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What makes it sacred is greater

Woe to you, blind guides! You say, “If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.” You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, “If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.” You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar which makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

Matthew 23:16-22 (NIV)

This passage comes in the middle of a passage titled in my bible “Seven Woes” and it reads as possibly the most scathing criticism about the pharisees and teachers of the law that comes out of Jesus’ mouth. The passage above got me, which was in my readings for today, thinking. It’s the Church that makes things holy. It’s the altar that makes it holy. It doesn’t really matter what you bring, by giving it to the Lord, he makes it holy.

How often would we hold back in our lives, because we’re not sure if it’s the right thing to do? When you listen to God, and you dedicate it to him, he will make it holy, and work with whatever you can bring. Remember that Jesus worked with as little as 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed five thousand, and 7 loaves and a few small fish to feed four thousand. Whatever you have, God will work with. All you need to do is give it to him$

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World Mental Health Day

Biblical Truth

    "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly."

Matthew 11:28-30, The Message Continue reading World Mental Health Day

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Let the Weak say “I am strong”

Biblical Truth

As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, "Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!" When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, "Do you really believe I can do this?" They said, "Why, yes, Master!"

  He touched their eyes and said, "Become what you believe." It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. "Don’t let a soul know how this happened." But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met.

  Right after that, as the blind men were leaving, a man who had been struck speechless by an evil spirit was brought to Jesus. As soon as Jesus threw the evil tormenting spirit out, the man talked away just as if he’d been talking all his life. The people were up on their feet applauding: "There’s never been anything like this in Israel!"

  The Pharisees were left sputtering, "Hocus-pocus. It’s nothing but hocus-pocus. He’s probably made a pact with the Devil."

Matthew 9:27-34, The Message Continue reading Let the Weak say “I am strong”

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Beauty for Brokenness

Biblical Truth

  When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

  "You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

  "You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

  "You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

  "You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

  "You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

  "You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

  "You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

  "You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

  "Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Matthew 5:1-12, The Message

Musical Offering

Ben’s Offering

My mum proudly states that she was declared a heretic. The accusation came at the Anglican Synod, after she claimed that there was biblical evidence that Jesus favoured the poor. I’ll go into those examples another day, but Jesus does call us to care for the poor and needy – and it’s part of why I love the Salvos so much. They are so focussed on working with the needy and forgotten in our society, to make sure they are looked after.

This reading – the Beatitudes – is one that I find incredibly encouraging for all people. I love the way Eugene Peterson has written this passage. When we’re at the end of our rope, where the only hope we have is in God, it’s then that we have completely removed ourselves and allow God to fully control our lives. When we have lost that which we care about most (the NIV translates it as “those who mourn”), it is then that the one who will always care for us is known. When you are not building yourself up, boasting or bragging, but are content with who you are, you will receive “everything that can’t be bought”. Personally, I prefer the NIV translation of the next verse: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” When you desire equity, goodness, honour, integrity, morality and justice as much as food and drink, it is then that we shall see that which we desire.

I could go on, but I think I might save it for a sermon one day. Goal for today: read the Beatitudes, and reflect on which one you might be needing to hear today.

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Jesus, Name above all names

Biblical Truth

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—’God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25, The Message Continue reading Jesus, Name above all names

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Teach me

Biblical Truth

  "Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

  "Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.

  "Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

  "Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.  "Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

  "Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.

  "Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

  "These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

  "But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards."

  When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.

Matthew 7, The Message Continue reading Teach me