.

Volunteering

“Thriving churches have a culture that honours and celebrates their volunteers. Their volunteer teams are characterised by camaraderie, fun and mutual respect. However, experience shows that this does not just happen. The key leaders must build it into the culture of the church.”   Steven Matthew.

Churches across the world are full of loving volunteers that give willingly their time, skills, experience, money, emotions, energy, love and loyalty to their congregations and the building up Gods people and churches in their areas. They are priceless and a necessary group. This army of people are in many cases what keeps the church going and without their support and energy working tirelessly in the background most Pastors and leaders would not have a church to go to. They are indispensable. And they are amazingly awesome!!

How does our church honour these wonderful people? How are they encouraged to keep going when they are tired and feeling unloved? How do we thank those who are the backbone of all we see happen on a Sunday and throughout the week? We need to be as committed to this group as much as we are committed to any other mission we have. These amazing people make the impossible possible by their giving to God all they have. We are on the receiving end of their support, but know they do it for the Lord of Lords.

We need to celebrate involvement and those who give all and give a little.

Better Communication

Good communication is needed in every relationship, but I feel more so now that a lot of our words are typed through text messages or emails. We have lost most face to face communication, and since there is a high percentage of how we speak is done by body language or facial and vocal expressions, there is much more of a chance to get the wrong message from the one that was meant.

Our relationships thrive on good communication, and I feel it is the nutrient needed for a healthy relationship, whoever that is with. It could be your Pastor, spouse, friends, shop staff, employees, postman, the list is endless.

Norman Wright explains that when people communicate there are at least 6 messages that come through.

What you mean to say

What you actually say

What the other person hears

What the other person thinks they hear

What the other person says about what you said

What you think the other person said about what you said

This shows how important it is to think and work on how we communicate with everyone we have contact with. By spending more time working on what and how we say to others, we can make sure more of what we say is clear and helps us to smooth out any weaknesses we may have in this area.

If we want a relationship to go deeper, then we need to grasp how to communicate with that person, not just in what we say but in how our body and  vocal languages come across. We all have some hang ups in this area. We may have a fear of opening up to others for fear of rejection, fear of being hurt, low self esteem or image. All these factor in when we open up to anyone. The relationship will only ever go as deep as you are willing to communicate with openness and honesty. Say what you mean, and work hard to say it in the way you would want it to be received. Try to put yourself in the other persons shoes for a minute and think about how you would want that sentence, greeting, criticism, word of encouragement to be said. How would we want to receive that spoken and unspoken communication?

Try to be constructive and focus on the positives of the other person or group.

Proverbs 18:21,” your tongue has the power of life or death.”

Bring life and love to our relationships.

 

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