Saturday, August 12, 2017

TO ANOTHER LEVEL (PART 1)



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Matthew 5:21-26

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

In yesterday’s devotion, we found Jesus assuring His listeners that He had not come to abolish the Law in any way, the scriptures used by the Jewish religious authorities to teach the people about God’s commands and expectations, the scriptures that were used to enforce those expectations so people would turn from sin and toward righteousness.

You may recall that at the end of this assurance delivered by Jesus, He exhorted the people to live in a way where their righteousness would exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, the acknowledged role models the people followed when it came to compliance with the Law. His words must have left the crowds wondering how that would be possible. How would they elevate their level of righteousness above the current standard?

Jesus was about to tell them in a series of teaching blocks which show the people that it’s was clearly possible for them to go to the next level when it came to adhering to the Law and still improving the way they lived. Let’s look at the first teaching block found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”  Matthew 5:21-26

Did you see what Jesus did?

He took an element of the Law, a commandment that everyone would be familiar with (murder), and enhanced the commandment. Jesus didn’t say it was now fine to murder. No, it was still a horrific sin and anyone who committed it would be subject to judgment. But He took the commandment not to murder and made it better than it was when it stood on its own.

How did Jesus make it better?

He did so by getting to the root cause of murder (anger or incitation/antagonization). Jesus knew that people who committed murder often did so while consumed with rage, sometimes referred to today as “blind rage” because a person loses sight of the consequences of their actions while in the throes of anger.

And so Jesus addressed the matter of anger and added the emotion to the list of things that would bring judgment. Perhaps we should remember this as we live our lives day to day because I am sure we all have dealt with issues of anger, sometimes daily. Jesus knew that if He could get people to stop being angry, then He could drastically decrease the number of murders because He would remove the spark that so often lit the fuse of killing.

But Jesus didn’t stop there, did He?

For He drilled down deeper into the actions that could contribute to someone getting angry enough to murder, saying:

“Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

How many times have murders happened just by someone speaking a word of insult against another?

More than we want to admit, I’m afraid.

This is why Jesus wanted to address the practice in His day and ours. We’re to avoid saying things that we know will stir up strife and provoke another. Anyone who does will be subject to consequences which included court or even worse, the “fire of hell”. Yikes!

Think about how many times you have gotten angry or called someone a name?

Do these words of Jesus change the way you will look at your behavior?

I pray so because this is what He was trying to accomplishment and He drove home His point by promising penalties for disobedience.

All this would have been more than enough to encourage others to change their behavior toward righteousness but Jesus wasn’t finished, was He? He still had more to say on this matter as He took the Law to another level through two additional urgings. First, look at these words:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

If you’re looking for the opposite of incitation, you turn toward reconciliation, the emotion that is anti-anger and anti-name calling.

How important is the matter of reconciliation?

Jesus tells His audience that it should be made a priority before they make an offering to God, before they leave their gift at the altar. The gifts presented at the altar were intended to honor God but we see here where Jesus encourages the people to bring further honor to the Lord through reconciling with a brother or sister who may be holding something against them. Once the reconciliation was achieved, then the offering could be given, with the gift of resolution included.

The second urging Jesus gave was centered on settling disputes. He said:
  
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Through His words, Jesus commands His listeners (or readers in our case) to settle matters quickly with any adversaries who may be taking them to court, to settle the issues outside of court or run the risk of that adversary going to court, making their case before the judge, and then that judge passing penalties which could include fines or even incarceration which would not end until restitution had been made. In other words, settlement, as in the matter of reconciliation, is desirable in the eyes of Jesus and we should be obedient to these desires as we are all the ones Jesus has for us.

So to recap, Jesus takes the matter of murder to another level, commanding that we avoid anger and provoking others through name calling. He also demands that we exercise reconciliation with anyone who holds something against us and settlement in matters that could go to court. Now, it’s up to us to take this teaching and apply it to the way we live our lives.

And remember, Jesus is watching.

Tomorrow, we’ll see how Jesus takes the matter of adultery to the next level in part two of this eight devotion series.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.
Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Friday, August 11, 2017

IMPROVING NOT REPLACING



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:17-20

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Have you ever had a radical change come into your life?

I know I have.

Maybe that change is for the better; maybe that change brings challenge and hardship to us but two things are sure about radical change:

1. You can be certain it’s going to happen at some time or another.

and

2. It’s usually something we don’t like to deal with, especially when it changes things for the worse.

So why don’t we like change?

Because at the core of our human selves, we like structure and routine. It’s true, right?

Our days are typically structured. We know when we like to wake up. We know how we like to get prepared for our day. We prepare ourselves, eat, and usually depart to do what we do each day at the same time and in the same way. If we work, we go to our jobs, get done what needs to be done, and then go home, usually with an idea of things we want to do there which includes a certain time that we like to shower and get ready to sleep for the next day’s events.

Yes, we are definitely creatures of habit who like to keep schedules and follow certain patterns and ways.

This is why we are so adverse to change. It alters the status quo for us and that’s something we’re not comfortable with. It’s true today and as we will see in this devotion, it’s something that was true in the days of Jesus as well.  Before I get to that, let’s look again at these verses from the Gospel of Matthew as Jesus continues teaching during His Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-20

Think about how much things changed when Jesus started His ministry. It was definitely a radical change within the Jewish nation of Israel which had a set way of conducting spiritual business for years. That spiritual business was grounded in the scriptures which were referred to here by Jesus as “the Law or the Prophets”. These scriptures dictated the way Jewish believers were supposed to live and these scriptures were taught by appointed teachers of the law and enforced by Jewish religious authorities like the Pharisees and Sadducees who ensured the Jews complied with the many statutes contained within the Law. Now with Jesus on the scene, He was bringing new teachings within the synagogues, teachings that were acknowledged by the Jewish listeners as having special authority, authority that they had never heard before. This teaching, as well as the healing and driving out of demons He performed, had drawn crowds of people to Him from all over Israel, and this in turn drew the attention of the Jewish religious authorities.

Surely, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the teachers of the law were nervous because they saw Jesus as a threat to their system. They were unnerved by thinking that Jesus had come to completely change the Law, to replace their current decrees with His own and in doing so, make them irrelevant within the Jewish religious culture.

Perhaps Jesus sensed this angst and tension within the hearts of the Jewish religious leaders because He took time to give the matter attention early within His first extensive teaching to the masses, the aforementioned Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wanted to make it clear that He had not come to abolish the standards that the Jews had been following for generations before He was born. In fact, He promised that He wouldn’t even edit the Law (“not the least stroke of a pen”). He even went on to promise reward (greatness in the kingdom of heaven) for anyone who “practices and teaches” the commands within the law and judgment on anyone who would try and modify or amend it saying that anyone who did so would be considered “the least in the kingdom of heaven”. The former statement should have appeased the Jewish religious authorities, showing them honor for their godly fervor; the latter statement should have shown everyone that Jesus was serious when He promised the Law or the Prophets would not be abolished.

But note that while Jesus was saying these things, there’s one thing He didn’t say. He didn’t say that He wouldn’t be enhancing the Law or the words of the Prophets through His own teaching. He didn’t say it because His teaching was all about improving and as we will see in a series of devotions beginning tomorrow, taking the Law of God to the next level, teaching in a way that would lead His followers to a righteousness that would exceed that of the Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.

As mentioned, we’ll see Jesus elevate the ideals within the Law to new heights when I begin a new series tomorrow. See you then.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.
Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Thursday, August 10, 2017

BE LIGHT



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Yesterday, I had the blessing and privilege to teach nearly thirty children in the town of Corozal in the country of Belize, a small Central American nation which sits just to the south of Mexico. As the children participated in the day, myself and the other volunteers watched them grow in the fruits of the Spirit, the theme of the three day, Christ-filled event. There was little doubt that the light of the Lord was being reflected by all who taught and led, and that light was being received and absorbed by the children. It was a first-hand example of what Jesus was talking about in our scripture verses for today as we continue to look at the initial words of instruction Jesus gave His followers following His proclamation of the Beatitudes. Look again at His words here:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16

Note the initial words here. Jesus says we’re to be the “light of the world” and let our lights “shine before others” but where do we get that light?

The answer comes in two other statements made by Jesus, both found in the Gospel of John. He said:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

and

“I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6

Jesus is the light and He is the life. He is both and when we place our belief, hope, and trust in Him, committing ourselves to following Him in obedience, then we will have His light as we are guided toward modeling His life. In other words, through Jesus, we have the light He calls for us to share. We are carriers and sharers of His light and as long as we remain in Him, then we will never walk in darkness but rather the light of His righteousness, the light that brings us life from the One (Jesus) who is the life.

With the light of Jesus, gained through our relationship with Him, we’re not just supposed to be the light of our homes or in our churches, we’re not just to be the light in our neighborhoods and our cities or towns. No, we’re to be the light of the world and that means we need to find ways to minister to others, no matter where they may live in earth, sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus like as myself and the rest of our ministry team are doing this week in Belize, just as many other missionaries are doing each and every day throughout the world.

Now, I know you may be saying, “Mark, I just can’t leave the country now and go somewhere. I have a job (or family situation) that won’t support me leaving for an extended period of time.” OK, it’s easy to understand that there are barriers and limitations that often keep people from being able to travel abroad and physically bring ministry to others but think a little out of the box on this matter for a moment. With the mass use of social media today and its global reach, it’s very easy to reach out to people all over the world and share the Gospel with them, easy to let the light of Jesus shine through you, even through the Internet. Further, you can always provide monetary support to missionaries who can go and share the light of Jesus with others first-hand. Most missionaries have to fund their own way abroad and back to include their stay once in the place they are going and that stay sometimes is very lengthy. They graciously embrace any support they can get so even though you can’t personally take Jesus’ light personally, you can help someone else do it, indirectly sharing light and life and love.

Ultimately, the goal is to help others find their salvation through Jesus their Savior and let our light shine to that end, no matter how we participate in that process, a process that sees our good works bring glory to our God in heaven.

The message from Jesus is clear.

We are to be light.

How are you doing that in your life today?

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.
Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

BE SALTY



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Matthew 5:13

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

After dispatching with the Beatitudes, the opening to His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus starts to get down to the business of teaching the crowds who had gathered to listen to them. Specifically, He wanted to address the ways people were living and provide direction toward ensuring those ways were right and righteous.

The start of this guidance is found in today’s verse from Matthew 5. Look again at the words of Jesus here:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”  Matthew 5:13

In speaking with His followers, note that Jesus is letting them know the potential value they held. Each one of them was designed to be the “salt of the earth” and was expected to go forth and be the “seasoning” others needed. They were expected to be salty and that illustration of seasoning carried with it a couple of important illustrations.

First, think about the use of salt then and now. When people wished to add flavor to their food, they added salt and it changed the item it was applied to for the better. Jesus’ disciples were to be the salt of the earth, going to others and applying the “seasoning” of Jesus to make them better than they were before, the help them find salvation and become new creations in the process.

This leads to the other important purpose of salt for it was often used as a preservative by those in Jesus’ day. Most often, meat would be packed in salt to ensure it didn’t rot and be ruined. Jesus wanted His followers to be the salt of the earth and help preserve the lives of those who were unsaved by helping bring them to Jesus, saving them from the rot and ruin of destruction because of their sinfulness.

What was the alternative to this?

It was to lose “saltiness” which was akin to being useless when it came to serve to the Lord. You see, if salt loses its flavoring or preserving abilities, then it is of no use to anyone and it is easily discarded, “longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot”. This is the fate awaiting any believer who chooses to not be as Jesus commanded, to be the salt of the earth. Those who choose this way of life will hold no value when it comes to advancing the kingdom of heaven on earth by helping other come to know and trust in Jesus as Savior.

Perhaps this is the worst one could see from a Christ follower, to see they have lost their “saltiness” by choosing to live in a way that subtracts, not adds and contributes to the cause of Jesus and those He yearns to save.

Where do you fall on Jesus’ saltiness scale?

Would He consider you as holding worth for Him through the way you are obediently enhancing the lives of other?

Or would He view you as useless because of your sinful disobedience and non-compliance, no better than the salt that was no longer good for anything “except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot”?

My prayer is that you are seen as salty by the Savior, carrying out exactly what He commanded and demanded at the end of the Gospel of Matthew in what we call the Great Commission which went like this:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.
Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com