In Jesus’ Words: The Two Foundations (Matthew 7:24-29)

tornado tree(tree uprooted from a tornado that passed by our house)

The foundation of a home is rarely noticed unless there is a problem.  But it makes all the difference.  At the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he gives one final statement.  He doesn’t beg or threaten, he simply gives people a choice and the truth.

~ Matthew 7:24-29  The Two Foundations ~

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock.  The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”

When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes.

When my young husband and I walked into our brand-new home for the first time back in 1992, we stopped at the entrance-way and prayed.  It was the first thing we did in our new home.  We didn’t have a clue about what life would bring us over the years, but all I knew was that I wanted God’s protection in our home.  Through all our mistakes, joys and sadness, God provided just that.  He protected our home.  Not only in the physical way, from the time we watched a tornado pass by the side of our house, but also in the spiritual way, where we have watched our son grow into a fine young man and be protected from the destructive elements that take hold of so many of our youth.  We weren’t perfect, and we’ve had job layoffs and heartache along the way, but I believe God paid attention to that simple request of ours so many years ago, and has kept us from great collapse.

Protect your home.  Make it the one place in the world where your family can be loved, accepted, and have a place they can always return to.  A place where evil is shut out.  A place of refuge for your family.  Make it a place of warmth, where good food is served and there is laughter and photographs and child’s drawings on the walls, and not just a place where you collect the latest and most expensive stuff.  And these days, the perimeter of our home is more than just the walls and yard; we must protect what comes in through our television and internet too.  If you ask God, in all sincerity, He will make a promise to  you, to be the God of your home and to protect you and your family.

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In Jesus’ Words: Enter through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-23)

door5(one of the most photographed gates ~ built in 1888 in  St. Augustine, Florida)

We live in an age of mob mentality and contradictions.  We, as a nation, cry out that all lives matter, which indeed they do, yet many will blindly follow a crowd by destroying and burning property and bringing harm to others.  Women scream for the right to do what they want with their own bodies, but individualism in others is not valued.  What I have noticed most in watching people on the news lately is that they are not thinking for themselves.  It’s a crowd mentality, and we have a fear of being left out of the crowd.  But Jesus warns us about being left out of the Kingdom.  He says we should not go to the wide gate where lots of people travel.  Find the narrow gate and the few, and there you will find life!  You’ll recognize it by its fruit – love, joy, peace and goodness.

As I continue on my journey of reading through Jesus’ words in the New Testament, this next passage toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount is as timely and relevant today as it was when Jesus first spoke these words:

~ Matthew 7:13-23  Enter through the narrow gate ~

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it.  How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.  You’ll recognize them by their fruit.  Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.  On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’  Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you!  Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!”

The last part is one of the saddest statements Jesus makes.  “On that day, many will cry out ‘Lord, Lord!’  It is one of those statements that I believe many people think it is meant for someone else and does not apply to them.  But there are many people who like to play it safe just in case – one foot in, one foot out.  Just enough church so they don’t go against God, but not enough to make a change in their lives.  Sadly, I have some dear friends that fall into this category.  They want to believe and probably do to some extent, but they don’t want to give up their lifestyle and make some hard choices.  But we cannot live a life away from God and follow God at the same time.  Jesus asks us to give up ourselves and follow Him, and it is by that change in our hearts and our thinking, that brings us to Jesus in a personal way.  And on that day, Jesus will say, I have walked with you, and you with me. Come in!

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In Jesus’ Words: Keep Asking, Searching, Knocking (Matthew 7:7-12 )

knockThis has always been one of my favorite pictures.  I like it so much that I have a print of it hanging in my living room.  The picture doesn’t draw a lot of attention, but its presence is always there – quietly yearning, seeking, wondering, hoping, promising…

We all have that same need – to know and to understand.  Jesus encouraged people to ask questions and search for the truth.  Only someone who does not have anything to hide will encourage questions.  In the Islam faith, people are told not to ask questions.  It is considered blasphemy.  But the truth has nothing to hide.  Love encourages dialogue and understanding.

“Come and see,” was Phillip’s answer to Nathaniel’s question in John 1:46.
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel had asked Phillip, when Phillip said he had found the One whom Moses had written about in the Law.
The answer:  Come and see for yourself.

~ Matthew 7:7-12  Keep Asking, Searching, Knocking ~

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you.  Keep searching, and you will find.  Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!  Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them – this is the Law and the Prophets.”

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In Jesus’ Words: Do Not Judge (Matthew 7:1-6)

jail-cellDo not judge…. this is not my favorite part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  It is one of the most misused and misquoted passages in the Bible.  People often like to use it as a “Get out of jail free” card.  It’s the rebuttal of many arguments, and ironically, many times the people who are quoting Jesus’ words are not even followers of Jesus.  Nevertheless, Jesus said it and it is worth looking into exactly what he meant.

~ Matthew 7:1-6  Do not judge ~

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye?  Hypocrite!  First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.”

There is much in this passage to digest, including the last verse which talks about how we should not judge non-believers with the same holiness as believers, but I will stay with the most common reference for now.

When I die and meet God face-to-face for the first time, God will not be comparing me to anyone or anything else, not even to other good Christians I may have modeled my life after.  Nor will God say, “At least you aren’t as bad as that other person over there.”  There is nothing in the Old or New Testament that supports this thinking.  No, the only thing God will be interested in is what I did.  How did I act toward that person (my judgment), and the only comparison will be to the perfect one, Jesus Christ.  It’s just one-on-one.  It will make you think differently.

Another way to look at it is this.  If I am in a jail cell awaiting my sentence, my judgment will not be determined by the crime of the person who happens to be sitting in the cell next to me.  I can judge that person all I want, and I may be right about their crime and punishment, but it has nothing to do with my own.

If I am really honest with myself, I know of many things in my own life I have done wrong, or could improve upon, before I begin to look at others.  Jesus is not condoning sin in this passage, and He is not dismissing any judgment from God, but He is warning us about our own humility.  So the next time I am apt to judge, or criticize, or even compare, I will look at myself first, and that is probably enough to resist the urge to say more.feet with waves cropped

In Jesus’ Words: Seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:16-34)

seek-first

Jesus genuinely cared about people.  No one could accuse him of not caring.  He never asked the crowds for their money.  He was never self-serving.  He was not political.  He did speak as someone who had authority, but that is the only thing he could be accused of.

The answer to everything – our lives, our struggles, our questions – can be found in Jesus’ words that he has given to us.  So for a few minutes, tune out the noise from the media and our world, from everything we see and hear around us, and just listen to what Jesus has to say.  As I continue on this journey of reading through Jesus’ words in the New Testament, I come to the next passage in his Sermon on the Mount.  This sermon has so much great advice, and I feel like this next passage is one that is talking to us in a personal way.

“Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be provided to you.”
Matthew 6:33

That is a strong statement.  There is a lot of bickering going on around us – who is right and who is wrong, boycotting the state of Indiana, giving unbelievable amounts of money to a pizza restaurant in protest while others on our streets go hungry, and the list goes on and on.  We will never all agree, and most of these actions are fruitless.  If we cared as much about the welfare of others, despite our differences, we would have a better testimony about Jesus and a better world.  Seek God first, starting with ourselves, and our own families, and those who need our help.  Then the rest will fall into place.  And God will provide.

~ Matthew 6:16-34  Seek first the kingdom of God ~

“Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness—how deep is that darkness!

No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.

This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

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