Reflection on Matthew 23:1-12

Scripture

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

Observation
Jesus tells his followers that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law are the interpreters of the Law so it is right to obey their teaching. However they are hypocrites whose example must not be followed.

The teachers love attention and adulation. They love the titles of honour.

Followers of Jesus must not chase titles and positions. Rather Christian leaders must firstly be servants. Everyone who raises themselves up will be pulled down, but those who humble themselves will be lifted up.

Application
I noted just last night how nobody in our church calls me “Pastor.” The closest we get to a title is the kids who call me “Mr Keith.”

The fact is that nobody is any more exalted than anybody else in God’s Kingdom. Sure some have leadership roles, but that does not make them any more important than the people struggling to keep their life together.

To build true community means that we all have to be in it together. Nobody gets to be the boss, at least not in the sense of making burdens for other people to carry. A true leader listens to everyone’s opinion and then sets the direction.

We share the mission. We share the burdens. We share the decisions.

Prayer
Thank you Father for the gift of community, a body of followers of Jesus who commit to love you and each other. Please help those of us charged with leadership to always stay humble and focussed on serving you. Amen.

Reflection on 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Scripture

For you know that I dealt with each of you as a father deals with his children.

Observation

Paul worked day and night in order to support himself and not be a burden to anyone while he preached the gospel among them.

He was righteous and blameless. He was like a father to the church, encouraging, comforting and exhorting each person to live lives worthy of God’s kingdom.

Application

Paul very much gave his heart to the church at Thessalonica. He describes himself like a mother (v. 7) and now like a father to them.

We all need spiritual fathers and mothers to help us grow into maturity in Christ. The kingdom is totally relational in character, rather than hierarchical or institutional.

Spiritual fathers will give their hearts to us, leading us into places of healing and restoration.

We need to give our hearts to our fathers also, loving and encouraging them in return.

No matter how far we progress in the life of the Spirit, there will always be people who can teach, mentor and encourage us on the journey.

Prayer

Father, I thank you for the spiritual fathers in my life. Help me to grow and mature under their care, and to reach out to others who might need me ti be a father to them. Amen.

Reflection on Psalm 107:1-9

Give thanks to the Lord

All you redeemed ones

Praise the Lord.

He brought you through deserts of

Sin and destruction

To the place of life and joy.

Yes Lord I love you

Jesus you saved me

On that cross you died

You redeemed me

Set me free

For eternity.

The desert trapped me

No way out.

The heat of hell burnt my soul.

Your living water

Revived me

Washed me

Killer Clowns Terrorise France

From the ABC:

Clown terror spreads in France, another teenager arrested

Updated 15 minutes agoTue 28 Oct 2014, 10:15am

A 14-year-old dressed as a clown has been arrested near Paris for attempting to attack a woman, in the latest incident of fake, evil clowns terrorising passers-by in France.

Complaints have poured in recently over “armed clowns” wreaking havoc in various parts of the country.

Police have detained several people dressed as the pranksters – some carrying pistols, knives and baseball bats.

The bizarre phenomenon has even prompted anti-clown vigilantism, forcing police to try to quell the hysteria by saying there have only been a few sightings of the terrifying clowns.

On Monday, a woman who had just got out of her car in Chelles, an eastern suburb 18 kilometres from central Paris, called the police, saying two clowns – one of whom was armed with a fake axe – had attacked her, a source said.

They escaped when a passer-by armed with a baseball bat tried to stop them.

One of the pranksters was later detained when police spotted him, white make-up still covering his face.

In a separate incident just half-an-hour afterwards, a dozen people wearing the smiling, white masks associated with the Anonymous hacktivist collective attacked three youths and stole their mobile phones at a station in Melun, a south-eastern suburb of Paris.

The “evil clown” trend previously seen in the United States and Britain only began in the north of France in early October.

In the town of Bethune, a 19-year-old received a six-month suspended jail term last week for threatening passers-by while dressed as a clown.

The “clowns” have been “mostly spotted outside schools, but also on public roads, in bushes, and in a square.

Their targets are often young children or teenagers, but also adults,” a police source in northern France said. It then spread to the south of France.

‘Clown hunters’ also on police radar

French police released information warning against armed anti-clown vigilantes taking to the streets.

“The National Police have received many reports of clowns frightening passers-by, but many are fanciful and the proportion of children,” the police service said on its Facebook page.  

“Symptomatic of the impact of the internet, this phenomenon can generate harmful individual derivatives and disturbances to public order.

“On social networks, groups calling for collective mobilisations against clowns have appeared.

“Any person, aggressive clowns or hunters of clowns, discovered in possession of a weapon on the highway will be arrested.” 

Police on Saturday night arrested 14 teenagers dressed as clowns and carrying weapons in the Mediterranean port town of Agde.

In the nearby city of Montpellier, a man disguised as a clown was arrested after beating a pedestrian with an iron bar.

Theories abound as to the origin of the not-so-funny trend of violence in a country where Halloween has yet to take hold.

The suggestions include a challenge launched on social networks, a popular video on YouTube showing a terrifying clown pranking people or even a recent episode of the popular TV series American Horror Story featuring Twisty the killer clown.

AFP

Prayer and Money

One of the things that the Lord has been teaching me over a long period of time- like two decades- is that we can totally trust Him for the things that we need. For many years we were not able to draw any salary from the church, but God provided in different ways and we lacked nothing.

Since the church has grown over the last few years, there has been more money available but there are still times when things seem to close in. It’s good at those times to really seek the Lord for that need.

Last week was one of those times. I could see bills piling up, commitments that needed to be met and a seemingly small income. So I did what I do in these places- I prayed. It seemed that I should pray for an offering of $2500, and I did this at least four mornings. I felt good about it, peaceful that God had answered my prayer.

Sunday morning’s offering was $1800 which was good- at the top of what we expect to get. Another $200 from night church and a little from the bookshop took us to $2077 which I banked on Monday. A good result, but $500 short of what I was expecting.

This morning as I started to pay the bills I noticed something odd. The balance that I had on my computer was significantly different to the online balance from the credit union. I did a reconciliation and discovered that I had recorded one payment of $500 twice. That was the $500 we were seemingly short.

God is so good!

I wonder what I should be praying for this week.

Reflection on Joshua 3:7-17

Scripture

The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

Observation

The Lord tells Joshua that He is going to cause people to respect Joshua in the same way that they had respected Moses.

The plan is that the priests who carry the ark of the covenant are to step into the Jordan, which is in flood, and the Lord will cause the water to stop flowing.

As soon as they do this, the Jordan stops flowing. The priests stand on dry ground and the whole nation passes over safely.

Application

In some ways this is very much a new take on crossing the Red Sea. Just as Moses needed the Lord to part the waters so the people could pass through to safety, so Joshua needs the Lord to stop a flooding river so they can safely cross.

The ark of the covenant is the symbol of the presence of the Lord. It is the Lord’s presence that repels the forces which oppose Israel.

We also need the presence of the Lord- the manifest Holy Spirit- to enable us to achieve God’s purposes. Just praying isn’t enough. We have to walk in the reality of God with us, the Holy Spirit directing and empowering us.

This can only happen through daily time of fellowshipping with God, surrendering to Him and welcoming His presence.

Prayer

Father teach me how to enter the Holy Place of worship, praise and intercession so that I am able to walk in the confidence of your presence. Amen.

Postures in Prayer

Christians tend to overlook the fact that people are physical as well as spiritual. The science of Neurolingiustic Programming has demonstrated that we can affect our own emotions, and those of people we are talking to, by consciously changing our body position.

I have felt for a long time that the traditional evangelical posture of sitting when praying is really unhelpful. It makes our body too comfortable and tends to relax our minds so that we can have a tendency to zone out rather than engaging with the Holy Spirit. My personal preference is to stand and walk when I am interceding because that really helps me to stay focussed. That is probably related to my choleric personality type.

This morning I decided to prostrate myself before the Lord, to get low in order to focus on His greatness. After a few minutes I clearly heard Him say to me “Stand up, you are my son.” Last night it was right to lie down in repentance but today He wanted to honour me as His son so I stood.

This made me think about the postures in which we approach God. We need to think about what our bodies say about our heart attitude to the Lord. This is not a religious thing in which we dictate what we pray in different positions. We do not have to kneel to pray or face a particular direction. We do not have to pray at particular times or use particular words. We are physical people and our bodies, whether we think about it or not, are involved in our praying and worshipping.

Here are some common prayer postures that are helpful at particular times.

Prostrate– lying flat on my face, arms wide open. This is a position of humility and vulnerability. It is a place for intense repentance and surrender. “I am no longer my own, but yours.”

Kneeling. Again this is a position of humility. I am weak but you are strong. I find this is a place for deep intercession and groaning before the Lord. It’s uncomfortable but it reminds us that this is the place of prayer.

Standing. This is a place of assertive intercession and spiritual warfare. I am ready to enter the battle with Jesus against demonic hordes. When we stand we can confidently and boldly declare God’s purposes. Of course, I can walk or even march in this aggressive style of prayer.

Raised arms- praise, celebration. Yes I am a beloved son of the Most High God and He has set me free from my sin.

Be free in your praying. If you want to dance then dance. If you want to sing then sing. If you want to kneel then kneel. Experiment with different positions and places for prayer. Go deeper with the Lord.

Battered but not beaten

It was the perfect storm.

I felt the pressure rising all week, like when I forget to take my blood pressure pills for a couple of days. This wasn’t my blood pressure rising but spiritual pressure. I could feel the enemy closing in. The taunting and lies were increasing in my mind as the week went on, and I would shake them off from time to time, rebuking satan at other times. But they were relentless, returning to hammer my conscience with accusation and threat.

I was reading Heidi Baker’s book “Birthing the Miraculous” this week, and I was so excited about what she writes about. With a free evening, no commitments and my family all away, there was space to find the Presence of the Lord.

This afternoon the pressure ramped up. I heard the Lord tell me that I would face an unprecedented battle with evil, but it was OK. Then I heard satan say, “You will fail tonight. You will not choose relationship with God.”

I said “Goodbye” to my family members as they headed off in different directions. I cooked some dinner. The evening lay before me. And that choice.

I knew that satan was right. I had stopped fighting, because the fighting was way too hard. I sat down at my computer and surfed the net. Instead of listening to the gentle wooing of Jesus, I gave in to the mind-numbing trivia of the world. Instead of the healing of the Father, I sought nothingness. Rather than victory in the Holy Spirit I allowed temptation to defeat me.

Late in the evening I finally came and laid myself at the feet of the Lord. I  surrendered to Him in the Secret Place. This is a part of what He said to me:

You faced a huge temptation tonight. Satan has increased pressure on you all week and you have stood firm. Tonight was the biggest challenge you have ever faced- satan attacked you without restraint. There will be another challenge, but this time you will focus on me and my love, and you will stand firm, you will overcome.

I have given you my Spirit. I have called you by name. Know this and rejoice in me.

Not long after this there was a beautiful shower of rain. I went outside to enjoy the  smell and the coolness and the cleansing. It seemed to be a gift from the Lord, a sign of His love for me.

Book Review- “Birthing the Miraculous” by Heidi Baker

In this book Heidi Baker shares some of her experiences in sharing the gospel and caring for children in Mozambique.

In describing the power of the Holy Spirit to work miracles and bring healing to people, she constantly comes back to the importance of the Secret Place- time spent alone in the presence of the Father. It is intimacy with God that gives us the love for people that motivates us to share Jesus with them and then connects us with God’s power to release the miracles.

At times there have been battles. She recounts how she prayed for every blind person she met. For one year not one of them was healed but every one of them received Jesus. Then there was a blind woman named Aida (the equivalent of Heidi) who had no pupils or no iris but God restored her sight, The next blind person she met was also a woman and she was healed. In fact there were three women in a row that she met who were blind and who were healed- all three named Aida. This started a remarkable outpouring of miracles.

This is a breakthrough book for me. It ministers not just to the head but the heart. It reminds us again that we can do nothing apart from God, but with Him nothing is impossible.

Head knowledge of the Scriptures will not draw us closer to God. All the programmes and preaching brilliance that the church relies on will not bring revival to our land. We need to learn to depend on God and God alone.