2 Thessalonians 1:3
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.”
The church which I attend has an ongoing emphasis, “I love my Church”. There are shirts, there are sermons, and there are continual efforts to be a church that is centered in our community. I thank God for those who are willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our world. Faith is growing. The expressed love for one another is exampled by sincere expressions of love and concern. I do love my Church. It is not the building, it is not the songs we sing, it is not the lighting or even the big screens with providing the sermon points. It is a Pastor willing to do what is needed when there is a need. There is a genuine concern for those who cannot help themselves. It is not giving up our young people to a culture that would harden their hearts. It is real and true Bible study. It is a group of men and women who take the time to be Christian all the time. For these things that are increasing, I am thankful for the Church.
Matthew 7:7,8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Ask, seek, knock”, these words are all about need. I ask because of my need. I seek because of my need. I knock because of my need. The very emptiness of my soul is characterized by a need to be given, found, and welcomed. It is not begging, cajoling, persuasion, or an effort to overcome reluctance. It is an acknowledgment of the location of the supply for my soul, my life, and my best. My hope is built on nothing less than God’s supply. So, I ask with confidence and humility. So, I seek with care and application. So, I knock with sincerity and persistence. And my needs are met. Praise the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me, Praise the Lord.
Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
I have had many jobs in my life: agriculture laborer, guard, machinery cleaner, butcher, meat cutter, janitor, pastor, IT specialist, School CIO, computer trainer, and now a sort of writer of sorts. All involve both the physical and the mental. Each required learning and unlearning, and relearning. Nevertheless, they were not the greatest things I have done in the years I have called earth my dwelling place. Sure, I provided a roof over my family, and we were relatively comfortable. Yet the greatest thing in my life was not survival. I did not carry the weight of the world on my back just to endure. I have discovered, now, late in life, that seeking more than existence, but seeking the Kingdom of God was my goal from the beginning. My job was to seek. God’s job was to provide. I can’t do God’s job for him. All the things I have endured, enjoyed, fretted about, and had peace about, were just my way of seeking God.
Matthew 6:28-30 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
The world has become bipolar. Everything is poured into one of two buckets. Everything seems to be either good or bad. There is no middle ground allowing reasoning. One bucket is much larger than the other. The smaller of the two is filled with the good, pure, lovely, heartwarming, and beautiful. But these wonderful things barely cover the bottom of the bucket. The sides of the bucket are rarely wet. It is too easy to give in to negativity. It is hard to see the good in the world. The hilltop lecture is telling me to be more cognizant of the beauty of life. God loves beauty. He created beauty. I may not as well adorned as Solomon or seen as beautiful in your eyes. Yet, God delights in the adornment he supplies. I am a new creature born in beauty before God. It is filling my good bucket today. God supplies me with everything I need to do what God has for me today.
“Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
God knows. Our heavenly father knows. HE cares, He loves, and He wants the best for me. Yet in everyone’s life come doubts. Doubts are ok. Doubts are a part of living. I can easily doubt my own ability or even the ability of our government to control itself. Doubt comes to us wrapped up as a feeling. Doubts are not ideal, but I can and do work through them. I can confront doubt like any other feeling. I can let my head, my intellect grasp a promise, a truth, and the doubt slinks back into its black cave. Through acceptance of this truth, I let it push me to a better understanding.
The issue Jesus is teaching on the grassy hillside is the negative attitude spewing forth out of doubt. Anxiety and worry are simply symptoms that you are too close to the world and not close enough to God. He knows your needs. I must focus on the provision of God. I am too valuable to sow, reap and stow the cares of the world.
Matthew 6:7-8 “And when you are praying, do not use thoughtless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
Most of the time the shortest prayers have the most prayer in them. They are to the point. They are not filled with repetitious addressees to whom the prayer is made. “I thank you Lord, because Lord, you are Lord of all and Lord can you, Lord, help me out…. Lord?” Quality of prayer is much more honest than vast quantities of platitudes, clichés, and highly evolved formulas. Truth, not length is the message here. God is not deaf or forgetful, and neither does he delight in the number of words spoken. It is sheer deceit to go on and on and on and on. When you pray, be simple, and make your request known not because God needs to know but because you need to ask.
Prayer is a spiritual and intellectual approach of the mind of man to the mind of God. We are not here to add to God’s knowledge or even dictate divine will. Prayer follows a simple formula: confession, praise and petition. Nothing else is needed.
When you pray, pray and let it just be that.
Hillside Thoughts for Thursday – Day 279 of the year 2022 – October 6
Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Imagine for a moment what our world would be like if just the Christians stopped fighting. Think for a moment where every Christian on your block would reveal themselves by caring for the less fortunate. What would be like if two billion redeemed by the blood Christians, conformed to God’s intent? Would it be a wonderful blessing to begin to do what Jesus asked us to do by showing unconditional love, unbounded kindness, and unlimited grace to all?
If we belong to God, the God of grace, there is a mandate for us to become a people of grace. That is how we can imitate God. It is being the extension of God to everyone you encounter today. Just do it and begin a wave of Jesus to all.
Hillside Thoughts for Wednesday – Day 278 of the year 2022 – October 5
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Is Jesus suggesting that I must allow the evil in this world to triumph? Am I to assume the role of victim in any encounter with someone who would do me harm? Is all that I own subject to anyone who wants to borrow it? This teaching of Jesus is tough. I don’t want my cheek slapped. I don’t want to give my shirt away. I don’t want to go the extra mile. I don’t want to lend my favorite fishing pole to a clutz. There must be something more here than a radical reaction to an offense.
The culture in which we live remains resolute in its ability to accomplish much. There are many things the secular world can do better than the church. There is a place for government to do things the individual cannot. Industry can build a car without being Christian. But there is one thing the world around you cannot do. That thing is the offer of grace. Jesus was saying we are to be different from our culture or government or industry. We have the ability to look beyond the requirements and need to go a little further and be grace and mercy.
Hillside Thoughts for Sunday – Day 275 of the year 2022 – October 2
Matthew 5:29-30 “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Most of the time a simple understanding is best. Yet here it sounds like crazy talk. Plucking my eye out, or cutting off a hand is ridiculous. Losing an eye over saying “wow” after seeing a beautiful person is bizarre. Jesus that would not help much, I still would have my other eye. If I steal from someone with my right hand are you saying that in guilt, I should run it through my table saw is pretty radical, nevertheless, I can learn to steal with my left. So, Jesus what are you getting at?
The most important idea here as spoke to the Hillside Sitters was the Kingdom. The Kingdom is more important than my body. What the Rabbi was simply saying was that my greatest desire should be my place along His side. My greatest goal, my greatest desire, should be my place in the Kingdom. And this Kingdom, because of this scale of greatness in my life, may well require great sacrifices.
Hillside Thoughts for Saturday – Day 274 of the year 2022 – October 1
Matthew 5:28 “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The sermon on the grassy hillside continued with a comparison between the law of the Pharisees and the living law of Jesus. In this comparison, Jesus used an example from the Ten Statements handed down to Moses from the very voice of God.
Infidelity is the unfaithfulness of a love. It is an act of betrayal. The disciples look at each other with a calm assurance, “Not much of that going on here.” But Jesus goes further and points to the attitude of betrayal. To look with a wrong motive is now out of bounds. Jesus was explaining to us hillside dwellers that betrayal is more than an outward act.
Quite a few of the multitude take a dramatic breath. They are shocked. It was easy to say I have not betrayed anyone. Nevertheless, Jesus said a simple and seemingly uncontrollable desire brings conviction. Jesus convicted us all before God. If the constraining law was only an outward act, there is only puffed-up chests and egos. The inner heart is a betrayer.
This view of the intent of God had little to do with outward acts. My outward righteousness is not enough. My ability to do the right thing at the right time in the right place was not enough. I need God’s righteousness in my life. It is provided by Him for me. The law should drive us to Jesus.