Receiving, Asking, Knocking

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I have read in  a few spots that the most prolific atheists out there had daddy issues.  The going theory is that they transferred their views of the earthly father or father figure to God.  The flaws they say in the early context, whether justified or not, took the appeal of reverence or awe of God right out.  Assigning blankness could be empowering after a sort since their expectations of benevolence are stunted or warped.

And for those in Jesus’ time who had a relationship with God based in Old Testament theology it would be hard to see God as father explicitly.  But Jesus addressed this because the New Covenant to be offered through the cross would be very familiar and very intimate.

“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; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:7-10).

it will be given to you..you will find….the door will be opened to you—Jesus is showing the loving nature of God the Father as very gracious and gives really what amounts to a guarantee.  All in the “will” part.

But a guarantee is precisely what needs to be qualified briefly. God will graciously not answer our prayers with the exact result that we want.  Sometimes the greatest gift of God is in saying no to the specific request but granting you what is truly needed.  20/20 hindsight often informs us and, with humility, informs our conscience for the future.

In speaking about where my conscience seems to be informed now I can use the example of healing.  Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed from the neck down, asked God for healing and did not receive it.  Her body, so it seems, is “as is” until she crosses to the other side.

But what about the healing of the heart?  What about her life being a testimony of God’s grace?  She is a singer, painter and artist and has influenced many people of varying hardships to embrace the message of a loving, relevant God in suffering.  I see a beauty in that.  The “it” given her is something else God had in mind.

seek and you will find— For anyone familiar with the Sermon On The Mount, or the general teaching of Jesus, it is obvious that the teaching of the gospel is not to see the material things as and end in themselves.  The seeking, as we see later in this chapter, is to be first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).  To the extent one is seeking these of God with their baggage fully disclosed is the extent that God will make such experiences found.  And if you find yourself at the cusp of God’s kingdom and righteousness what is prescribed from Sacred Scripture is to put yourself out there publicly for God approval.  I have knocked on the doors of clients who turned out to be no shows.  It made me feel weird while I waited.  I was stood up and put out there.

But God will not leave us out there.  Jesus has been standing at our door long before we stood at His.

So how do we apply this accessibility to God in our gut? Jesus presupposes the natural good will to fathers about how they know they should be.  Just as an atheist will project their baggage from their earthly father onto God, Jesus changes the dimension to the fathers they want to be themselves.  The universal truth of caring for ones child correctly is expanded upon.  Jesus strikes an emotional nerve and through it grows in the hearers the drive to live out this truth.

If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him—- Jesus carries the conversation from the listeners sincere love for this children and knowledge that they needs forgiveness.

God wills to give to us from His essence.  This is why the parallel passage to this in Luke says Holy Spirit instead of good things.  This is where pure religion stands out.  The impure kind that falls short of the fullness of God’s love is transactional.  The pure is constant in it’s opportunity to be accessed in faith and is relational.  We can be atheists if we want.  We can be deists of a God who just exists.  Or we can be radically transformed by the message of Jesus Christ for now and eternity.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3).

PS I think this should go without saying, but if one asks God for forgiveness He will forgive.  100% I guarantee it.  This I read and this I know.

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Pigs and Dogs and Returnees

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I have wondered what the opposite is of loving money but keeping the affection to a virtue or thing that we experience on earth.  It would have to be really good if it is the perfect opposite of the love, or lust, of money.  With the verse I am writing about today I come up with the great pursuit and treasure of what can be experienced on earth: God’s holiness.

This is where Jesus is coming in as the Sermon of The Mount is coming to a close.  It should be noted that as Jesus is nearing the end of this sermon there is a more intentional groundwork for the disciples hearing it so that they will have an informed discipleship conscience that syncs with the sacramental life of the Church that will emerge.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

Jesus wants a hedge of protection around the Church.  That which is holy must retain its value.  Would like it if a billion dollars rained down on Phoenix tomorrow?  Sure!  I would be ecstatic! Until I tried to  buy my favorite car with my handful of cash and it costs $30,000,000.

The early Church had something to say about this verse in the Didache.  Historians place the date of this document typically no later than the turn of the 2nd century and as early as the 40’s.

“Allow no one to eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized in the name of the Lord. For concerning this, the Lord has said, ‘Do not give what is holy to dogs’ ” (Didache 9:5).

Is this mean?  No.  It is not against any group of people because being a wanderer like a dog or self-indulgent like a pig, in view of the Church, was an equal opportunity state to be in.  Jesus is for holiness always and wants it to be hemmed in properly.  Someone that has been baptized is not a wanderer but has been found and adopted and transformed fundamentally through baptism.

“And even though our gospel is veiled, it is veiled for those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 4:3).

or throw your pearls before swine—-I can only guess, but I know in 1 Corinthians 3 Paul speaks of our works being tested in the fire of God at the end of the age.  These could be considered ones good works.  Good works are fine, but casting them out to the be noticed by man more than God is operating the gifts of God for the wrong reasons.  Another “pearl” that the Christian could see in this verse is the general experience of the mystical in the Christian life.  To live more fully as a Christian is to live in the great mystery of being a disciple of Jesus.  To pass this on to the self-indulgent who want gratification of the flesh and want it now is unrealistic and a setup for being crushed.

So have you been baptized? Great!  But if you are living in the flesh more than spirit, then like a pig was not be consumed in the nation of Israel of the old covenant, neither are you to be consumed or to consume in the Eucharist.

But to be cleansed from piggishness?  That is different. “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing” (1 John 1:8-9).

There is always hope for even the worst sinner. In 1 Corinthians there was a young man sleeping with his step-mother.  Paul took exception to that and he was cast out.  But the young man repented and with the same zeal Paul spoke out that he was to be received back.  The young man did not like living out of his spiritual home.  One could say he was tired of acting like a pig.

Or take the Prodigal Son.  His rock bottom had him in the mud with the actual pigs.  But he knew where his father’s house was and did something about it.  He came back repentant and regained the wholeness of his inheritance.  He received gifts from his father that spoke of authority (the ring), favor (the robe), good footing for the future (a Greek word for fancy shoes was used for that part),  a slain, fatted lamb (communion) and a party (a group celebration of reconciliation).  These do not belong to a prodigal in the pig pen but they do belong to the child of God who comes home.

And for me there is a renewal for my coming home at least each Sunday.  As a part of the liturgy I say each week before receiving the Eucharist, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.  But only say the words and my should shall be healed.”

If there was no scandal to me stealing from orphans, being unrepentant about it and “getting” the Eucharist then what would be holy about the gifts of God?  I would be my own God and the Church would be an afterthought or self-generated goose bump.  But by the grace of God, I know who He is and know what I am not.  And so I ask Jesus to say the words….

The Right Stuff of Judging

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There is a scandal to religion.  Not just Christianity but any organized religion in the post-modern world.  The common thought is that a religion is a set of rules. that are dictated by nature against what is liberty and self-discovery.  An important sub-category is being judgmental over someone.

The common thoughts of a judgmental person or oligarchy is a person or group that nitpicks on things that are barely wrong or not wrong at all.  The second theme people have of judgmental people, especially in association with the religious, is that the idea is to shame someone even if they are fragile and/or already ashamed of their failings as it is.  The third observation people have of a person who judges for judging’s sake is that they are hypocrites.

Jesus loved mercy and hated hypocrisy.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow on that.  Jesus loves everybody.  Everyone can let out a sigh about that.  But there is more to the approach of judging than most people think about.

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5).

Stop judging, that you may not be judged.—The agenda of judging in the flesh and for the flesh is to make ones self feel better as an end in itself.  It is fundamentally a power trip.

But the agenda of God or someone on earth that has godly concern for the fallen ones around is for their true betterment.  As a counselor I tell clients all the time that shame never works.  I tell their supports who have varying knowledge about addiction also that shame does not work.

Jesus had another approach when He caught flack from the religious, condemning hierarchy of that day when a healing not he Sabath happened.

If a man can receive circumcision on a sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a whole person well on a sabbath? Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly” (John 7:23-24).

The Pharisees were into exactness.  Jesus was into wholeness as an experience of holiness.  Also, Jesus shows that judging is okay as long as it is done in a full perspective of righteousness.

For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you—- People could mistakenly take from what is spoken in the Matthew verses that to be cool like Jesus is to “live and let live” or chalk the failings of everyone as stumbles on their “faith journey”.

But it is wise to understand in view of the totality of the Bible that judgment of God is inevitable.  Even a modern spiritual leader like Martin Luther King Jr. would make the point that judgment of all by God and man is going to happen.  “judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” presupposes that even by character we will be judged.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? —- Here is where some people see Jesus making a joke.  Maybe there is a joke here.  But more importantly there is a highlight to work on yourself before others.  What is important is that working on yourself is an end in itself.  To “love justice, teach mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) is the point of personal holiness that is a central theme for the deposit of Christian faith.

However, an eventual experience of a follower of Jesus in a community of fellow Christians is to see the mess and humbly love ones neighbor too much not to confront.  Fear of confrontation is considered one of the Five Dysfunctions of A Team (Francis Lencioni).

remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye —-The point here is that you can correct your loved ones, and be better qualified for it, because you have appropriated for your life of taking up the cross daily to be an examination of conscience or “taking a fearless moral inventory” (12 Steps).

So this does get fleshed out, this godly judging, from the apostolic level as the Church grew.

Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).

From legalism to the law of love?  Yes! The above was written by Paul a former Pharisee no less.  And with such a love for the ones with us that fall and need correction then there is restoration the right way.  It is a matter of suffering with those who suffer and seeing them for their needs and not their faults.  For such mercy and kindness is something we all need.

Getting Anxious To Life

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It’s funny when someone talks about how “I walk it like I talk it”.  No one wants to be a hypocrite yet if someone speaks a hard truth then they will gulp down a challenge to be true to the virtue of which they speak.

This is a particular blog of where I get anxious: because it is about being anxious.  Recently I prayed that God would humble me.  The next week I was fired wrongfully.  Recently I blogged about forgiveness and two hours after the upload someone sinned against me significantly.  So with some trepidation, here it goes.

“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?  Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil (Matthew 6:24-34).

First Jesus is refining the conversation to address Whom or whom we serve as the means by which we live our lives.  You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…. 

The “therefore is predicated on the decision of the disciple of Jesus to see that God is served and reverenced as the definition of what matters.  This is absolute and the spiritual reference point addressed repeatedly in the Bible but fulfilled in the context of Jesus.

Jesus said later “you call me Lord and Master and so I am”.  If Jesus is Master then that gives Him the right to tell us what to do but it was assumed that He took care of the wholeness of who was under Him because of that.

This context of Jesus is three fold and to be kept in mind if we are to maintain ourselves in the fullness of “peace that transcends all understanding” (Phillipians 4:7).   Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life”.  Jesus was no flower child.  Jesus spoke as the fulness of the wisdom of God but based on the layout of salvation history.

“The way” in Greek is “hoda” but is a reference in shorthand to “ex-hoda” in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament).  The latter term is something used for Exodus as in the way out of Egypt.  That is why frequently in Acts the Christians are referred to as “followers of the Way”— — even before being called Christians.  Jesus stood, and still stands, as our Savior from sin and bondage of Egypt that as in our lives.

“The truth” is “alethia” is can be defined as “all defining reality”.  Have you been saved?  Great! But just as we have been saved by grace through faith continue to walk with Him.

“The life” is defined as, “of the absolute fulness of life, both essential and  ethical, which belongs to God, and through him both to the  hypostatic “logos” and to Christ in whom the ‘logos’ put on  human nature”  (Symbolism of The Gospel of John http://www.gospel-john.com/greek/chapter-14.html).

Look at the birds in the sky… your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 

The dignity of the human person is far above the dignity of the other creation.  This is why Christianity stands to give hope to mankind in that God is intentional and relational with humankind.  God truly loves the world in the sense of human beings created in His image.  The correct question is not so much how can we intellectually process this as much as ask how we can get this in prayer.

To be in the our own intentional response to Jesus in practicing His presence is essential.  It could be worth considering that in the verses preceding the Philippians reference to “peace that transcends understanding” that Paul talks about: rejoicing always, the Lord is near, keep your gentleness evident, pray, petition to God, thank God for what you have (as opposed to worrying about what you don’t) and THEN anticipating the peace of God.  If you are doing the opposite from above, per the Dr. Phil doctrine, “How’s that working for your?”.

If God so clothes the grass of the field….will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

To have a life that is saturated with the values listed above from Phillipians is to have a life of faith and on the deposit of faith.  One would ultimately know that God’s agenda of Christ being formed in you in life or death will work out.

But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Jesus is to be sought in our journey as the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  Is your life ordered after your highest understanding of God and seeking His favor above all others?  To the level that both areas are “Yes!” is a good guess about where your vulnerability to anxiety is.

Gulp.  God is going to hold me to this in challenging me to trust Him more.  But I will remind myself, and your dear reader, that our heavenly Father loves us with an undying love.  And to change our patterns likewise, though a price to pay, is worth paying.

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Perspective is everything.  Perception is the all consuming reality for us even if it is wrong.  Sure it could be about how we do math but really in a daily sense right or wrong perspectives are crucial on how we perceive good or evil.

Paul taught that the love of money is the root of many kinds of evil. It makes sense in the rat race world we live in.  Why not cheat your neighbor if the Almighty for you is the Almighty Dollar?  Money and corruption go together for a reason in the issue of greed whether it is corrupt politics, business or other things.

But Jesus dug into the matter of greed even more.  He had just talked about the contrast of riches of earth that are seen as an end in themselves versus the invisible ones of heaven.  But in digging deeper the lens that people see the world around them is addressed.

 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[c] your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon (money) (Matthew 6:22-24).

Jesus is getting at the roots of what salvation is all about.  Living in a revival meeting, Billy Graham effected country we hear of the common perspective that to “see the light” is to “ get saved” and have your fire insurance paid for.

But Jesus has a message that can be interpreted like that but also much further. Jesus spoke from the richness of the Old Testament scriptures including the Psalms and so did his disciples.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?

The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid” (Psalms 27:1)?

The Old Testament source most quoted by Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Church Fathers was the Septuagint which was the Greek translation of the Old Testament.  This is important to the common salvation key of interpreting holy life.  To be “saved” (sozo) was to be made whole.  One can see that in the Greek like when the unclean woman touched Jesus and she was made whole.  She was “sozo’d” so to speak without baptism or the Sinners Prayer.

So yes, one can see the treasure in heaven but that can not be deep enough because then we are motivating ourselves by seeing the handiwork of God as end in itself instead of seeking His face.  Just as natural life is defined as consuming something, so should we remember that spiritual life is about seeking Jesus Himself for Himself.  And from that it makes sense that the eyes with light could have an effect on the mind, heart and body.

But let us not stop there.  Spiritual and natural life are also defined as happening by reproducing.  Disciples of Jesus that walk in the fullness of salvation are to reproduce children and/or fruit that will glorify God.

“Alas, child, light of my eyes, that I have let you make this journey!” (Tobit 10:5).  Strange though it may seem, the perspective of the mother is seeing her child as an illuminating source.  She did not mean that her son was a celestial body nor a deity.  She believed that life does go on and uses a spiritual reference to esteem her son’s value to her by the grace of God.  There is a fulness to her life here because she sees a heavily blessed treasure on earth that is relational.  If our eyes are purified then we will have a more pure appreciation for the priorities and actions that matter.

Or then there is emptiness that fits with the reference of Jesus.

“The eye of the miserly is rapacious for food, but there is none of it on their own table” (Sirach 14:10).  The miserly seek to save as an end in itself and thus they lose.  It was people like that who Jesus referred to in saying “how great is the darkness”.

I leave you with a story of conversion that fits what I am talking about.  Ron Rearick stole 1.5 million dollars from a  plane in the 70’s.  He had it in his hands for a few minutes and said “It’s not enough”.  Then he was arrested, went to prison and was paroled sooner by far than he expected.  When he came out he was a new Christian and got married.  When he and his wife were about to drive away from the wedding some friends were able to give him a modest amount of money.  He swelled up with joy and said it was more than enough.  He had peace in the light of the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  So can you.  So can I.  What’s stopping us?

AFTER CREDITS SCENE

Some of my readers may have wondered why I quoted Tobit and Sirach.  If you are a Protestant you do not regard these as rule of faith scripture.  I have changed on that as well when I ceased being a Protestant and became a Catholic (but I did not cease being an Evangelical).  Below are some points by Catholic Answers.  Keep in mind that the Council of Carthage was authoritative on the undisputed New Testament.  Can we cherry pick with their Old Testament finding?

Proof on Deuterocanonicals

There are close affinities of thought, and in some cases also of language, between I Peter, i, 6, 7, and Wisdom, iii, 5, 6; Hebrews, i, 3, and Wisdom, vii, 26, 27; I Corinthians, x, 9, 10, and Judith, viii, 24-25; I Corinthians, vi, 13, and Ecclesiasticus, xxxvi, 20.

The sub-Apostolic writings of Clement, Polycarp, the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, of the pseudo-Clementine homilies, and the “Shepherd” of Hermas, contain implicit quotations from, or allusions to, all the deuterocanonicals except Baruch (which anciently was often united with Jeremias) and I Machabees and the additions to Daniel. No unfavorable argument can be drawn from the loose, implicit character of these citations, since these Apostolic Fathers quote the protocanonical Scriptures in precisely the same manner. For details of these testimonies see Loisy, “Canon de l’Ancien Testament”, pp. 71-72.

the Council of Carthage. Canon 36 reads:

[It has been decided] that nothing except the canonical Scriptures should be read in the Church under the name of the divine Scriptures. But the canonical Scriptures are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Ruth, four books of Kings, Paralipomenon two books, Job, the Psalter of David, five books of Solomon, twelve books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezechiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Ezra, two books of the Maccabees. Moreover, of the New Testament: Four books of the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles one book, thirteen epistles of Paul the apostle, one of the same to the Hebrews, two of Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, the Apocalypse of John.

Thus [it has been decided] that the Church beyond the sea may be consulted regarding the confirmation of that canon; also that it be permitted to read the sufferings of the martyrs, when their anniversary days are celebrated. (From Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum, translated and published in English as The Sources of Catholic Dogma)

Two key points should be noted. First, while the names and divisions of some Old Testament books differ from contemporary usage (for example, the four books of Kings are, in modern Bibles, divided into 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings), the canon is that of the Catholic Bible, not of the Protestant. Second, this canon was to be confirmed by the “Church beyond the sea”–which means Rome.

Buried Treasure In The Sky

June 25, 2012: Gold coins uncovered in a buried potsherd at Apllonia National Park in Israel may be worth half a million dollars or more.

About a month ago I made a bad mistake.  I left the garage door open.  The next morning I found both our vehilce rummaged through and my prescription sunglasses were gone.  I like them a lot.  I did not like someone violating my space and stealing my property.  I had some anger that welled up in me but got over it and did not both to call the police.  I figured that it would be considered a petty crime and not worthy of CSI level investigation.  I wish I could say I was all spiritual about this but really it was a matter of being practical.

But being spirual about that which is our material possession is definitely worth looking at and was found worth explanation from Jesus of Nazareth once upon a time.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (6:21-23).

Viewing these words inspires me to be hypothetical and spiritual.  Suppose there was a knock on the door from a police officer and our country was tough on crime like ancient Sumeria.   Suppose the officer let me know they caught the guy and he should be executed soon unless I decide on mercy.  And suppose I did not because my prescription sunglasses and dignitiy was too import to me.  Where would I be?

Spiritually I would be bloated with my own sense of self importance.  I would be covered with my desire for other things that do not pertain to godliness and love.  I would be rich at the expense of spiritual blessings.

But the better I check where my desires come from the more I will be consumed with the richness of knowing Christ in this present age    Jesus said. “blessed are the poor in spirit, for thiers is the kingdome of heaven.

But how much do we truly believe in the treasures of Christ?  More to the point, how do we act on this desire that would not make us respect Him with servile obedience?  We know that some things of a person pass through flame in the individual’s experience but some do not.  Some last like gold and some do not.

Within the realm of how we view treasures is the issue of reinforcement.  If I am working hard on financial investements of a portfolio to blossom then I will be reinforved on my profit seeking behavior.  It will be dignital numbers on my iPhone and my brain will go “ding-ding” like a gambler on a slot machine.  It’s tangible and it’s mine.

But on a day to day basis, how is one to be reinforced positively towards good works? “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.  We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Internal self-reinforcemnt to invest into what really matters? Not easy.  Going it alone our hype or emotion will take us only so far.  We may even self-congradulate ourselves or give ourselves tasks that are easy and from within our limited perspectives of the hurt of the world.  But in fellowship with others who know Jesus as Lord and Savior and you experience how the work of sanctification makes spiritual investment as a lifestyle another story entirely.  This is because together “you see the day drawing near”. Let this day inspire us not in servile fear but as disciples of Jesus and children of the Father.

Fasting For Fans

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Last blog I talked about sandwiches in Matthew.  Points A and C seem to be related but Point B does not unless you look closely.  For some time I have been covering the Lord’s Prayer but before that I covered the part of Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount that was about giving in secret so that your Father in heaven will reward you in secret.

What happens here after Jesus’ teaching of the Lord’s Prayer is about fasting in secret with the likewise same reward.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18).

I tend to get curious through my lens as a linear thinking European American on why Jesus would not repeat the pattern one after another rather than an interuption on how to pray.  What could be the method to either Jesus’ speaking style or the editorial pacing of Matthew the author?

Well one thing that is covered in the Lord’s Prayer is the issue of sustenance regarding “daily bread”.  If one sees daily bread coming first from God, it changes the scenario on how we fast because we acknowledge God as the center of our provision.

Another benefit to having the Lord’s Prayer introduced to the reader before this fasting in secret reference is that the body is more tied to worship.  Jesus prays “..who are in heaven, hallowed be thy name”.

Another aspect is God calling disciples to exercise a spiritual discipline with the following paradox: look good while mortifying the flesh. The call of the disciple was described in the words of John the Baptist well as “He must increase and I must decrease”.  By fasting one is sending a signal to God and their own soul a dependence on God in our most basic carnal need.  We can appreciate this through the help of Paul who wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).

Speaking of basic, one can draw a spiritual lesson from Abraham Maselow.  From his hierearchy of needs we see how hard it is to have a sense of belonging if our basic needs (food, water, shelter) are not met.  Spiritualiy we can take a sort of old fashioned snap shot and see through a negative image that by denying ones self in taking the Lordship of God personally our sense of belonging to all that matters really increases.  Through the mindset that Jesus is teaching smacks against any carnal desire to have congradulations from men on your spiritualness.  Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Admiration from people is fine if it happens by happenstance.  But to make the spiritual practice about the people’s power to define you is socially based idolatry.  It is a sin and Jesus lays down a standard that is not to be dismiised by the Pharasees of the day.  Since Jesus is the same always, such humility on the practice of fasting stands for us still.

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).  First God’s favor and then man.  The call for us as we ponder this passage in our hearts is checking our motivations.  What is stopping us?