- 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.
The want of revenge and retribution runs deep. When I am wronged the desire to “get back” at someone is very strong. It can almost feel like an obligation or a right that since you hurt me, I get to hurt you back. But it never ends there, and a vicious cycle of revenge begins.
I see this with my children:
- If K shoves R, then R shoves K.
- If R shoves K, then K shoves R harder.
- If K shoves R harder, then R hits K.
And this escalates until both children are hurt and crying. Nobody wins.
When I read this passage what comes to mind is Romans 12:17-19 where Paul writes “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
Two wrongs don’t make a right (thanks Grandma). When a wrong is repaid with a wrong, God is not looking at me as justified in my evil actions, he is looking at me as someone who has wronged another image bearer of God. End of story.
Lord thank you for your guidance and patience with me as I try to figure things out and keep failing. I ask that you help me to live at peace with everyone even when I feel the need avenge myself.
- Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
At first glance I didn’t really think this would be applicable to someone in our culture. I don’t swear oaths. Or do I? When I’m relating a story that sounds fictitious I add “seriously” or “I swear”, when I say I will do something I add “I promise”. But why? I am a bit of a practical joker, so some people do not know if I am telling the truth or setting up a punchline. It actually drives me crazy when I am being honest and someone won’t believe me. But I have no one to blame but myself. Even if it is a joke, and I let the person in on it at the end, it was still a lie at the other person’s expense.
I need to stop for a minute. This is not where I was planning on going with this journal entry. It appears that the Spirit led me to an area I need to think about more. I think jokes are fun, but there are some jokes that go too far. There are times when I have pushed the envelope. There are times when I have gone way too far, to the point where it almost got me fired from a job. That experience settled me down for awhile, but I got comfortable again. Thinking about some of the tricks I have played on people, the type of humor involved is almost always at their expense. It is no wonder people won’t take me seriously. It is no wonder people question my authenticity. My yes’ and no’s aren’t always true.
All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
Lord, thank you for this devotion. Thank you for uncovering a major character flaw. I pray that you can help me to change it. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
- It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
I grew up with divorce, I think I was in preschool or kindergarten when my parents divorced. My dad remarried and divorced two more times by the time I was in college, and recently ended a long standing committed marriage-like relationship that ended with the same heartache as a divorce. My personal observations have led me to see divorce for the soul ripping event that it is. One of my personal goals, before I was married and before I came to Christ was to never get divorced. The idea was noble, but it wasn’t grounded in anything but my own desire. I really didn’t know what marriage was. The ease and popularity of divorce obscured the Biblical definition of marriage, and we as fallen and broken beings distorted it into our own culturally relative creation. We began to believe the lies about marriage, and began using it to support political agendas. Christ’s love of the church is the model for marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33), but when we distort the image of marriage we distort the image of the church.
Marriage was a lasting covenant between God and us, but once the standard and qualifications of marriage were lowered, marriage became nothing more than a temporary agreement. The phrase “till death to you part” was replaced with “as long as your love shall last”. But do we really know what love is? If love doesn’t last can we really call it love? 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love never fails. That love always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. Divorce is the opposite of love.
When my wife and I came to Christ we were in rough shape, but through Christ’s model of love, and reading about God’s intent and view of marriage we were strengthened. We may not have a perfect marriage yet, but it is strong and getting stronger every day. It’s roots are grounded in God’s unchanging word.
Gracious Father, thank you for the marriage I have. Thank you for your guidance in understanding the nature and value of marriage. I pray that we continue to grow and model a Christ loving Biblical marriage to shine light for those who need it. Amen!
There are things in my life that act as triggers to sin. As an alcoholic should stay away from bars, there are many areas I need to stay away from. Areas that when I enter, I am tempted to sin. Jesus says I should cut off those things which cause me to stumble. To stay away from those situations.
- 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.
What happens when one of those things is something I have built your identity on? The act of cutting away is not as easy. When I cut it out it really does feel like you are loosing a part of myself. When I had to stop watching horror movies due to how it made me act and feel, I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t know who I was. I was always FIRST a horror fan. But that loss was only temporary, because I put God in place of it. When you build your identity on something outside of God not only is that idolatry, but when the thing that is only finite crumbles to dust you are left with nothing. When I cut out sinful areas in my life, God opened up a new foundation onto which to build my identity.
Now when this is applied to relationships, I feel it that it is not the person who should be cut out of my life, but how I interact with them. We might need to take some time apart, some time to grow, but I don’t think it is Biblical to write them out of my life. I can’t be light to someone who I put under a bowl. I cannot be a peacemaker to whom I have no contact.
Father, thank you for your support. Thank you for showing me a better way, and daily changing my course to match your will. I ask that you help me in examining my life, to illuminate areas which cause me to sin, and assist me in removing them. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
I almost didn’t post this one. It is a rather sensitive and personal topic.
- You have heard it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
This is a hard one for me. It was a lot harder before Christ, but there are times when I have to check myself and turn to prayer.
I was in kindergarten when I had my first sexual encounter with a neighborhood girl of the same age. We didn’t know what we were doing, which wasn’t much more than looking and touching, but I knew it was wrong. This happened again with another two girls some time later. The first two times it happened the other parties initiated it. But afterwards I began to initiate. And that is where I have the most difficulty. I pray for all of the other neighborhood kids, but especially the two from which I initiated, I hope those encounters haven’t caused them any lasting damage. I try to tell myself that we were all young and didn’t know any better, but still experiences of that nature can have lasting effects.
By the time I was in 3rd grade I had had a several more of these encounters with other neighborhood kids, but by then my direction predominantly changed to the viewing and prolonged imagination of images, which really started when I found a Playboy magazine in the wooded area by my house. I seemed to have an uncanny skill for finding these magazines every time I went out. I was in 5th grade when I saw my first porn movie. I remember the feeling of something shock when I saw it. And I wanted to see it again. And do what they did. It became the “cool” thing for guys to make copies and pass along the tapes.
When the internet came along I spent countless hours downloading images, which on a 2400 baud speed modem was about one picture per hour. But with faster rates came more images and then video.
I know my first experience set off this spiral into sin and viewing women as nothing more than objects for my amusement. But the thing is, that after so many years of having been involved in that world, I was addicted to it. I tried to justify my actions and tell myself “it’s natural, everyone does it”, and not being a Christian made this easier. But I always knew deep down it was wrong. I know this because I tried to hide it and I tried to quit countless times, but I was never successful… Until I came to Christ! Until I had began to view people as image bearers of God. Until I understood the nature of sexual sin. Until I could tell the difference between real love and counterfeit love.
What I struggle with now is an occasional second glance at a woman, or a lingering thought. The temptation to click an internet ad with a picture of a scantily clad woman. I snap myself out of it and turn to prayer, but it still happened. That glance moved to inappropriate areas or perhaps lingered a little too long. That thought that wasn’t of my wife. I wish it didn’t happen. It’s a slow road to rewire my brain away from the consequences of my past actions. I wish that was one of those areas where I could have instant transformation. I have never physically cheated on my wife, but I seem to do it in my heart on a daily basis.
Lord Jesus, I want to thank you for pulling me out of the descending spiral of sexual sin. I ask that you heal all the parties involved in my past perversions. I pray that you reach out to the coerced and abused women trapped in the world of porn, and let them know there is hope, love, and freedom in Christ. That they are your daughters. In jesus name I pray. AMEN!
- 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.
Outside of traffic court I have never been involved in any legal troubles requiring me to go to court. I can understand the necessity to settle matters quickly before they escalate out of our control. But what this verse gets me thinking about is life, or perhaps I should say death. When I die I will face God, I will face the judge in his courtroom, and as a sinner I will be held accountable for my crimes. If I don’t settle matters quickly before I go to court, before I die, I may be thrown into prison until the last penny is paid. If the punishment of sin is death, then the last penny will be permanent death.
There is an urgency in accepting Christ. We are all on our way to court, and we are all guilty. But God has given us a way out. A way not just to cover our sins, but to erase them, and that is through Jesus! He paid the price for our sin, through his sacrifice we are free from our sin, and free to live eternally in fellowship with God.
If I die tomorrow, which is very possible, I know I am saved. But if my friends die tomorrow, how many of them will be saved? I know the truth of the gospel, but I don’t always share it, because I’m afraid to. I have written before about how I want to be liked by people, but perhaps being silent when someone is in danger isn’t the best way to be liked.
Father, Thank you for giving me the time to reflect on the gospel message. I pray you give me courage to speak up when it is required. AMEN!
- 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.
There are a couple of things that stand out to me in this passage. The biggest is something I have never really paid attention to. In the way this is worded, Jesus says that if you remember that someone has something against you, you should go and reconcile with them.I can bear no grudge against someone, but if they are holding one against me, then I should be a peacemaker. I need to go to them and try to make things right. This doesn’t mean giving in to the Truth, or going against Biblical authority in order to appease someone, but rather in never giving up actively loving them.
A few people come to mind, one of them I mentioned yesterday. I have forgiven her, but I have never apologized for the mistakes I made. I still have the ability to contact her. I think I will write her a letter.
The other was a good friend when I was in college, I’m not sure if he holds anything against me, but when I was young in apologetics I wrote a Facebook post that many of my unbelieving friends didn’t like, and he unfriended me. When I asked him why he stated something about clutter in his news feed. I tried to make peace then and wished him well, but perhaps it is time for an email to check up on him.
God, I want to thank you for challenging me. You brought two people to mind who may have something against me. If there is anyone else I trust in you to illuminate me. I pray that you give me the words to reach them. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
In continuing with this devotional challenge I feel like I hit a wall. Not in the sense that the passage slapped me across the face and brought me to my senses, but in the sense that I ran into a dead end. I don’t feel like I have gotten what I should. I have spent 3 days reading, reflecting, and praying on Jesus’ teaching about anger, and haven’t written a thing in this journal. I have heard that the best way to overcome writers block is to just write.
- “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.
There was a dark time in my life, which I have vaguely touched in this blog, where I was holding onto a rather large grudge against someone. Two people come to mind actually, one was a high school bully, the other was someone who was a closer acquaintance. I hated these people so much that I would visualize them getting injured or dying in horrible ways. A Buddhist book on anger didn’t help me, primarily because I was so mad I never read more than the first few pages. I wasn’t addressing the source of my anger, and I wasn’t ready to. Through Christ I finally came to let go of that anger and to forgive. I treated the source of my grudge, which was my sinful nature.
I still deal with anger. It’s not the deep festering kind of anger, it is the anger that springs out of nowhere, like when I get cut off while driving or some sudden similar situation. Before Christ I remember following someone for miles seething with anger. That doesn’t happen anymore, thank God! But it still comes, and it comes on quick. Sometimes I call the person a name similar to ‘Raca’. Sometimes I clench my teeth and strangle my steering wheel. It is only because I believe that the other person is an image bearer of God that I can stop. I can forgive them on the grounds that we all make mistakes, and pray for their safety. Still though, that anger surfaces. It is there inside me, hiding and waiting to strike out. Putting it in a cage doesn’t help. The only thing that is going to change it is the Holy Spirit.
Father, thank you for addressing my anger and for showing me what love and forgiveness are. I pray that you transform me into the person you created me to be, I pray that I can open up and not resist the inner work of the Holy Spirit. Thank you Lord!
9.29.14 6:26am – Family room. chair
Lord, You are Awesome. Thank you for breathing air into my lungs that I may spend another day moving in your will. Walk with me through today’s devotion and journaling that I might understand and communicate your message.
I love atheists, even if they do sometimes drive me crazy with their preposterous presuppositions and horrible hermeneutics. They challenge me to look at difficult areas of my faith that I might be tempted to gloss over. I’ll be honest, I was one of them once too. Today’s reading was one of those verses I liked to use to build a case for the inconsistency of Christians. And because I found it challenging after I became a Christian it was one of the first passages I tried to understand.
Matthew 5:17-20 The Fulfillment of the Law
- 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.
The law and prophets were very important to Jesus, down to the smallest letter or the least command. But like the Pharisees who were outwardly obedient to the law, Jesus stressed that it was your motivation for that obedience, what was in your heart that really mattered. This is made clear throughout the gospels, and you see further clarifications in the following paragraphs. I can see myself doing this in a sense. I tend to rate sin and compare myself with other people. I mean, at least I never killed anyone. At least I never physically cheated on my wife. Sure I may have wished someone would die, and maybe I looked lustfully at a woman or two, but surely that’s not as bad as actually doing those actions! I still struggle with this, probably because I don’t want to admit that I am wrong. This is what challenges me now.
What use to challenge me was why do some Christians get tattoos and eat bacon if Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the law. I started to look into this and even posted once on this blog about my personal struggles about whether I should get a new tattoo or not. I haven’t gone back to read it since I wrote it, but I remember touching on a different category of law. Further into my studies I discovered that the categories of laws can essentially be broken down into three groups:
- Ceremonial Law: These are the laws God gave to Israel to separate the people of Israel from the Polytheistic Pagan nations that surrounded them. These laws included regulations concerning clothing, cleanliness, diet. We no longer need to sacrifice animals to cover our sin, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross took away our sin and these laws were fulfilled in Him, meaning they have come to completion.
- Civil/Judicial Law: Are laws which are culturally specific to ancient Israel. Laws falling into this category included penalties for various crimes, rules for business transactions. These expired after the fall of the Jewish civil government. Today, as a U.S. citizen I no longer have to pay parliamentary taxes, because we are no longer under control of the British government.
- Moral Law: These are God’s laws that are binding for all people, in all cultures, at all times. These will never expire, because God’s moral character will never change. These include the ten commandments; laws that we all know, they are the laws written on our hearts (Rom 2).
And it is the moral laws that Jesus further goes on to describe in the following paragraphs. I have found that reading a verse in context will overrule many of these objections. When God says he has judged other nations for having broken a law, it is most likely a moral law. Understanding this, has helped me significantly in so many areas.
Lord, I thank you for the objections you have overruled and opened my eyes to your grace. I pray that you change my heart so that your moral laws come naturally, so that I don’t have to struggle as much as I do with impure thoughts. As always it is in Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
9.27.14 7am – family room chair
Father, thank you for your guidance in continuing with this devotion, as I type and reflect on todays passage I ask for your work in me to transform me to your will.
I could technically be finished with this devotion challenge, as I hit the minimum number of entries. But I am really enjoying it. I plan to continue in this format until our next small group meeting, and after I think I will change the format a little. Maybe removing the date and time, and keeping the prayers private.
I decided to keep rolling with Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount. I have always liked this discourse, but as I have discovered with the beatitudes there is a lot I have skipped over without giving much thought.
- 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.
I do most of the cooking at our house, and one thing that drives me crazy is when my wife salts her food without tasting it. But what makes it worse if I have to reach across the table for the salt shaker because after tasting my food it turns out she was right. Salt enhances the flavor of bland food and cuts bitterness. Health effects aside, it is a pretty useful seasoning and preservative, and it is essential for human life. As a Christian I should be the seasoning to a bitter world. In lieu of the preceding beatitudes and in light (pun intended) of the following verses, it stands to reason that being salty is expressed in how I live and love. But salt that doesn’t have any flavor isn’t good for anything except making soil infertile. I have met Christians like this. People who claim to be Christian but are not living like Christians. I feel they do more to harm Christianity and make it difficult for any seeds planted to grow.
- 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.
If I truly live for Christ, and am truly being transformed by the Spirit, my life should be visible to everyone like a town built on a hill. Everyone who looks will see its lights. If I go along with a crowd, or ignore one of those fallacious internet memes which try to make a case against Christ by taking a Bible verses out of context, I am dimming that light. I feel that if I don’t engage culture, if I don’t associate with pre-believers and live in a Christian bubble I am even further dimming that light, and have become as useless as salt without any flavor. Good deeds in Christianity are not required for salvation, but they are an expected sign of salvation. I don’t think my sign always points in the right direction. Sometimes, and more so since I have read the beatitudes, I wonder if my life is really as reflective of Christ’s as it could be. There are times when instead of humbly reaching across the table for the salt shaker, I try to choke down the bland food in order to prove that I was right and don’t need it. And that is exactly what I do when I remain silent and don’t live like a Christian.
Lord, thank you for challenging me with these devotions. I ask that you give me the courage to let your light shine in me in all situations. Amen!