Friday, November 28, 2008
"For I say to you, unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).
Had you been standing there that day, you might have thought, "What? How could I possibly be more righteous than Phil the Pharisee over there?!"
But as we have already considered in a recent post, Jesus was addressing issues of the heart. He begins to address some rather significant issues and at a deeper level:
* Don't murder, and don't be angry without a cause.
* Reconcile with your brother before giving a gift at the alter.
* Don't commit adultery, and do not lust.
* Do not divorce except in the case of sexual immorality. (Before they would divorce and only were required to give a certificate of divorce--the gospel according to the Pharisees. ;-)
* Let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no.
* Turn the other cheek.
* Go the extra mile.
* Love your enemies; bless those who curse you.
* Do good to those who hate you; pray for those who persecute you.
These principles penetrate our feeble attempts at outer obedience and once again address the attitudes of our hearts. Consider the humility and submission to Christ that the above teachings require. Give thought to the "dying to self" that is involved.
Now back to the verse at the beginning of the post--how does one attain a righteousness that "exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Phariesees?"
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over sins that were previously committed to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and THE JUSTIFIER OF THE ONE WHO HAS FAITH IN JESUS" (Romans 3:21-26).
Thank you, Lord, for Your justification. Help me go the extra mile.
In the Heart of our Home,
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
"Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations" (Psalm 100).
"In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I noticed their introduction to ministry with the Messiah included teaching, preaching, and healing. The people all throughout Syria brought Him:
" . . . all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them" (Matthew 4:24b).
It is after seeing these multitudes that He went up on a mountain to teach His disciples. I can only imagine their thoughts and perhaps confusion.
After all they had just seen and experienced following this Master, now He begins to preach a sermon that was so different from the approach of the Law.
The Law dealt with outward actions. We too can sometimes get focused on these external appearances. Our actions often seem so much easier to evaluate and to consider in our accountability.
Jesus, however, begins this Sermon on the Mount with such a description of someone who is righteous on the inside: poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake (Matthew 5:3-10).
Actually, the example of the Sermon on the Mount is even more difficult to achieve than even the Ten Commandments and the demands of the law of Moses. Why? These are issues of the heart and can only be achieved when Christ has performed a heart-change through conversion. I cannot achieve these righteous attitudes of the heart on my own. Only through Christ and because of Christ can I hope for such inner righteousness.
You see, on my own, my righteousness is nothing.
"but we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Isaiah 64:6).
Perhaps the Law and this opening of the Sermon on the Mount have more in common that one might first think. They both point to our sinfulness and reveal our deepest need: the need for a Savior.
Have you depended upon your own "righteousness," or have you been saved and changed by the Master?
In the Heart of our Home,
Monday, November 24, 2008
However, this time, I noticed Satan's mishandling of the Scriptures. When Christ responded to the first temptation with the Word of God, the devil then tempted Him again, but the second time, he seemingly quoted Scripture, too, but in an effort to manipulate the Lord:
". . .If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' "(Matthew 4:6).
Satan was quoting Psalm 91:11, but he left out part of the verse. Notice the Scripture in its entirity:
"For He shall give His angels charge over you, TO KEEP YOU IN ALL YOUR WAYS. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone" (Psalm 91:1-12).
(Satan did not want Jesus kept in all His ways!)
Of course, Christ immediately responded with more Scripture.
Hopefully, you and I realize the enemy is the Great Deceiver and the Father of Lies. He is in the business of twisting the Scriptures. If we do not know God's Word well, we will be even more vulnerable to this type of deception. In 2 Timothy 2:15, the KJV emphasizes the phrase "Study to shew thyself approved unto God."
Notice all the verse and even the verse following (NKJV):
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness" (2 Timothy 2:15-16).
We must be diligent, and we must study so that when the devil and/or (his) false teachers tempt us or even use God's Word in an inappropriate way, we can compare it to what we have studied and readily reject his lies.
Have you ever noticed the marker the cashiers use when they receive bills larger than $5's or $10's? They swipe it across the bill as a test to see if it is genuine or counterfeit. The Word of God is like that marker. It reveals whether what you hear and read is genuine or counterfeit. Use God's marker in your own life.
Can you spot the counterfeit?
In the Heart of our Home,
Friday, November 21, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
No, I'm not asking where your camel's hair clothing and your plate of locusts and wild honey might be.
However, I notice the prophecy he fulfilled (Isaiah 40:3) and that it was kind of like his job description:
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight'" (Matthew 3:3b).
John the Baptist served as Jesus' forerunner. We see in the Gospels how he preceded Christ in birth, ministry, and death. Also, if you are familiar with the Gospels, consider how his teaching was much different from that of the Pharisees and such. They emphasized ceremonial issues and over-strict law keeping. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance.
"Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father' [my family has always gone to church, I go to such and such church, I give to the needy, I am better than most people, I am not like so and so]. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones" (Matthew 3:8-9).
I see several truths about John the Baptist that should parallel to us as the Body of Christ.
#1 The Church is the forerunner to Christ's second coming.
Just as John the Baptist was the forerunner to Jesus' first coming, we as Believers are to be the forerunner to His second coming. We should be "the voice crying in the wilderness." There is a world of people who do not realize the King is coming. As the prophet Isaiah said, we should also "Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight."
#2 The Church should preach a message of repentance, not life-enhancement.
This world can find life-enhancement on Oprah, Dr. Phil, and, unfortunately, even our Christian bookstores. The church should share the message of repentance. This type of message does more than merely enhance others lives; it helps to change people's lives! I know that my life, simply enhanced, would still be a big mess! But repentance (turning away from sin and self) and believing the Gospel changed me into a child of God! (Maybe I was one of those stones John was talking about!)
#3 The Church should look very different from everyone else.
Obviously, John the Baptist had a different look to him. He didn't "fit in" with everyone else, and he didn't seem to think he needed to blend in just to share his message. Nonetheless, the crowds still came.
"Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins" (Matthew 3:5-6).
We too, the Body of Christ, should not look like the world. We should not talk like the world. We should not act like the world. We should look, talk, and act differently because we ARE different! A Believer has been changed into a new creation!
What a great deal to learn from one man's ministry. Thank you, Lord, for your life-changing message. Thank you for saving me!
In the Heart of our Home,
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
"Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly."
Joseph had every right, under the Jewish understanding of the Mosaic Law, to make the divorce a public matter. However, he chose to "put her away secretly."
Imagine how Joseph would be feeling. Imagine how you would feel. He must have experienced devastating feelings of betrayal and loss. Even consider the slam to his ego and self-confidence.
Many would strike back in anger and revenge, so blinded from the hurt and from the sting of embarrassment.
Yet Joseph was "a just man."
We can tell from this one little verse that the Lord God had chosen a gracious and humble man for the earthly father of His Son. When Joseph could have opted for anger, maliciousness, revenge, and pride, he submitted to graciousness, kindness, and humility.
How we can ever apply this in our own lives. How many times do we react in the flesh to seemingly unfair life circumstances instead of humbling ourselves like Joseph and showing graciousness and mercy?
No, at this point Joseph did not have all the facts, but when he did receive the revelation from the Lord, he responded in faith and obedience:
"But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins. . . . . . . .
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS" (Matthew 1:20-21, 24).
How incredible for Joseph to be apart of God's redemption plan! I can't help but think of a verse my children and I memorized when learning Proverbs 3:
"The Lord mocks the mockers but is gracious to the humble" (v.34).
I pray that today and everyday I will be gracious and humble enough for the Lord to use me as He sees fit.
What about you?
In the Heart of our Home,
Monday, November 17, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
"Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with SALT, that you may know how you ought to answer one another" (Colossians 4:6).
I notice 3 things of importance in this verse.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
When hubby was reading Monday's post, he commented on the latter part of Psalm 127:5. After considering his comment, I believe there is great help hidden in that verse to guide us in discipling our children and strengthening their focus on the Lord:
"They shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:5b).
Notice the families described in these verses dealt with the enemies at the gate. The enemies were stopped at the gate and not allowed in the city. The families were diligent and on watch, knowing the enemies could steal, sabotage, destroy everything they hold dear, and possibly kill or take their loved ones captive.
Oh, how we could learn from this. Do we as American Christians even realize there are enemies to our souls and enemies to our children's souls? Do you know that the thief comes to "steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10a)? Do you know that our #1 enemy would like nothing better than to steal the souls of your children and the very life they have? He also wants to steal your diligence and your watchguard care so that he can more easily snatch their hearts. He wants to steal your influence so that any discipleship you try would be overshadowed by the discipleship they already receive from someone or something else.
What enemies does our #1 enemy have lurking outside our gates? Did your family meet those enemies at the gate, refusing their admittance? Or did you leave the gate open and remained unattentive or complacent?
The world's culture is at the gate. It beckons to come in and draw your children into this humanistic society. It longs to encourage the "me-first" attitude of selfishness and self-love. It will instill in your children an idea that undermines the absolute of the Scriptures and the authority of the One True God.
The pride of life is at the gate. It lures with temptations of power and popularity. It opposes the humility taught in the Word. It counters the Biblical principals of meekness and dying to self and raises arrogant, sarcastic, mocking individuals to their feet.
Idols of this world are at the gate. They long to become your children's first love. They come in the form of media entertainment, sports, hobbies, and even self. They want to draw your children's devotion away from Christ to the temporal things of this world.
The lust of the flesh is at the gate. It too comes in the form of television, internet, books and magazines, even Mama's catalogs. Stop them at the gate! Protect your children! Teach them to look away. Even teach them to turn the magazines at the checkout. ;-) And train your daughters in modesty! With the lack of selection on the racks, this too takes diligence, but is oh so worth it. Their hearts are too important for you to rest.
There are many other enemies at your gate even today. How many have you already let in through ignorance or even laziness? Inventory your home. Have you allowed scoffing into your home? (Do you mock your husband or your children? Do you notice the spirit of scorn among your children?) Have you allowed fear in your home? What about pride? Selfishness? Bitterness? When these sneak in and then take prevalence, they become false gods in your home. Cut them at the root with the sword:
"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
Drive these enemies out of your home, and do not let them in the gate again!
Why is this so important? The very souls of your children are at stake. God has given you as parents the responsibility to train and disciple your children. He did not give it to the neighbor, the grandmother, the sitter, the school teacher, or even the Sunday School teacher. But the enemies are at the gate and want to steal your children's hearts and your influence as their discipler. They want to undermine what God's Word says to them (and all of us) by offering them lies, deception, and alternate ways.
Meet the enemies in the gate. Your children are worth it.
In the Heart of our Home,
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
"Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Luke 14:34)!
We all know the significance of salt for flavor and for preservation. Even today it helps make so many yummy dishes even more tasty. I have a somewhat impaired sense of smell (which often has its benefits :-), which affects my sense of taste, so I tend to give generous dashes of salt to my own plate. How thankful I am for salt! (Much to my sweet husband's surprise, I still have a low-normal blood pressure. ;0)
Of course, what good would it be if it did lose its flavor? Evidently, the salt of Jesus' time would lose its strength. We all know that a salt that has lost its flavor would be useless. It would no longer be fulfilling its purpose in life.
What about you and me? As Believers, what is our purpose in life?
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Friends, it seems quite simple. We are to honor and glorify the Lord with our whole life. Our main goal should be this. Not prosperity, not more programs at church, not even advancement for ourselves or our children. Our main goal should be to glorify the Lord, and He often mentions we will do this through our works.
(O.K., I'm not proposing legalism here. Remember, this is not a discussion on salvation; this is a reminder that Believers are the "salt.")
How do we lose our saltiness? How have you seen factors in your own life affect your own saltiness? What can we do to guard against it?
In my life, I have found staying in the Word to be #1 in helping me to keep my focus on my true purpose. If I keep the Bible as my standard, the wisdom of the world seems more and more foolish.
Guarding against worldly influences has been beneficial. We know the temptations are there ("the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" 1 John 2:16), but with a focus on Jesus, these lures become less appealing.
One verse that helps me remember the point of our focus is 2 Corinthians 4:18:
"while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
This helps explains why many do not understand your choices and may consider some Christians' lives to be radically different from others around us. When some friends and family do not understand why we make certain choices for our lives and family, we are simply focusing on the eternal. The benefits of this world may seem obvious to some, but they are only temporary. The benefits of following Christ and giving Him glory with our whole lives requires a lot of focus on Him and His Word, but the benefits are eternal!
Finally, on the subject of what helps keep my focus on my true purpose, 2 Corinthians 9:8 sums it up!
"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8).
It is Him and His grace and mercy.
More on "saltiness" and our children tomorrow!
In the Heart of our Home,
Monday, November 10, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
As I said, posture is very key in playing the violin. Training the head, right arm, right fingers, right elbow, left arm, left fingers, left elbow, and both feet to all follow their assignments while remembering the notes and rhythmn can take a while and certainly a lot of hard work. One aspect that our violin teacher emphasizes to Middle Sister is to keep her feet firmly planted and to not "wobble." She refers to it as being strong and unmovable like a tree.
Isn't it interesting that we as Christians are to be firmly planted in Christ? When we are planted in Him, we then are less likely to "wobble!"
"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:6-7).
What dangers lurk around that threaten our planting? Why is it so important to be so firmly rooted?
"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).
More of this swaying is mentioned in Ephesians 4:14-15:
"that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things unto Him who is the head--Christ."
Isn't it interesting how being "rooted and built up in Him" helps to guard against the world's philosphy, empty deceit, tradition of men, the basic principles of the world, false doctrine, trickery of men, cunning craftiness, and even deceitful plotting, yet it FREES us to WALK in Him!
How "unnatural" is the wisdom of the Word!
How firmly are you planted?
In the Heart of our Home,
Thursday, November 6, 2008
"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15).
I notice four particular truths in this verse.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Truly, chastening our children seems not to be joyful for them or for me. Of course, it is not pleasant for them (which is why it works so well ;-), and I clearly remember the dread I felt as a child as I anticipated my own discipline.
Often, it does not seem to be joyful for me as a parent, but I understand that every opportunity for training I see in my children is an opportunity to teach them the ways of the Lord and "the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6). Now this should bring joy!
In Hebrews 12:11, we should take note of the result of Biblical chastening: "afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
We should expect the peaceable fruit of righteousness!
Now while in context this Scripture does teach us these spiritual applications, notice the primary intent of the passage:
"If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live" (Hebrews 12:7-9)?
We as Believers are chastened by God. Not only should we expect it and endure it, we should "much more readily be in subjection to the Father." Does that sound unreasonable and a might bit odd? (The Christian walk IS often the opposite of natural thinking. . . ) Notice the difference between our "human fathers" and our Heavenly Father in verse 10:
"For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness."
Our parents, just as we, can only discipline with the knowledge that we have and without the benefit of omniscience, unlike God, who can see the end result! He disciplines us with this finished product in mind. The trials and discipline we endure from the hand of the Lord have our good purpose in mind (Romans 8:28). He is fashioning us into the holy people He has called us to be!
Yet another reason to "count it all joy" (James 1:2)!
In the Heart of our Home,
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
"Because narrow is the gate and difficult the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:14).
In our own church buildings, many profess the good profession of faith, but few produce the good produce of fruit!
"You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit" (Matthew 7:16-17).
How does your fruit look? Does it look like the fruit from the grapevine or the thornbush? Do you look like the caterpillar or the butterfly?
If you profess to be a "butterfly" (born-again in Christ Jesus), then check your fruit! My husband often encourages churches to give heed to 2 Corinthians 13:5:
"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?---unless indeed you are disqualified."
If you are indeed a "butterfly," then you have been changed into a NEW creation! How incredible is that!?!
And once we have been changed, He keeps changing us! (Thank you, Lord!)
"being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).
We can give God the glory for this transformation. We have left the caterpillar life behind and press on as butterflies and, hopefully, never to be mistaken as a larvae again! :-)
In the Heart of our Home,