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Posts Tagged ‘Sermon on the Mount’

Why Pray When You Can Worry?!

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Worry is rust upon the blade. ~ Henry Ward Hughes

Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow. ~ Swedish Proverb

You can never worry your way to enlightenment. ~ Ed Northstrum

I’ve developed a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time. ~ Charlie Brown

Worry bankrupts the spirit. ~ Berri Clove

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~ Leo Buscaglia

Quit worrying about your health. It’ll go away. J  ~ Robert Orben

Raise your hand if you worry too much.  Yes, mine is raised as well.  I can be a worry wart.  I am aptly skilled at staying up all night, staring at the ceiling, while having discussions and fixing problems in my head.  Did I forget to mention that I am also skilled at  being creative?  Most of these discussions and problems never happened, I create them all by myself.  They most likely will never take place…but I worry all night wondering if they could or would.  I’ve wasted valuable sleep hours and probably made myself sick simply by worrying.

Jesus, being our creator and knowing our weakness in sin, knows how much worry holds us back from being the person He created us to be.  What I know is this…much of the Bible deals directly with God wanting us to simply know who we are.

Let’s start at the beginning and move through the Bible with things that we know.  We are created by God (Genesis 1-2, John 1:1-4).  He has a special plan for each of our lives and for us as the family of God as well (Psalm 113:13-17, Jeremiah 29:11).  This world is not our home (John 18:36, Romans 14:17, John 3:16-17).  Our Father will take care of our needs while we are in this world (Matthew 6:25-34, Matthew 7:9-12).  Those are all scriptures that I know well.  However, I still worry about my days.  I worry about what people think about me.  I worry about making ends meet.  I worry about Dr’s visits.  I worry about teaching lessons to the groups I lead.  I worry about the Browns winning…ok…I know what you’re thinking.  I worry about saying the right thing…or the wrong thing.  All this worry…instead of trust.  Jesus has a better way.  Jesus trusted and lived in peace.

Many of you have heard me talk about my two Biblical heroes…other than Jesus.  Peter and Paul.  I love these guys because they figured this “don’t worry” thing out.  They started with what they knew to be true.  Reread that again…they started with truth.  Jesus had risen from the dead.  If that was true…everything Jesus said was true.  If everything Jesus said was true, then they had nothing to worry about.  All they needed to do was listen for direction, love people, and follow God.  It didn’t matter what people thought of them or what people did to them or if they slipped up here and there.  Forgiveness covered their wrongs and their home was in Heaven.  They knew that no one could take that away and that this world is temporary.  They knew that Jesus said even the Hell could not stand in their way.  They were part of the Kingdom.  They had real peace because they knew who they were, who God was, and where they were.  Worry didn’t have a place in their life.

I have to say that as I get older I have gotten better at this worry crap.  Haha…yes, I said crap.  Because I’ve come to realize that that’s really what it is.  Don’t get me wrong or hear what I’m not typing…I’m concerned about things.  Concern drives me to make corrections, dive in to unknown waters, or get work done.  But worry handcuffs me into doing nothing.  And I hate it when I allow worry to do that to me.

What about you?  Does worry have handcuffs on you?  Sometimes we put those handcuffs on ourselves!  Sometimes we wallow in our worry.  Sometimes we want people to feel sorry for us so we worry in public so others will see our worry.  I think all that does is get other people to worry with us…not helpful.  We put handcuffs on and then pass more around to our friends.  I often hear people in restaurants having hour long discussions all centered in worry about something.  I think next time I hear that happening I’m just going to go over and say, “Do you want me to get ya’ll some handcuffs?  I can strap you down to your chairs.”

Let’s remember who we are and who’s we are.  If we can wake up knowing that and lay our head down at night resting in that peace, life would be much fuller.  I’m confident of that.  Jesus wants us to always seek His Kingdom first.  If we’re not, we’re obviously seeking someone else’s.  And someone else’s will give us things to worry about.

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

Questions for Growth:

  • Do you have issues with worry?  Is “worry” your friend?  J
  • What has worry done to help you lately?
  • Examples…When have you worried and gotten nowhere?
  • Is that a way you want to live?
  • So…forward thinking…what can you do to pick yourself up out of worrying?  Be specific. (Examples: memorize some pertinent scripture, pray, have inspiring music at hand, call a friend to tell you to quit…haha…what ever works)
  • Do you know someone who worries?  What can you do to help them…this week?  Be specific and follow through.

Remember, you may…probably will fail at times in your plan to quit the worry habit.  But if you never start or try, you’ll always keep those handcuffs on.

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

A pirate captain was on the look out for buried treasure.

After months of hard sailing, his ship caught sight of land, the land to which his treasure map had been leading.

He and his first mate disembarked on the island to search out the buried treasure, which was supposed to lie hidden deep within a swamp at the center of the island.

Sure enough, at the center of the island was a swamp, and the Captain and his first mate bravely entered the swamp.

Soon the swamp began to get deeper, and the pirate’s feet, then ankles, and finally entire leg below the knees was covered in swamp.

It was at that time that the Captain banged his shin against something hard. He reached down, searched around, and pulled up a treasure chest.

Prying the lock open, the chest revealed gold and jewels beyond imagination!

The Captain turned to his first mate and said, “Arrrr, matey, that just goes to show ye, that booty is only shin deep!”

One of my favorite books of the Bible is the book of Ecclesiastes.  In 9:1 of Ecclesiastes it says this, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”  This was written by the one who asked for God’s wisdom and received it…Solomon.  Solomon realized something very true.  There’s nothing new in relation to human nature.  Today’s verse focuses on something that is as true today as it was when Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 6:19-21.  In fact, they were also as true for Jesus’ followers as they were for the people in Solomon’s time as well.

We like to have things.  We like stuff.  We like gadgets.  We not only like having stuff…but we like having the best stuff.  We like our cars and dresses and tv’s and radios and music and IPods and tablets and game systems and awards and certificates.  We like good smelling things and things that make our house look nice.  We like nice things to sit in and nice things to walk on.  We like cash in our wallets and we like to go buy something when we want it.

Jesus talks straight about this to the people who are listening.  He’s just covered how to give to the needy, how to pray and how to fast.  Those things all seem well intentioned because they look like things done for and with God.  This one’s personal though.  He talks about our personal treasure.

When I was a kid, mom would take my sister and me to the library on a regular basis.  One subject I loved to read about was “treasure hunters.”  I would day dream about being a “hunter” one day and finding a sunken treasure ship that no one had found before.  I remember when we would go on vacation to Florida.  We’d go out to eat somewhere and sometimes the placemat would be a “map” of sunken ships that no one had ever found.  I kept those placemats, thinking one day I just might go and use that map to find treasure.

Well, you don’t see me on TV scuba diving in the Caribbean searching for lost treasure in the sea.  But that doesn’t mean I still don’t search for treasure.  I like my stuff…my treasure…and as Jesus hinted to, it gets in the way of the True Treasure God has for us each and every day.

John Maxwell, speaker and author, says that he can basically tell most things about a person by doing a few things…and in about 5 minutes.  He said let me see your calendar, the books you are reading, and your check book.  From those three things he can get a good picture of what you go after…what your main focuses are in life.  Think about that for a minute.  If he can do that, and I’m confident that he can, what would he see if you opened up your books to him?  What would your checkbook show is important to you?  What would your calendar show is important to you?  What do you focus on in down time and what’s it say is important to you?

Jesus said that the stuff we collect here on earth is not meaningful.  This stuff is not going to last and it can be taken from you.  He said that there is treasure that will not rot away and no one can steal.  The last line of this short passage of scripture is the kicker.  Wherever your treasure is…your heart’s there too, and if it’s not with God it’s somewhere else.

Solomon got to this wisdom late and after many mistakes.  He had used most of his wealth to buy treasure on earth.  Later in life he realized what was really important.  Here’s what he said after talking about his abundance of stuff, “…when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”  He realized that not one of these things got him closer to God.  Luckily, we have his story and testimony and the books of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs to help us see a little clearer what’s really important in life.

So where’s your treasure?

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

Ed

Questions for Growth:

  • How are you a treasure hunter?
  • How does your treasure interfere with your relationship with God?
  • How does your treasure, or treasure hunting, interfere with your ministry as a Christian…a priest of God?
  • What steps will you take today or tomorrow to change your patterns of behavior?

The Plan of Forgiveness


Toward the end of the service, the Minister asked, “How many of you have forgiven your enemies?” 80% held up their hands.

The Minister then repeated his question. All responded this time, except one small elderly lady.

“Mrs. Jones? Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?” “I don’t have any,” she replied, smiling sweetly.

“Mrs. Jones, that is very unusual. How old are you?”

“Ninety-eight,” she replied.

“Oh, Mrs. Jones, would you please come down in front and tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years & not have an enemy in the world?”

The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation, and said: “I outlived the old hags.”

********

Some people ask where I get these.  I really have no idea….and if I did, I woudn’t say.  Haha

Link for this week: It takes 2 minutes to watch.

This week’s focus is just as difficult for me as last week’s was. This week we focus on forgiveness. Most of us have a problem with forgiveness. We think we deserve forgiveness when we’ve done something wrong, but we have a hard time handing it out when someone has done something wrong towards us. So what we need here is a good working understanding of ‘forgiveness.’

As we’re still working through Matthew 6, Jesus speaks this next request in the model prayer in a different way than we might expect. The way He words this prayer to the Father puts weight on us. The question isn’t only for God to forgive us. We are asking Him to do so in the process of us forgiving those who have sinned against us too. Action required. This isn’t just a “gimmee” request. Jesus knows that would be too easy…and against the true purpose of forgiveness.

Here’s how I look at this. Forgiveness is conditional, but handed out freely. We have to ask for it. We have to be at a point where we believe with our whole heart that Jesus died and rose as the Son of God to bear the punishment for our personal sins…as well as the sins of our neighbor, family member or enemy. Thus, if He can forgive them, we need to do the same.

My guess is that everyone has gathered in close to Jesus as He’s speaking this to the crowd in this section of Scripture. Heads are nodding in agreement with the short statements. “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name,” has been spoken and the “Amens” go up. Jesus says, “Your will be done, here on Earth like it is in Heaven,” and those around Him speak out “Yes Lord” in agreement with the statement of prayer. Jesus then talks about asking for our daily needs. I can hear the people responding again in agreement. Most of them are not pulling down a million five per year. They get it. Then comes the next statement. I can hear Jesus speak, “And forgive us our debts…” and the people’s copy cat response…”Yes please Lord.” Then Christ drops the next line…”as we forgive our debtors.” This is where I can see faces drop to the ground. People look at each other with “uh oh” written on their face. There might even be a few who begin to walk away.

Ok, let’s ask the hard question. What if God forgave us like we forgive other people? How would your eternal salvation look based on your grace and mercy towards others who have wronged you? “Uh Oh!” Don’t walk away!

What is our purpose as a Christian? Jesus asked us to forgive like the Father…in a very dramatic way non-the-less…so this has to fit into this Christian living thing we’ve signed up for. God wants people back with Him like it was in the beginning (Genesis). We, as believers in Jesus, are called the church. The church is called the body of Christ. Therefore the body, you and I, are suppose to look and act and think and behave as Christ would. Christ is forgiving. We are asked to be forgiving in the same way.

What’s the purpose of forgiveness? Why do we need to forgive? Why do we need forgiven? When we see the true purpose I’m sure we will find the reason Jesus wants us to forgive like His Father does. Forgiveness is the only way to fix the problem between us and God. We’ve sinned. He’s perfect. It may seem like we’re completely stuck in a different place than the original plan…by our choice. God’s forgiveness makes a way for us to be back with Him. Forgiveness between people does the same thing. It makes a way for healing to begin. It gets junk out of the way. Satan hates forgiveness, because it messes up everything in his strategy to keep us away from God. When you forgive someone as God forgives, whether you think they deserve it or not, you put handcuffs on Satan. You are acting like God. God loves to see us act like Him…it brings glory to His name (Hallowed be your name). When you forgive, its like you’re turning to God and saying, “Ok, it’s not about me…it’s all about you.” People will see this attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and God promises that through you taking the humble position, others will not see you, but God himself (Matthew 5:16). Purpose defined.

Here’s the specific question. Do people, even our enemies, see God through our acts, words and attitude of forgiveness?

Questions for growth:

  • What do you think is a good way to get better at forgiving?
  • Who do you need to forgive?
  • Do you need to do it vocally or publicly?
  • Have you forgiven yourself like God has through His son’s death?
  • Are you willing to forgive even if you feel it will get you nowhere with a certain person?

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

John Maxwell on Forgiveness

July 14, 2011 1 comment

Please go to http://johnmaxwellteam.com for more information on how to sign up for John Maxwell’s daily thoughts.

I only want revenge. Is that so wrong?


‘Might not be getting even…but it is Revenge’

Two missionaries in Africa were apprehended by a tribe of very hostile cannibals who put them in a large pot of water, built a huge fire under it, and left them there.

A few minutes later, one of the missionaries started to laugh uncontrollably.

The other missionary couldn’t believe it! He said, ”What’s wrong with you? We’re being boiled alive! They’re gonna eat us! What could possibly be funny at a time like this?”

The other missionary replied, ”I just peed in the soup!”

GETTING EVEN….RIGHT OR WRONG?

Revenge can get nasty.  A few years back I was privy to a “prank” situation happening among staff where I work.  If I remember right, it started with a roll of toilet paper and someone’s car.  It ended with no less than one full package of Oreo cookies twisted apart and stuck to the entire windshield of another person’s car.  Actually, it ended when the director of that area called a cease-fire.  The back and forth play lasted almost a couple weeks and was funny at times…but at other times…was a bit tense.  The tense times came when a victim of a prank didn’t laugh.  You could see revenge in their eyes.

Look where we’ve been.  Jesus has walked us through the concept of hate, adultery, divorce…and Jesus is now asking us to “turn the other cheek.”  I think there’s a pattern forming here.  Jesus has been laying out a lifestyle that will look foreign in our world.  Think of the one person in the crowd on that mount…listening to Jesus…who had been through it all.  Maybe there was one person who was dealing with hate towards his ex-wife who cheated on him and then divorced him and now Jesus is asking him to not hold a grudge…to not want revenge…in fact to possibly take on the heart of a servant and still love her as a Jesus would.  In the rodeo world, Jesus is saying, “Man up!…My way!”

Here are common phrases we hear today.  “Why I oughta…”  “He’s going to get what’s coming to him.” “I’ll take her for all she’s worth.”  “They think they’ve seen the last of me.”  “Fight fire with fire!”  “They haven’t seen nothing yet.”  I’m sure you could type in more…with much more colorful language.  We live in a world where getting even is the norm.  Jesus is saying that it is not His norm.  The Old Testament rule was to limit retaliation to equal parts.  Jesus came and gives us the principle behind the limit of an “eye for an eye.”  It’s all about keeping your heart pure, even in the midst of hate and relational separation.

Why?  Why does Jesus ask us to be like this?  We want to be able to stand and defend ourselves at all costs.  However, Jesus says that all power belongs to Him and all judging belongs to His Father.  Psalm 75:7 says, “It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.”  One of my favorite verses, Proverbs 25:21-22, says this, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”  What the heck does this mean?  It means that when you do something that is so out of the ordinary with this world, people won’t be able to just sit back and ignore it.  Your action will be noticed…even if in secret.  The world expects us to fight back…to retaliate.  The Gospel, full of Grace, expects us to forgive and to never stop serving.

Do you see how in this the Church is a force to be reckoned with?  We have the power.  This is how the Kingdom advances.  It’s not about us.  It’s about Him.  Our home is in Heaven.  When threatened with death, Paul knew where his real home was and was not afraid at all to speak truth and love and forgive all.  Can we be that bold to love and to continue loving even when our flesh wants revenge?

I often wonder what Peter felt when Jesus looked him in the eye and told him that nothing, not even Hell would stop the church.  My guess is that Peter, over time, realized what Christ meant and took him at his Word.  Peter, later in life, peacefully walked through beatings and jail time for living as Jesus asked him.  Eventually, Peter was crucified upside down.  He became known for his strength.  But it wasn’t strength of brute force.  It was strength of consistency and tenacity.  He did the right thing at all times possible and continued to spread the love of Jesus where ever he went…without revenge.  Perfectly?  No.  Forgiven?  Yes.  And Peter…and Paul after him…eventually met their Creator and received that welcome, “Well done…”

Can you match those actions…the actions Jesus calls us to?  Can you turn the other cheek?  Give more than asked?  Go farther than asked?  All for the sake of the One who created you and will welcome you into Heaven?  I hope so.  Tough?  Yes.  Possible?  Very.  Just imagine what our community will be saying about us if we can all get this right. Just imagine who might want the strength that they see in us.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

Ed

PS – Biblical example of not taking revenge and still keeping honor for the other person?  David and King Saul – 1 Samuel 24 and 26.

Questions for changin yer life:

  • How are you in the “Someone made me mad and I’m gettin even” category?
  • Can you see how revenge might hinder the passing of “the blessing?”
  • Can you see how Grace will make someone stop in their tracks and ask you, “What the heck!?”  What will be your answer?
  • Have you experienced Grace like this before, when you maybe deserved something else?
  • How will you deliver Grace to someone this week when they might deserve something else?  No, seriously…this week.  Make a plan.  We can talk about it all day, but if we never make a plan to get it done, it won’t get done.
  • Discuss next week how the plan was accomplished.   Who did you give grace to?  Who did you forgive?  Who did you go an extra mile with?  How did it feel?

Divorce

March 11, 2011 1 comment

 

DIVORCE

Matthew 5:31-32, John 4:4-26, John 8:3-11, 2 Samuel 12:24-25

I usually start these articles out with some small humor…not so these past couple weeks and for the next couple as well.  I simply don’t see Jesus grinning when He gets to this point of the ‘Sermon on the Mount.’  He is laying out what will be the basis for His ministry.  The principles behind the standards.  He’s laying out, for everyone to see, the reasons God handed down the 10 House Rules.  Oh, and He’s going to also live them perfectly for all of us to learn from.  This week we’re talking about divorce, and I feel that I need to lay some Scriptural foundation before talking about it directly.  My mind works in pathways.  I need to see starting points before I fully understand why we do something now.  So I’ll start with Adam and Eve.  Seems logical if we’re going to talk about couples/family/marriage.

Adam and Eve were created for each other (Genesis 2:22-24).  They were created from the same dust…literally, because Adam’s rib connected these two creations.  One was formed out of another.  We were made for God and for each other and literally out of each other.  We were created to…together…be caretakers for God’s creation.  God’s given purpose.   Adam and Eve also were called to bring more people into the world.  God’s given purpose.  Then sin came in.

Another point of principle.  Jesus tells us there are two priority commands.  Love God with everything you have.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  These two commands give us a picture of the first couple and their God.  But sin came in.

Jesus teaches that we are to lift other’s needs over and above our own (Matthew 23:11).  This fits very nicely into the basic principles we already see.  Other people’s needs are to be our priority.  We become less.   Those we serve become our focus.  Fits into marriage very well too, wouldn’t you agree?  But sin came in.

Paul writes that marriage is a picture of the church (Ephesians 5).  When we are in submission to each other as Ephesians 5:21-22 states we should be, it gives the picture of a couple in submission to Christ, to God the Father….a picture of how it was at the beginning…before sin came in.

But we know what happens.  Sin comes in.  We slack in our commitment to our fellow man and our spouse.  We think more about ourselves than our neighbor or our partner in life.  We do stupid things to jeopardize the commitment/covenant between us.  Sin comes in.

Now, let’s look at divorce.  Divorce is a picture of when things (sin, unintended consequences, and selfishness) come in and scrub out the picture God created for mankind.  Divorce has been the word used when a covenant is broken inside of marriage, or when two people simply don’t want the covenant to stand any longer.  Both are called sin.  Please remember, this isn’t Ed speaking.  This is Jesus in Matthew chapter 5.

Anything in life that pulls us away from God and our neighbor, from the intended purpose posed by God Himself, is sin.  That’s why Jesus has to call divorce sin.  It can be nothing else.  There is the one rule, that He stands firm on when divorce is ok.  It’s when the specific sin of adultery has been committed.  And, oh…remember what Jesus said was real adultery?  Lust.  Crud.  Most marriages are now open for legal divorce!  But remember what we’re talking about.  Jesus is laying down the basics…which are super hard teachings.  This stuff shows us how Holy God is and how imperfect we are…and why Jesus COULD be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Ah!  Forgiveness.  One of my favorite songs is called Second Chances and it’s from the Veggie Tales movie of Jonah.  Jonah has ran away from God…divorced himself from God.  God follows…and never gives up the chase.  While in the belly of the great fish…a classic song moment…Jonah hears that God is the God of second chances.

The woman at the well found that after 5 husbands and one live-in relationship, Jesus was willing to change her life and forgive her (John 4).  After hearing the accusations of the religious leaders against one woman, Jesus spoke just a few words to give us a picture of who is judge.  She was caught in adultery.  And even without specific witnesses, it seems it was true from what Jesus said.  The leaders wanted to stone her…and for Jesus to approve.  It didn’t happen.  They couldn’t take away her sin…they could just kill her in her sin.  Jesus can both take the sin away and destroy the consequence of death for us as well…and He did.  She walked away forgiven and with the encouragement to leave her life of sin.  King David committed adultery.  He laid his heart bare before God under the weight of guilt for forgiveness.  He knew he had ruined the perfect picture of a husband and wife before their creator God.  After an unintended consequence and forgiveness, God blessed him and his wife and their second child.

God is in the business of saying the past is in the past.  But He also says, “Don’t go back there and pick it up or repeat it again.”  I also believe that He, through the words of Jesus His son, intends for us to make amends with what we have done in the past.  We need to forgive and ask for forgiveness.  It’s only fair.  He offers it to us…and we don’t even deserve it.

Basics:  Is divorce wrong?  Yes…except in only one circumstance…and Jesus even made that circumstance broader to where we all have committed adultery.  Is it a sin that can be forgiven?  Yes.  Can we use forgiveness as an excuse for divorce?  Ummm, probably not.  Jesus is perfect and knows our reasons.   Can people forgive each other for wrongs done within a past marriage?  Yes…Jesus died for us.  We can change our heart as well.  Believe it or not, many divorced couples may be standing near each other in Heaven forever…and ever…forgive and ask forgiveness now on this side of eternity.

For everyone…divorced or not…plan for a relationship with God as He intended and plan for a marriage/family as He intended.  Lift the other person up higher than yourself as He intended.  And through it all, seek forgiveness and God’s strength to carry on through the hard things.

Side note.  Many have said that God will not give us more than we can handle.  I’ve heard this from many people who have contemplated leaving a relationship, a job, a church family etc.  That’s a lie from Satan.  God always gives us more than we can handle because it’s not just us anymore.  If we’re a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives with us.  So…anything that God allows us to walk through…we’re not ever walking alone.  The misconception comes from a verse that says that He will never tempt us with more than we can handle.  I take that to mean that He will always provides us with a way out before we step into sin.

Live by the standards.  And when you mess up, turn around and call your sin what it is.  Ask for forgiveness to carry on.  Our relationships with God and with each other are to be examples for other people.  Is there a chance others will see our “dirty laundry?”  Yes, but when they see us living in peace, that only comes through forgiveness and grace, they will see Jesus.  And that the highest purpose of all that we do.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

ed

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