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Posts tagged with: leadership

HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 21 (Mt. 5:41) “Two Miles”

41 “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
Matthew 5:41 (NIV)

In the previous two posts, Jesus commands us to “turn the other cheek” and “give until you are naked.” I have presented a different way to think about these commands from Jesus, by using and understanding the Hebrew Culture that Jesus grew up with. This passage about going two miles when asked to go only one is no different from the previous two posts. I want to present an ancient Roman law that Jesus would have been familiar with that I think He is referring to in this command.

DRINK IT IN:
The ancient Roman law I am referring to is called the Law of Angaria. You can do a search via the internet and find all kinds of information about this ancient rule. The Law of Angaria was enacted as a way to keep the Roman Empire from looking uncivilized. The Roman Empire wanted to be known as a dominating force, yet civilized. So, the Roman Empire adopted a law that the Persians created. This law gave authority to any Roman official…Military or not…to require of any person or vessel, living in Roman occupied territory, to carry anything the Roman official needed carried, but only for one mile. (If we got really technical, 1000 steps) If the official was caught having the person carry something more than a mile, he could be reprimanded, demoted and in some cases potentially put to death. The Law of Angaria is what the Romans used when they forced Jesus to carry his own cross. Its fascinating to know, that the distance between the place where Jesus was put on trial and the actual crucifixion sight (Golgotha or Skull Hill), was right at one mile. There are arguably two location where Golgotha is located, and both locations are right at one mile of distance from the Trial location.

So, Jesus tells his listeners,”If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Is it possible that Jesus is being a bit ornery here? You have to agree with me that it is likely. Again, to repeat what I said in the previous two posts, Jesus does command us to be as sly as a snake and innocent as a dove. He does tell us to conquer evil by doing good.

Imagine an arrogant Roman officer demanding that you carry his pack for one mile. He has the right to do so because it is the law of the land. You, as a Christian, comply and you do exactly as the Roman officer commands you. As you traverse with the Roman officer for a mile, he would expect you to stop and return the pack. Imagine, without saying a word, you continue carrying the pack and you cross the one mile threshold. Not only are you doing an act of service and kindness to this Roman officer, that used the law of the land to take advantage of you, but you now have strategically and legally caused this Roman officer to be at your mercy. Its a double win for the Christian! Of course, as a Christian you are not going to mistreat this travel partner of yours, but you most definitely have the upper hand now. He knows he could be demoted for this situation and you now have the control. I have read about early Christians and have ventured across some stories of Christians walking the second mile with Romans and using the extra time to tell of the story of Jesus as the Son of God and the only way to Heaven.

I assure you, that after this happens once to any Roman, he would not use the Law of Angaria on a Christian again.

Be as a sly as a snake and innocent as a dove.
Conquer evil by doing good.

The early Christians had quite a reputation in the Roman Empire. A good and strong reputation. It fueled a great fire of hate within the belly of the bully. It caused unbelievable persecution upon the Christians. That very persecution, caused the message of Jesus, to spread like a wildfire out of control. Except it was controlled. God had it right where He wanted it.

SWEAT IT OUT:

Is there someone in your life who is trying to dominate you? Figure out a way to strategically and lovingly put them in their place. Do it without sinning. Our world needs more demonstrations of the strength and holiness and wisdom of Christianity. Be very careful with this. Remember that you and I are always one decision away from blowing our credibility. This also means that you and I are always one decision away from hurting the credibility of Jesus.

Romans 12:20 (NIV) says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

I think it is fascinating that the author actually writes the part about heaping burning coals upon their head. That’s ornery. That’s strategic. Its not nice. Yet, according to the Bible, its not wrong!

Somewhere along the way of life, we confused the love of Jesus with simple nice-ness.

So, you know your circumstances. You know most of the people you encounter everyday. Right?

So, as you encounter these people today and tomorrow and the next, what do they think of Jesus because of you and your actions? Are they inspired by your strength, strategy, humility, boldness, wisdom, servanthood, innocent conquering ability?

Go inspire!


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 20 (Mt 5:40) “Naked”

“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
Matthew 5:40

Did you read, Hydrate 19 yet? Its a bit long, but only because it lays the foundation for this command of Jesus’ too. If you don’t read Hydrate 19 before you read this one, it might cause a little confusion as you read this one, and the next one.

I mentioned in “Hydrate –Winning from the inside 19″ that I have traveled to the Holy Lands several times and while there I always make it a point to visit with any elderly Jewish person, that will speak with me, about some things that Jesus said. My first time to the Holy Lands I encountered an elderly Jewish woman who shared with me some ideas about Jewish history that might help some of Jesus’ commands and teachings make a bit more sense. As a reminder, Jesus was born into a very devoted Jewish family. Jewish law and tradition would have been reinforced in Jesus’ family. He would have obeyed the Jewish Old Testament laws. All 613 of them. Many times, as you read a New Testament passage and it causes confusion, the best way to make sense of it, is to sift it through Jewish Culture. Hydrate’s 19,20 and 21 are all teachings that I have sifted through Jewish Culture.

DRINK IT IN:
Jesus says in this passage, that we are devoting ourselves to today, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

I have heard many messages and teachings on this passage, and each one that I have heard, has only left me disappointed and frustrated at what seems to be a teaching on how to be a wimpy christian. The way I have heard this passage taught, leaves me thinking, that in order to be a good Christian boy, I am not allowed to stand up to anyone. I’m not allowed to push back with my words. I am not allowed to be strong and bold, but should be passive and weak. What has happened in our society, that people think to be Christian means, we must be timid and quiet? The only scene I can think about in Scripture, where Jesus MIGHT have appeared to be a “walking mat,” a push-over, or “wimpy,” is when He allowed Himself to be beaten, flogged, mocked, and humiliated during the crucifixion. While watching the Mel Gibson movie called “The Passion,” I kept wanting to stand and yell during the crucifixion scene, “Fight Back, Jesus!” But, I recognize, that Hollywood and the American revenge mentality, caused me to want to shout. That attitude has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. You and I both know that Jesus didn’t fight back, or rarely even talked back, during His nearly 18 hours of torture, before He died from asphyxiation on the Roman Cross. Why? Because Jesus knew His entire purpose, for living amongst us, was to lay down His life for us so that we could receive forgiveness of our sins. Of course He wouldn’t fight back during the crucifixion. If He did, it would have negated His entire purpose and most importantly would have been disobedient to His Father.

So, with that…
I challenge you to find me one other time in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John where Jesus didn’t push back on those who were trying to take advantage of Him. You won’t find one. In EVERY OTHER SCENARIO, Jesus always showed a strong demeanor and never allowed the “bully” to get away with pushing others around. In fact, you will find just the opposite. Read through the four gospel accounts in the Bible and you will find Jesus making a whip, knocking over tables, calling the religious leaders terrible names, exposing the religious bullies’ sins, and causing them to drop the stones they intended to throw, He even called out the sin of the Samaritan woman. You get the idea? What is amazing, is that, in those forms of strength, He remained sinless and perfect. So, why is it that we seem to have allowed His ‘submissive’ demeanor during the crucifixion…a one time scenario…to overrule the multitude of scenes where He didn’t submit, but conquered the evil around Him by doing good?

So, what the heck did Jesus mean when He said if someone takes you to court let them have everything? In Jesus’ time it was common to have two pieces of clothing that you wore every day. First, the Tunic – a long piece of plain cotton or linen cloth as an undergarment for the upper body, but sometimes reaching all the way down to the ankles. In today’s culture we would call this our underwear. I am thinking that we wouldn’t like these as underwear today. A tunic was not what we call “tighty-whities,” or “boxers.” The second piece of clothing, that was commonly worn, is the Cloak– a robe worn over all of the other items of clothing as an outer garment for warmth and appearance.

In Jesus time there were other “accessories” that people wore like, belts, sandals, prayer shawls, but the two key pieces of clothing were your Tunic and Cloak. Without the tunic or cloak one would basically be naked.

So, Jesus says, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well,” this means that Jesus is telling you to give of your tunic too, and you will be left naked. If I allowed this to happen while in court during the time period of Jesus, I would have to go home naked, or would I? This is where it gets good!

As I spoke with the elderly Jewish woman, I mentioned earlier, I asked her about this passage and told her why it frustrated me. She shared something pretty cool about the Old Testament that I had never thought about. She said there are Old Testament Scriptures that suggest it is a curse to see someone naked other than your spouse. She said that it is okay to be naked, but not to be seen naked. I asked her if she could remember any of the passages that she was referring to. She shared with me three things, two stories and one scripture verse. The first story she told me is when Adam and Eve recognized they were naked in Genesis 3 and how they used leaves to cover each other’s sexual parts because they felt ashamed. The second story she told me was of Noah and his three sons recorded in Genesis chapter 9. It is the story that happens right after Noah’s family comes off the Ark after the great flood. The Bible story is below and is found in Genesis 9:18-27.(NIV)

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded[a] to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s[b] territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”

Q: What did Noah’s youngest son, Canaan, do to Noah that caused Canaan to be cursed?
A: He saw his father naked.

The elderly woman told me that in the Jewish culture, because of this specific Bible story, Jewish tradition says that it is a shame to see someone, other than your spouse, naked. Now, please be patient with me in this understanding. I have tried to verify this by looking in books, commentaries, ask Jewish people in America, and even Google it, and I find very little to verify it. I say, “take it or leave it.” I choose to take it, because it helps me understand this passage of having your Cloak and Tunic taken from you, as a passage of strength, not weakness. Please note the following. Whatever you believe about this specific idea, it is a non-essential Biblically. As I said in previous chapters, this entire Hydrate series is a devotional thing, not a theological thing. If I ever make it a theological issue, I will mention it, as so, specifically. So…back to the point.

Don’t forget that Jesus said things like, “Conquer evil by doing good.” Also, “Be sly as a snake and innocent as a dove.” The elderly Jewish woman helped me understand these passages when she told me about this Jewish tradition. Let’s play it out in a mock court room. Imagine that I am in court and someone has chosen to sue me for my Cloak and they win and in the process of taking my cloak, I go ahead and strip naked and give them my tunic as well! What did I just do to this person…now that they would have seen me naked? I would have caused them to be “cursed” in a very strategic and innocent way. I actually conquered them by doing something good! Jesus said, “Conquer evil by doing good!” By them seeing me naked, because I gave my cloak AND my tunic, I was innocent to do so, but sly as a snake as well as I conquered the evil they were doing to me.

I think this understanding is a way to, as we like to say, “kill people with kindness.” For my enemy to sue me for my cloak and win, but then, I give him my tunic as well, I am treating my enemy with kindness, I could pray for him, I serve him, yet I show him not to mess with me, a Christian! I treated him with kindness AND “beat him in his evil game.” I will leave an impression with my accuser that I am smart, kind, strong, and most definitely not timid. I love that! (The next blog will build on this even more.)

Now to be fully forthcoming, there is one other idea out there about this teaching of Jesus’. I mentioned the elderly Jewish woman shared with me three Old Testament scenarios about nakedness. The third passage, she shared with me, is Isaiah 58:6-8(NIV), it reads,

“6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Verse 8 says, “when you see the naked, clothe them.” If you think with me back to the courtroom scene, it is obvious this passage would be a way to conquer evil by doing good as well. If you gave your cloak and your tunic to your accuser, your accuser would see you naked and would then be in a moral dilemma as to whether or not he wanted to break the old testament commandment of Isaiah 58:7. When the accuser saw you naked He would then be forced, by His own conscience, to give you your tunic back, which would show that He now was defeated by you! Or, he could ignore the Old Testament command in Isaiah and deal with his own sin and guilty conscience. Either way, you stood up to your accuser without doing anything wrong. You conquered evil by doing good! Does this understanding give you clarity on how to be a christian without being a wimp? I hope so.

SWEAT IT OUT:

How do we make this relevant today? I think that each of us must think of our current lives and our current enemies and figure out ways to treat them with kindness, but at the same time show them they have no dominance over us at all. Its perfectly fine to stand up to people as long as we don’t have sinful behavior. The Bible is full of language about patience, taming the tongue, gentleness, respect for others, not being vengeful, etc. There is a way to be and do all those things and at the same time not be seen as a push-over or wimp. I personally think a majority of true Christians get this part, but we have fallen prey to being overly “nice” and therefore not taking a stronger stand than we should. There is also a fine line of behavior here. I think some might use this material as a way to justify their sinful behavior of standing on street corners and yelling with “boldness” at people who are living in sin. I’m asking the reader of this to use extreme common sense in how to be strategic AND innocent. I’m talking about how to take a strong stance AND be gentle and respectful. The extremes of either side are dangerous to the reputation and cause of Jesus Christ.

Other than hypocrisy and sin, there is no greater thing that can be shown by Christians to harm sharing the love of Jesus, than timidity and “wimpy-ness.” Christianity already has a stereotype of being for people who need a crutch in life. Christians must learn to take an innocent stand, a strategic stand, and be bold for Jesus without harming His cause.

In your current situation, where you may be being dominated by someone, how can you conquer their evil by doing good? How can you stand up to them with strategy and innocence? Before you decide and act on this, run it by a trusted Christian friend first.

You must start by praying for your enemy. Don’t seek revenge, leave that to God. Treat people with kindness and respect, and if they are being abusive, figure out an innocent way to demonstrate to them that Christians are a Holy force to reckon with.

But, please, by all means….Do not be a weakling. Its not how Jesus is.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 15 (Mt.5:27) “Adultery/Lust”


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27

DRINK IT IN:
I think Jesus had the gift of being direct. Wouldn’t you agree? It doesn’t seem like Jesus’ listeners ever had to wonder what He was thinking, because He just said it. I find this trait refreshing about people. Oh, it can be irritating, but to me, its better to know what’s going on inside the head of someone, than to wonder. Which do you prefer and why?

Jesus was being very direct here. He was leaving nothing up in the air for interpretation alterations. He made it very clear that Adultery is sin and He took it one step further. He said to even look lustfully upon a person is adultery as well. We should all be in agreement that “Actions speak louder than words.” The action of adultery is sin and evil. But Jesus takes this issue deeper. I think Jesus loved to talk about foundations and origins. In my opinion, Jesus was warning us about the dangers of what goes unspoken in our lives yet impacts us. The thoughts, feelings, emotions, mental images, that are alive inside our brains and hearts, are just as serious to God as real actions. In my Hydrate post #12 titled “Words,” I wrote about how Jesus says that the WORD itself is not where the evil resides. The evil resides inside the heart and becomes evident through the spoken word. Jesus is saying that what is in the heart ends up being spoken as words. So it is in this case with adultery. It starts in the heart. It starts internally. Its starts as a secret. I don’t know who originally said it, but someone once said, “a secret is the beginning of sin.”

Jesus doesn’t give us any “wiggle room” here. (As I typed the word wiggle, my mind just sang the lyrics “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle…Yeah” to the popularly funny and inappropriate song sung by LMFAO) And that just proves a point I am trying to make. When we see and hear and think about things it is a natural thing to internalize them. It just happens. I have only heard that song on the radio a few times, but its inside my head now and probably always will be. And this brings me right to the point I want us to have great clarity about. Before I go there, let me pause and ask…Do I have to go any further about Adultery being wrong? Just in case you are trying justify any sexually deviant behavior outside your relationship with your spouse, as non-adulterous, I want to clarify. Sex with another person, who is not your spouse of the opposite sex, is adulterous. It is Adultery. Period. The End. Done. If you desire to argue that…there is something deeply wrong in you. Stop it.

Let’s get to clarity as we go through this writing. I have a question for you. Just because I thought about the inappropriate song by LMFAO, did I sin? The answer is no. Because to have an initial thought about something is not sin. You would have to remove your brain to not have this happen. To have an initial thought about something like this, is called temptation. TEMPTATION IS NOT SIN. Temptation to sin, is not sin. Let’s make this practical to the subject at hand, adultery.

Jesus says that if we even look upon a person with lust in our heart, we have committed adultery. So what does it mean to “look upon a person with lust in our heart?” Have you noticed that Jesus never says it is a sin to lust? Go back and look up the verses. Lust, by itself is not sin. For if this is the case, then Lusting for Life would be sin. Lusting for Holiness would be sin. According to Wikipedia, “Lust is an emotional force that is directly associated with the thinking or fantasizing about one’s desire.” Did you get that? Please read it one more time. I can lust for God and other things. Its fascinating to me that we link lust with sex, but lust can be linked to anything holy OR unholy. Lust, in and of itself is simply a desire that God created us to have. It’s closely linked with passion and drive. So, here is the deal. WHAT we lust upon makes it holy or not. Please agree with me on this. I know its a different kind of thinking, but its important to have clarity on this. I speak with men, frequently, who feel like they are cursed, because of the strong desire that they have inside of them. When I explain to them that they have the gift of lust inside of them, and every person does, and that they need to manage and guide that lust, IT FREES THEM! There is a popular book out called “Every man’s battle.” I know the premise of the book and how its about helping men conquer sexual temptation. I would just prefer that the book be titled, “Every man’s Gift!” Desire is a gift! Desire is a synonym of lust. To call this desire, a battle, is to set a premise that there is something wrong with the way God created man. I know the authors did not intend this reality, but I have visited with many men who believe they have a curse, and it is titles like this book that instigate such feelings. So, does it bother you that I say that, “lust is a gift that we must manage…not a battle that we fight.” Do you sense the difference? Its a little tweak with a big difference. My definition gives a man an adventure to live, the standard definition gives a man a “disease” that he hopes he can survive with.

To remove lust/desire from a man would be to remove the engine from a Corvette. The engine is the power that drives the corvette to achieve the great feats that it can. To remove the engine from a corvette, because it’s too dangerous…now that would be a sad day! Do not forget that God created man with feelings, emotions, strengths, desire and then He created woman to compliment and team with man. God then created this incredible thing called sex for us to enjoy and to use as a form of creation that gives us little people that grow into big people and the cycle continues! Managed in a holy and honorable way and It remains exciting and thrilling. It most definitely is not a curse. Sin is the curse, not desire/lust. Lust unmanaged and focused on ungodly things is sin, but not lust itself. Again, we can lust for God and life! Let me create a hypothetical situation. Its not really hypothetical, because every man and maybe every woman has experienced it. I am going to make this hypothetical situation about a man who sees a beautiful woman walk by. Does the man notice that the she walked by? The only way he didn’t notice, is if this hypothetical situation happened in a hospital room and the man is in a coma! But I think He still would notice! LOL. Let’s imagine that this beautiful woman walked by, as the man was sitting in an outdoor patio by himself, having lunch. Once the man notices that she walks by, what happens next is critical, when it comes to spiritual health. If the man begins to mentally undress her and think of doing sexual acts with her, then he has taken his lust and turned it into adultery. But, if the man, as he notices her, takes his eyes off of her and says a prayer like this, “Lord, you are a wonderful creator, please help me to appreciate you by giving you thanks for how you have created woman, I do not want to dishonor you by worshipping the created, but you the creator,” now, he has not committed adultery and he has actually turned a sexually tempting scenario into a form of worshipping to God. There is no doubt that God was honored in that hypothetical situation.

The man managed his desire/lust. This management is a holy thing that honors God. Lust for the Creator, not the created. Big difference. Let me reinforce it this way. Thoughts aren’t sin, evil thoughts are. Sex isn’t sin, sexual immorality is. Testimony isn’t sin, false testimony is. Alcohol is not sin, drunkenness is. Money is not evil, love of money is. Taking naps is not evil, slothfulness is. Actions are not sin, evil actions are. Material goods are not sin, greed is. Anger is not sin, anger out of control is sin. I could go on and on. Please understand this, and if you do, it will free you to live like you’ve always dreamed as a Christian.

Jesus obviously hates sin. I also think that Jesus’ greatest focus was on the origins of sin. It is simple wisdom to want to prevent the action of sin by managing the seed of internal thoughts. Thoughts are the seeds that grow into a full fledged plants that produce fruit. Jesus is challenging us to focus on the seed and the plant will grow from there. He says, adultery is sin, but even thinking lustfully upon a person is sin as well. Be careful what you do with the God created lust that lives inside of you. Manage it well.

SWEAT IT OUT:
Do you have any Secrets that left unchecked can become sin?

What did you wake up thinking about this morning?

If you continue to dwell on what you woke up thinking about, will it lead to holiness or evil?
What “controversial” things do you have in your life that if taken too far become evil? (Things that tend to “stir” up controversy are Alcohol, sex, power, money, tattoos, materialism, _______________________, __________________________. (What am I leaving out?)

Today, I challenge you to guard your thoughts. They are the origins of Holy or Evil behavior. A great passage of Scripture to help you do this is

Philippians 4:8-9…
“8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your THOUGHTS on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. THINK about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. THEN the God of peace will be with you.”

What a challenge!
Lust for it.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 11 (Mt.5:17-20) “Law”


17 “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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 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 (NLT)

DRINK IT IN:
Do you ever get confused when you read the Bible? You don’t have to answer that, because we all know the answer is, “Of Course I do.”

This passage can be deeply confusing if we do not understand timing. In fact, timing is everything when it comes to understanding the Bible. If you understand WHEN Jesus said this teaching, then it really becomes easier to understand.

The timing of Jesus’ speaking this statement is still in the Old Testament Law’s timeframe. Remember that Jesus doesn’t initiate the New Testament “law” until he dies on the cross and raises from the dead. Just before He dies on the cross, He says to His mother, “Look, I make all things new.”

So…while Jesus is alive and is teaching this passage, early on in His ministry, He is obviously right in saying that His purpose is not to get rid of the Old Testament Law. We know, because of 20/20 hindsight, that Jesus’ purpose for coming was to pay the price for all of mankind’s sins. Period.

So…when Jesus says that He didn’t come to abolish the Law, He meant it literally. That is the Father’s job, not Jesus’. Jesus is comforting the Jew’s in this teaching because they truly rely on the Law. I’m sure, as Jesus shows up on the scene with such a different kind of teaching, that He caused them to fear that He might be trying to erase the Old Testament Law, which is everything their lives had been based on up to this point. When Jesus says to them, “I assure you that not ever the smallest stroke of a pen will be abolished from the Law until everything is accomplished”….Did you notice that He sneaks in an “UNTIL.” (Don’t forget that Jesus is the one who taught that we all should be “sly as a snake and innocent as a dove.” I think He is practicing that philosophy in this teaching! I love that.

He basically is saying in this teaching, “Nothing changes until everything is accomplished.” So…nearly 3 years after Jesus says this…He is on the Crucifixion Cross and He says, “IT IS FINISHED!” Finished is another word for accomplished. Accomplished/Finished/Complete does not mean annihilated/erased/forgotten. It means COMPLETE. When runners cross the finish line, it doesn’t erase the race. It simply means the race is finished. The history of that race will never be forgotten. The winner of the race has a trophy that has his/her name engraved in it. Nobody can take that race away from the runners. The race was real, it existed, it had a serious purpose, but it is finished, not erased.

So when Jesus says this teaching, the race is still being run. The race hasn’t finished yet and in three short years, the race will have been finished and Jesus is the one who crossed the finish line first and is the Champion of “the race.” Then…3 days later, as He conquers death through His resurrection, He creates a new law. Again…what a champ! This new law is what we will be talking about through the rest of this Hydrate series, so I don’t want to spend any more time on it during this devotion. I want to finish out what Jesus was specifically saying to the people who physically heard Him teach this.

As the Old Testament “race” was still on when Jesus said this, he was telling the crowd that the 613 current Israelite laws were still in affect. He was saying that they should follow the laws and do their very best to obey every detail.

He then said something that would have scared them deeply. He said…”if you want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven you are going to have to BE MORE RIGHTEOUS than the pharisees. Please understand that what the listeners would have heard when Jesus said this is very different than what He meant. Righteousness to a Jewish person in this timeframe means OBEY THE LAW. DO MORE. DON’T BREAK A SINGLE LAW. And, to top it all off, Jesus said they had to do it better than the Pharisees. A Pharisee was a teacher of the religious law back in Jesus’ day. A pharisee is someone who basically went to school to memorize all 613 Laws of the Old Testament and then strive to live them perfectly everyday. Can you imagine the fear it would have caused you to hear Jesus say, “if you want to go to Heaven, you have to be more righteous than the Pharisees?’ I’m sure Jesus really caught their attention and had them sitting on the edge of their seats.

But really…if they understood what Jesus was really saying…and many may have understood…then they would have taken a deep sigh of relief and been encouraged, instead of scared. You see the Pharisees were excellent at obeying all the laws of the Old Testament. They were so good at obeying every law that they didn’t worry about themselves, as much as, they focused on pointing out where other people were failing in obeying every 613 laws. So…Jesus did to them what they were doing to others. He pointed out where they were failing. Jesus was good at giving the righteous bullies of the world, a taste of their own medicine. In fact, here is one of Jesus’ “medicine moments.” Its found in Matthew 23:27-28…
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Ouch! Nailed them, didn’t He?

So what did Jesus mean, as He taught the crowd by saying to them, ‘Your righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees or you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven?” He was saying that the Pharisees were good but they were lacking the one thing that would make them great. LOVE. (I am a firm believer that the enemy of the great is just the good.)

The Pharisees walked around demanding and pointing out where everybody was failing in obeying the law…and we all know that nobody can follow every law perfectly all day every day…so the Pharisees were failing in areas too. But they took it upon themselves to point out other peoples failures and were ignoring their own. They lacked humility and love. They were true hypocrites. Before you start shaking your finger at the Pharisees maybe you should think of this example. Have you ever noticed that when people drive slower than you, they are “idiots,” and when they drive faster than you, they are “maniacs.” If you are like this…then you might be like a Pharisee.

In my opinion, Jesus was saying to His listeners, “keep following the law, there is a good purpose in every law that the Father has given us, but what is more important than following every detail of the law, is being a person who obeys the law AND….IS LOVE.”

SWEAT IT OUT:

Do you have areas in your life where you are adamant about telling others to do what you say, but you don’t do very well at it yourself? A fun example from me about this would be how I tend to let my bedroom be messy, but I continually ‘ride’ my kids about cleaning up their rooms.

Can you and I think of other areas in our lives, more important than cleaning rooms, where we get upset at how “laws” are broken but we ourselves tend to break them too? I was at my daughters soccer game recently and after our team scored, we as the parents went crazy, hooping and hollering and I admit that I did a little extra to try to get “under the skin” of the parents on the other team. In a sick way, it made me feel powerful. (Don’t look down on me, at least I am confessing it! LOL) Then, a little later in the game, the opposing team scored on us and I noticed that the parents of this team returned some ‘extra’ hooping and hollering to give us a taste of our own medicine. I confess, again, that I was upset at them for their immature behavior…but I am the one who did it first! (How silly and stupid of me.) I caught my behavior and I began to cheer at the great plays and goals of both teams. It felt good to do what was right.

Can you think of bigger or smaller examples in your own life where you are causing darkness to prevail and yet you get angry at others for doing the same thing?

Do you have a “secret-tendency” to celebrate internally or out loud when other people fail at something. (If you do, surely you are not proud of this are you?)

Are you demanding of things from others and at the same time not willing to do as you demand?

Are there areas in your life where you come across judgmental or hypocritical? (Its very hard to be “self-aware” about this. Maybe you would have the courage to ask a trusted person in your life this question. Yes? ) Who are you going to ask? Do it soon.

Today, live your life being an encourager. When you see people fail be the one to forgive first and show them grace.

I think, in this one teaching, that Jesus is simply saying, “Focus on your own mistakes, not on the mistakes of others.”
Its very easy to get judgmental when all you do is focus on other people’s sins. Next time somebody sins against you and you find yourself struggling to let it go…just ask yourself if you have ever sinned against anybody. It will put things in perspective very quickly.

So…again…be an encourager today. Give some extra grace to others.
When you and I do this very thing. It helps us be people of kindness and understanding.
It helps us to be people of love.
I hope that you and I will live this way from now on.
Work on honoring the things Christ asks of us AND being a person of love.
You’ll look a lot like Jesus if you do.


HYDRATE –WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 8 (Mt.5:10-12) “Persecution”


“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in Heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”
Matthew 5:10-12

DRINK IT IN:
When was the last time you were persecuted for being a follower of Jesus Christ?

Now…don’t misunderstand me here. Please don’t be like the people who stand out on street corners and yell from their megaphones, spew hate by picketing military funerals, or demand that people follow Jesus. These groups of people think they are honoring Jesus. They get more ‘pumped up’ when they get arrested, make the news and stir up controversy, because they think they are facing persecution on behalf of Jesus for doing good. This is not a biblical thing. This is not a holy thing. This is not something that Jesus did. These groups or individuals will state that their 1st Amendment rights give them the right to behave the way they do. They are right in the fact that legally, their 1st Amendment rights allow them to behave this way. However, the “laws” of God take priority over the “laws” of the land. In this case, they honor their 1st Amendment rights and dishonor their Lord and Savior. Jesus was always very kind and gentle to the people who were far from Him. I think that Jesus would use a mega-phone to let these kinds of people, who are behaving this way on street corners, know that they are actually doing harm to the Kingdom of Heaven…but I think He would “one-up” them…He would use a whip!

So, back to my question. When has your holy behavior landed you in “hot-water?” When have you been demoted for standing for Jesus in a gentle way? When did you not get the promotion because you refused to do things “under the table?” When were you left out of the circle of friends because you keep the “bar” to high? When were you last seen carrying your Bible to a lunch break to spend time with God? When was the last time you actually had to pay more taxes because you refused to lie about your income? When was the last time you dropped your ego and actually agreed to go to marital counseling with your spouse? When was the last time you got flipped off because you simply refused to drive ‘that’ fast? When was the last time people rolled their eyes at you for leading your family in prayer before your meal at a nice restaurant? When was the last time you gently spoke your biblical opinion about a hot “political” topic during a discussion about abortion, illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, or other “hot” topics? When was the last time you took one of your Saturday’s off and helped a neighbor in need? When was the last time you “persecuted” your bank account and personal lifestyle because you chose to give 10% of your income to the Lord’s work? The questions could go on for miles, but I think we get the idea.

Persecution comes in many forms. I’m simply asking when was the last time you faced any on behalf of Jesus Christ?

The following is a passage in Scripture that explains what happened to some Christians a long time ago for taking a stand, in love, for Jesus Christ.
“But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.”
(Hebrews 11:35-40, NLT)

SWEAT IT OUT:
Would you take 30 seconds and sit quietly and see if God would remind you of an area(s) in your life where you could take a gentle, stronger stand for Him? And If you do, take a gentle stronger stand for Him, it might have you being a bit persecuted?

I pray for you that you will take that gentle strong stand. I pray that you will be persecuted for doing it. I pray that you will be happy about it. I pray you will be glad about it.

For if you do…You know that the Kingdom of Heaven is Yours.
Well…that is what Jesus says.