Sunday, February 23, 2020

Fire Insurance - Matthew 6:19-21

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 6:19-21
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

LANGUAGE

Vs 19 Treasure - a deposit, wealth
Vs 20 Lay up - amass, store
Vs 21 Heart - thoughts and feelings

COMMENT

Faith is not merely intellectual assent. I do not buy into the idea that believing in God is "fire insurance" to get me to heaven. Even though this passage seems to refer to the idea of wealth or possessions, I think it can be extended to the idea of our souls as well. The first idea is obvious to me, that if we cling to money or possessions, that is where our loyalty will lie. The second takes a bit more thought. That if I try to "buy" my way into heaven with a head that says I believe but that does not affect my heart, I am only fooling myself, a certainly not God. If my treasure is the salvation of my soul without a love for the Savior of my soul, I am missing the point. If my treasure is my preservation, then my actions will follow suit. This is probably a big reason the Prosperity Gospel has so many followers, you get both! You get riches now, or at least the promise that God wants you to be rich, and you get the salvation of your eternal soul. I don't think it works that way, and I think many in the Bible would agree: John the Baptist, Moses, Peter and the rest of the disciples, Stephen, Samson, the Prophets (for some reason Amos especially comes to mind).

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

Matthew 12:35
The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.

Matthew 13:44
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

Mark 10:21
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

Luke 12:33 
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Prayer - Matthew 6:5-14

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 6:5-14

LANGUAGE

Vs 5 hypocrites - actor under an assumed character
Vs 6 secret - private, inwardly

COMMENTS

I find it interesting that when Jesus tells them how to pray, His first instruction is to not be like the hypocrites, using the same word He used in verse 2 when talking about doing your righteous deeds for show. Perhaps the same idea continues. Don't pray for show, thinking that God somehow owes you a response just because you pray to Him.

But when you do pray, don't do it to be seen (and praised) by others. Do it privately, because God will hear that prayer. Don't think your prayers have to be long to be effective. God knows what you need before you even ask. Now this brings up an interesting point. If God knows, why ask? My opinion? Look at the example prayer Jesus gives. It is not about a wish list of items, but rather is about the truth of who God is. It leads to worship. It leads to change our our part. How can you honestly say, "God forgive me as I forgive others," when you do not forgive?

What of that statement? Will God not forgive me if I don't forgive others? Sometimes forgiveness is hard. Sometimes it takes time. We are only human. I don't think this is a tit-for-tat statement, telling us that if we lack any forgiveness, God will not forgive us. I could be wrong. But rather, this is a statement causing us to check our hearts. If there is someone we have not forgiven, what are we doing to work on that? Do we feel the weight that unforgiveness is putting on us, on our relationship with others, on our relationship with God?

If God knows, why pray? Because it leads to worship. Worship God because of who he is, not what he gives or what you expect. This flies in the face of prosperity and most of what is preached and taught today.

V9 - Hallowed - Holy. Do we see God as Sovereign and holy first and foremost?
V10 - Do we pray for His will and His ways to be accomplished. If we bring a request, do we consider its place in the kingdom and His will?
V11 - Give us what we need. But if our eyes are fixed on heaven, even life itself is not a necessity.
V12 - Forgive us as we forgive others. Do we even realize what this means? That we are praying "God, don't forgive me if I don't forgive others?"Wow!
V13 - Lead us not into temptation (because we know we are weak), but deliver us from evil (because our souls are in your control)

I think I need to retool my prayer life.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Giving - Matthew 6:1-3

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 6:1-3

LANGUAGE

Vs 1 practicing - among other thoughts, lay in wait, do.
Vs 1 righteousness - equity of character
Vs 1 reward - pay for services, wages
Vs 2 give - same word as practicing (Vs 1)
Vs 2 hypocrites - actor under an assumed character

COMMENT

It is not the action, but the intent that drives the reward. When we see someone as being generous, we tend to think of them as a good person. However, that may be their intent, and if so, are they really good? Or are they using someone's unfortunate circumstance and their own fortunate circumstance to elevate people's opinions of them? Marching down the street, throwing money to the crowd. Everyone applauds and praises the individual. But that is where the reward ends. A blind man sits on the street. A man conspicuously pulls out his wallet and drops in several bills of various denominations. The crowd smiles and nods to the man. But that is where the reward ends.

Christians are to give with a cheerful heart. If your giving is not recognized and applauded, and you are disappointed, my guess is your reward ends there.

I find the phrase in verse 1 interesting, "practicing you righteousness." If your righteousness has to be practiced, perhaps it is not righteousness at all. If you see someone in need, and your response is to think of how your reaction will reflect on you rather than on how it will help the one in need, perhaps it is too late. I again turn to the idea of living a repentant life rather than seeing repentance as a action we do at a point in time to achieve salvation. When we see a need, do we feel compassion? Do we feel the compassion that Jesus had for us when He gave us salvation? If that is not what drives our response, then I question the motive.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) tells us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices in view of God's mercy. In other words, seeing how merciful God is in what He has done through Christ, our only acceptable reaction would be to serve and worship Him.

I find it interesting that the word practicing and the word give are the same words. I like the idea of laying in wait. One lays in wait to glorify self, while the other lays in wait, or looks for opportunities to glorify God. The one who glories self is the actor, playing the part of the righteous or religious person. The other is the real deal.

Other related stories: Pharisee and Publican, Good Samaritan

Who Do You Love? Matthew 5:43-48

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 5:43-48

LANGUAGE

Vs 44 Love - agape. Love in a social or moral sense
Vs 44 Enemies - hateful, odious, actively hostile. An adversary, Satan
Vs 44 Persecute - to make run or flee, drive away
Vs 48 Perfect - completeness

COMMENTS

I believe this section just continues and furthers the thoughts of the previous section. Man's way of thinking is love those who love you, hate those who hate you. I believe we can clearly see this expressed in our current political scene in America. It is called Partisan Politics. One of the things I find interesting about it is the blindness of those to even consider what the other side is saying. When we hate, I believe there is a blindness that goes along with that emotion. I also think other emotions have a similar effect, anger, greed, and fear for example.

But if we are blind, can we be sons of God? Aren't the blind the ones walking into the pits or following other blind people into them? (Matthew 15:12-14)

Love them. Hope for the best for them. Pray for the best for them. Have compassion on them. DO not let your negative emotions drain both their spirit and yours. God loves them. God sends rain to earth, and all benefit from it, not just those who love Him. To hate those who hate you is to be like those who hate you. That just might be a hard pill to swallow. To say hello to only those who will return the greeting does not show love to them. Who knows, you just might open a door to be able to reason with them. Perfection is tough. But to be complete is our goal.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Getting Even - Matthew 5:38-42

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 5:38-42

LANGUAGE

Vs 39 - resist: Oppose, stand against, withstand, set against
Vs 39 - one who is evil: hurtful, hurtful, wicked, diseased

COMMENT

Revenge. We all love it, when someone else is getting the short end of it. Posts on Social Media tell "the most excellent" stories of revenge, and people eat them up. We justify it with thoughts of, "Yes, they deserved that!" And it was the basis of the Old Testament system. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life. So the one-eyed, toothless, dead people could always be found in pairs.

But Jesus taught differently. Do not stand in opposition to those who seek to hurt you. In fact, if they slap you on one cheek, turn the other to them. If they sue you to take the shirt off your back, offer them your jacket too. If they want you to help them move out, help them move in too. Give to the beggar, loan to the slacker. But what fun is that?

What about the good old (as in Old Testament) days? Why such a radical change?

We must remember, the OT was set up as a stop-gap measure, to lead us to the time of Christ.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,  not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

A new covenant. Not just new, but completely different. Not that the old was bad or wrong, but it lacked a certain Spirit. Someone does you wrong, you take your revenge, and it is over. Now, we live in a time when we should understand that WE deserve revenge. We deserve the wrath of God for what we have done to Him. Our lives are to reflect that message. As a praise to God and as a witness to those who do not believe.

That's a tough teaching for many to swallow. It does not preach well. Without repentance, without a heart that has been changed by the Gospel, it is impossible. Like trying to put a camel through the eye of a needle.

But with God, all things are possible...

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Raising the Bar 2...Matthew 5:27-30

SCRIPTURE


COMMENTS

Yesterday we saw the idea of how Jesus does not erase the things of the law we would do to be a Christian, He actually raises the bar. He does this to show us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Today, He does it again using the idea of lust.

The 10 commandments say that "You shall not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14) Jesus says that to look at a woman with lustful intent, and you have committed adultery. This puts forth the idea that to think about doing something is the same as doing it in God's eyes. See a woman walking down the street. Thinking thoughts that are not pure? Boom! You're a sinner. Get back too much change from the cashier, hesitating about what to do? Thanking about pocketing that cash? Boom! You're a sinner. Hit your thumb with a hammer. Thinking about which words to express your feelings? Some of them involve using God's name in a less than complimentary way? Boom! You're a sinner. I think you get the idea. 

How close do we want to live to sin, without crossing the line? Let me illustrate it this way, a dating couple might ask, "How far can we go before it is a sin?" This is the mindset that looks to know how close we can legally live to the fine line of purity before we are over that line. And Jesus says, "You have already crossed the line." Boom! You're a sinner.

Jesus is not just showing us that we are sinners in need of a Savior, He is showing us what repentance is. To repent means to change your direction. Headed to the liquor store for a bottle? Turn around and go the other way. Only He takes it even farther. Reaching for the bottle in the cabinet? Stop! Cut of your hand if need be. Looking at the woman and thinking impure thoughts? Stop! And gouge out your right eye if you have to. 

So here's a problem I have: If I cut off my right hand, my left might still be able to do the job. If I cut out my right eye, my left might take over. So what do we do? I don't think cutting off my hand or gouging out my eye is the answer. I think the answer again lies with having a pure heart, considering myself blessed when others persecute me. I am a sinner, and seeing myself as such, know my need for a Savior. but not only do I need a Savior, once I see Jesus as my Savior, once I see God as providing a Savior, my life changes. It's called repentance. Being born again. And then, Boom! You're not a sinner.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Raising the Bar...Matthew 5:21-26

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 5:21-26

COMMENTS

I think that most would agree that murder is a sin. And as such, it deserves judgement. But anger? How do we stop from being angry? It is an emotion, not an action. To insult someone, to actually say it out loud, and you can be held liable for your words. But to suffer hell just for calling someone a fool? That seems a bit extreme.

Jesus is making a strong point here, and it is that we are all guilty and deserve judgement. I think of Romans 3:23. He continues this thought with the idea of making an offering while in conflict with a brother. He tells us to resolve the conflict first. Not that we cannot make the offering, but don't come to God making an offering to cleanse yourself in one area of your life, while still holding on to other areas that need addressed. If you have an opportunity to settle things with your brother, great. If you have to stand before the judge, that might not work out so well for you. If you are found guilty, you will never escape your judgement!

Remember the thoughts put forward in the beginning of the chapter, those putting forth the ideas of purity, humility, thirsting for righteousness? This is what Jesus is reinforcing. Cleanliness before God is not a matter of not violating the "big" laws, it is a matter of who you are inside. Don't think you can put God in your debt with gifts and offerings. The debt we owe is far beyond our ability to give.