Add Love

Matthew 5

January 5

It’s only been 5 days, but so far I am enjoying the one chapter a day pace for 2022. It’s allowing us a bit more time to soak in the lessons of each chapter before rushing into the next. However, as we look at Matthew chapter 5 today I can’t help but feel that this chapter would be a good one to cover just one VERSE per day! Jesus knew how to stack a sermon with plenty to mull over on the way home. It is possible that Matthew included some bits and pieces from other sermons to lump them all together into what is now known as The Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. Whether it was all said by Jesus in one particular sitting, or spread out, or often repeated for various audiences, these words of Jesus are priceless and worthy of being read over and over again, finding something new and inspiring every time.

We will save a longer discussion on the Beatitudes for another day/week/month. Until then, watch your attitudes. The right ones, as judged by God and not man, will come with great reward.

It’s okay, even preferred, to be persecuted for following Jesus. Follow anyway. The reward is great. And you are not the first to endure such opposition.

Be different from the world. Keep your saltiness (preserving life, adding spiritual savoring, disinfecting worldliness). Keep shining in the darkness. Keep doing good. Represent your Heavenly Father well.

Keep the Old Testament – with a New Testament heart.

Jesus knew people would think that now that the Messiah was here the old laws and scriptures would be done away with. Laws aren’t a lot of fun, let’s just love instead. He saw it back then, we still see it today. But Jesus clearly stated, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus challenged those sitting at his feet and he challenges us today. Think of the BEST people you can think of. Who is known for being righteous? At that time it was the Pharisees and teachers of the law. But Jesus said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Ouch! Did that say what I think it said? Read it again. But Jesus said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Something MORE is needed. Following the Old Testament laws one by one to show the world how good you are doesn’t cut it. But that doesn’t mean we throw out the law and the prophets and the Old Testament. Rather than throwing it out, we add to it. We don’t need to add more laws, the Pharisees already tried that, too. Instead, we add to it the heart of Jesus – the New Testament heart. What does that look like? Jesus knew we would ask, so he gives us six examples in Matthew 5.

Don’t pat yourself on the back for not murdering anyone today. Add love. Control your anger toward others. Don’t let that put-down out of your mouth. Work at relationships. Forgive and ask for forgiveness. And still, don’t murder.

Don’t pat yourself on the back for not committing adultery today. Add love. Guard yourself from lust. Take it seriously. There are consequences. Show respect and responsibility. And still, don’t commit adultery.

Don’t pat yourself on the back for doing a divorce in a legal, friendly manner. Add love. Work at it again. Take it seriously. There are consequences for everyone.

Don’t pat yourself on the back for keeping one oath made to God. Watch your words. Take them seriously. Stop making promises. Realize God is so much greater than you. Realize there is so much beyond your control. Keep it simple. Watch for influence from the evil one.

Don’t pat yourself on the back for getting even. Add love. Add sacrifice. Add service. Add generosity. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s not deserved.

Don’t pat yourself on the back for taking good care of people who take good care of you. Add love. For all. God knows. He’s got this. Don’t worry if it’s not fair now. You will see sunshine and rain. They (your enemies) will, too. It’s okay. Pray for them, even if they hurt you – or especially if they hurt you. Your actions and your prayers will show that you are God’s child. Work at being like Him.

Keep the commandments and add love.

Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Where is society trying to throw away the laws of God? What would they replace it with? Is this a good idea or a dangerous one? Why?
  2. Do you more often focus on the law or on love? Think of a particular instance where you leaned one way or another. How do we do both? What could you have done in the example you thought of to add in more of the lesser ingredient?
  3. What is the danger in weighing in too heavily in the law, neglecting love? What is the danger in weighing in too heavily in love, neglecting the law?
  4. Have you ever been afraid of the dark? What about spiritual darkness? How important is light? And spiritual light? What dims your light? What helps it shine brighter? Do you feel more like a match or a floodlight? How can we remember to be a light and shine in the darkness?

Love Your Enemy

2 Samuel 1-2 and Acts 10

How do you treat people you don’t understand, people who are different than you, people who have hurt you, people you feel threatened by, people who are troubled, those who have become your enemy?

Both our Old Testament and our New Testament reading today offers some options.

The relationship between King Saul and David began back in 1st Samuel 16. “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (vs 14 – NIV). His advisors had heard of a fine young man who spoke well, played the harp well and bravely fought well. David was brought to the king and Saul liked him very much. It began as a helpful, mutually beneficial relationship. The shepherd boy David received a royal position as armor-bearer and musician. And Saul received relief from the evil spirit when David played his soothing music. It was a win-win – until the little harp-playing armor-bearer bested the Philistine giant and EVERYONE in Israel went gaga for the good-looking brave young hero. Saul became jealous and it isn’t long before Saul is pursuing and trying to kill David. How does David respond? He could have very likely led a successful revolt right from the start. He had many faithful followers at a time when Saul’s popularity was greatly declining. He also had many strong and logical reasons to oust the king. Wouldn’t the whole country of Israel be better off if led by a hero favored by the Lord rather than a has-been tormented by an evil spirit? He even had the support of the king’s son Jonathan. How long can you be loyal to a mentally unstable person who is trying to kill you?

But David, who made a practice of inquiring of the Lord, would not respond as so many others would have. Even when given the opportunity (at least twice) to kill Saul, he instead protected his life. David saw and respected Saul as God’s anointed king and so it didn’t matter how Saul treated him, he would not harm Saul. Revenge was not even in his vocabulary. He placed God’s desire above his own, even when it was hard and didn’t make sense to the rest of the world.

In 2nd Samuel 1 the Amalekite brings word that Saul and Jonathan are dead. He even takes credit for ending the life of the severely wounded king (even though this isn’t mentioned in the passage of Saul’s death in 2nd Samuel 31). But whether he did or he didn’t, he took the crown that had been on Saul’s head and brought it to David, the logical new king. I am sure he was expecting to be rewarded. It seems a logical thing to expect. It seems David would now be relieved, he didn’t have to kill the king personally, but it was done and he no longer had to hide and fear for his life. He could now become king. What good news!

But, no. His loyalty had been no act. He sincerely loved and cared for and wanted what was best for the tormented king, regardless of how he had been treated personally. The peaceful reconciliation he had hoped for had not come. David was in deep grief for his faithful friend Jonathan and for the troubled king who had been the Lord’s anointed. Rather than doing what had been expected of him long ago – killing the king – he now had the messenger who took credit for killing the king killed. And, in his grief he turned again to music, writing a lament to teach Israel to grief the deaths as he did.

In Acts 10 we see a different kind of fractured relationship – one that had never been allowed to develop – because Jews had always seen Gentiles as unclean. Jews and Gentiles had different upbringings, different religions, different nationalities, different goals, different understandings. God had been sanctifying the Jews – removing them from their worldly surroundings to keep them the holy, chosen people of God, untainted by others. And, so there had been many Jewish rules about not associating with Gentiles and with good reason at the time. But times were changing…and God was about to show what entering the new covenant was going to look like. The grace, love, and spirit of God was now going to be poured out on all who believed and followed Jesus, the perfect lamb and Son of God sacrificed for all regardless of whether they were a physical descendent of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob (a Jew) or not (a Gentile).

It is hard to overcome centuries of isolation and distrust. Different is different and too often it becomes a barrier to compassion, understanding, brotherhood, and working together for a common goal – sharing Jesus with the world. It took the good Jewish Peter 3 visions from God and a perfectly timed God-ordained appointment with the devout and God-fearing Gentile Cornelius to be willing to accept that God indeed wanted him to change his view of Gentiles and reach out to them with the saving news of Jesus as well.

How are you doing in your view of those different from you? Do you see their need for Jesus and what you can do to bring Jesus to them? Do you react with compassion, eager to share the good news of Jesus to all, not full of judgement and isolation? How do you react to those you might have once considered impure or unclean? Do you want what is best for those who have hurt you or misjudged you? Does God’s desire and love for the troubled and lost motivate you to put off selfish desires and rise above what others expect of you? How are you doing at loving your enemies?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 1-2 and Acts 10

It’s Not Always Easy

Luke 8

Jesus is not know for being particularly easy with his teaching. It can be just plain difficult. 

Sometimes the teachings are easy enough to understand but hard in their application. We know what Jesus said about enemies. He didn’t mince words or obfuscate. Love them. Full Stop.  But, when you have an enemy, you don’t WANT to love them. If you HAVE to love them, then you CAN’T hate them, and in the darkest parts we want to hate some people. But Jesus came to shine a light into even those parts and to change them. So, love (wish and seek the best for) your enemies and pray (bring their needs, cares, and burdens before God) for those who persecute you. That is hard. 

Other times Jesus doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense. A lot of the people in John 6 stopped following him because he said, “You have to eat my body and drink my blood.” And today we can say, “Oh yeah, he was talking about communion.” But THEY didn’t know that. There is a rabbi talking about eating a person and drinking his blood, and they are just thinking about the number of Torah laws and cultural traditions they would have to break. But mostly, they would be thinking “WHAT?! WHY?! What is he on about?” Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. But they didn’t seem to get it, because his mission wasn’t complete yet. 

And sometimes, the teaching is BOTH hard to understand and seems difficult in the day-to-day living. 

Luke 8 is full of them. Why does Jesus, who is so insistent on US spreading the Kingdom message to all corners of the world, teach with hiddenness? Why does he say, “Go into all the world” and tell everyone to keep it quiet? Why does he teach in parables, so that the crowds would be confused? I could give an astute scholarly answer, that references the nature of prophecy and the different purposes for the mission of Jesus and mission of the church, but in the end it is a head scratcher. It feels weird. It feels hard. It weighs on me. 

Nothing weighs heavier on me from this chapter than Luke 8:18. As a reminder: “18 So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” That’s a hard one! Why should the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? Is that what Jesus is saying?

Though the questions are important, there are times for answers. And of course that is not what he is saying. 

Jesus has just finished saying that a light will not bet covered up but put on a lampstand, and how everything will be disclosed and made known. He has been speaking about the knowledge of the Kingdom, the Gospel, the Word of God, the Knowledge of God, the Logos of God, up to this point.  So the question we need to answer is “whoever has what?” Whoever has a desire and thirst to learn the things of God. Whoever has a desire to serve Jesus. Whoever has a desire to follow him where he leads. Whoever, once the lamp is lighted, wants to see it in its fulness. THAT person will be given more. They will actually acquire the knowledge they are looking for. They will be equipped to serve. They will be empowered to follow. They will see the light, and it will fill them up, all the way from the inside out. 

But whoever does not have those desires…

Well, what little power, strength, might, authority, ability, talent…

It’ll be taken away. 

It’s a hard teaching. But it makes sense. Jesus comes to offer life. If we don’t want life, we don’t get it. It’s not forced upon us. 

You may be wondering, “But right now I don’t want it. I am reading because it’s a habit I can’t break. I am reading while crying because I want it to be true but can’t pull out that belief in me.” Welcome to the Christian Faith, where desires like that have existed beside the “most devout” since the dawn of the church! Ancient Christian authors wrote statements like (and forgive the modern paraphrase) “I don’t want God, but I want to want God.” Even a man declared to Jesus “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Maybe you have believing unbelief, or unbelieving belief. Maybe you want to want God. Or want to want to want him. 

Jesus can work with that glimmer. 

Because in the end he will work with us on all the hard passages, on the ones that weigh on us, on the things that are hard to understand and hard to live out. 

The promise from scripture is that, if you let him work, “He will finish the good work he began in us.”

Jesus will give you understanding and peace when you don’t. 

Jesus will give you the skills and ability for service. 

Jesus will give you power to follow. 

Do you want him to? Do you want to want him to?

-Jacob Ballard

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway Numbers 35-36 and Luke 8

Jesus – the Radical One

Luke Chapter Six

Luke 6 27 28 NIV

In chapter six, Jesus is continuing on in his ministry.  We see that twice, Jesus caused the Pharisees, a group of Jews, to get upset.  Both times revolved around Jesus doing work on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were a sect of Jews that had a high priority and focus on following the letter of the law.  They wanted to make sure they were obeying every letter of the law as well as everyone else.

 

Exodus 35:2 states, “Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD.  Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.”  This was the law that the Jews were to follow, and anyone who did not follow the Sabbath should be put to death.  With that said, I can totally put myself in the Pharisees’ shoes and understand why they would be so upset with Jesus not following the Sabbath rest.  However, throughout Jesus’ ministry, he had quite the radical thoughts and actions.  A superb example of this is found in the Sermon on the Mount when six times Jesus said, “you have heard that it was said… But I say to you.”  Six times Jesus took what was said in the Old Testament and radicalized it.  Jesus flipped the whole world upside down.

 

This trend of Jesus having quite the radical thoughts and actions continues in chapter six.  Jesus goes on to say that we are blessed if we are poor, hungry, weeping, and hated.  He says that in the end times, we will be satisfied, as the kingdom of God will belong to us.  He continues by saying woe to you if you are rich, full, laugh, and people speak well of you.  To the normal person, this would make no sense, but Jesus flips everything upside down.

 

One of the more well-known radical statements of Jesus is found in Luke six as well –  when talking about our enemies.  Jesus makes the bold and radical statement by saying, “love your enemies,” (Luke 6:35).  It’s common for people to disregard their enemies or even act wickedly to them.  However, Jesus tells us to take another approach with our enemies.  He tells us to love our enemies!  This goes totally contrary to how the rest of the world treats their enemies.

 

Jesus was full of radical statements and actions throughout his ministry.  He was constantly turning people’s lives upside down.  We, as Christians, need to follow our radical leader, Jesus.  He showed us the way, and it is our job to follow his lead.  Jesus did not fit in at all in his society because of his radical statements and actions, such as loving your enemies.  With that said, if we follow Jesus’ lead, then we are going to stick out like a sore thumb as well.  Be bold and courageous and live a radical life like that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Kyle McClain

Love & Compassion

Mark 5

Mark 5 2

Coming off the week of Fuel is always hard; we go from an amazing week of worship and fellowship back to our regular lives. However, it is important not to return to that pattern. We should be able to have people around us see the difference that has been made. We want people to know we are Christians by our love. This chapter, Mark 5, is an excellent example of that. In the latter half we see Christ commend a woman’s faith that helped make her well. He also brings a child, of whom he doesn’t know, back from the dead. He showed that love and compassion to random strangers, but more interestingly to me, he showed love and compassion to a demon in the beginning.

At the beginning of this chapter we see he goes to the other side of the sea to the region of the Gerasenes. There he finds a man who is possessed by the demon legion, who has broken all restraints that have been used against him and has been cutting the man’s body as well. As soon as Christ arrives there the demon possessed man came running to him and was begging him to leave the area, and to not torment him. There are other stories where the demon has been cast out and they move on, but Jesus takes the time to ask his name, he even gives legion permission to take over the pigs nearby rather than just cast him out. He leads by example here, for he said to love your enemy. He could’ve not listened to the demon and driven him out to be done, but he didn’t. He took the time to talk to legion and showed mercy in letting him possess the pigs.

Sometimes we struggle enough showing compassion to people we work with and see on a daily basis, maybe we find them a little too talkative or annoying but that is no reason to not show love. I know plenty of teachers I work with who just get on my nerves sometimes because they have problems everyday with the little things, like their password or volume on their computer. It’s important though that I don’t get mad or angry with them because we are called to love and being upset when someone is having trouble or struggling will only make it worse. If Christ can show compassion to a demon possessing and harming a man, we should be able to find compassion in ourselves for those around us, even when it is hard.

So, start today.  Sit down with that one person we might try to avoid, talk to the one who seems out of place, have patience with them and put yourself out there to be known as the one who shows kindness and compassion to all. Try to lead by example and show compassion to others in our lives, even if they seem to torment us like a demon. It’ll be hard but just maybe from this we can learn to be a light and hopefully inspire them to follow suit.

 

Have a great week and hold strong,

 

-Kyle Cheatwood

GIVE even when we don’t get what we want

Luke 6

Luke 6 pic

“But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. ” Luke 6:35-36

 

To me, Luke chapter 6 is a call to action. After being introduced to the Lord Jesus in the previous 5 chapters, we now start to gain first-hand accounts of his teachings.

 

One particular section of scripture in this account is when Jesus is speaking about love. He explains that it is easy for us to love someone who loves us, but having to show love to someone who won’t give that in return is what is a challenge.

 

When I first read this, my response was, yes of course. I should love my enemies. I should give and expect nothing in return.

 

But putting those words into practice is SO much harder than I thought.

 

We as people want things. We want to feel affection. We want to be accepted. We want to be loved. And, might I add, that all of that is valid. It is okay to feel that way.

 

But, I propose a “take it or leave it” thought to carry with you as you read: As Christians, we are called to give even when we don’t get what we want.

 

I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes we have to “grin and bear it”. We must persist. We must endure. This includes being kind to someone who wronged you. This includes waking up and going through the motions of life even when it seems unbearable. This means that we must go through the hard stuff.

 

Because if we don’t go through the hard stuff, we won’t be ready for the great big things that the Lord calls us to. Everything has a purpose. Don’t lose sight of the hope that has been gifted to you by our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

And when we think about it, after all the Lord has done for us, obeying his command to love our enemies is the least we can do, right?

 

-Leslie Jones

 

 

Some Peace in this Crazy World

Luke 6-7

o-LOVE-YOUR-ENEMIES-facebook

May 16, 2017

Have you ever prayed for your enemies? Not to make you feel guilty if you haven’t but I think it’s a good habit to start. My reasoning behind this relies on the fact that the kingdom of God will be peaceful, and if we are to be a part of the kingdom of God why not pray for that peace now? You might think praying for peace is different than praying for your enemies but I don’t think there is that big of a difference.

 

But prayer is one thing, what about actions? Can we love our enemies with our actions? Jesus seems to think so, and even demands that we do it in Luke 6:27-36. He even gives a couple examples, one of which is prayer.

 

Why should we do this? Well, other than to be obedient to Jesus, which is emphasized in verses 46-49, it is because God has been intentional in reaching out to us. Yes, at one point in time, we were against God, and yet he still gave his Son for us. He was merciful to us, even when we might have hated him. Luke 6:36 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

 

I encourage you today to read through this section of verses. Write down how you could love those who you may consider enemies. Your answers may surprise you, and if you follow up by doing some of the things you write down, you might find that loving your enemies isn’t all that hard. Who knows, you might even create some peace is this crazy world.

 

-Jesse Allen

thechristiantaco

 

Your Enemy Dies – So You . . . ? (II Samuel 1-3)

Tuesday, October 18th

mt5-44-pic

Nathaniel Johnson

Now that Saul is dead, there’s nothing in the way to stop David from being anointed as the King of Israel. You’d think that this would be a time of celebration for David; he’s finally free from the threat of Saul! But when David hears that Saul fell in battle, we see the opposite of celebration. David and his whole camp fasted and mourned all day. It would be one thing if David was just sad about his friend Jonathan dying, but he also wrote his song about Saul, a man who tried to kill him. How many other people do you know that would praise their enemies? I can think of at least one: Jesus. Jesus said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

David is certainly living out a Christlike virtue here and we should strive to do the same. It can be really easy to be happy when we see our school bully get in trouble with a teacher. But that’s not how David would react and that’s not how Jesus says we should act. We should wish the best on our close friends and our enemies and pray for them daily, because if we do, we will “be sons of [our] Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44)

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