Monthly Archives: November 2015

Confident Assurance

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. ~Matthew 7:7-12 (ESV)

Walt Disney created a magic kingdom full of imagination ad wishful thinking. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus invites us to image God’s kingdom and in this passage of Scripture to consider our longings and desires. He even encourages us to put our faith into action by prayerfully and persistently asking, seeking and knocking with every expectation that the “good things” we desire will be given to us. Moreover, Jesus invites us to consider how we wish to be treated and then treat other people that way.

Is any of this thinking really rational? In his commentary, Sermon on the Mount, Clarence Jordan wrote the following:

Remember also that even scientific research and experimentation is based upon the theory that he who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and he who knocks has the door opened to him. If men didn’t believe this, there would be no laboratories, no experiments. The whole scientific procedure is based on a confident assurance that truth already exists and that it can be found.

May you and I have the confident assurance that our desires will be fulfilled by the Father and that we  truly can do for others what we long for ourselves.

Discernment over Judgment

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. ~Matthew 7:1-6 (ESV)

In the beginning of this final chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus again announces that those who pronounce judgment on others are like actors playing hyper-critical roles. When we see these characters in movies and plays, we can recognize their duplicity but are often so entertained that we don’t stop to consider that perhaps their behavior is a reflection of our own.

Like Jesus, the apostle Paul also spoke about refusing to face judgmental attitudes. Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things (Romans 2:1).

If you’re like me, you don’t give up your opinions easily.  But I have noticed when I set them aside and begin discerning what God is doing in my life and the lives of others around me, I am less judgmental and more free to love.  The book of Proverbs says that the discerning sets his face toward wisdom (Proverbs 17:24a).  Life in God’s kingdom is about discerning what is holy and holding fast to pearls of wisdom that come from living and loving like Jesus.

May you and I choose discernment over judgment and experience the blessings of living in God’s kingdom.  

 

Spiritual Treasures

Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!

You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both. If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. ~Matthew 6:19-34 (the MSG)

Each fall, I start getting more mail, more mail-order catalogues to be specific. Each fall, I try my best to tear out any pages that have my name on them, shred them and then through the entire catalogue away.  Every once in a while I yield to the temptation, start leafing through them, start thinking I don’t have enough of this or that, and soon I realize I am in a place I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be there because it is a place of impossibility, a place of thinking about not having enough and not being enough.

At this point in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus isn’t teaching that one shouldn’t worship both God and money, he is warning his followers that one simply can’t worship both God and Money. The more you and I try to remain loyal to both the kingdom of God and the kingdom of “not enough,” the more anxiety, worry and chaos we will encounter in our lives. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In the kingdom of God, lives are transformed by the simple reality that “I am enough” and “I have enough.”  You and I are treasured by God.  Moreover, through Jesus Christ, we have been given more than enough of God’s spiritual treasures…of God’s faith, hope and love.

The one who is born again cannot be scrupulously and anxiously preoccupied
with himself, although he lives in the experience. His life has become new
because, being oriented toward the new creation, he lives in the presence of
the Spirit and under his influence, the “earnest of glory.”
~Jurgen Moltmann

May you and I give our entire attention to what God is doing right now, as we seek to share our spiritual treasures with others.