Tag Archives: Matthew 5

No Church is an Island

Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink…  Exodus 7:17-18

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  Matthew 5:45

Apparently, the first four plagues in Exodus affected the Hebrew slaves as much as they affected the Egyptians. It was Pharaoh’s hardened heart that brought the plagues, but everyone suffered from it, including God’s own people. It’s not really fair is it? It does not fit our notion of a “fair and just” God. But it is the picture scripture paints of God, whether we like it or not…whether we understand it or not.

message in a bottleAccording to the stories of scripture, it is one of the ways of God. He sends his rain on both the just and the unjust. His wrath may come as a result of an unbelieving world, but the believing world will share in some of those consequences. This is so, I believe, because we were created for community. We, His church, are expected to be IN the world. We are expected to carry His gospel with us INTO the world, illustrating it in community with one another and in community with an unbelieving world.

I am grateful for Dr. Billy Graham and his generation of church leadership in the Evangelical church, because the world needs to know that salvation is ultimately a personal concept, stemming out of a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. But I am also very excited about what appears to be an emerging generation of …

When Gathering Together Does More Harm than Good

Tuesday Re-mix –

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.  I Corinthians 11:17-18

I once worked with a certain church in East Texas who had more than its share of divisions and unmanageable conflict.  There had been an ugly history of conflict in this church…dissension about a number of different issues over the years.  By the time I had gotten there, the pastor had become the “issue du jour” and was the object of much of the fighting.  Two camps had already formed: those who wanted to keep him and those who did not.  This was the church where I actually had a deacon sit with me, look me right in the eye and say, “I don’t care what the Bible says about reconciliation, I’m not doing it…I’ll deal with whatever consequences that brings in Heaven.”  I didn’t even know what to say to him.  I mostly just bit my tongue, but that conversation is perhaps for another post.

It was this church’s custom to have the Lord’s Supper (or “communion”, depending upon which parlance you favor) on the last Sunday of each month.  The pastor found himself in a dilemma.  He had to decide whether or not to move forward with communion or not.  If he decided to move forward, he would surely be criticized for holding communion when everyone in the church was fighting with each other.  If he canceled it, he would surely be criticized for that as well.

He canceled it.  And it was a right decision.  Because there was so much contention and animosity in that congregation at …

Through Kingdom-colored Glasses

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I was 40 years old the first time I put on a pair of reading glasses.  I had stubbornly defied all the predictions that I would never make it out of law school without needing glasses (presumably due to all the reading law school requires…this is where some of my law school friends who read this blog will surely make some wise crack about how little reading Blake actually did in law school).  It was one evening during my 41st year when I was at my parents’ house and they noticed I was squinting as I read the paper.  Dad handed me a pair of reading glasses and my life changed right then and there.  I could not believe how much they helped!  I had a whole new outlook on life…literally.

glasses1That is what glasses are supposed to do, cause us to see differently.  Thus we have little sayings such as “She sees the world through rose-colored glasses”.  The glasses we wear have everything to do with our outlook.

I have been a Bible teacher for almost 30 years now.  Clearly, there are some books and passages in the Bible which are a sheer joy to teach and there are others which…well, let’s just say they challenge my ability to “keep it fresh”.  One of the passages I LOVE to teach is in Matthew: the sermon on the mount. I know many scholars and commentators believe this “sermon” is actually just Matthew’s compilation and summary of many lessons Jesus taught over a period of time.  I understand that theory and I am not nearly enough of a Bible scholar to debate it.  But personally,  I don’t like it.  I very much …

Are You There for the Wounded?

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Pretty much anybody’s interpretation of Jesus’ ministry has to agree that He was there for wounded people.  Whatever else you believe about Him and His purpose, you would be hard-pressed to argue that point.  Everywhere He went, He was helping physically, emotionally and Spiritually wounded people.  His best-documented sermon, the sermon on the mount, began with some words about wounded people…

Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him and He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth; Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled…Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven… Matthew 5:1-6, 11-12.

The fact is, Jesus looked out over a motley crowd full of hurting people who had been largely ignored by that society and told them, “I have some great news for you.  Heaven wants you, even if nobody around here seems to.”  It is a defining characteristic of Jesus: compassion and care for the wounded.

And it should be a defining characteristic of every local body of believers who claim to be following Christ…every single church, every single congregation.  A large part of being the New Testament church is looking out at our community and seeing the brokenness and trying to help.  That is a given, not really up for debate.

But …