Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 8 2013 - Matthew 6:25-7:14 – The Speck and the Plank

One of my jobs on a Saturday, particularly during the winter months, is to saw wood for our wood-burning stove. After an hour or two working over the bench-saw my glasses are speckled with sawdust and I cannot see clearly until I have given them a good clean.

Jesus the carpenter paints an amusing and striking picture of a person with a plank of wood in their eye offering to remove the speck of sawdust from someone else's eye. Amusing, that is, until we realise that this is a portrait of how we behave all too often. We have an inbuilt tendency to ignore, excuse or even justify our own faults while being wonderfully sensitive to the smallest faults in others. We may even see this as a virtue; we have a gift for putting others right. Even as I write, I am acutely conscious of many examples of such a fault – in other people!

Such conduct is a reflection of our own insecurity. Our failure to appreciate that we are loved and accepted by our heavenly Father who delights to lavish his good gifts on us even though he is far from blind to our faults.

Nor are we to be blind to our own faults. Jesus calls us to watch over our own hearts and over our own conduct. He calls us to be critical of ourselves and forgiving towards others. He calls us to treat others in the way we would wish to be treated by them (Matthew 7:12). Just as we long for others to overlook our faults and forgive our mistakes so we must treat them in the same way. More than that, Jesus calls us to treat others with the same kindness, grace, forgiveness and love that God has shown towards us. He has not treated us as our sins deserve. He is slow to judge and full of mercy. What would happen if God were to treat us in the way we treat others?

It is far from easy to live like this. And Jesus knows it for he tells us that the path of discipleship – the path that leads to life – is hard. We cannot manage to walk it on our own or by our own resources. We can only live like this as Christ lives in us and the grace of God flows through us. That’s why he tells us:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8).

Luke adds a specific application of this promise by telling us that God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13). We need continually to seek God’s help to enable us to live the life of the kingdom. It is the Spirit of the risen Jesus, living in us who makes us like Christ and enables us to live the life of secure and blessed children of God that Jesus calls us to live in his Sermon on the Mount.

Lord, help me to keep a watch upon my heart today. Keep me from mean and ungenerous thoughts about others. Help me keep a watch on my tongue that I may not express quick judgments about others but that all my words may be seasoned with grace. Continually remind me of the wonder of your grace by which I am forgiven, restored, loved and provided for rather than being brought to judgment. Give me a greater measure of your Spirit that I may be more like Jesus. Help me to bring something of the blessings of your kingdom to those around me today.

Jan 8 2019 - Genesis 4:1-16 – My brother's keeper

Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve's first children. Abel was a shepherd and his brother Cain was an arable farmer. Both seem to have been aware that the good things they gained from their daily toil were evidence of God's continuing goodness and mercy. So they brought offerings to God from the fruit of their labour as an expression of thankfulness to him. We do not know why God was pleased with Abel's offering but not with that of Cain. Maybe Cain resented having to part with some of the hard won produce of his labour while Abel gave his willingly and gladly. God looks on the heart. Whatever the reason, Cain certainly resented the fact that God found favour with his brother's offering but rejected what he had brought. This resentment poisoned Cain's heart and before long he seized on the opportunity to murder his brother.

In Genesis one and two we noted that God made us for fellowship with himself and to be a blessing to one another and to all that God has made. In Genesis three we saw that rebellion against God brought with it a dislocation not only in our relationship with him but in human relationships also. Cain and Abel provide us with a tragic illustration of relationships which should be characterised by love and mutual support degenerating into resentment, hatred and murder.

When God challenged Cain asking, "Where is your brother Abel?" Cain replied, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain was probably not expecting a direct answer, but perhaps we could venture one. Yes, we were created to be those who care for, protect and provide for one another. We were created to be our brother's keeper. The tragedy is that we now live in a world where so many are intent upon looking after themselves and their own interests, even at the expense of others. None of us is entirely innocent of such tendencies and conduct, even if we may have stopped short of murder.

God told Cain that his brother's blood cried out to him from the ground – cried out for God to exact justice. God then declared his punishment upon Cain.

But I want to shift the focus for a moment. We, like Adam and Eve, have ignored God and chosen to go our own way. But God did not act in vengeance; he loved us so much that he sent his Son into the world for us. Jesus identified himself with us, taking upon himself our humanity and not being ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters (see Hebrews 2:11). Instead of coming down in judgment, he came to die for us, to shed his blood for us upon the cross. His blood does not cry out to God for vengeance, it pleads with God for our forgiveness. Hebrews 12:24 says that we who have come to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ have come "to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." This truth is beautifully expressed in an old hymn by Friedrich Filitz:

Abel’s blood for vengeance
Pleaded to the skies;
But the blood of Jesus
For our pardon cries.

Praise God for Jesus who answer's Cain's question "Am I my brother's keeper?" with a resounding "Yes I am!" We who follow this wonderful Saviour must answer Cain's question in the same way.

What does it mean for us to live in this world thankful for all God gives us and determined to "be our brother's keeper", to care for one another? What will that mean for you this week?

Father God, thank you so much for Jesus my brother who shed his blood for me that I might be reconciled with you and know the embrace of your love. Help me to tell others of your amazing love.

Peter Misselbrook