Straining to Hear

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, Matthew 5:1

Here’s the scene: a crowd of people is waiting to hear the most profound speaker of all time impart wisdom and spiritual counsel. No one else in all the world would ever be able to match his wisdom. Then he walked up the side of the mountain for the best vantage point, to where he wanted to speak. The disciples surround him and he began to teach.

In your mind’s eye, you can see the people leaning in and straining to hear him, hanging on his every word, hoping they heard every word. He has their undivided attention. Nothing else in the world matters than those moments he is teaching them. They want nothing else than to hear the Master.

Fast forward two thousand years and you get a very different picture. Those of us who know the Master find it difficult to “find the time” to listen to Him. We don’t strain to hear; we don’t soak in His teachings. Not all of us, of course, but many.

What did his early followers know that we don’t?

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Why have you rejected us forever, O God? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? Psalm 74:1

Ever feel that way? Ever feel that God just isn’t on your side? Of course, we all have those feelings because life sometimes is just not fair. When Jesus hung on the cross, he felt that way, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The Son of God felt that way (and he ultimately knew how it would end!!)

Wanting to lash out at God at all the unfairness and evil in the world is a powerful emotion that all of us possess.

If you’re going to do it, do it with all your might.
You won’t hurt His feelings.
You won’t damage what you’re already built with Him.
In fact, I would argue that desperate cries to God only strengthens what you have because he loves that kind of candor. At the very least you’re still on speaking terms with him!

And can I tell you something? Just as Jesus knew how it would end, so do you, ultimately.

We win. Yes there will be pain. Yes there will be anger, and yes there will be feelings of forsakenness.

But we win!

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Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Today as I typed this verse into the computer, I had thought that I had memorized the last portion of these verses. I switched the words treasure and heart in my original entry. We think that if we know where our heart is, then that will be our treasure, which is exactly opposite where the Bible tells us our heart is. “But it’s such a subtle difference,” you say? Not really.

Where you spend your “excess” hard earned money is key to where your heart is. Same with time. Where you spend a great deal of times tells people where your heart is. And lastly, what you spend time thinking about is also a key to where your heart really is. Perhaps our spending and time habits reveal more about us than we care to admit.

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Nothing in All Creation

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Imagine waking up every morning to this verse echoing in your head. It’s two powerful verses to be sure. And both verses help us realize that there’s nothing–nothing–we can do nor is there any power in this world that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus.

Wow! Just wow!

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“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret…” Matthew 6:2-3

Giving to the needy is a very important part of the Christian life. The point of what Jesus is saying in this passage isn’t even about the giving. It was assumed that all of his Believers would give to the needy. It’s the motive behind the giving. Why do we give? To impress others? To help others? Because it was commanded?

A preacher friend of mine said that when he was a teen forty years ago, he saw an older gentleman drop a $50 bill into the offering plate. He knew it was a fifty because the man straightened it out and folded it lengthwise before dropping it into the plate. As a young boy, my friend was impressed. He paused and said, “Impressing me was the only reward he would ever receive for that gesture.”

Giving is important. The motive for our giving is perhaps even more important.

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