Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Law of Love

"All the Law and the Prophets 
hang on these two commandments." 

Christians are not entirely free from the restraints of “The Law.”  In fact, they are under the most demanding of all laws, "The Law of Love." 

When Jesus quotes the greatest commandment in the Law of Moses, (read: Matthew 22:34-40) He combines two separate commands (Deuteronomy 6:5 & Leviticus 19:18).  Love is the greatest commandment, and its elements are twofold: love of God (first) and love of neighbor (second).  When we love God first, the love of others becomes a natural extension. 

The question was a popular one.  Jesus’ answer is a challenging one.  To be a true disciple is to love God with everything we have, and to love the people of the world whom God made in his own image with God's kind of love.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jesus and Money

It is interesting to note that nowhere in the gospels is Jesus represented as having used money.  Nowhere do the gospels show Jesus using money, yet almost 40% of Jesus’ teaching involves metaphors or dialogue regarding money.

In Matthews gospel (read Matthew 22:15- 22) a coin is produced and Jesus cleverly turns the table: “Whose image is this?” - “Caesar's,” they reply - “Well then,” Jesus said to them, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”  Most people, as one commentator points out, have a tendency to divide God and the world God has made into easy-to-grasp categories. We take Jesus' answer to the question about the poll tax, for example, and try to figure out what is Caesar's and what is God's. How much should go into the offering plate this week, we ask, or, to put it another way, “How little can we get away with giving?”

We all want to know how to give less and get more.  We all like to take Jesus' answer and try to figure out, “How little can we give?” When in reality what God is asking of us is that we open ourselves up, look deep within, and listen. And try our best to put what God is requesting of us into tangible, unyielding, concrete action – “Give to God what is God’s” – which, when it’s all said and done, is everything!   (see: gratitude)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Poor Fisherman

There is a story I once read about a poor fisherman named Joel. Joel lived and worked near a river, and while walking home late one evening after a hard day's work, he was dreaming of himself, about what he could do, what life would be like if he was extremely rich. As he walked his foot struck against a leather pouch filled with what seemed to him to be small stones.  So he picked up the pouch and began taking them out one by one and throwing the pebbles into the water. “When I am a rich man,” he said to himself, “I'll have a large house.”  And he would throw another pebble into the river.  “When I get rich my wife and I will eat fine food and drink only the best wine,” and he would throw another pebble into the river.    

Joel went on like this all the way home, dreaming of being rich and throwing a stone into the river, he did this until just one stone was left.  As he held it in his hand, a ray of moon-light caught it and made it sparkle. That’s when he realized that it was a valuable gem―a diamond.  All along He had been throwing away the real riches in his hand while he dreamed of unrealistic riches in the future.

This illustration aptly summarizes the situation of many follower's in our world today. We have been given everything we need or could want―food, clothing, shelter―or to make use of Jesus’ parable (found in Matthew 22:1-14) the King has given each of us a wedding garment. But for some reason we don’t want to wear it. We fail to notice the multitude of gifts God has graciously given us. We fail to find a way to put them to use.

Instead, we dream of the day when we will somehow be something more, and our selfishness will somehow be somewhat less. “Come to the wedding banquet,” the story goes, “but some paid no attention and went off, one to his field, another to his business…” (see: "delve deeper")

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Landowner Blues

In Matthew’s gospel (see Matthew 21:33-46) Jesus tells a story to get his audience to realize how they need to keep in proper focus the things they have been given; that they should give back to the creator out of gratitude for what they have been given. But, sadly, the tenants do the opposite, and now the landlord is disappointed.  And in a strange twist the Lord of all creation decides to ask directions from his creation. What should the landowner do?  “He should bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they reply in verse 41.

But that is not what the landowner does. Instead, Jesus, the stone once rejected, now becomes the cornerstone of a new covenant! The good news of this parable tells us to take comfort in knowing that Jesus is not away somewhere on vacation just waiting to hear about the harvest. But rather, Jesus is right here laboring with us, beside us, through us, to help us bring about the fruit of God’s Kingdom. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Yes and No

“Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’, ‘no’; 
anything beyond this comes from the adversary”   
(Matthew 5:37)

Yes, I want the job… Yes, I will marry you… Yes, I will join the church… Yes is such a powerful little word.  Life changing; course altering.  And it is so easy to do, say yes, that is, to everything!  Yes I will pick up the mail.  Yes I will call tomorrow.  Yes I will get you something to eat.  Yes we can go shopping. Yes we can do this, that and the other...

What if I was to suggest that this fun little word that we so easily like to say is actually a "dirty" little word that can create higgledy-piggledy.  By attempting to do more than we can (yes) actually do, we are creating more life-jumbling than necessary.  May I suggest a simple thought to ponder  that we seriously and selectively learn (and begin) putting into practice yet another powerful little word – NO.

As Barbara Brown Taylor superbly points out: Learning to say no is how we clear space for a few carefully planted yes’s to grow.”  Saying no to lesser gods (goals) is part of saying yes to God (a larger goal).  Saying no to one activity is part of saying yes wholeheartedly to another.  Saying a tired no today is part of saying a more refreshed yes tomorrow. Getting a powerful word like YES to grow sometimes means we must first say NO.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

They Complained

So they complained to Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” 
(Exodus 17:1-7) 

When a warning light comes on in your car, putting a piece of black tape over it won’t fix the problem.  When something about your car is broken, it needs to be taken to someone who knows how the car works and understands how to fix it.  Pretending the problem doesn’t exist won’t help fix the problem.
Complaining to God, in a sense, is you being real with God.  It is you acknowledging there is a problem; it is you asking God to help fix it.

Today’s story in Exodus 17 (from one perspective) shows us that even complaining to God in frustration and fear is an expression of faith; a kind of faith that is grounded in what we know to be true about God—
… that whatever God’s people lack in faith, God makes up for in never ending love of his people;
… that in the end, God’s faithfulness overrides all fear and doubt;
… that in the end, Jesus’ cross and crown make up for all our sins and shortcomings.  And that, my friends is not something to complain about, but something to smile about.  
                       Saw fish photo was taken by me while visiting the Gatlinburg, TN aquarium

Saturday, September 27, 2014

(Poem) My Old Bible

"My Old Bible"

Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears,
Yet more precious than gold
Is this book worn and old,
That can shatter and scatter all fears.

This old book is my guide,
‘Tis a friend by my side,
It will lighten and brighten my way;
And each promise I find
Soothes and gladdens the mind,
As I read it and heed it each day.

To this book I will cling,
Of its worth I will sing,
Though great losses and crosses be mine;
For I cannot despair,
Though surrounded by care,
While possessing this blessing divine.

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