Lighthouse

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Matthew 11:1-19

Have you ever been in the dark? Physically or mentally? In a situation where you just couldn’t “see” what was going on right in front of you? It’s disorienting and above all frightening, scary movie kind of stuff! I hate it in both realms! I hate the dark, and I hate not knowing the real truth. In either situation, you are at the mercy of the elements or someone else; you are out of control.

Matthew takes us from Jesus’ apostolic send-off of the twelve directly to another set of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 11. Jesus speaks to a crowd this time, but his words are no less enlightening! He launches into this discourse in response to questions from someone who was literally and figuratively, “in the dark.”

John the Baptist was a great man; in fact, Jesus said he was the greatest man ever born! (11:11) That’s some pretty high regard for this prophet cousin, who himself, fulfilled long awaited prophesy amongst the Jewish people. He was the long haired, locust eating, desert wandering guy that pointed the way to Messiah! He preached repentance and had many followers. He riled up the crowds saying that a great messiah/judge was coming, who was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, one who was coming to town to cut down some metaphorical trees, and slash a super sharp sickle around, and light the place on fire! (Mt.3:10-12)

John seemed to be expecting a rebel agitator when his cousin came on the scene! Imagine his surprise when Jesus’ modus operandi was “agent of mercy.”  Jesus seemed to shock everyone who had been waiting for a different kind of messiah. Even John, knowing without a doubt from his miraculous birth to his stand for truth against Herod, that he had a unique calling from God, found himself in a dark and dank prison cell, “in the dark” to his kingdom effectiveness, doubting himself and Jesus. He sent some friends to Jesus to ask him, “Are you really the one who was to come?”  You can almost hear between the lines, “Was this all for nothing?; I’m about to die for this!”

I love Jesus’ response to John, because it resonates with me. He didn’t placate nor patronize. He assured him with scripture; promises that John had held tightly to as confirmation of his own sacrificial calling. Quoting Isaiah 29:18-19, Isaiah 35:5-7, and Isaiah 61:1-2, Jesus told his trusted friends to go tell John: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached! These aren’t just good things, they’re THE THINGS John was looking for in the Messiah. They were the promises that meant something to him. Jesus lovingly assured him with words that were uniquely significant to John. They were the light that enlightened the eyes of his heart; that helped him to “see” what was invisible in the darkness. They were truths that would help him face the gruesome death he was about to endure (Mt 14:1-12), promises that lit his way, safe into the arms of the Father.

John, the greatest guy Jesus knew, who had one of the most important kingdom jobs ever, felt the pressure of darkness, doubt and fear. I imagine the fear remained all the way to the guillotine, but John had access to what even the least person in the kingdom of God has access to: the power of God, the purest of lights to lead him home, safe and sound.

He did his job and he followed the light from the lighthouse safe to shore.   When I feel in the dark, and can’t understand why I feel imprisoned to my thoughts or alienated from people that I love, I look to the same light, the promises of God available to me in scripture. God speaks to me in a way that I can uniquely understand! He came. He redeemed. He’s coming back, to redeem it all for good and forever.  Death has no power over me. Darkness never wins.

 

 

A Sword

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Read Matthew 10:34-42

Swords mean business. Think Braveheart or Gladiator, where swords are wielded and people’s heads are severed. Swords are heavy and difficult to bear. They are dangerous and ominous, and generally bring someone to a life or death decision. Jesus said he came to bring one. Hard to believe, right, since he asked us to turn the other cheek and to not resist an evil person. Jesus even chastised Peter for grabbing a sword to defend his Lord. I think Jesus meant a different kind of sword, but one no less weighty, dangerous, or all-consuming.

The writer of Hebrews described the word of God this way, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (He 4:12) John, Jesus’ closest friend, described Jesus as the Word (of God) who was with God in the beginning, who spoke the world into existence, and spoke a final word of redemption of sin and death. (Jn 1:1-18) Paul later called the church to take up arms in their fight against Satan in this world. He said to “take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Eph 6:17)

Matthew ends this apostolic sendoff of Jesus with some pretty tough stuff. Even though this sword of Jesus would bring ultimate peace, it would cause immediate conflict. Referencing Micah 7:6, a prophetic reminder that God was sending a redeemer for his people, Jesus referenced a time when families would be divided. He was the fulfillment of that prophesy, the one who’s sword would discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. After counting the cost, not everyone would be able to follow. The gospels recount many people for whom these teachings were just too hard. For the ones who really wanted to be disciples of Jesus, it was going be costly.

It would cost the tight grip to family and friends, even to life itself. “If anyone wants to be my disciple”, Jesus said, he must take up the vilest agent of death, their cross, and follow him onto the spiritual battlefield. If that paradox wasn’t enough, Jesus followed with, “If anyone really wants to find life, you’ll give yours up for my name’s sake.” Following Jesus was never meant to be easy. Salvation is free, but following costs EVERYTHING!

The good news is that the sword Jesus brought is not held to our throat, but put to work for our defense. It’s a weapon that will defeat the enemy, Satan, every single time! It’s Jesus, the word, residing in our heart via the Spirit, empowering us to do what’s right and to endure the suffering involved. It’s the Holy Scripture, at our disposal 24/7, with which to fight the battles in our mind, our heart, and our world.   Jesus said, “If anyone receives you, they receive me…If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to my disciples”, he’s contributing to the army of the Kingdom of God! That means, folks, that we are on the winning side when we make the costly choice to pick up the heavy cross shaped sword, fight the good fight, and follow our savior home.

Fear Not

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My kids started school today. Jonah is beginning his last year of middle school, Jacob his first year of high school, and Hannah her last year in school while under my roof, a senior! All of these are important transition years, years where decisions are made and identities shaped, but for Hannah it’s the daunting precipice of change, a preparation to launch, to leave, to become. The thought of it can easily overwhelm her, but I find myself fighting some old sparring buddies as well, fear and worry.   I think Matthew knew how Hannah and I feel. He records Jesus’ words to him and his fellow apostles as Jesus launched them into something new, terrifying and wrought with difficulty.  Jesus’ words, as hard as they were to swallow, are filled with triumph and hope, two things I could use a heavy dose of today.

Read Matthew 10:16-33.

Fear not? Doesn’t he mean, fear a lot? He just laid out a path of persecution, pain and suffering for these guys. He said they’d be among wolves who try to look like sheep, people who will accuse them and throw stuff at them, and make them stand up and talk in front of people. Sounds a lot like high school to me! But then he says that their own families might turn against them and that essentially everyone will hate them.  That’s a little much don’t you think? Even high school’s not that bad! How can Jesus tell his apostles not to be afraid?

It’s pretty awesome, really! Jesus reassures his apostles and us as well that the Spirit of the Father will be speaking through them, giving them the very words to say when they need to say them. (19-20) Not only will truth prevail and light overcome darkness, but God is not going to let them fall. (26-29) Sure trouble, hardship, persecution and even death are not off the table, but you’re never going to fall beyond the presence of the one who knows you and loves you perfectly and completely. If that doesn’t inspire confidence, what can? Jesus makes it pretty simple: “Make my name known in your world, and I’ll make yours known in mine.” He thought his apostles could do it, and they did. He died, rose, and gave his Spirit to us so that we can too, despite any difficulty that comes our way!

This momma needs to know that today. A Father who knows every hair on Hannah’s head inspires awe. If you’ve seen Hannah’s hair you’ll know what I’m talking about! This good daddy knows and loves her so well. He has a secure future in store for her with Him forever.   Bring it on, senior year. We’re not afraid.

Marching Orders

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Read Matthew 10:5-15

Following the Sermon on the Mount, the next collection of Jesus’ words that Matthew turns our attention to is the marching orders he gave to twelve, uniquely charged disciples. We know them as the Apostles. Apostle simply means “sent one,” and these unlikely misfits were sent on a very specific mission.

In Ephesians, Paul commissions the church with similar language. He said that God calls some to be apostles, among other things, to equip the body of Christ for ministry. (Ephesian 4:11-14)   Could Jesus’ words to the twelve apply to the church today?

Are you a sent one? Is God uniquely calling you to a particular mission for His kingdom purposes? Not everyone is an apostle, but if you are, you know it. No, I don’t mean part of the original twelve, the image bearers of the twelve tribes of Israel, the “Peter, James and John” types. I do mean, however, that God still sends people to unique places and to specific people as messengers of peace. Along with prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, apostles equip the church for the work of ministry, making it mature, a measure of the fullness of Christ. Jesus gives grace and gifts to each believer.  These words still apply to the “sent ones” of the church today, maybe even to you!

Jesus says to go to the unique group He is calling you to; in this case it was the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The message would definitely go to the Gentiles and Samaritans, just through some other folks.   Here, Jesus sent his guys to the Jews. There’s a lot of good and right things to do, and countless people who need to know the good news of the Kingdom. If you’re a sent one, get up and go to where YOU are being sent. Pray about it. Listen. Don’t worry about everyone else. God’s got them covered.

Jesus says to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Excuse me? Isn’t heaven far away and unseen? No, Jesus said it was at hand, then and now. It’s a kingdom made up of people in whom God is incarnate, via his Spirit, made possible by the Son, and sustained by the Father.   God, the Father and Son, is sitting on the throne of this Kingdom in heaven and in the heart of his people. He reigns supreme.  Earth, however, is a divided kingdom. The Prince of this world, Satan, has also been allowed to take up powerful residence here. Sin, chaos, disease and death are in play. So it’s up to us as ambassadors of the King of Kings, to make the distinction clear. The kingdom of heaven is at hand!

Jesus says to be about healing, cleansing, staking a claim over death, and casting out the demons that rob the world of peace and joy. No, we may not do it exactly the same way that the Twelve did, but the same power is present in each of us today- the Holy Spirit’s power of life over death, the power of light over darkness.   Through the Spirit, be about rescuing, redeeming, and fighting against the effects of sin and death in this world. It matters.

Finally, he says not to worry about money or material stuff. That sounds familiar! (Matt 6) “You received without paying; don’t make others pay” with money or guilt or penance. Be a person of peace. You’ll recognize the other people of peace. Their peace will either rest on you or it won’t. It’s not complicated nor intellectual. Pray for it and watch expectantly. Stay where peace is resting and fruit is obvious.

Are you a “sent one?” These are pretty powerful marching orders. Ask God if He is sending you somewhere or to someone. Listen. Think. If you can’t get a place or someone out of your mind, ask again. And again. If you’re an apostle, you’ll know it. Now, go. March on.

You Can Do This

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Whoever hears these words of mine and does them…

Really? Surely these commands have been more like suggestions, right? It’s obvious that human beings can’t do this stuff.   Think about it.

Jesus said, in summary, “Blessed one, it’s really good to live like this: Work on your anger. Take purity of mind and body seriously. Stay true to your covenant relationships. Tell the truth. Don’t fight back. Love the people who seem to hate you. Fast, pray and give, but do that in secret. Love me more than money. Trust me all the time. Judge yourself first, then other people. Ask. Seek. Knock. Repeat endlessly. Think about how you want to be treated and then do that. Walk the narrow road; I’ll lead the way.”

If you’re like me, you say, “Uh Jesus, I can’t. That seems too hard. How about I just read those verses over and over and talk about them a lot? Isn’t that enough?”

The thing is, he said, “Anyone who hears these words of mine and does these things is like a wise man.” It seems to me that he thinks we can. In fact, he knows we can, because he did. He walked among us and knows every excuse. In fact, he thought it was so hard that he paid our penalty and then left part of himself inside of us to do the impossible. What more could he possibly do for us?

Watch this silent video representation of what it’s like to live Jesus’ way.   It’s like a wise man who built his house on a rock.  Notice the emotions that characterize the two fellows in their respective houses.

 

Did you catch it? The guy on the rock was rest-full. You could actually see peace on his face. The guy on the sand was literally rest-less. He was stressed. It didn’t end well for him.

Friends, our Father longs to give us really good things. Just like a good dad, he seeks peace and rest for his children. A little bit later in Matthew, Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt 11:28-29)

Because free choice, and therefore sin and chaos, reign in this world, God the Father, Son and Spirit, says, “We won’t stop the rain from coming. In fact, we need you to know that it will come. BUT, we will walk with you, and together, we will go through the storms on solid ground. We won’t leave you. You can lie down and sleep, because we’ve got this. We’ve made our home in your heart, and you’ll be with us forever.”

I can do that.

The Road

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I recently returned from Haiti. Each day there, our team travelled along a dusty mountain road between two towns. From the back of a pickup truck, we witnessed life along this road, people and pack mules walking with their water and their wares on their head or astride their saddlebags, attending to the business of survival in a weary land. I couldn’t help but think of the narrow, road of life that Jesus described at the end of his great sermon.

Read Matthew 7: 13-23.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

I’ve often seen the road Jesus talked about depicted as two roads. The wide one is obvious, passing by a vast array of sinful pleasures, and the narrow one is peaceful, leading to heaven. I think the wide and narrow road, however, are the same road. The wide road passes all the good places, just like our road in Haiti. It passes by churches and schools, the poor begging at the roadside, the neighbors in need of love and care. It passes by the community park, and the domino game or the bingo house. It’s a good road. People are doing good things on it, even great things! Christians can find themselves walking along the wide road with a good crowd and doing things in the name of the Lord, oblivious to the narrow road Jesus is longing for us to see and on which to walk with him.

You see, Jesus walked the same dusty road. He knows every temptation on both sides of the coin, the temptations to seek self-gratification for evil and for good. He knows the road inside and out, so he left part of himself inside us to walk it with us. On the communal, wide road of life, the Spirit is forging for us a narrow path. It doesn’t always make sense to the people around us, believer and non-believer alike, but it’s the road marked out for us. When we KNOW Jesus, we are led by this Spirit, and walking this narrow path is as natural as breathing in and out. It becomes obvious where we could not see it before. On this road, it is the Spirit that produces in us the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We recognize other people walking with us, not by their roadside declarations of doctrine, but by lives characterized by the same fruit.

On the Haiti road, we saw people bearing witness to the kingdom of God. We saw men carrying a woman on a mat to the hospital, perhaps to have a baby. We saw children laughing and walking hand in hand. We saw mothers providing for their children. We saw men and women hard at work. We saw life being lived and bearing the fruit that lasts. Rich or poor, we are invited by a savior and lord that loves us so, to walk the narrow road with him.  It leads to life, abundant and eternal!

Heart Investment

th (16)Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moths and vermin do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eyes are the lamp of the body. If your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise th other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Matthew 6:19-24

Jesus is desperate to lay claim on the heart of his follower. To follow him is to be ALL in, heart, and soul, and mind and strength.  He’s said this in a hundred ways so far. Sometimes it seems more ethereal than cerebral, so he makes it practical. He says if you want to see where your heart is, look for your treasure. Be honest. Find your heart in the kingdom of God, and you’ll see things in a whole new light – THE LIGHT!   God is King there, in heaven and on earth.

This a great teaching, but if you’re like me, you look to God, hands in surrender, and beg. How? How do I put my treasure in heaven? I can’t see it. How can my eyes reflect light from within me? That’s too deep for me. How can I avoid serving money? Doesn’t the world revolve around it?

I need simplification. In my world, I have a financial advisor. She puts our money to work. I don’t understand all that she does, but she makes it simple. Tell me your goals. Set aside this. Put it here. Create this. Just do it. When you need it, I’ll show you how to get it and use it. I trust her.  God is the ultimate physical, mental, spiritual, financial advisor rolled into one. He came and lived it. He left himself inside us.  He says trust me.

We know a little about money. We can’t survive without it. We understand some basic principles of investment. Save. Let is grow. Maybe if we think of investment in spiritual terms, this can make sense:

Invest in people. God created them in his image.

Invest in promises. The Word. The Father spoke it through the Son, and they speak it through the Spirit. It NEVER fails.

Invest in praise. God inhabits it.

Invest in prayer. God communicates. He speaks, we listen. We speak, he listens.

Invest in power. God’s got ALL of it! His grace empowers us to do what our flesh cannot.

Lay your assets, your time, your thoughts, your desires, and your relationships on the table. Ask God to set them firmly in his kingdom. Ask Him to put them to work. The result is his Glory, seen clearly by eyes that reflect it. When you see that, your heart follows suit. These are things you take with you forever. They are hauled to heaven in the hearse of your heart, not confined by four walls or a rotting body. You experience light and life. You experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control here and now AND someday and forever. You’re a kingdom dweller, and King Jesus is set firmly on the throne of your heart. You’re a disciple.

Secret Mission

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Have you ever been given a secret mission? Something that only you and maybe one other person knew about? When I was a kid, my granddad would call me up and say he needed me to ride my bike over to his house (a couple miles away) to “help him” with something. When I’d get there, he’d have an ice cold drink waiting for me and tell me to sit down and watch a TV show with him – our special secret! We’d talk about that show for years to come, my treasured connection with a man that I loved so much. I think Jesus longs for each one of us to have a unique connection with his Father, a secret mission that will bind us together in a relationship like none we’ve ever known.

Read Mathew 6:1-18

Three things are assumed by Jesus when he addresses people who want to follow him. Notice they are prefaced with when and not if: giving, praying and fasting. Each section ends with the promise: “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” I don’t think this was meant to discourage anyone, but rather to encourage followers of Jesus to seek God in a uniquely personal way as they lived in community with one another.

Community was assumed. These were public, collective actions of good Jews. They were to give to the poor, pray and fast, according to Hebrew Law. The thing was, these laws assumed an internal, deeply personal connection to God that somehow got lost in a need to impress. So, in customary fashion, Jesus turns these laws on their head.

Jesus says that the heart of giving, praying and fasting is a loving relationship with the Father that no one else sees or even knows about. It produces the purity of heart that enables God to reveal a unique external mission. He expects us to give, serve, love, but only after experiencing the perfect love of Father, Son, and Spirit, that overflows through us to the world around us.

In The Unhurried Life, Alan Fadling makes an astute observation some other important words of Jesus, his last words to his disciples before he left to be with the Father, what we know as the “Great Commission.”   He makes the case that the commission is two-fold, an inner and outer commission, and actually starts in Matthew 28:16:

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)

Verses 16-17 reveal Jesus’ internal directive to go to the mountain, to look for and worship him, and even to wrestle with doubts. Only then does Jesus go to his disciples and speak to them audibly. He externally commissions (verses 18-20) them and us to make disciples, as we go, immersing people in the love of Father, Son and Spirit, living out his teachings alongside one another, and reminding each other that God is with us…till the end!

This gels with Jesus’ teaching on the mountainside, and highlights its importance. Jesus longs for us to practice being in the presence of God, in worshipful communion with the one who is good and loving, merciful and kind. From there, giving and serving will flow from pure motives.

This internal and external mission, if you choose to accept it, is rewarding! Jesus says so!! When I think of the reward my grandfather gave me all those years ago, I get excited! He was flawed and imperfect, yet my grandfather’s love and friendship was a great reward, transcending money or stuff. Your heavenly Father’s love and friendship is an infinitely greater reward, one that changes everything! He’s waiting for you in the closet.

A Forgiving Heart

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I recently heard a story that just burned me up. It was about a dirty cop coming clean, admitting to all the bad things he had done in his 20 years on the force and his subsequent stint as a bonafide drug dealer. He had originally “confessed” to frame someone else and get a reduced sentence. In the end, his previous “partner” got 11 years and he got 2 months, but that wasn’t what burned me up. First blow was that when he saw his partner after getting out of jail, the two hugged and went on as if nothing ever happened. What?! “We were best friends,” he said,” In the end that’s all that matters.” Then to really get my blood boiling, when the interviewer asked if he was still getting a pension from the police department, he proudly said that the pension was for life, no matter what he had done.

I’m an American for goodness sake. Equal rights means people deserve to be treated fairly. When the scales aren’t balanced, my instinct is to get angry.  I decide who’s being treated too unfairly or who’s being treated too well, based on my judgements and personal biases. Then I demand justice. This guy was a criminal, parading as a law expert. He was completely self-serving, a liar, a cheat, and a no good friend. He deceived his own family. Sinner, right? He should pay.

I don’t think Galilean Jews were that much different from me. When Jesus talked to them on that mountainside, you can almost hear him saying, “I know you guys are oppressed, beaten down by Rome, suffering on many fronts. I know you think things are unfair, and you want me to give your enemies what they deserve. But I want to tell you a secret, a mystery; my Father has a plan and it will work. You’ll see…”

Read Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus said to them and to us: You’ve got this eye for eye thing down to a science. The law allowed for that so you wouldn’t go crazy, and take a life for an eye or a face for a toe. If left alone, your vengeance and retaliation will always escalate. Hurt people hurt people. Think about it. You think you can delineate friend from enemy.   You love and hate according to your feelings and perceptions. Guess what? You can get that wrong.

The good news is that Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We have perspective looking back on that text. We can see what those first hearers could not yet: God’s got this; perfect/complete redemption and reconciliation can only come with sacrifice and they (Father, Son and Spirit) did that for us. They faced the chaos and injustice of a sinful world head on. It leads to death, so they died instead of us. It can only be overcome by a power outside the laws of nature and retaliation, so they defeated death with resurrection, and then put that same power inside you and me.

Jesus words convey,

“Trust me. So, here’s what we (Father, Son and Spirit) are asking you to do:

Do not resist an evil person. If anyone hits you, let them hit you again. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat (your law protected right) as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go two. (Carry something heavy, too.) Give to the one who asks you. Don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.

Do that with our power. It works.” (Non-italicized words are mine)

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) He’s going to right every wrong, from every perspective.   You’ll benefit, and it will be perfect. Focus on this: love God and love people, even when it’s hard and doesn’t make sense!

I, as a Christian, was burned up when a dirty cop received reconciliation and redemption. Jesus offers that very thing, to all who will call on his name and trust his perfection rather than their own effort. I’m so glad I don’t make the rules!

Listen to: Anna Sale’s show, “Death, Sex, and Money: A Dirty Cop Comes Clean”

 

A Trustworthy Heart

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Say what you mean and mean what you say. Pretty simple really. Except that it’s not. We live in a culture that values deception as craftiness and the way to get ahead. We are expected to be “kind” by telling people what they want to hear, and to avoid “judging” others by not really caring about them at all. “Mind your own business” is our American mantra. Jesus says otherwise. His kingdom is counter-cultural. It turns culture upside down! “But I tell you…” is his favorite tagline in his great sermon on a mountainside.

Matthew 5: 27-37

You’ve heard that it was said, “Don’t commit adultery, but I tell you” don’t indulge YOURSELF in lust. Self is not most important in this kingdom.

You’ve heard that it was said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce, but I tell you” don’t discard someone you are in covenant relationship with on every SELFISH whim. Self is not most important in this kingdom.

You’ve heard that it was said, “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn, but I tell you MEAN WHAT YOU SAY; don’t abuse words just to get what YOU WANT! Self is not most important in this kingdom.

There’s a common theme in these admonitions – value yourself less; place value on people and on your promises.

You made promises in a marriage vow? Mean them. Value the man or woman you married by being satisfied by them, physically and emotionally, even when they get it wrong. You promised to love and cherish them? Mean that. Just because you can get a divorce, don’t – unless you have exhausted all attempts at reconciliation and peace. Don’t discard people like you do old junk. Use things, love people.  Love sacrifices and is not dependent on self-absorption. Don’t confuse love with selfish gratification. You promised this person that for better or for worse, you were in this covenant until death parted you? Mean that.

Come to think of it, always mean what you say. Let your “Yes” mean yes, affirmative, absolutely. Let your “No” mean no, negative, I will not. Your spouse, your kids, your friends and family, should be able to trust your words, and certainly don’t need some fluffy, inflated promise to take you seriously.

This isn’t harsh – it’s a really good way to live. Think about it. If you never doubted what other people said, but could count on honesty and a spoken commitment to be absolute, wouldn’t that change everything? Wouldn’t a world void of deception and ulterior motives be heavenly? In fact, it is – that is the kingdom of God. And one day, it will work in its redemptive state – perfectly!

We live in a loop-hole world. The smartest, shrewdest people find the loopholes and usually make the most money, qualities our culture worships. God’s economy is different. Honesty and selflessness matter. Avoid the loopholes, and expose the heart. How often do you distort the truth with your words and/or actions? How much do you value your promises? Dig deep and risk the vulnerability of living God’s way, as far as it depends on you.  Even in a fallen and chaotic world, the light still can shine brightly and overcome the darkness.