Tag Archives: book of Matthew

Christians Know

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There is a long list of things I’m not. I’m not patient, kind, loving, wonderful, special, talented . . . well you get the idea. You might say, ‘Oh, your being too hard on yourself.’ or, ‘That isn’t true, I’ve met you are a indeed kind and patient.’ Yes, that may be true-sometimes. Still, I know that I am not those things one hundred percent of the time. I will occasionally slip and say something less than kind. Maybe justifying it as a joke. Even if I manage not to say it out loud, my thoughts betray me. Even if I bite my tongue when someone puts me down or they act obnoxiously, my outward appearance might not match my spirit. If I curse my enemy inwardly is it not the same as an outward lashing?

Matthew 5:28

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Therefore, it is as it is with laws. Either I follow the letter of the law or the spirit of the law. And most of the time I fail miserably at following both. If you aren’t a christian, I honestly have no idea how one deals with the crushing knowledge the we fail as human beings at some level constantly. I can only come to the conclusion that some really don’t know. That they go about life believing that they are as close to perfection as possible. Maybe, but for my part I have not yet met such a person. In fact if you watch the news at all the world seems to be full of the opposite.

All that said, here is my not so secret-secret for dealing with the knowledge that I am so completely and utterly flawed. I’ve read a book. And it say this:

 2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

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Environment #1

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This month I’ll be posting parts of a Lutheran Via de Cristo talk I gave about Environments.  This is the first installment.

It’s has been said, and rightly so, that the Christian life is not a destination, but a journey.  You might choose to think of it as a train trip.  Our first talk spoke about the importance of having an ideal.  It’s just crucial–think about it–you might be at the train station, but you can’t get on the right train if you don’t know where you’re headed.  As Christians, we want to head toward the life of grace, a conscious and growing life in Christ.  This means a lifelong process of reforming and transforming our lives as our will is conformed to His.  Talks about piety, study and action gave us some idea of how to do this through personal spiritual discipline.  Our last talk ,Leaders, presented a picture of the truly dynamic Christian as a leader.  This talk goes a step further because Jesus called us to follow Him, not only for our own salvation, but for the salvation of the world.  This is the true mission of the church.  It’s not enough to get on the right train and sit quietly reading our Bible until the journey ends.  It’s not enough to interact in a friendly and helpful manner with our fellow passengers. We must get off at every stop and invite others to come along with us.

There’s a very good book you might want to read sometime, called “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In this book, Bonhoeffer says that Christianity means community and the fellowship of Christian brothers and sisters is a gift of grace, pure grace.  Then he goes on to tell us that the Christian’s calling is not in the seclusion of a cloistered life, but in the midst of the world, even among enemies!  In the book of Matthew, Jesus instructed his disciples, saying:

“….you are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house ….Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

We can’t stay isolated in our churches and in groups of fellow Christians. We must go out — to our families, our workplaces, our communities –and radiate God’s love into our personal environments.

Piety Part 2 – by Jim Edgel

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Here is the second installment in the series on Piety from Jim Edgel:

 

Authentic or true piety comes from a dynamic, personal relationship with God that is conscious, growing and shared.  Piety is living a life that responds to God’s amazing gift of grace in His son Jesus.  Conscious of the personal value of God’s grace and consciously choosing a life with Him.  This life in Christ must be continually growing.  We either grow or decline.  We cannot remain still.  As we live this life of grace, we must share it with others and be willing to accept people where they are, listen to them and share our most precious gift – our time.  As we become more self-giving, we grow in our potential as human beings and understand we are God’s channel of grace to others and ourselves…  Christ must remain at the center of all aspects of our life, every action, every decision we make. We can’t say I love Jesus but this is business, work or vacation; or I am having a difficult time right now, I must take care of myself.  God’s word tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” … What is Authentic or true piety? Authentic piety is directing our whole life to God.   When we leave God out of certain areas of our life, we leave a huge space for Satan to slip in.  Directing our whole life to God is not about a long list of things we are forbidden to do.  It is about consciously sharing a growing Christ-centered life, which comes from the response of a grateful heart.  When we give our life over to God and have a willingness to be changed by the Holy Spirit, we begin to discover the true purpose and plan God has created us for.  We start the most amazing adventure we could ever imagine… For our whole life to be directed to God;

The three elements of every act – ones knowing, wanting and doing have to be directed to God.  We should know God and know what He teaches.  When our knowledge centers on God, God directs our knowing.  Wanting is the emotions that drive our actions.  Wanting becomes loving when our love for God drives our actions.  We strive to act according to God’s will.  Piety is directing our whole life to God by knowing who God is and what He taught.  Loving God with our whole heart and striving to carry out His will is the full response to the gift of grace.

Piety is an Ideal.  Living in a relationship with God is the Christian Ideal.  This is a lifelong process that brings us to a personal relationship with God.  And is nurtured in the same way as other intimate relationships we pursue in life.

With God at the center of our life, the Holy Spirit will help us maintain the goal of emulating the character of Jesus and His approach to dealing with people and problems.  All of us, no matter how capable we become in our Christian walk, will make mistakes.  I personally make many mistakes and at times need correction.  None of us ever get it all right … Except for Jesus, of course.  One of the greatest marks of maturity as human beings and to reveal the level of our spiritual maturity is the ability to receive correction.  Other things that reveal our level of spiritual maturity are:

Characteristics of authentic piety.  Courage,  Naturalness, and  Vibrant and joyful life.  Courage is not foolishness; it is the mark of one who will do what is right because it is the right thing to do.  It takes courage to step out of our “comfort zone” and accept new challenges that God may bring into our life.  It also takes courage to forgive someone who has hurt us.  Remember, we can do all things through Him who strengthens us … It is vital that everything we do as Christians be natural.  Our actions should be a natural response to a grateful heart.  People living a life of authentic piety should stand out only because of the love they have for God and others.  Jesus said “By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  An ordinary life lived to the fullest is not dull, it is exciting and rich.  As our faith deepens, we sense a new meaning to each part of life.  We grasp new potential and realize new talents that God has created in us.  As we direct our whole life to God our personal relationship with Him impacts every area of our lives.   The practices of piety are those things we do that nourish our relationship with God.  Practices of piety are not piety in themselves; they are our concrete, visible responses to God’s love for us.  Practices of piety such as worship, prayer and Christian service to others flow out of our relationship with God and nourish it.  Life must be approached from the perspective that all we do is part of our response to God’s call.  Some may only know who God is by being around Christians.  The outcome of authentic piety is the peace of God.  As we are directing our whole life to God, we are conscious of being in a relationship with the Triune God.  We are:  Children of the Father, brothers of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit.

 

To be continued…

Piety Part 1- by Jim Edgel

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The following are excerpts from a talk on Piety given by Jim Edgel – They have been reprinted with his permission:

Piety is a word we rarely use and may think of it in a negative way such as the “pious” ways of the Pharisees.  But authentic Christian piety is a very good thing.  In fact, if we explain the life Jesus led, it was a life of true piety.  Brothers, as we become filled with the Holy Spirit, God calls each one of us to a new life, and this involves a radical change from within.  This change alters our relationship with:  Our self, with God, with other people, and with the world, we live in together.  We see ourselves differently, knowing that no matter how broken we may be, we are forgiven and very valuable to God.  We have a new direction for our lives as children of God, full of marvelous capabilities.  We begin to see other people through God’s eyes, loving them as brothers and sisters who were created with the same potential that God has given to us.  And as we continue to transform; we see our world, as messed up as it may be, as God’s gift to us, given for our enjoyment and care.  When we speak of piety, we are speaking of a full response in all areas of our life to God’s amazing love and grace. We must seek a personal relationship with God, not just knowing about God … But knowing who God is.  Being Christian, not just doing Christian things.  How can we discover our God-given potential and be the complete person that God calls us to be as we live a life of grace?  This consists of balancing three key dimensions of our lives.  All three are equally important and it takes all three, working together, giving equal stability and balance in order to support us as we live in a close relationship with God.  To better understand the importance of Piety in our daily walks as Christians; which includes taking the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for you and me to the world, we must understand the difference between authentic piety and false piety. Authentic piety is an intimate, revitalizing deepening relationship with God. Jesus explains this to us.  You may remember reading in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees gathered to question Jesus and one of the group asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the law.  And Jesus using His words with great precision, as always, not only answers their question, He explains authentic piety and sums up all the commandments in three sentences.  22nd chapter of Matthew verses 37, 38, 39 – And Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”False piety is a superficial, inaccurate or deceptive practice that appears to be Christian.  False piety is destructive.  It distracts and diverts people from seeking and knowing God.  It prevents them from finding and living the fulfilled life God has planned for them.  Friends … any of us can respond to God’s call in either of two ways.  We can follow a path of faith and commitment as Paul described in his letter to the Colossians “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Or we can devote ourselves to religious, regulations and practices that mark us as “A good Christian” who does “Christian” things.  Those who take this path do not understand the role of God’s grace in the lives of those who are in a relationship with Him.

More to follow

 

False Piety

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“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you outwardly appear righteous to all, but within you are full of lawlessness.”  Matthew 23:27-28

In these verses Jesus is talking about the worst kind of false piety:  those who know they are unrighteous, and simply want to present a false impression of godliness.  They don’t really care about God’s law or God’s people.  They look for loopholes and ways to justify themselves.  They behave one way at church, and another way in their private personal or business dealings.  These are people who attend church and are known as “pillars of the community” yet may beat their children, cheat their employees, and quarrel with their neighbors.  Why do they do these things?  Simply because they can.  To them Christianity is only a label used to make them look good or worse yet, give them power over others.

Do you know the worst consequence of this kind of piety?  It turns others away from the faith.  How many people have you met who refuse to hear the gospel message because, “I’ve known some of those folks and they are just hypocrites.  They say all the right things, but they sure don’t act that way!”

The sad thing is, we’re all capable of falling into this kind of false piety, at least at times.  It’s easy to compartmentalize our Christianity and keep it locked up to be brought out only on Sunday;  it’s harder to walk the walk every day in every situation. Most of us aren’t intentional phonies.  We just get angry, or frustrated, or we have certain bad habits we can’t (or don’t want ) to break. However, faith isn’t meant to be a part of life, it’s meant to be our way of life.

The best remedy to this kind of “phony” piety?  Recognize it, confess it and work to correct it.  Be beautiful inside and out.  That’s true piety.

Henri Nouwen on the Blessing of Poverty

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“How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves: ‘What is my poverty?’ Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell! ‘How blessed are the poor,’ Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.

We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

Blessed to Mourn?

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“Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

Blessed means exceedingly happy, and it’s hard to imagine anyone being happy during a time of mourning.  However, as I thought about this, I remembered a young man who had been my coworker.  When his father died unexpectedly, he told me, “You never realize how many friends you have until somebody dies.”  There’s some truth in that.  In the busyness of life we often forget to make time for others, but when death occurs, family and friends rally around.  We are all reminded that relationships and love are the things that really matter, It’s certainly a comfort and a blessing to know we’re not alone, that others care for us.

Mourning is a time to reflect.  I found when my mother died, as I sorted through her photos, I also remembered my childhood, the personality traits and interests we shared; the birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, family reunions and other important events in our life together. I cried some and laughed some.  I hadn’t thought about those things in a long time, but they are part of what made me who I am.  That has been a blessing to me.

Mourning is a time to turn to God.  Nothing comforts me more than the rituals and routines of my faith life.  Nothing means more than the assurance that mom is with Jesus, and one day I will be with Him as well.  Nothing eases the pain so much as knowing she is no longer stuck in a body that doesn’t work, and with a brain that can’t think.  These are the greatest blessings of all.

The Bible tells us that God works all things out for our good, and that includes mourning.

“Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”  Psalm 126:6

Love Lifted Me

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“…Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid;  and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord save me!’  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him …”  Matthew 29-31

I’ve never walked on water, but I’ve certainly had the experience of trusting God, and then almost in the same moment doubting and becoming anxious … only God’s love can lift us up and keep us from sinking during those times of fear.

The original version of this beautiful “love” hymn was written in 1912.  It was the joint effort of James Rowe who penned the words, while his friend, Howard E. Smith, composed the music.  Row worked for many years composing hymns and editing music journals for various publishers.  Sing these words when you are in need of God’s sustaining love.

Love the One You’re With

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Love The One You're WithDoes anyone out there remember this song?  I looked it up and it was released in 1970 by Stephen Stills and became a number one hit.  I used to make fun of it … I mean how pathetic can you get,  saying, if you can’t have the person you really care for, just give up and love the one you’re with — any old person, it really doesn’t matter.  However, thinking about it from a Christian perspective, isn’t this exactly the kind of preposterous love Jesus calls us to?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43-48

We’re to practice agape love, the kind of love God shows to us and the rest of the world.  So love your neighbors, love your enemies, love your coworkers, love your fellow church members,love those who are different and unlovable, the people who really annoy and irritate you and yes, love the one you’re with!

Let’s Go On An Adventure or Fanning the Flame #3

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“He set out, not knowing where he was going.”  Hebrews 11:8

Before my mom went into a nursing home, my siblings and I were doing our best to care for her in her own home.  Each day one or more of us would stop by to make or take her a meal, straighten the house, give her a shower and sometimes take her out for a ride.  One of my sisters said she would say to mom, “let’s go on an adventure” — mom would smile and her eyes would light up.  She loved to get out and just ride around. She didn’t worry because she trusted her daughter to bring her back safely.  Bev said they would explore the country roads nearby, just getting on one and following it to see where it went.  Sometimes they came back out in a familiar location, other times they’d just have to backtrack in order to get home.

Well, our congregation is about to go on an adventure.  The Fanning the Flame program was approved at our voters’ meeting by an approximately 2-1 majority.  Now the hard work and anxiety really start.  We’re setting out on a journey, and we don’t even have the map!  We know we want to end up as a healthier church body, but we’re not sure what that means or will look like. We don’t know exactly what it will require. We may end up with a totally unexpected result.  We must trust the process and trust God.

P.S. I read from two different devotionals today and the theme in each was going out in trust.  This is probably not a coincidence.  The first scripture is at the beginning of this article.  The second is below:

Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  Matthew 14:28-29

Pray with us friends and readers as we step out onto the water!