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Here is a favorite post of mine from nearly two years ago - I think it will do us some good to take another look at the light!

Who is the Light of the World?

Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12)

Here Jesus proclaims that He is the light of the world. So it would appear that the standard Sunday School answer will work here - Who it the Light of the World? - Jesus!

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5)

He repeats this proclamation here in John 9.

I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness. (John 12:46)

And again in John 12.

But in the Sermon on the mount we get a different take.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matt 5:14)

When our question is posed to Jesus, we get another answer today. Who is the light of the world? You are! That's pretty empowering isn't it? Jesus said that you (yes, I'm talking to you!) are the light of the world.

Light of the World

So how is it that He is the Light of the World, and we are the light of the world. Check out this bit from the first chapter of John:

He [John the Baptist] was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There [in Jesus] was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. (John 1:8-9)

You see, Jesus is not only the light, but he is the lighter. Check out this prophesy from Isaiah about our day. (my opinion)

Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)

I have heard many folks say our job is to reflect the glory of the Lord before men, but I say Jesus is calling on us to be more than reflectors. When I read these passages (feel free to read more than what I have listed here, this is just a taste) I hear the Lord saying He is the source of all light, but He sets us aflame - like candles and lanterns, not mirrors or moons. We don't simply reflect His glory, we are set ablaze with His glory, and we shine the light He has given us in the darkness, gross darkness, He has trusted us to illuminate.

I love that! What a great job He has given us. My mother always used to tell me "Bloom where you're planted." Well today I say: "Shine where you're screwed in!" [Tweet This]

Can you shine the light into the darkness He has assigned to you today? Perhaps you can share your victories with us, to encourage us to shine in our own darkness.

Thanks for dropping in today.

Ben

All scriptures are quoted from the NASB.

Sunglasses photo credit: Easa Shamih (eEko) | P.h.o.t.o.g.r.a.p.h.y via photo pin cc

Light of the World (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lantern photo credit: ralphunden via photo pin cc

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photo credit: Rennett Stowe via photopin cc
photo credit: Rennett Stowe via photopin cc

Today’s red letters are from Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount.

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. - Luke 6:38

I know that nine out of ten times (perhaps 99 out of 100) when this is taught, the lesson is about money, but I think it has a much broader reach. The fact is that the context is that of relational advise more than money advise, though Jesus’ words are flowing back and forth between giving, and loving, and judging, and well, just life in general.

And that is what I want to use for my application today, LIFE.

Are you stingy with your life? Do you keep all of your “self” to yourself? Are you a life hoarder?

Have you ever noticed that when you pull back from living your life in community, your life begins to dry up? At first it might feel like you have a bit more freedom, nobody asking you to serve, nobody poking at your life, or getting in your stuff. But soon, you feel like life is not fulfilling. You go through a rough patch and there is no one to stand beside you.

I don’t think we realize that life is a commodity, and we are not given life to hoard and keep to our selves, but the life we are given is meant to be shared, spread around, planted, given away.

Now, I know there are some of you out there who give away all the life that you have, and keep none for yourself, and of course you are the ones reading this thinking – “I should get more involved” – Well, perhaps not. Be sure to save some of your precious life to sustain your family. He who does not care for the needs of his own family is worse than an infidel – that goes for your time and love and life, as much, or more than it does for your money.

But if you find yourself feeling alone, left out, forsaken, consider whether you have stopped sharing that wonderful commodity that God has put in your hands for the express purpose of sharing – YOU.

Do you want to unstop the flow of life into your world? Share what you have, and God will press it down, shake it together and pour so much life back into your lap you won’t know what to do. [Tweet This]

How was Jesus able to feed 5,000 people? By taking the tiny offering of a young boy who was willing to share.

Paul said it this way:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. - Galatians 6:7

Spread some life today!

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

Words in Red Gospel of Matthew (4)
Words in Red Gospel of Matthew (4) (Photo credit: Lex Photographic)

It's hard to believe i have actually come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount. It has been a year now. I started blogging on June 9th 2012, and started with the Beatitudes. I did take a few detours along the way, but I have been living in this wonderful sermon for a full year now.

Before I move on, someone once pointed out to me a verse in Matthew 4 just preceding this wonderful sermon, where Matthew lays out his plan.

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. ~ Matthew 4:23

My friend pointed out to me that this verse acts as an outline to the next five chapters.

For three chapters we will see His teaching ministry in full swing. I believe that Jesus taught the sermon on the mount in one time and in one place, but I also think it was more or less His 'manifesto' so to speak. It sums up much of what He will teach over the course of His ministry.

The following two chapters, 8 and 9, focus on HIs ministry around Galilee healing, delivering, and just saving in general. There are some thrilling and profound miracles we see in these next two chapters.

Matthew uses this pattern of teaching and healing ministry as his outline, but we will find that Jesus used it as his main M.O. Not always but often he would teach and then heal. The teaching ministry makes a place for the healing ministry.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. ~ Romans 10:17

In fact, my favorite pattern for ministry is Worship, which draws the presence of God (a greater manifestation of the presence of God - I get that the Spirit is always with the believer) ministry in the word, and then interactive hands on ministry with those with specific needs. I am totally OK if you want to mix it up a bit though.

BenThanks for coming by.

See you soon.

Ben

I started blogging nearly a year ago, and started my trek through the Red Letters with the Sermon on the Mount. I have diverted a few times, but to a great extent I have been living in this text for the better part of that year.

Monday we will put to bed our conversation about fruit.

Starting Tuesday, we will embark on the last paragraph of this wonderful sermon, and it could be life changing.

I know this for a fact, because it was a sermon on this next verse (Matthew 7:21-23) paired with the story of the Rich Young Ruler that drew me out of a religious life, into a sold out – all or nothing – I am following Jesus, no turning back – life.

BenSo brace yourself! The best is yet to come.

Ben

photo credit: bfick via photopin cc
photo credit: bfick via photopin cc

Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened. ~ Matthew 7:7-8 AMP

One thing I have neglected to mention about these 3 instructions is their tense. I am told by those who know (in fact this is borne out by the Amplified Bible as seen above) that these 3 words – Ask, Seek, and Knock – are in the “Keep On” form. (Sorry to use such esoteric language, but that’s just the way us scholars speak.)

Like the lady with the court case in Luke 18:1-8, or like the neighbor with the midnight visitor in Luke 11:5-9, one of the most important things Jesus is trying to impress upon His hearers is the need for persistence.

In fact if you take a peek at the parable in Luke 11 you will find the two verses we are considering almost verbatim. Jesus tells the story of the neighbor who keeps on knocking on his friends door in the middle of the night until the sleeper awakes, climbs out of the bed in which the whole family is no doubt now roused, and makes his way through the heard of goats, he no doubt keeps in his bedroom to finally give his neighbor what he needs.

Not only are these three verbs in this “Keep On” form but they are also in the “not ‘just sayin’ tense.” These are actually imperatives, commands, not suggestions. Both the actions themselves, and the persistent nature of them are given as instruction, not just guidance.

In other words, Jesus is saying, you must Ask, and you must keep on asking in order to receive, you must seek, and turn over every rock twice, in order to find, and don’t think about leaving the door until someone comes because of your knocking.

Is this how you pray?

Or do you (like me at times) say to someone “I’ll pray for you” and toss up a casual prayer, like a softball tossed in God general direction, hoping he will jog over pick it up and take care of everything.

There are even sects in Christianity that say that if you pray for something more than once it demonstrates your lack of faith. REALLY? Guess your definition of faith is a little different from that of the author and finisher of my faith, Who gives the example of the woman and the judge above culminating in the question “will I find faith on the earth.”

Is there something you have quit praying for but it is still in your heart?

Keep On – pick it back up – don’t quit.

BenThanks for stopping by today.

See you tomorrow.

Ben

photo credit: bfick via photopin cc
photo credit: bfick via photopin cc

I was probably in 2nd or 3rd grade when I first memorized Matthew 7:7. It was so memorable too – I mean check it out – it is a verse with a 3-part exhortation, and the first word is an acronym for the three steps in the process. Not only that – even the reference was memorable! All you really had to work on was remembering what book it was in.

Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. ~ Matthew 7:7 NASB

I find the placement of this little passage very interesting. Jesus is in a pretty strong bit of teaching moving from judgment above to the requirement of complete Lordship below culminating in the utter ruination of anyone not living a life anchored to Him alone.

Nevertheless, right here in the middle of all that, we have a verse we can teach to 2nd graders.

Sadly it is a lesson we grownups step away from.

Perhaps it is too simple.

Perhaps it is too naïve.

Perhaps it is too unspiritual.

Jesus gives us the most basic plan for life in the kingdom of God. You do remember that this Sermon on the Mount is all about how to live life in the Kingdom of God, don’t you?

So here are some simple kingdom instructions.

  • Ask
  • Seek
  • Knock

Today, let’s take step one.

  • What do you need?
  • What do you want?
  • What is your life missing?

I don’t care if your heart is crying out for finances, or romances, there is one place to start. ASK.

You say, but God knows what I need even before I ask.

Perhaps. – ASK.

You say, God will think I am being greedy.

Perhaps. – ASK.

God might say no!

Perhaps. – ASK.

I have 4 kids (not kids anymore) but there was always one who got new privileges first even though she was not the oldest. Why? Because she would ask. All her siblings would eventually gain the advantages she had, but she would be the ground breaker because she would go to her father, and ask. It did not always work, but that didn’t stop her from coming back again and again asking.

James tells us

You do not have because you do not ask. ~ James 4:2 NASB

Hey – I know there is more to that passage, and there is more to this one too, but we still need to get into our spirits that it is OK to ask.

If there was one thing you could ask God today, what would it be?

What are you waiting for? ASK!

BenCome back tomorrow and let’s see what we find.

Ben

This Blog post from My friend Cheryl  so clearly captures the WHY behind my blog that I wanted to repost it here. The power of the Red Letters described:

Here's Cheryl's post:

Words of Jesus – The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock

24″Anyone who listens to My teaching and obeys Me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock. 26 But anyone who hears My teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.

~ Matthew 7:24-27 NLT ~

Image Credit: http://www.emmanuelsfoundation.org

A house builder knows the importance of a good foundation. While you may be able to cut corners elsewhere, if the foundation of a building or house is not firm, it will begin to erode over time, eventually ruining the house. If a foundation begins to erode, walls will begin to crack, and the house will even begin to crumble and fall apart.

When Jesus was talking to the crowds who had gathered for the Sermon on the Mount, He told them that if they were wise, they would listen and obey Him, just as a wise man who built his... [Follow the link below to read on...]

Words of Jesus – The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock | Burning Fire Shut Up In My Bones.

 

photo credit: bloomsberries via photopin cc
photo credit: bloomsberries via photopin cc

Do not judge lest you be judged. (Matthew 7:1 NASB)

Yesterday I talked a bit about how Church discipline has played out in my life. Let’s take a few minutes and just ponder the other side of this Church Discipline.

I also know many people who have been hurt, pretty badly, by Church Discipline gone wrong. I know folks who have left the Church and walked away from whatever relationship they had with God because men tried to control and manipulate them.

There are many who walk away at the first sign of conflict because they do not want to deal with the thing that God is poking in them through the agency of Church discipline. In my own life it took years in some cases before I finally surrendered, and dealt with some of my issues. It was not until I heard it from a voice I could trust.

There are three (at least – feel free to add more below) things we require in order to exercise helpful discipline.

  • Courage – It takes guts to confront things in people's lives.
  • Grace – If we just jump in with guns blazing we will do more harm that good.
  • Trust – In order for any correction to hit its target, there needs to be a trust relationship.

Clearly, there are times when Church leaders must act to protect the flock when these elements are not in place, and this is important too.

So how do we do it. How do we love folks enough to stir up the courage, grace and trust required to help them grow or to bring them into a restored relationship, either with the body or with Christ Himself?

When we as church leaders or simply as good Christian brothers and sisters, jump immediately to “turn him over to satan” and forget the part about “first take the log out of your own eye” we will run into big trouble in short order.

It comes down to one very big issue.

Are you, church leader, trying to exercise control in someone else’s life?

OR

Are you trying to rescue one who is unknowingly headed for a precipice?

We must in all our dealings, including, and perhaps especially, church discipline exercise all the “One Anothers.”

So get yourself a “plankectomy” and then you can be of some use to the body of Christ. [Tweet This]

Jesus would love to help with that.

I know there is so much more we could talk about here, like walking through Matthew 18’s model for how to correct offenses. But that is for anther time.

Ben

I hope these ponderings help.

See you again soon.

Ben

photo credit: bloomsberries via photopin cc
photo credit: bloomsberries via photopin cc

Do not judge lest you be judged. (Matthew 7:1 NASB)

A couple days ago Jael, one of our blogging fam, responded to my mention of Church Discipline. She expressed the fact that people fear and have no confidence in the system. Her comments hit home with me in a big way. So I wanted to ponder it a bit with you all.

I understand this fear. I have personally found myself behind closed doors with no less than 3 different church boards or representatives thereof not to mention a pastor or two. In my life, most of these brushes with “the man” have worked to my good, though honestly speaking, at the time, there would usually be a bit of a tailspin directly following such events.

But I would eventually pull up – encourage my self in the Lord – and deal with it. In most cases I didn’t receive (or accept) the critique right away, and I got really defensive at first. In a couple cases I had to reach out years later, once God had brought me at my own speed, a snail pace, to see that I had been out of line, and ask for forgiveness where I had been hurtful.

The fact is, until I got these things right, the Lord was just going to keep leading me back to places and people who would poke me. He was trying to fix something in my life. I would never grow past that place until I dealt with that particular plank in my eye.

I have pretty broad shoulders (perhaps a little droopy – I should have heeded my mother’s exhortation to sit up straight I suppose) or perhaps it is just that I put on a hard shell of armor, but these encounters didn’t crush me. I was blessed to be in situations where men and women of God were actually meddling in my life because they cared about my growth and my relationship with God and with my brothers and sisters.

David makes two statements in the Psalms that are floating around in my head as I ponder this.

For there is no one who regards me; There is no escape for me; No one cares for my soul. ~ Psalm 142:4 NASB

Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head. ~ Psalm 141:5 NASB

These two verses together get to the heart of this for me.

I had (and have) people in my life that cared for my soul. What a blessing! And when a man or woman takes the time and courage required to correct me (I can be a little intimidating I am told, but I am really just a teddy bear) I see that it is a great kindness to me, when the easier path would be to let it go and just let me spin-off into error or deception.

[OK that was more testimony time that I was planning – sorry I am rambling a bit]

Enough for today. I still want to touch on the ‘how to’ side of this, so will you come back for one more day?

Thanks for sticking it out with me through this touchy subject.

Ben

See you tomorrow.

Ben

photo credit: bloomsberries via photopin cc
photo credit: bloomsberries via photopin cc

Do not judge lest you be judged. (Matthew 7:1 NASB)

To judge or not to judge -

Unfortunately, far too many of our congregations have bought this twisted application of scripture, and it has immobilized the body of Christ.

This unwillingness to judge means no confrontation. We let our brothers and sisters continue in a sin that will eventually damn their souls, rather than take the risk of confrontation. We let them walk around with a speck in their eye, and do nothing.

The difficulty with judging is that you must judge yourself first. Before you go meddling with that speck, take care of your own beam. But know this, that log in your eye must go. Jesus does not want us to tolerate our brothers sin, rather we must stand with him, and pull him out of the fire!

Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2 NASB)

Is there a place for judgment in the Church? Absolutely! Judge righteous judgment, and start with yourself.

And remember, in our evangelism there is no need for judgment, just obedience.

Thanks for sticking it out to the end of this series. I suppose it is a bit controversial, but that is where the fun is.

Ben

See you tomorrow.

Ben