Shake the Dust

April 27, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 7:21-29

Poet, Anis Mogjani, in this video, calls his listeners to action after they hear his words:

This is for you…
Just like the days I burn at both ends,
and every time I write, every time I open my eyes,
I’m cutting up parts of myself simply to hand them over to you.

So, shake the dust and take me with you when you do
because none of this has ever been for me.
All the pushes and pulls, pushes and pulls, pushes and pulls,
It pushes for you…

For this is yours. This is yours.
Make my words worth it.
Make this not some poem I write…
Walk into it, breathe it in.

Now, Jesus . . .

Calling those who hear what he says in the Sermon on the Mount to be people who not only “say” (Matthew 7:21-23) and “hear” (Matthew 7:24-29) what he preaches, but to construct their metaphorical houses on the rock these words impart.

Build your foundation on the pieces cut from Jesus found in his brilliant sermon meant to inspire you and ordain you to be flava and gleam in a world that is tasteless and dark.

Build your foundation on the rock of these words of Christ, for when the storms of life come, they will give you strength to stand.

Work in his words.  Breathe his words.  Live his words so well that dust does not have a chance to settle.  Or, as Mogjani states:

Let it crash into the halls of your arms…
Making you live, so that when the world knocks at your front door,
Clutch the knob tightly and open on up and run forward and far into its widespread greeting arms with your hands outstretched before you,
Fingertips trembling though they may be.

Thanks to Aaron Monts who turned me onto this video on his blog and for being an all around good man.  Check him out here.

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Vending Machine

April 2, 2011

So often we treat God as if he is our personal vending machine.  We pray that he will bless us, give to us, do ____ for us, etc.  And, we offer up our 50 cents.

When we are “happy,” we are content with this god and we find it simple to sing songs and preach sermons about the goodness of this god.  We read verses like, “Ask and it will be given to you…,” and we shout, “Amen!”

Then it happens.  They kick you out, he leaves, it does not solve your problems, you were diagnosed with thatshe says those words.  Not only does the vending machine break, it is as if it has vaporized.

At this point, those words of Christ ring hollow; doubt creeps in.  To people here, Christ urges to keep seeking and knocking and then points to us, who love to give good gifts to our children—if we act in this way, how much more will God give good gifts to his children?

When your vending machine god breaks, remember:

  1. You are unable to count the number of good gifts from God you take for granted everyday.
  2. Perhaps you have asked for a stone or a snake and God wants to give you bread or a fish (v.9-11).
  3. Jesus is always asking, seeking and knocking for you (Revelation 3:20), he is asking you to do the same (v.12).

Dentists and Pearls

March 17, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 7:1-6

I dread going to the dentist.  It is not the stylings of Celine Dion in the waiting room, the metal scrapers or even the screams of the children in other rooms.  It is the judgments towards my personal hygiene I receive.

“You need to floss more . . . drink less coffee . . . go to the dentist more . . . etc.”

I understand it is a dentist’s job, but the problem is, the only thing I want to hear them say is, “No cavities today!  Great Job, Mr. Tomeo!”  I don’t need a lecture.

I wonder if the same reason I don’t want to go to the dentist is the reason many people don’t want to go to church?

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, just got done teaching us how to entrust ourselves to God (don’t worry, don’t store up treasures in heaven, etc.), now he teaches us how to entrust others to God.  Essentially, he says:

  1. God’s job is to judge (make eternal decisions about peoples’ souls); let God be God (v. 1-2).
  2. Only when your desire to be God is gone, can you help someone get rid of his or hers. (v. 3-5)
  3. Some people cannot appreciate the pearls (truth) you have, so don’t throw any to them (v. 6).

How are you making eternal assumptions about people in your life?  What planks need to be removed from your eye so that you can help others remove their specks?  Where are you throwing pearls to people who have no idea what to do with them?

What Matters?

February 15, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 5:38-48

I think it wise to review Christ’s counter-intuitive teachings so far in Matthew 5.  A few weeks ago, we looked at Jesus’ words on anger and lust in Matthew 5:21-30—your actions matter and they are born in your mind; a citizen of heaven must work on his mind and, if necessary, take drastic measures to do so.  Last week, we discussed his thoughts on divorce and oaths in Matthew 5:31-37—God is in a marriage, but actually, he is in everything we do and everything we say; a “blessed” one knows this and lives as though it were true.

Now, we come to Jesus’ teaching this week (Matthew 5:38-48) on revenge and love for our enemies.  He calls us to the impossible.   Not only does he call us to turn the other cheek to someone has struck us, but he follows it with this thought: “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly father is perfect.”

Seriously?  Who can do this?  What man or woman can claim that they are perfect?  Does this not go against his earlier thought of us being, “Poor in spirit?”

When looking at these teachings of Jesus, remember the following:

  1. Jesus fulfilled the law.  You are not under law, but grace.  God looks at us and see Jesus’ blood, not the ways we do not measure up.
  2. We are called to be imitators of Christ who when he went to the cross and endured, not just humiliation and physical harm, but the sins of all mankind.  And, what better way to bring the flava and gleam of the present tense kingdom of heaven than to imitate the One who bore such shame and pain on our behalf?
  3. Jesus’ interest is always that our hearts be tuned to him.  These teachings, when brought into our hearts, allow us to be pulled by Christ into the people we are supposed to be, not pushed by our past sins (which is harder by far).

May these teaching be accepted into your hearts and may you allow them to draw you closer to Christ’s heart.  May you not see them as more ways in which you do not deserve to be called “blessed” (you will never deserve that).

Divorce and Oaths

February 7, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 5:31-37

Jesus has pronounced us “blessed” (Matthew 5:3 – see teaching here) and has turned his attention now to dismantling the “ladder to God’s blessings” set up by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.  Since, as we learned a few weeks ago (here), Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, and his blood has bought our righteousness in the sight of God and makes us “blessed” already, this ladder they wanted set up does not exist.  The ideas Jesus is putting forth do not give us more law, they give us freedom to live in such a way that we can spread the blessings of God to everyone.  Having dealt with the thought life of followers (here), he now speaks to how we should deal with people.

On divorce (Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:1-12): The teachers were obsessed with how to obtain one, but Jesus says, “Your spouse is not a piece of property to be done away with on a whim.  Marriage was ordained by God at creation and almost nothing (with the exception of adultery) should separate two that God has joined together.”

On oaths (Matthew 5:33-37): In Jesus’ day, if two parties were making a deal and a person said, “I swear by God’s name that I will follow through on the terms of our agreement,” the person felt an extra push to come through on his part of the bargain.  However, if a person did not invoke God’s name, he did not consider his part of the deal to be binding.  Jesus is saying here, “You cannot take God out of anything you do; he is in everything already even if you don’t want him to be, therefore do what you say you are going to do.”

Recognize the progression here: God is in a marriage, but actually, he is in every conversation we have and a “blessed” one should know that and live as though it were true.

Drastic

January 25, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 5:21-30

Jesus calls disciples “blessed” when they are “poor in spirit,” but he refuses to leave them in that state.  The moment we receive salvation, Jesus starts to pull us out of our poverty towards his heart.

Having called the disciples to a righteousness that surpasses the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20), Jesus goes on to explain how they should go about living this life in a 27 verse long debate with the teachings of these men.  In each of the sections, he quotes them (“You have heard that it was said . . .”) and follows with his thoughts (“but I say . . .”).  In each, he turns their attention to what really matters: their hearts.

In Matthew 5:21-30, Jesus breaks the sins of murder and adultery down into their most fundamental state: emotions.  He states that our thoughts, not just our actions, matter and they are subject to judgment too.  One cannot say, “Yes, I hated him, but at least I never murdered him,” or, “Yes, I desired her in an ungodly way, but at least I never committed adultery with her.”

Jesus is not being literal with his suggestions for how to deal with sinful desires, (i.e., leaving our worship service to be reconnected with our brother whom we have slighted, and gouging out our eye/cutting of our hand if they cause you to sin).  Rather, he is prescribing drastic actions be taken on our part to dig these seeds up before they are allowed to grow.

What drastic actions do you need to take to uproot the seeds of sin in your life?

Fulfilled

January 18, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 5:17-20

Followers have been blessed and have been given a charge (salt and light).  One might think at this point that Jesus is doing away with the old ways of law.  Not so.  Jesus must have anticipated people thinking this because he immediately points out, all of history (the law and the prophets) were not now abolished; all of history was pointing to himself.

Then, he talks, in verse 18, of a time when “everything is accomplished”, where the law, heaven and earth will disappear.  He is saying here that he is leading us to another destination; one that is different than everything we know to be true.

In the verses following, Jesus sends us back to the law, not so we can earn our salvation, but so that we can allow the Spirit to bring our hearts closer to the heart of Christ.  As John Stott says, “The law sends us to Christ to be justified and Christ sends us back to the law to be sanctified.”

Bottom line: God created us good, we fell, Christ redeemed us on the cross and brought us in to live in his kingdom.  We should not view the law as a checklist of things to do or not do to get saved (Jesus already paid that debt), but a way to join Christ in his ongoing work to shape us, form us and call us back to the people we were originally created to be.

Beautiful.

You Are Salt and Light

January 11, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus, making the announcement of the kingdom of heaven exploding on earth in the present tense, chooses to use the metaphors of salt and light to describe the disciples on the hillside and Christ followers today.

Salt is seasoning. He is calling us, not just to season this world with the good news of heaven on earth, but to be the seasoning of the good news of heaven on earth. Salt was also used for persevering meat—a great symbolism for the Christ follower acting as a check on this world, making sure it does not get too rotten.

Light is the first word spoken by God and the rest of creation could not exist without it. Christ is calling us to be light to the world. He is beginning his new creation of the world and calling us to be his light—giving shine to the kingdom of heaven in the world.

Notice here that Jesus does not say, “If you do ______ (read your Bible every day, stop sinning, go to church more, etc.), you will be salt and light.” He says you are salt and light.

We are his only plan to season/preserve and give light to the kingdom of heaven on earth and he does not have a “Plan B.”

How can you be the flavor of heaven in your world?  How will you give light to God’s kingdom today?  If you accept that you are salt and light, how does this change your perspective of who God has called you to be?

You Are Blessed

January 4, 2011

Matthew 5:1-12

The Beattitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) should not be seen as the Ten Commandments of the New Testament.  Jesus is making an announcement that the kingdom of heaven is a present reality and, therefore, we should consider ourselves “Blessed.”

He takes the first four (poor in spirit, mourners, meek and hunger and thirst for righteousness) to describe the fact that when these people are at their lowest, God is with them.  He uses the next four (merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and persecuted) to describe what happens to a person when they respond to the overwhelming grace of Christ in their life.

Look at the identical ends of verse three and verse ten (“. . . for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”).  It is as if, instead of a ladder of steps to reach the blessings of God, he gives us a circle which starts and ends in the same place and which says that no matter what is happening to citizens of his Kingdom, God is always pouring out blessings them.

Also, take a look at the only new command that Jesus gives us in this passage in verse twelve.  He charges those who belong to the Kingdom to, “Rejoice and be glad, for great is (present tense) your reward in heaven.”  I wonder what our worlds would look like if we stopped looking at how we don’t measure up and started looking to how God is constantly blessing us and calling us to, “Rejoice and be glad.”