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What I learned today…Matthew 7:15

30 Oct

“Every `hypocrite’ is a `goat’ in sheep’s clothing; but a `false prophet’ is a `wolf’ in sheep’s clothing, not only not a sheep, but the worst enemy the sheep has”-Dale Bruner on Matthew 7:15


Matthew 5: You have heard it said…but I tell you…

5 May

Computer was down for a week getting fixed and got caught up doing other things. Back to the attempted routine of blogging every day through the book of Matthew. Today is May 5th so that means Matthew Chapter 5.

Jesus is just coming off the heels of telling backwoods, poor, and spiritually under privileged people that their righteousness must exceed those with all the benefits, great family heritage, influence and teaching. And the reason he can say this with a straight face to the under privileged is because his view of righteousness is dramatically different from the one which was being offered:

In regards to anger in verse 21 he is going to say “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago,…But I tell you…
In regards to lust in verse 27 hs is going to say “You have heard that it was said…But I tell you…
In to marriage and divorce in verse 31 he is going to say “It has been said…But I tell you…
In regards to our words In verse 33 he is going to say “Again, you have heard it said to the people long ago…But I tell you…
In regards to revenge in verse 38 he is going to say, ‘You have heard that it was said…But I tell you…
In regards to our enemies in verse 43 he is going to say, “You have heard that it was said…But I tell you…

I’m going to be spending the summer going through Matthew 5-7 and unpack these thoughts with Ecclesia but for now I think Frederick Buechner nails down how different Jesus was to his world and is to ours.

“If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully — the life you save may be your own — and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.”
-Frederick Buechner

Matthew 12

12 Apr

Matthew 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath itself is a sanctuary which we build, a sanctuary in time … The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals ~Abe Heschel

What goes up must come down…

8 Apr

Going through the Gospel (good news) of Matthew looking at one chapter one day at a time. Today it is Matthew 8:

1When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.

Jesus just got through going through something called the Sermon on the Mount. Some say that it is the greatest sermon ever. In Matthew 5-7 Jesus completely demolishes the proud, comforts the weak, speaks to the heart, and challenges us to rethink what our real treasure is. The sermon starts with him going up on a mountain and calling his disciples and it ends with chapter 8 verse one when he goes down the mountain with a large crowd.

Did you notice that?

He went up the mountain and called his disciples, 12 of them. When he went down the mountain a large crowd followed him.

After he goes and delivers the greatest sermon in history we find him in Matthew 8-9 interacting with people from wildly different backgrounds. From outsiders to insiders to religious and irreligious. He doesn’t give one size fits all pat answers or respond to everyone the same way. Instead, as the kingdom of God breaks in it meets people where they are at. It confronts and comforts differently.

Then Matthew 10 shows that after Jesus has given this teaching, after he has interacted with a multitude of people he then says to his followers, it’s your turn.

From my experience in church I think people want a Jesus that stays on top of the mountain. A Jesus that they can just sit and his feet and listen. These people often use the phrase being “fed” and are a pain to teaching pastors because they expect to get this religious high because a teaching pastor gives them more and more info that they didn’t have before. And they become more and more unsatisfied because knowledge alone ultimately doesn’t transform. A Jesus that doesn’t come down the mountain is safe. He doesn’t demand or challenge us to interact with people of wildly different backgrounds and he most certainly does not send us out and uproot us from all of our comforts. He also doesn’t interact with people who are different than us.

But here is the thing. A Jesus that doesn’t come down the mountain, metaphorically speaking, can’t lead a church to transform the world. So please, let your Jesus walk down that mountain. Watch all the wildly different people around you and ask what the good news of Jesus would look like if it invaded their lives. And then go and do what he would do and trust him to lead, provide and empower.

Who has the final word on you?

8 Apr

Going off of yesterday’s post looking at Matthew 7 and confronting someone who you believe is in the wrong made me think of this video that I recently saw of Tiger Woods ran by Nike. I’m rooting for Tiger, not as a golfer, but as a man to find restoration for himself and his family. I’ve tried to pay as little attention to the Tiger Woods scandal as possible because I think we have a stupid celebrity culture. We love to build people up and give them power and influence for their talents over character and then we absolutely love to see them crumble, self destruct, fail and somehow we feel better about ourselves in the process. No thank you. I’ll pass on that way of seeing the world and myself.

But it made me think of what I would want said to me when I fail and we all fail. I know it is a Nike commercial and their bottom line is the dollar but I was moved by the pathos of a father speaking to a son. It makes me think of whose voice do I hear in my failures? Do I hear the voice of grace and compassion which allows me to be honest about my struggles or do I hear the voice of condemnation and shame which forces me deeper into a private world?

I would submit that one of the purposes of the church is to be a group of people that make the voice of God in our failures tangible. That we are surrounded by people who are going to walk us through our faults that we can almost audibly hear the voice of God forgiving. But I don’t think a lot of faith communities are like this. I think to often we take on celebrity culture mentality in which we put a lot of stock in individuals and then we love to crucify them with our words when they fall short and we incorporate it into the church.

So surround yourself with people who speak words of grace. Because if you do, you can be honest about yourself. And when you are honest with yourself you can be whole.

Judgment of Grace

7 Apr

Getting back on track with going through the book of Matthew looking at one chapter a day means that today I’m looking at chapter 7:

1″Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3″Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

So my first thought it that this passage is saying that we can’t judge. It almost seems to be a total loss to exercise any kind of judgment because we will be judged to the same degree. If so then wouldn’t it be best never to say anything to anyone so that God will never say anything about you? I think the teaching in light of the whole gospel isn’t that judgment itself is wrong but the heart that is behind it may be. We make judgments all the time about what is good and what is bad. We make judgments not to walk blindfolded in traffic, not to let kids eat desert for breakfast and to not put our finger in light sockets. There are all kinds of things that we say with passionate sincerity for the good that should be off limits.

Paul makes it quite clear that judging isn’t a bad thing however what he points out is something that modern Christianity has seemed to get backwards. He doesn’t talk about Christians judging the world who are not a part of the church. He says that this is God’s job. Where he does say we are to judge are those who are inside the church that claim to represent and be the body of Jesus.

Jesus describes the process in which we are to confront those who are part of the family of faith in Matthew 18:

15″If your brother sins against you,[b] go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'[c] 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

So if someone wrongs you then you are 1) go to this person privately and keep this just between the two of you 2) if that doesn’t work then you bring another person into the conversation 3) if that doesn’t work then the community confronts them 4) if that doesn’t work then you let them go.

But we’ve heard horror stories of people kicked out of churches by cold hearted leadership. People in power using guilt and shame to scare people who may have made mistakes and instead of finding a pathway to healing have found condemnation. So what should be the posture of our heart as we speak into the lives of others who claim the title of Christian but are not honoring him with their lives?

In 7:3-5 he talks about someone with a plank in his eye judging someone with a speck in his. It’s a way of saying that consider your sin to be as a plank and speak with that humility to the speck in the eye of another. It means come with a humble, grace saturated heart as you talk with this person about what they are going through.

In Matthew 18 he tells a story of a person that owes his master a Bernie Madoff size debt. He will never be able to pay back but grovels promising he can. His master amazingly says that the debt is canceled. This forgiven debtor then finds someone who owes him the equivalent of a few months back rent and has him thrown into prison. When the master who forgave such a great debt hears this he has this man thrown into prison to pay back every penny, which is quite evident from the debt that he never will. It means, that when you talk with a person understand that you have a Bernie Madoff kind of debt called sin that is forgiven. So when you confront this individual consider them a person that you are trying to awaken to the same kind of grace you woke up one day to receive.

So when you go to confront someone ask if you are sitting down to put them in their place or desiring to wake them up to grace? So when you go to confront someone have you made it a habit of rehearsing and replaying the constant errors of others or are you intimately aware of your shortcomings and failures and dire need for grace and inviting someone to join you in this level playing field?

A heart that deals and speaks with grace can do this freely and clearly with others knowing that the only judgment that they will receive in the end is a judgment of grace.

Matthew 24

24 Feb

Matthew 24:36″No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

Matthew 24 at this point is the chapter in Matthew which I probably struggle the most to wrap my mind around and to unlearn some very naive aspects of Evangelical Christianity. The Rapture being one of them. Not to be confused with the second coming of Jesus which I think is a biblical doctrine of orthodox Christianity. The “rapture” however has been anything but part of orthodox Chrstianity. Yet, when I became a follower of Jesus at age 18 it seemed like that was the only point of view that I heard when I walked into the Christian bookstore and was what Evangelical Christianity agreed with. It took me about 4 years to realize that the “rapture” as described by Jerry Jenkins and Tim Lahaye in their Left Behind series was actually created in the 1800’s and there isn’t a whiff of anything or anyone supporting it in the previous 1800 years of church history.

I’m not really going to try to pick this apart in a blog post but I figure I’d let my three favorite authors have some opening words (their books go into greater detail) and then in the next several months I’ll add my thoughts as I read through Matthew once a month.

Scot McKnight has an article where he dismantles the “rapture”

N.T. Wright says “Farewell to the Rapture”
Ben Witherington suggest that we leave it behind for Lent along with a few other theologically bizarre things.

But in case Ben Witherington/Scot McKnight/N.T. Wright are wrong and Tim Lahaye and Jerry b. Jenkins are right about some visions a girl had that John Darby created in the 1800’s…

Here is a pet watching service.
Here is a website that will clear up to your relatives why they can only find your shirt, pants, shoes and undies and not you.

Sorry, this post probably has a bit more sarcasm than it should but I think this is something that evangelicals need to have a longer theological memory and see where they are just being fed a crazy story and move on.

The Rapture…really?

Do I believe in the “rapture”? As described by the Left Behind Series…absolutely not.
Do I believe that Jesus is coming back. Absolutely