February, 2008

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Issue of critical spirit. Mt. 7:1-5

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Having been a teacher much of my adult life, I have found that holding a critical spirit has been a great problem for me, personally. I seldom take things at “face value”. I look for deception and evil motives. I find some vindication of this in Mt. 7:15. But, I have missed out on a lot of joy by having such a critical spirit. I seem quite at home in this season of presidential primaries.

Perhaps there is a balance to be struck here. Perhaps, the teaching of Jesus for us to be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” has an application here. Enjoy all that you can. But do not let the crooks have a free reign.

I realize that a critical spirit can, and often is, a cover for putting someone else down in order to put ourselves up as dominant in a relationship. Often, the message is that we are wiser, better, and could do things in a fine fashion. This is true in the classroom. It can be true in the family, and even in the church.

It is not difficult to hear (look at me judging again) someone misusing this passage as a proof text for foolishly not standing against any wrong. Often I hear persons glibly declare that we are not to judge others. It very quickly results in an affirmation of the “relativism” that dominates our popular culture. In his treatment of the law back in the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus clearly declares that God has some absolute demands that inform his laws for our lives.

Certainally, Jesus is reflecting here another basic principle of the Christian life. We are to seek what is best for others, even our enemies. We are not to be critical of others to tear them down, or to gain advantage. Rather, we are to be honest assessors of ourselves and of others as a means of moving and of encourage development in righteousness.

Judging should have a redemptive purpose. When it fails to have, it is evil.

Seeking first the Kingdom.Mt. 6:33

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Here is one of the most basic principles of life. It is the summary of the point made in the teachings dealt with in the previous blog. God put us here to glorify Him. He is a God who is worthy of glory. So, we can and should glorify him, no question about it.

Rather than seek stuff, or status, or position, or my own desires, I need to be focused on being a good citizen of the Kingdom of God, one who relies on the King, the father, to provide. This certainly includes me doing my share and working for the Kingdom. I need to be responsible and pull my weight. It is important, and appropriate, to review the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:2-12) in order to be reminded of the benefits for those who seek the Kingdom first.

We must admit that this is not easy. Our American culture seems to be built on seeking stuff for ourselves, seeking status, seeking power, seeking fame. It is so easy to forget about what Jesus teaches here.

Really, I need to treasure Jesus. Peacemaking must be my goal in relationships. My actions must spring from a pure heart. I need to be merciful and forgiving. I need to expect to be persecuted. I need to know the joy of being righteous like my heavenly Father. I must confess that all too often I get deflected from doing this.

The Wise Builder. Matt. 7:24-27

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Jesus was a carpenter. I can imagine that on rainy days some of the local craftspeople in the village of Nazareth gathered in the shop and shared stories. And I imagine that the accounts concerning both wise and foolish builders were included in the stories.

Jesus draws upon these to conclude the Sermon on the Mount. Earlier he had pictured the Christian life as a journey, then as a living product, and now he round the set of illustrations out with a picture of a set of builders.

The wise builder uses a solid rock for his foundation. I believe that he returned to this picture in the famous conversion between himself and Peter found in Matthew 16:13-20. Here Jesus declares that his church will be built on the solid rock of the acknowledgment that Jesus in the very son of God.

We might continue that the foolish builder uses Satanic sand for his foundation. It seems that almost every year we are reminded of he foolish builders when rains cause mud slides and multi-million dollar homes slide down hills in California and are crushed.

Stuff. Mt. 6:20-34

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Jesus continues to teach that God must be our focus in life. Culture teaches to focus on stuff–either on getting our needs met or on getting stuff and the attendant status, so that we can declare that we are more important than our neighbors. Here and on several other occasions Jesus devalued stuff. Certainly, he promises rewards, and he teaches that we can depend on God to provide for our needs. Stuff is nice and it is needed, to some extent. But it must not be allowed to become our god.

Like many Americans I have way to much stuff. I worry about what I will do with it all when I retire and move to a retirement home. I worry about how our children will dispose of it when we die. I really can’t make use of, or enjoy, most of my stuff.

Increasingly, I am learning about the joy of share, or giving away some of the stuff that I do not need, or do not use to others. This is good, but am I running the risk of turning others into stuff “junkies” like myself.

The comments by Jesus about nature here are powerful ones. God has truly made a beautiful world. The beauty and the bounty of nature is inspiring.

Honestly, I wonder about those who do starve and do not have enough. Does this disprove what Jesus teaches here? I think not. The sins of mankind are the root cause of those times when there is not adequate amounts of food and clothing for everyone. The shortfalls that might seem to raise a question about what Jesus says here cannot be blamed on God.

So, back to the main point, Madison Ave. not withstanding, we need to get over focusing on stuff and just trust in a faithful God.