Friday, February 28, 2020

The Golden Rule - Matthew 7:12-14


Matthew 7:12-14
"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."


Vs 12  Wish θέλω thelō; to determine, choose or prefer (literally or figuratively); by implication, to wish, i.e. be inclined to (sometimes adverbially, gladly); impersonally for the future tense, to be about to; by Hebraism, to delight in: — desire, be disposed (forward), intend, list, love, mean, please, have rather, (be) will (have, -ling, - ling(-ly)).


This is so not us. I was walking out of the store today, and someone called out, "Sir!" I looked to see someone picking up some money. I immediately thought, "Do they think that is mine?" I even checked my pockets as if to see if there was money missing, but I had paid by credit card and had no cash in my pockets. Just wishful thinking. Turned out that the money belonged to the one picking it up, and another person thought I might have dropped it.

But there was that immediate reaction I had, was the money mine? Had I dropped some and did not even recognize it. It was only a few dollars, but would I have taken it if offered?

Do what you wish (desire) others would to do for you. The person who saw the money fall did that. Rather than try to pick it up, she got my attention before I walked out the door. Did she have a moment of temptation to grab it for herself? This is so not most people. But again, it speaks to the kind of person Jesus was talking about in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. The humble, righteousness loving, God pursuing person. Looking out for the good of others because I would hope that others are looking out for the good of me. Its a narrow road. Its a small percentage of people who actually get and live this. That is what Jesus is saying. The other gate, the gate that takes the money, that looks for its own good, that road is wide and easy. But the destination is not our destination.

If you want to get to your destination, you have to take the road that leads you there, and not necessarily the road that is the smoothest, prettiest, or widest.


Ever see the Seinfeld episode where Kramer is taking care of a section of the highway? So one thing he does is to take the four lane road, and paint out some of the lines to make it a two lane road, where the lanes are wide and luxurious. Imagine the chaos when all of a sudden 4 lanes are down to 2. Maybe that is part of the danger of the wide road. Yes, there is more room, but you are sharing it with more people. And maybe some shady ones at that.

Don't judge this post - Matthew 7:1-6


Matthew 7:1-6


Vs. 1  judge - κρίνω krinō; properly, to distinguish, i.e. decide (mentally or judicially); by implication, to try, condemn, punish: — avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.
Vs. 2  measure - μέτρον metron; an apparently primary word; a measure (“metre”), literally or figuratively; by implication, a limited portion (degree): — measure.


This is an interesting section, and often misused to try to show that we should not judge the actions of others. But the Bible is clear in other places that there are certain areas where judging is essential. Like when Paul told the Corinthians to expel an immoral brother (1 Corinthians 5), or in Galatians where Paul confronts those preaching another gospel.

So what exactly is Jesus saying here? He is not talking about judging a sin, but rather judging a sinner. Some things are wrong and should not be tolerated in the church. People should be called out and told to stop such behavior. Pick one, drug use, spousal abuse, alcoholism, adultery, and more. We need to let people know that these are not acceptable. But those who do such things are not above forgiveness. The man who abuses his wife comes in, confesses his sin, and pleads for forgiveness. If we refuse, then that measure of refusal will be given to us. Reminds me of the idea of "you who is without sin, cast the first stone." (John 8:7)

Again, I look to the context of this message to seek an interpretation. The message is about how WE should live: humble, meek, thirsting for righteousness. Not being the hammer of judgement on the world, but proclaiming the Gospel of God's grace over such things. We are not the condemners.

I am not saying that we turn a blind eye to sin. By no means. I am saying that we first and foremost deal with our own behavior, our own repentance, our own salvation, and we let others deal with theirs. If they are to be honest, they will know what God wants from them. If they are not to be honest, then it won't likely make a difference. Perhaps at this point we even need to break our fellowship with them. But not in a superior or arrogant manner, just letting them know that we cannot participate or support such behavior.

I think if more Christians approached their witness from a humble aspect, their message just might be heard a little clearer.


I came to a church in Junior High that had an active youth program. They had a choir, went on trips, had activities, and more. I came from a Catholic background, not attending Catholic church, but knowing that I was Catholic. I had not been to mass since probably 4th grade. My parents were not church-goers. They had alcohol at their gatherings. I was first generation German-American, I grew up around beer. We were going on a youth trip to Florida. I brought my Budweiser sun hat. Never occurred to me that this was a no-no. After the trip, I heard the youth pastor talking to someone. He was talking about the trip and discussing issues that occurred. He said, "One of the kids even brought a Budweiser hat." That's when it hit me that that was not acceptable. I am not sure he knew I heard, or if he remembered I was the one who brought it. Perhaps so, maybe. But I felt shamed and judged. No one at any time pulled be aside to suggest that that hat might be sending a wrong message. I wondered how many others thought poorly of me for bringing it. I meant nothing by it, to me it was not an issue. It could have been handled so differently. I was not a obstinate child. But I did learn something that day. I learned how important it was to judge the actions of others. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

This.Is.A.Tough.One - Mattew 6:25-33


Matthew 6:25-34


Vs. 25 anxious - take thought of
Vs 33 seek - worship God (good sense) plot against (bad sense)


I know that many people deal with heavy loads of anxiety, some even needing counseling, medication, or both to deal with the effects. So to say, "Just don't do it." seems a bit harsh. How do you stop an emotion? How do soldiers or others with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) just stop being anxious? Outside of a direct intervention from God, I do not think it possible.

So how do I interpret this verse? First, I draw distinctions between emotions and choices. Anxiety is an emotional response. But we have some control over our thoughts, or what we take thought of. A parent hears that their child has been in an accident. They cannot help but worry about the condition of their child. But they can choose to believe that God is in control, and regardless of the outcome, they can trust in Him.

So now, rather than felling guilty because something has caused me to feel anxious, I can recognize the emotion and "take every thought captive" instead of letting those thoughts captivate me. (1 Cor. 10:5) Jesus then gives examples to show this idea. Worried about life? Look at the birds. See how God cares for them and recognize He cares much more for you. Look at the flowers. They don't work or toil, yet their beauty abound. If God cares over the flowers, how much more will be provide for you? What good does your worrying do? Does it add to your life at all? No! I believe Jesus says these things to show us how to respond to anxiety rather than to guilt us because of feeling anxiety.

He wraps it up showing us what is important, and that is to seek God's kingdom and His righteousness first. Go back to the beginning of the sermon. Think of the beatitudes, which I believe are the foundation for each of the subsequent teachings. Being humble, mourning, poor in spirit, meek, pure in heart. These can be summed up in the idea of worship, with worship being the idea that we cannot achieve salvation of any kind on our own, therefore God must be first. God does not command our worship because He needs it, He does it because we need it. Do you want to have all things added to you? Then worship God. No, not necessarily health and wealth, but peace and joy. Don't worry about tomorrow, let tomorrow worry about itself. And that can only happen when we stop trying to control every outcome, and worship the one who can control every outcome.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Truth of the Matter

Yesterday our study in the books of John, by Dr. Tony Evans, concluded with the book of Third John. Evans spoke a lot about truth, which I find ironic, because he apparently denies the doctrine of original sin and also believe that Jesus is not the only way to God. At least, that is what the internet says, so it must be true.

Book of 3 John

Our leader asked a question during the lesson, "What is truth?" Answers were vague and the expected Sunday School answer to almost every question was given, "Jesus." Yes, Jesus is the truth, but I do not think that is what John is referring to. In fact, in verse 2 when John says, "I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul," I am not sure that John is referring to physical health here. The word translated "well" here directly applies to health, but it also states that it figuratively applies to sound doctrine. Perhaps John is referring to both, but since he speaks so much about truth in this short letter, I tend to think the emphasis would be on the latter.

So what is truth? I believe John is referring to sound teaching, doctrine. I go back to the book of Galatians, where some came in who were teaching the necessity of circumcision. They too, like Diotrophes in 3 John, were strong men who apparently like to put themselves first. Paul has strong words for them, going as far as to say, "I with those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves." (Galatians 5:12) In Galatians, it is clear that Paul is battling a teaching that said that in addition to faith, certain requirements must be met. Perhaps John is combating a similar idea. Or maybe it is just that this person is stirring up dissension through other means. Whatever the case, truth is obviously important to John. And finding out and following the truth should be just as important to us. Getting into the word of God, and not just trusting others, even if those others seem important or righteous, does not remove the burden of our individual responsibility. With so many different opinions out there, it just makes sense to check things out for yourself.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Fire Insurance - Matthew 6:19-21


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."


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


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


Matthew 6:5-14


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


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


Matthew 6:1-3


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


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


Matthew 5:43-48


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


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


Matthew 5:38-42


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


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



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


Matthew 5:21-26


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.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Law and the Prophets


Matthew 5:17-20


  • What were the Law and the Prophets?
  • Why didn't Jesus abolish the Law or the Prophets?
  • What does it mean to relax a commandment?
  • Who are the least in the kingdom of heaven?
  • Who are the great in the kingdom of heaven?
  • How can our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees?


Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. Everything that GOD said still stands. (Please do not confuse the Law of God with the laws added by the leaders of the Jews). Jesus came to fulfill, or live up to the law perfectly. That is why He was able to be our perfect sacrifice, why He could offer Himself in our place. How much easier would it have been to just abolish or nullify the Law? That is what Satan tried to trick Him into doing in the desert. But the Law still stands. It's just that it has been fulfilled, so we do not have to fulfill it ourselves!

But the spirit of the Law lives on. Jesus was asked, "What is the greatest commandment?" He answered, "Love God with all your heart, and then love your neighbor as yourself." (Paraphrase of Matthew 22:36-40) So while we are not bound by the letter of the law, we are to follow the spirit of it. 1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind.

So now for the hard part, verse 20, where Jesus says, "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Can you imagine what that must have sounded like to the people who were listening? The scribes and the Pharisees were the religious leaders, they studied, memorized, and followed the law with all their might. Some even claimed to follow it flawlessly. And Jesus expected others to exceed that?

But they followed it with all THEIR might. They did not follow the spirit of the law. In fact, they took the law and created loopholes that allowed them to follow the law to the letter, but in the process, completely missed the spirit of the law. Things like love and holiness did not matter, what mattered was the letter of the law. Don't some still do this today? Go to church, don't go to R-rated movies, don't drink or smoke, and so on. But they miss the spirit of the law, to love God and to love others. This is not lawlessness. This is going beyond the mere obedience to a set of rules and living a life that is a reflection of the grace of God in all instances.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Lights of the World


Matthew 5:14-16


Just as with salt, we could look deep into the subject of light, and draw many interesting analogies. But what is the purpose of this teaching?

Again, let's look at what kind of things Jesus said at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Things that speak of the different perspective that His followers should have. Humility, mercy, mourning, meekness, purity, and even the ability to experience joy in the midst of suffering and persecution. Things that are out of the norm for much of society. Things that would stand out in a world that seeks the comfort and pleasure of self. Things that would stand out like light in darkness.

Jesus said we are the light of the world. Without any light, the world would be in utter darkness, wandering aimlessly. Imagine a world with no real mercy, purity, humility. A world with no joy. A lights, we illuminate the character of the God who created the universe. As lights we cannot be hidden. As lights we should shine.

But darkness does not love the light. Ever been in a dark room for an extended time? Even a normal light seems bright, causes us to shield our eyes from it, seems irritating. We should not be surprised when others are irritated by our actions. They are counter-intuitive to them. But we must remember what our purpose is, to let them see our good works, so that they might glorify God.

This says something our the how and why of our works that cannot be dismissed. We are not doing good works for the sake of doing good works. We are not doing good works to shine the light on our own goodness. Our works are works that glorify God. They are done for the joy we find in who God is.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Salt of the Earth


Matthew 5:13-14
"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."


taste = lose taste, lose savor, make foolish


For all of the different characteristics or uses for salt, Jesus points to one: Taste. Taste = savor, flavor. Perhaps a better translation of this is, "If salt is not providing taste, is it really salt? No, it is just dirt to be thrown on the ground and walked on."

Jesus has just finished speaking about what should make us happy. Happiness comes from our understanding of God, and not our circumstance. Happiness comes in ways that the world views as weaknesses: humility, poverty, mourning, the pursuit of righteousness, mercy, purity, being persecuted. Because our circumstance should not dictate our joy.

If you take a mouthful of salt and try to eat it, it is not very tasty. But add some salt to plain potatoes or meat, and it awakens a flavor that is much more desirable. God has placed us to be salt to the earth. Not big clumps to be eaten on its own, but small pockets of flavor scattered throughout the world. Yet if we do not have or add flavor, if instead we are big clumps of material that do nothing for the world, are we really salt? Or are we just an equivalent to dirt?

I find it interesting that the word "taste" in verse 13, can also be translated "make foolish." But if the salt is made to be foolish, is it really salt? How can salt be foolish? It can't, but we can. We are foolish when we follow the principles of the world rather than the teachings of Christ. We are foolish when we buy into things like the prosperity gospel instead of the Beatitudes. Much of what Christians today follow is the line that God wants you to prosper, be healthy, have a great marriage, etc. So we pursue stuff rather than God Himself. Sometimes following God gets you crucified, beheaded, sick, imprisoned, snake-bitten, shipwrecked, stoned (the kind where people actually throw stones at you), or dead. But if our joy is in the Lord Himself, we don't lose our joy.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

In Pursuit of Joy...Matthew 5:9-12


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."


In my previous posts, I discussed how the word translated "Blessed" could also be translated as "Happy."
Peacemaker - Loving peace. I find it interesting that the United States has peace-keeping forces, that are armed to the teeth, ready for battle. They do this to keep the peace. Perhaps being a peacemaker means that we will defend what is necessary in order to preserve peace for others.


John Piper has a concept he calls "Christian Hedonism." At first, this sounds like an oxymoron. Christian being a pursuer or follower of Christ, and hedonist being a pursuer of pleasure. But by putting these two terms together, I believe he is trying to get us to understand the idea that our joy is found in our pursuit of Christ. I am reminded of Hebrews 12:2. "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Jesus endured the cross for joy. Happiness. Pleasure. I believe this to be truth, because He was focused on the mission, not the emotion or feeling of the moment. He ultimate thought was to do God's will, and nothing could bring him greater pleasure. Previously, I had made this verse about me. His pleasure was to bring me salvation. But this is only true because it was God's desire, and that is what Christ was focused on.

What greater joy than to be called a son of God. Then be a peacemaker. (Vs. 9) What greater joy than to possess the kingdom of heaven. Then understand the persecution you face is for righteousness sake, the ability to stand before God acceptable and justified. (Vs. 10) What greater joy than to have reward in heaven. To stand with the prophets in the presence of God. Then when you are mistreated, when others cause you to suffer all kinds of pain, rejoice and be glad. Because the joy in serving God is always greater than the trials of this earth.

A few more verses to read that deal with the concept of joy:

  • Romans 14:17
  • 2 Corinthians 1:24
  • Galatians 5:22,23
  • Philippians 1:25
  • Colossians 1:11
  • James 1:2
  • 1 Peter 1:8
And so many more...

Monday, February 10, 2020

Happiness is...Matthew 5:5-8

Matthew 5:5-8 (ESV)

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.


Previously I have written about the poor in spirit and those who mourn. I want to continue looking at what should make us happy.


(From yesterday) My Bible app (Olive Tree) offers translation of words in the original language. I like this feature, as translators have to make a choice of how to translate a Greek word, and sometimes their choice may not convey the best or clearest meaning. Now I know that they know much more about the translation of the Bible than I do, but since they do not always even agree with one another, I like having this information.

The word translated "Blessed" in verse 3, can also be thought of as "fortunate," "well off," or "happy." In fact, this same Greek word is translated as Happy or Happier 6 times in the New Testament.

meek = humble
inherit = be an heir to
hunger = famished, crave
thirst = painfully feel the need for water
righteousness = condition of being acceptable to God
satisfied = supplied in abundance
merciful = compassionate
mercy = divine grace
pure = clean
heart = thoughts and feelings
see = discern clearly, attend to, experience


So much hear, but I want to be brief. So consider these alternate renderings:
  • Happy are those who are humble, for they are the true heirs to the things of earth.
  • Happy are who crave the ability to be acceptable before God, to the point that it almost overwhelms them, for their craving shall be supplied in abundance.
  • Happiness is found in compassion, and so is the divine grace of God.
  • Happy are the ones with clean thoughts and emotions, for they shall experience the fullness of God.
The proud often seem to be the ones who get it all, but often that is only one the surface. They often have as much bitterness and pain, if not more, than anyone else. They just are good at covering it up, or burying it deep inside. The best things the earth has to offer can't be possessed. Things like beauty, peacefulness, joy.
Happiness for those who truly crave God is found in God Himself, and that is supplied by God in abundance for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.
Happiness is found in compassion, because that compassion is grounded in God's grace.
Happiness is found in clean hearts, because those heart are the hearts that experience the fullness of God, without having to question or waiver.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Happiness is...Matthew 5:4


“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."


(From yesterday) My Bible app (Olive Tree) offers translation of words in the original language. I like this feature, as translators have to make a choice of how to translate a Greek word, and sometimes their choice may not convey the best or clearest meaning. Now I know that they know much more about the translation of the Bible than I do, but since they do not always even agree with one another, I like having this information.

The word translated "Blessed" in verse 3, can also be thought of as "fortunate," "well off," or "happy." In fact, this same Greek word is translated as Happy or Happier 6 times in the New Testament.

The word "mourn" can also be translated as "grieve."

The word "comfort" carries the idea of inviting, drawing near. This word is sometimes translated "pray." 


Grief is a feeling we often would like to avoid. Sometimes we stuff feelings we want to avoid and throw ourselves into other tasks. This keeping busy is not completely unhealthy, but not dealing with feelings can be. From what I can tell, the Jews were good mourners, sometimes even hiring professional mourners for their funerals.

According to the verse, with grieving we can have comfort. But what is Jesus suggesting we grieve over? A death? Perhaps. Maybe the death of a loved one. Maybe more. Maybe in whatever we grieve, we can find comfort as we draw near to God. Grieving over a lost job, the fate of a loved one, or even just the uncertainty of daily life. So many things to grieve over, at times it can be quite overwhelming.

Remember, the word "blessed" can be rendered as "happy." I like John Piper's idea of Christian Hedonism. Hedonism being the pursuit of joy (happiness), Christian Hedonism being pursuing our joy in our relationship with God. Not happy giddy, but the joy in knowing that whatever our circumstance, God draws us near to Him. Knowing that whatever is happening, God is present and in control. I think happiness fades, but we can have joy in the midst of even great difficulty.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Happiness is... Matthew 5:3 for starters


“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."


My Bible app (Olive Tree) offers translation of words in the original language. I like this feature, as translators have to make a choice of how to translate a Greek word, and sometimes their choice may not convey the best or clearest meaning. Now I know that they know much more about the translation of the Bible than I do, but since they do not always even agree with one another, I like having this information.

The word translated "Blessed" in verse 3, can also be thought of as "fortunate," "well off," or "happy." In fact, this same Greek word is translated as Happy or Happier 6 times in the New Testament.

The word "poor" in this verse means more than just one who lacks funds, it means a pauper or begger.

The word "spirit" can be understood to mean a breeze or current of air.


So I might read the Beatitude this way, "Happy are those who are so poor they have to beg for air, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

How can those who are so poor be happy? I think about some of the people I have encountered who do not have as much as so many others, and often they do not appear happy. But the thought occurs, maybe it is because they are not poor enough. Think about it for a moment. No amount of money guarantees happiness. Middle class to upper class to filthy rich, you can and will find those who are still not happy. Perhaps it is only those who are truly devoid of all wealth who can realize that God is in control. After all, are they not still alive? I think of the widow who gave her last penny to God as an offering. (Mark 12:41-44) Surely she did not do this begrudgingly. The text does not say, but how could one give their last cent unless they had confidence that God was in control. And if you have that kind of confidence in God, would joy not fill your heart? I'm not talking about the Prosperity Gospel kind of joy, where you give because some preacher has told you God will multiply the amount. I am not talking about planting seed money and then hopefully waiting for it to grow. I am talking about the kind of joy that Paul and Silas had, singing hymns while in prison. The kind of joy that caused Stephen to ask God not to hold those stoning him guilty, the kind of joy that does not consider the consequences or fortunes of the situation. The kind of joy that knows that God is in control, and this will turn out for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28), even if that means in the next life.

I want that kind of joy.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Everywhere a sign...Matthew 4:23-25


Matthew 4:23-25 (ESV)
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.


When Jesus came to earth, He came as a humble child. Nothing special to show that He was the Son of God (unless you believe those apocryphal stories of turning mud pies into doves). When He was baptized by John, a limited few might have seen the dove ascend on Him and have heard the Father's voice. Others prior to Jesus also had proclaimed to be the Messiah. What would and could set Him apart? Miraculous signs. Like turning water to wine. Or healing the blind and lame. Especially when those signs could not be denied, like healing a man born blind.

But that is what they were, signs to reveal His divinity, to support His claims and give authority to His teaching. They were not miracles for the sake of performing miracles, or miracles to encourage people to follow Him for the sake of the miraculous (although that was the effect for some).


It is a sad part of the human nature that we do not really seek after God on our own. (Romans 3:10,11) But seeking after stuff, whether it be healing, riches, relationships, etc. fits right into our nature, and Jesus knows this. That is why He would not entrust Himself to men (John 2:24). Unfortunately, Satan knows this about us to. Just listen to the false gospel being fed to so many by so many. Promises of health, wealth, and prosperity. As if that is the purpose of the miracles. 

We must make a choice. Either worship the miracles or the maker of the miracles. To worship the miracles is to not worship God for who He is. I see this mentality a lot. I recently purchased a car, and due to a mistake on the part of the dealership, bought a $10,000 car for $6,000. They had put the wrong price on their internet site, and were willing to stand by that price. What a break! Of course, I shared this with a few others, many of whom said, how blessed I was that day, how God was looking out for me. Really? I have a daughter with a rare disease. I would gladly change that $4,000 for her healing. God, if you are  listening...

Of course He is listening. And He is still God, whether my daughter is healed or whether I save $4,000 on a car. Point is, I do not worship God to get the best price on a car, perfect health for me and my family, and so on. It is not that I believe that God does not perform miracles today. I do. But I also believe that when He does, it is for the same purpose as Jesus' miracles. Not for us to chase the miracle, but for us to worship Him, the giver of the miracle. In fact, perhaps when we do not automatically receive a requested miracle, it is His way of loving us enough to keep us from worshiping the wrong things.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Repent! Matthew 4:17


Matthew 4:17


John came to prepare a way for Jesus. He had already begun preaching about repentance. That message surely included the basis for repentance, which is God's love for us. Jesus also comes preaching repentance. Not an act of obedience, but a response to God's love and mercy.


Where is the basis for repentance preached today? So much of Jesus' message dealt with this aspect of faith, and it is missing from much of what I hear today. We hear of God's blessings, but often that is tied to our behavior rather than tying our behavior to God's blessings. Even what we consider a blessing has taken a hit. Paul and Silas were in prison praising the Lord. I think that many of us today would instead be praying for release. Paul and Silas recognized that God's blessing was in salvation, and not in circumstance. John the Baptist, who lived such a humble and obedient life, imprisoned and beheaded. Surely he recognized God's blessing were in his salvation and not his circumstance. Stephen, while getting stoned (Acts 7) for proclaiming the gospel, cries out for forgiveness of the ones who are stoning him. (Acts 7:59-60).

The Disagreement

I heard a pastor preach on Romans 12:1-2. Afterwards we had a discussion. I told him that I thought he was mistaken, when he said the "Therefore" in verse 1 refers to the entirety of the text of Romans prior to that verse, and that our acting as a living sacrifice was an expectation from God that we as Christians must strive to meet. I suggested that the "Therefore" refers to Paul's preceding verses (Romans 11:32-36), where is speaks of God consigning us to disobedience, but then bursts out in praise of the riches and wisdom of God. Therefore, our response to God is not one of obligation, but rather a rich and full response of a heart of praise, and offering our lives as a living sacrifice is not something we must do to obtain salvation but rather a reaction because God has granted us salvation. Let's just say we agreed to disagree.


I say all of this because the idea of repentance is an important one for the Christian, and we must understand what it is and how and why we do it, What it is not, in my opinion, is a one time event or proclamation made to enter the gates of heaven. What it is, in my opinion, is the response of a heart that has seen God's love and mercy, and is doing all that it can to live according to that belief.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Revelation - Matthew 4:1-11


Matthew 4:1-11 ESV


Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. After fasting 40 days and nights, He was hungry. The devil came and said, "You're God's Son, turn some stones to bread and eat!" But Jesus responded saying that the words of God are of more value than food.

So the devil took Him to the pinnacle of the temple. The devil said, "Prove you're God's Son, throw yourself down, God's angels will protect you!" But Jesus responded by saying that we shouldn't put God to the test.

So the devil took Him to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of world. He offered them to Jesus, in exchange for Jesus worshiping him. Jesus responded telling Satan to leave, that we should only serve and worship God

After the devil left, angels came and ministered to Him.


  • Jesus was led by the Spirit to a place where He would be tempted. Does anyone else find this interesting? The Holy Spirit knowingly put Jesus in a place where He would be tempted. Think about that the next time you are sking, "Why me, Lord?"
  • Jesus turned water to wine, so what would be wrong with turning a few rocks into bread? It's not like he was making a seven-course meal! On the surface, I see a couple of issues. Jesus may not have been ready to end His fast. I think breaking the fast early would have been a big deal to Him. Also, think about the purpose behind the turning of water to wine, that being to glorify God and reveal His divine self to the disciples. No such purpose here, only the serving of selfish needs.
  • Satan offered to give Jesus what He wanted, all the kingdoms of the world. No cross needed, just worship him (Satan). This was not God's plan, and in fact, would have had the opposite effect. 

It appears that Satan, while understanding some of the mission of Jesus, did not grasp the whole picture. Or else he just viewed Jesus as being potentially weak. 

I see Jesus as understanding that God works in a cause and effect type of way. The cause of Jesus' strength was His relationship with God. The effects of that relationship were played out in the events of His life. Satan took those effects, and made them primary. "Here, eat something, Prove who you say you are, take all of these kingdoms." But the effects are meaningless without the cause. 

Modern day example: A pastor sees his job as building the kingdom (an effect, not a cause). He works hard all his life, a beautiful building is built, many people come and say the sinner's prayer or are baptized. But the message is weak, lest the people be offended by the cross. There is no real repentance, few hearts are turned to God. All because the pastor sold out. Instead of focusing on his relationship to God (cause), he focused on the results of his ministry (effect). 

Imagine Jesus walking down from the mountain, the king of world. All recognize Him, all follow His words and example. And all He had to do was a brief moment of worshiping Satan to get it. But at what cost? Did Jesus come to become a king of this world, or to lead us into the kingdom of God? Something He could not have done had He paused to worship Satan.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Preaching of John the Baptist - Matthew 3:1-12


Matthew 3:1-12 (ESV)


John the Baptist preached repentance. I sure would love to know what those sermons sounded like. Based on the description of John and his future behavior with Herod, I imagine them to be fiery and dynamic. But what about the content? Oh to have just one podcast or youtube clip to be able to listen to the content! The main question I have is, was John preaching repentance as an act of obedience, or a response to a greater message? And if a response to a greater message, why say that John preached repentance? (I think we can apply the same to the idea of baptism, since this was also a major component of John's message.)


I think the answer to the above question as to whether he preached repentance as an act or response can be found starting in verse 7.

7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit in keeping with repentance."

This verse seems to clarify that John was not preaching an act of obedience. If he were, why make such a statement to the Pharisees and Sadducees? The repentance that John was preaching required fruit as its proof. If you truly have a repentant attitude, then it will show beyond the mere statement, "I repent." While I have no access to what John spoke of when he preached, since it was guided by the same Holy Spirit as guided Jesus, I must assume that the message was in line with that of Jesus. I think of His most famous and longest recorded sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, which quickly follows this account.

Teaching about how we are the salt of the earth. True repentance would cause one to take on the qualities of salt, preserving and adding flavor to the world. Mere obedience would not. Teaching about anger. Jesus' teaching on anger goes beyond the mere obedience of "Do not be angry," but goes on to say that even as small an action as calling someone a fool make him liable to the fires of hell. He goes on to speak of the need for reconciliation. Teaching that goes beyond the mere obedience of "Do not commit adultery" to the saying that even to look at a woman with lustful intent is to commit adultery.

I think it goes back to the idea of Joseph being called a just man when he would not subject Mary to shame. Obedience dictated that he should have had her stoned. But holiness said otherwise.

John preached repentance. But I believe it was so much more than what we consider repentance to be today. John was sent to prepare the way for Jesus, and in doing so, his message had to be one that brought more than just a response of mere obedience. It had to be one of total commitment. That is why his statement to the Pharisees and Sadducees was so strong. Just as strong as it would be today, if we showed up to hear his message.

But that's just my opinion.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

How Do I Respond? - Matthew 1:19

The Gospel

Today I start a series going through the gospel of Matthew. Not a verse by verse study, but rather just sharing some insights as I go along...


I want to start with Matthew 1:19.

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19 ESV)

The Background

This is in the story to the events leading to Jesus' birth. Mary had become with child via the Holy Spirit. Mary was also engaged to Joseph. According to Jewish law, a woman who became pregnant with another man's child should be stoned. Joseph did not want this to happen. So rather than have her stoned or put to shame, rather than follow the law, Joseph decided to divorce her quietly. That's right, even though they were not even married yet, Joseph would need to divorce her to break the engagement. And for breaking the law, Joseph is called a "just" man.


Just. I looked up that word in my handy Bible App, which goes into the Greek meanings for that word, handy for those of use who do not speak Greek, and it says, "Equitable; by implication innocent, holy.

My Thoughts

Joseph was found to be innocent for breaking the law. He could have taken another route. Many, in their self righteous zeal to protect God would have done similar. Consider the anger expressed when someone divorces, drink alcohol, swears, {insert sin here}. The Christian community must arise and shame them into belief! Isn't that what Jesus would do?

Jesus stopped a mob from stoning a woman caught in adultery. Jesus let the Rich Young Ruler walk away. Jesus forgave Peter after he openly rejected him 3 times. Was Jesus wrong in doing this? Of course not. Jesus was without sin. Maybe it is time we try doing likewise. Not condoning sin. Jesus did not condone sin with his actions. He did not look the other way. And there were times he did take another course. He turned over the tables of those profiting in the temple.

Difficult. How do I react to a given situation? I think the first answer is who we are. I believe Joseph did what he did because he was a righteous man. It was not his action that justified him. Jesus did what He did because He was righteous. Not self righteous, but the righteousness that is based on loving and knowing God. God does not need our protection, but desires our love and compassion.