Day 15 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:7-11

Ask…Seek…Knock…

I’m pretty much the world’s worst about asking.  I think it’s my propensity for pride and DYI and being in control.  I can, in fact, handle and manage pretty well – by the world’s standards.  Unfortunately it’s not the world’s standards I’d like to achieve.

Here’s what I’m learning about asking from my Father in heaven.

I have only a vague idea where I want to end up when I decide to pray.  Sometimes that uncertainty keeps me from jumping right in.

So ASK is a tool that gets me off Go.

  1. Ask – just spit it out. What’s on your mind?
  2. Seek – as I try to tell God what I’m thinking, the Holy Spirit guides me.
  3. Knock – We arrive together at the right door.

All this seems kind of simplistic but the truth is, I am changed by just engaging in this mystery – I have somehow walked side by side with God!

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Day 14 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:1-6

Judging – always a fun subject.

Judge – krinō (Strong’s 2919) meant originally to “separate”.  Like separating the grain from the chaff it means “to distinguish, to pick out, to be of opinion, to judge.”

Here’s the thing.  Do not judge other people for the purpose of criticizing their life choices or their actions and certainly not their relationship with God.  Seriously, you want to put your “impeccable discernment” out there?  You get the same measuring stick you have used right back at ya!  Not advisable.

Can I help my brother see his issues? Maybe.

But only if you have dealt with your own issues first.  So you can judge yourself.  Since I have a 2×4 in my eye it’s likely to take a lot longer to dislodge than that splinter I have noticed about my friend.  In fact, if the friend hasn’t noticed the splinter themselves, there’s a chance it will soon hurt (I mean, if it was really there in the first place) and they will take care of it with the help of the Holy Spirit alone.  Best choice is to wait to be asked to administer First Aid.  Meanwhile physician heal thyself is a good rule of thumb.

Judging in terms of criticizing is off limits but judging in determining where and when to talk about holy things is wise.  We are not talking about people here, as in these dog/swine people are not worthy to hear about holy things.  We are talking about more like there is a time and place for everything.

When the forum and the attitude is not open – don’t.  When an individual person is unreceptive – wait.  When the arena is inappropriate – it may never, ever, be the right place.  (I am coming to believe that trying to make laws that expect non-believers to live up to something that believers can only do by the grace of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit…well, just might be the wrong venue.)  When we toss holy things around without discernment we ourselves are not honoring what is sacred.  Kinda comes back to judging one’s self, doesn’t it?

To judge or not to judge, that is indeed the question.  Humility in all things might be the beginning of the answer.

Day 13 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:25-34

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

This morning is filled with a list of phone calls and appointments and inquiries that are urgent.  Time is short for finding these solutions so if I can’t wrangle each of these down I need to regroup and find other targets.  I have come to dread this part of the job.

So, with all this on my mind it’s hard not to feel guilty about spending time in the mornings on this study until I remember, there is nothing more important than time in the Word and with the Word.

In fact, the anxiety building over the work before me can only be calmed in this very place.

O you of little faith, your heavenly Father knows that you need these things.

This morning Lord, I am here to hear Your words and place my trust in you. Here are my lists and fears. Let me walk away from this time and face the challenges of the work you have given me. But let me leave the concerns in Your hands.

Today I will “set my foot” upon the land you have promised to give. Today I relinquish anxiety and chose to be strong and courageous for you have said: “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”. In the name of the Mighty One, Amen.

Day 12 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:19-24

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

You don’t have to have been around Christianity very long before you become aware that to put one’s faith in God is a call to relinquish faith in anything else.  It all sounds good – until you try it on for size.

Frankly money is the answer to almost every immediate problem in the world.  I don’t care too much about holding on to it.  I’m ready to spend in a heartbeat if it will get me or anyone I know out of whatever need or situation is bearing down upon us.  Truly it is my first line of defense if that is all it takes.

The thing about money is I do not have enough for the big things.  $1000/month for Bruce’s medications if a pain doctor cannot be found to help; to pay all of someone’s bills every month because they can’t get a job; to care for a young widow and 3 children while they recovery from a father’s untimely death – just don’t have it.  No way to get it. I’m too old to rob banks.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…”

Literally, this says, “Do not treasure your treasures”.  It makes a twist in my former understanding.  Don’t treasure your money.  Spend your money if it will help.  Use your money for whatever it will cover but don’t look at it as your salvation.

Then there are the things money won’t fix.  No amount staves off aging, dementia, a stroke, a broken heart, loss, unexpected death, grief.  It’s dark.

I’ve never quite understood this verse in between the two segments about treasure until now.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

It occurs to me that I have had this experience.  You can be full of light or full of darkness.  This can be directly related to where you look (with your eye).   In those times when I knew that I knew money would not help.  When I found I had inadvertently placed my security on income. When without the promises of God I would have been without hope – my eyes were forced to look to Him.  In those darkest of times, my body was flooded with Light.  It was not reasonable to expect such comfort or peace or hope but it was, in fact, a flood that brought all of these.

I’ve never since been able to think about money/treasure quite the same.

Earthly treasures are His gifts.  I use them.  But more and more He reminds me He wants my eye on Him.  He is the treasure on which to gaze.

Day 11 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:16-18

…that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret

I did a quick review of all the verses in the KJV that mentioned fast or fasting.  After weeding out the ones talking about fast as in “hold fast” or fasten as in “attached to your belt or the wall”, this is a summary of what I discovered about fasting as in “not eating”.

Fasting was done when a people or person was in mourning.  Sometimes the mourning was over their sin; sometimes the mourning was over a loss of a person they loved.

Fasting was done when a people or person was deliberately seeking God.  Sometimes the seeking was for protection; sometimes for direction; sometimes for strength and preparation.

Fasting was often accompanied by prayer – which makes perfect sense when you consider mourning and asking. “Prayer and fasting” were a means to direct ones attention to God with no distractions so as to gain insight into the mind of God on a matter.

Fasting was also abused and ritualized.  Jezebel fakes a national fast to get an innocent man killed; the Pharisees made fasting twice a week an outward sign of holiness and used it to bring attention to themselves; Israel fasted outwardly but their hearts were far from God’s heart.

In this passage, Jesus condemns fake fasting for show. Fasting is okay but not for the wrong reasons.

We can certainly consider “fasting” from things that replace God in our lives.  We can “give up” and “take a break” in order to clear a spot in our schedule for more time devoted to God.

But what I think is, we don’t really initiate fasting.  It’s more like fasting comes to us out of recognition of our great need.

Maybe the choice before us is so weighty we dare not just decide with our own wisdom.

More often our sorrow is overwhelming; our sin has become too very heavy.  We are lost and needy and desperate.   Either food is the last thing on our minds or we know nothing to do but formally hide away until God answers.

I was particularly struck by Isaiah’s writing about fasting as he records the Lord’s words.  Maybe this is the practical daily action and fasting in the ways mentioned before will come when they come.

6“Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”  Isaiah 58:6-7

Day 10 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:7-15

…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Dee Wilcox posted:

He is the Bread of Life, and I cannot go one day without Him.

It also reminds me to live with an open hand, to accept and be thankful for what He gives each day, even in the hard. Especially in the hard. I trust that what He gives isn’t just enough — it’s exactly what I need.”

I responded:

Your words about having open hands caused me to see an image of someone at the altar rail with their hands cupped and open to receive communion – the Bread of Life. This action is in no way related to my personal Christian experience and probably nothing I have ever done. That makes it all the more powerful for me think about today. It brings up all kinds of emotions: Child-like expectation – all the way to neediness. Today, as I pray I will do it with hands cupped and open and expectant

And then – with my hands cupped and open – I prayed through the Lord’s Prayer – telling the Lord everything He already knows are needs and receiving my daily bread with tears.

Day 9 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:38-6:6

[Disclaimer: The posted passage leaves out verses 5:44-48 – the entire section on ‘love your enemies’.  I know these things happen, but my type A questioning of “what did they really mean?” – throws me for a loop. You know the last line of that segment is “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Let me rest in “perfect” as in complete not as in perfectionist!  (Cue the music) “Let it go….”]

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

These are the verses God has challenged me with this year.  “…the one who is evil” has a connotation of hurtful rather than what I might think when I see the word: evil.  Hurtful people are the more likely ones I run in to.

So, how are they hurtful?  They bang into the controls and my life gets wobbly. They ask for things that stretch me.  They need more than I can fix or manage. They take away from my comfort.  They are not what I signed on for.  They drain my emotional tank and bring fear to my door.  Oh, and did I say they have impossible needs? They want a hug and comfort and help.

Let me say, I am not the bank or Mother Teresa —- and I am not my own.  (I would really rather be the bank.)

And you know what “not being my own” does?  It is slowly is pushing me to the end of myself and asking me – noforcing me to trust the One who promises to meet every need, mend every heart, love beyond comprehension and measure.

 He must increase, but I must decrease. ~ John the Baptist (John 3:30)

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” …“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”  John 21:17-19

Day 8 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:33-37

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

“A ‘no’ is as good as a ‘yes’.” This has been my mantra when it comes to prayer.  My thinking is that if I am truly trusting God for His answer and guidance (which by definition is always for His glory and my good), then a closed door has just eliminated one of many possibilities.  God is willing to say “no” because it leads in the ultimate right direction.

With this in mind, it is not a wonder that Jesus would tell me to be just as clear in my own responses.

I have vivid memories of telling my then teenagers, they could not go somewhere because I could not provide transportation, when in fact I wanted to say no to the event.  I thought the cover up would go down easier.  (If I’ve never confessed this lie, Lord, I do so now.)  Of course, it backfired because any teen who wants to do something can find a ride.  I had not only shot myself in the foot with my kid, but it made everything worse.

I learned a few painful but valuable lessons that day.  I could make bumper stickers.

  • Cover ups never work.
  • Honesty is always the best policy.
  • Conflict avoidance as a technique is probably just lying.
  • Speak the truth in love. If you can’t keep the two together, be quiet until you figure it out.
  • With God, a “no” is as good as a “yes”.

Day 7 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:27-32

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:20 

Six examples follow:

“You have heard that it was said….but I say to you…”  Jesus says this is what you have been taught about anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation and your enemies.  And following these teachings will get you a ‘righteousness’ equal to the Pharisees.  To enter the kingdom of heaven, yours must exceed that.

Jesus’ stated solution for adultery is the most violent in the list – pluck out the offending eye or cut off the offending hand.  The maiming of the offenders own body to ward off the maiming of the one flesh shared by the woman and her rightful husband or future husband?  And then divorce leads to adultery – the cycle is perpetuated.

The truth is we cannot obtain a ‘righteousness’ greater than the Pharisees apart from the one that Jesus provides.

Moreover, even having achieved that perfect covering I struggled daily to give him the full reign of my heart.  Success is varied and not particularly lasting – most likely because the struggling is my own working at it.

I’m learning a new tactic – simply just setting heart and mind to draw near to God and stay near Him.  (You apparently can teach an old dog new tricks. 🙂 )  Not that this idea is really new, just new to my practice. “Drawing near” has no particular steps to follow that I can discern.  It is, at this time for me, simply thinking about His presence and being a child and Father together*.

Bob gave me a quote from someone’s advice about stress: “choosing meaning is more healthful than avoiding discomfort”.  I think I’d like to modify it to: chose meaning over avoiding discomfort.  I like to think I am choosing a meaning-filled relationship with the Father over the struggle of trying to dodge sin in my own power.

—–

*“Drawing near to the Father”, among other things, is something God is awakening in me because of one particular young man’s life. (When you are 65 and the kid is late thirties, you call him a young man.)  I recommend to you Bigger Than My Box by John Cullimore. It’s not fancy but it is deep.  John is a man of many talents – singer, song-writer, author, dedicated husband, vibrant daddy to a gaggle of girls – but overall, a guy who knows how to be a child of the Father.  Thanks, John.  I’m learning from you in every page.

a $3.99 e-book available on Amazon – Bigger Than My Box by John Cullimore

Day 6 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:21-26

“First be reconciled to your brother…”

Whether for anger or disagreement – I think the heart of the matter is TO BE RECONCILED. It really doesn’t matter to Jesus how you got there, just make it right.

In John 17:21 Jesus prayed to the Father: that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

When I aim anger, insults and name calling at someone else in the body of Christ I am, quite literally, shooting myself in the foot. I know I can rationalize and justify my words and even believe I can assuage any guilt with a “nice gift to God” but until I repair the damage, the body bleeds.

Further the onus is on the one who knows someone else has been offended by them. I’ve always thought this to be curious. How could I know? Maybe because I was bringing a gift to the altar –when the Holy Spirit made me aware? That would be just like Him to send me off to do triage.

Oh, and those pesky accusers. Sometimes they just don’t give up even when I have tried to explain. Here Jesus tells me to bend and give and bend some more. It is not as important “who is right” as it is to resolve the tension. To be stubborn will insure I will be out of the game for a long time. Not only will that be painful to me but it will hinder the work Jesus has for me to do for Him.

We have been given the ministry of reconciliation on behalf of those who are far off from God. How effective can we possibly be if we do not begin with each other?

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling[b] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Cor. 5:8-21