Tag Archives: Sermon on the Mount

Gen. 8; Matt. 8; Ezra 8; Acts 8

Reading the Sermon on the Mount feels like a homecoming. I can get worked up about the events of the day, good and bad,  but falling back onto these words of Jesus puts reality back in view. God’s way radically differs from my ideas of how things should work.

As soon as Jesus finishes his sermon, he comes down off the mountain and demonstrates what it means to live this new world order, this life of grace. Untouchables are embraced; faith and trust are rewarded above effort and getting things right. He breaches social, cultural and geographic boundaries to deliver and heal. He isn’t worried about what others will think or how they will respond. He stays true to the Father’s will.

The early church fathers imitate him despite heated persecution. People who never knew what it meant to be a chosen people, find themselves the target of God’s grace. Samaritans, once despised by the Jews, now embrace the good news of the Gospel so that the name of Jesus continues to heal and deliver, and “there was great joy in that city.”Acts 8:8 God uses Phillip to lead an influential Ethiopian eunuch to salvation. Immediately afterwards, Phillip finds himself miraculously transported to another region to share the Gospel. The favor of God which had found home in the lives of a few during of Noah and Ezra’s times, is now poured out unrestrained and with force. It is like a river roaring over and above its banks and covering a land knowing no borders.

Stephen’s admonishment to the Jewish leaders (from yesterday’s reading) challenges me, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?” Acts 7:49-59 How am I building my house, my life? There is this very large part of me that doesn’t want the status quo that the Pharisees held onto so dearly; that kind of self righteousness is stifling and squeezes all the fun out of life, but there is also the part of me that doesn’t want to take risks and wants to remain comfortable and secure in what I know. But I hear the call of Jesus and he invites me into something far greater, far more beautiful than the meager vision I have for my life.  So I pray:

Dear Lord, relieve me of my imagined, personal world order and that illusion of control. Let me trust you and your ways. Thank you for the life you have given me, these eyes that you have opened to see your beauty and this heart that yearns to know you. Thank you for your unwarranted favor. Take my life and make it want you it want to be. In the name of your son, Jesus, Amen.



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Filed under 1 Timothy, 66 Books, Acts, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew, Uncategorized

Gen. 7, Matt. 7, Ezra 7, Acts 7


“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock….  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand…” (see Matt 7:24-27 ESV, bold added)


In Mathew’s Gospel, we hear this perfectly fitting summary of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. After instructing His disciples on life in the Kingdom, Jesus communicates the key to Kingdom living – Obedience. Obedience doesn’t necessarily help us avoid the storms of life, but it does help us weather the storms of life.

Today’s reading in Genesis 7 tells us the story of another “wise builder.” In obedience, Noah did all God instructed him to do. Though, his neighbors thought him a fool for building a boat in the desert, he was wise in his obedience to the Lord – “The rain fell, the floods came.” Imagine the terror of those experiencing rain for the first time and their sudden realization that Noah knew something they did not – that only obedience to God had the power to rescue anyone from the impending storm.


Today’s reading has challenged me on several levels:

First, it has caused me to reflect on past “storms” in my life, asking the question, “who was I more like, the wise or foolish builder?” The evidence I suppose is seen in how much or how little time I had to spend rebuilding the wreckage caused by the storms.

The second challenge has caused me to read the Sermon on the Mount again, and again. How do I measure up to these seemingly impossible commands!? Do I even feel love and compassion towards those living under my own roof, much less my enemies… or is contempt for them a better description? Am I quick to assign motives to others, judging their heart… or do I give the benefit of the doubt, recognizing my limited ability see accurately?

The final challenge has me thinking, what would it really look like to be obedient? And what would the fruit of obedience taste like? Would my relationships be transformed into what God desires them to be? Would I live with an increased sense of peace knowing I would be safe and secure in the midst of the coming storms?


Lord I understand that the storms come and go, it’s just a part of living life in a broken world. You are my Shelter from the storm, and through obedience I will be safe and secure in the midst of the rain, wind and floods. It is painful to look back, but I can see how much precious time I’ve spent picking up the debris and rebuilding the evidence of my disobedience – Life is hard, and through my too often hardened heart, I’ve successfully made it harder. Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, help me live life faithful to your teaching and instruction. I’m tired of rebuilding and ready to build on a foundation that will not fall. Amen



Filed under M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew

Matthew 5-6


You have heard that it was said . . . but I tell you . . .
     (5:21, 22, 27, 28, 33, 34, 38, 39, 43, 44, NIV)

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  (5:48, NIV)


Jesus sure does know how to ratchet up the stakes.  “You have heard that it was said,” he proclaims . . . do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not break your oath, an eye for an eye, love your neighbor.  “But I say to you” . . . don’t get angry, don’t lust, don’t even swear at all, turn the other cheek, love your enemies.  Lest we miss the standard, he lays it out for us: “Be perfect” – just like God is perfect.

So, is Jesus setting forth an impossible standard?  Yes, absolutely.  To his audience of rule-followers who thought they could be “good enough” by following the letter of the law, he has a simple message:  you can’t be “good enough.”  The righteousness God desires will have to come from outside of you – it has to be God’s righteousness added to your account by God Himself.


I meet a lot of people of who are trying to be “good enough” to get into Heaven.  They think that when they die, their good will be weighed against their bad and whichever side is heavier, wins.  Jesus is saying here, no, that won’t work — your good will be measured against perfection, and your only hope is to have His righteousness applied to your scale.

I have to say, I’m still prone to the “good enough” trap myself.  Even as a believer who has accepted God’s righteousness as a gift through the work of Christ on the cross, I still find myself measuring my “goodness” against others – at least I’m not as bad as him, or thank God I don’t do that.  Too often, I lose sight of the fact that the one I should be imitating is perfect and the only way I can imitate him is to let him transform my life.


God, I want you to transform me from the inside out.  I want your righteousness to change me and to make me like you.  Help me to renew my mind constantly, to relinquish control of my life, to allow your love to shine through me.  Help me to be a conduit of your love to others and to point others to you.


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Filed under Matthew, New Testament