Re:Verse reading–Matthew 5:17-48 (day four)

 Jesus was a radical teacher. Radical in that He taught things that no one else even considered, much less taught. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day and they ‘refined the law’ in order to cause the masses to submit to their ‘superior’ religious commitment. Jesus took the law to a new level that the Pharisees could never attain. The key here is that none of us is able to keep the law and by keeping it, to find favor with God. In verse 20, Jesus says that unless you surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. It is impossible for us to earn heaven. We can only achieve forgiveness and heaven through Jesus Christ. “It is by grace that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.


Re:Verse reading–Matthew 5:17-48 (day three)

“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” It’s common to think of “kingdom of heaven” as a synonym for the afterlife. But Jesus is talking about life under the reign of God, whether that life takes place now or after we die. Jesus lived in the kingdom of heaven even as he walked the earth. Therefore, to live in the kingdom of heaven is to live–right now, not merely later–the kind of life that Jesus lives. That is the only kind of life that will last forever, and only Jesus–no other “righteousness expert”–can teach us that life. Part of what it means to “accept Jesus” is to become his apprentices so that he can teach us how to live under God’s reign.

Grace to All

Re:Verse reading–Matthew 5:17-48 (day two)

“For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” 45-47

If we are only ever kind to those who are kind to us, where does peace begin? This passage offers another look at the golden rule. God does not remove sunshine and flowers from those who oppose his will. Similarly he does not withhold disease, poverty, and hunger from those who follow him. The good news is that his mercy is offered to all. As the sun and showers are for everyone, so is his grace. Our role in the building of the kingdom is not to determine who is worthy of these gifts, but offer them freely to all. There are things that continue to hinder our response to this call. Our own prejudice or ignorance can blind us to the responsibility we have to our neighbor. If we only love those who look and act like us we will perpetuate the building of walls to keep people from the Gospel rather than building relationships that will share it.

New year. Old Testament.

Re:Verse reading–Matthew 5:17-48 (day one)  

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish but to fulfill them.”–v 17.

Want a new year?  Go back to an old book, the Bible!  One of the most remarkable things about Jesus is his absolute confidence in the Bible.  He called it, “the Law and the Prophets”–what we call the Old Testament.

As the Son of God, Jesus might have presented himself as superior to Scripture.  He might have argued that he had firsthand knowledge, the writers of Scripture only partial.  But He never did!

Over and over again, Jesus affirmed the authority and sufficiency of scripture for spiritual life.  “He came not as a new legislator”, says Calvin, “but as a faithful expositor of the law already given.”

Make no mistake.  The way to a NEW year is to go back, with fresh eyes, to an OLD book.

Jesus preaching

Re:Verse reading–Matthew 5:1-12 (day seven)

“He went up on the mountain. . .and sat down. . .began to teach them.”

What was it like to hear Jesus preach?  Matthew remembers.  More than any other writer, he took the trouble to record the words and include them in his gospel.  (He was, after all,  an accountant.  Details mattered to him.)

It was SURPRISING.  Unlike the Scribes and Pharisees.  Different ideas.  Deeper.

It was CONVICTING.  He spoke from a position of strength. “He was teaching them as one who had authority.”Matthew 7:29.  He was not asking for their validation or even their support.  No entertainment.  He knew the truth and expected to be obeyed.  He was commanding them.  Calling them.

It was MIND-STRETCHING.  A teacher more than a preacher.  Information!  Ideas!  Thoughts were His gift and craft.  “Repent”, He said, “change your mind!”

What was it like to hear Jesus preach?  Read Matthew 5:1-12.  We can talk about it this morning as we worship.


He Opened His Mouth

Re:Verse – Matthew 5:1-12 (day six)

“And he opened his mouth and taught them saying…” Matthew 5:2.

Although simple, there is great significance in these words. Jesus came to die; to live a life without sin and take our sin to the Cross, and yet “he opened his mouth and taught.” One would think His teaching unnecessary in light of bigger things. These words not only set the scene for the greatest sermon ever preached, but also reveal to us a whole view of Jesus’ ministry to us. Jesus had to teach. Later he would tell us he only speaks what the Father tells him to say, and he would tell his disciples the Holy Spirit would help them remember all he has said. Why? Why was it necessary for Jesus to “open his mouth?”

Jesus taught to help us make sense of the cross; that we might have a sense of desperation that draws us to the Gospel. He also taught us so that once free of our sin we might make sense of this life. If Jesus opened his mouth, than by all means, we must listen!

Love Came Down

The First Day of Christmas

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. John 1:14-18 English Standard Version

It’s a popular approach from which to promote unity and harmony between all the major religions and their participants. Many people believe it to be true. “All major religions are essentially the same. We are all climbing the same mountain except from different sides. We ultimately end up at the same place (the top of the same mountain-close to God or their version of god)”. Christmas as presented in the scripture, presents a major problem with this line of thinking. See John 1:14. Only Biblical Christianity offers a differing approach. God Himself comes down from the top of the mountain (in the person of His Son, Jesus) and dwells with humanity. He doesn’t sit back and wait for humans to trek to the top to find Him and be together, but rather takes the initiative to communicate (His love, glory, nature, and character) and make an eternal relationship and friendship possible. Have you sensed His presence and nearness this season? He became flesh and dwelt among us. Have you worshipped a good and faithful God? He has kept ALL His promises! Have you taken note that a loving God has acted in time and history to make Himself known, find you, and call you into relationship? MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Scott Lane

God = Word = Light = Light

The Twenty-sixth Day of Advent

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
John 1:1-5 NASB

Where light is, darkness cannot be. The beginning of John’s gospel reads like a study in the transitive property. (Remember A=B, B=C, so A=C?). God spoke the universe into existence. That Word was more than just a directive, it was by very nature God. God’s light is life. It is this light that shines for all to see. This light that dawns on the eve of Christ’s birth is available to all. The world that has turned away from the light will never comprehend this gift, this life, or the love that is offered freely. As you ready yourself for the next 48 hours of family, food, and festivities. Talk about the love that brought the light into the world. By that light and love we all have access to our great redeemer.

Aaron Hufty

The Gift of Love

The Twenty-fifth Day of Advent

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (New American Standard Version)

What’s the best Christmas gift you ever received? A bike? A car? An engagement ring? News of a coming grandbaby? The word “remission”?

Giving gifts is a big part of Christmas, even though the “Wise Men” brought their gifts to Jesus long after the time of His birth. Rather than carrying on the tradition of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, presenting gifts is a response to God’s sacrificial love in giving us His only Son, Jesus. And Jesus offers a most precious gift—never-ending life with God.

This verse became especially poignant to me this year when my mother died. With both my parents—the people who loved me longest and most selflessly—gone, eternal life means even more than before. It means that though their bodies perished, their souls will live eternally. It means I will see them again! Even better, it means we will all see Jesus.

Have you received God’s most important gift, borne of his enormous love for you?

Susan Spoon





Defining Love

The Twenty-fourth Day of Advent

A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35    

How does one define love? A sense of attraction to or affection for another? Unselfish concern for another? Love may show these characteristics but even together they cannot define love.

Only God can do that, for he is love (I John 4:7-8). The Hebrews understood this. Their word “chesed” specifically denotes “loving-kindness”, embodying mercy, grace and steadfastness. It is central to Hebrew theology and ethic in scripture, and integral to God “repairing” his creation. Beyond feeling or affection, attraction or benevolence, loving-kindness is a virtue itself: it is God’s very nature.

When Jesus says “Love one another as I have loved you”, God himself gives this command. The Creator and Lord of all has become finite human in his son, and in his sovereignty, he sacrifices him to remove sin and to restore relationships.

So, we love one another as he loved us:

In the midst of life’s struggles

Just as we are, broken and lost

In spite of our failures, knowing god has greater plans for us

In spite of our sinfulness

The advent of Christ leads us to consider what kind of love causes a holy creator God to make that sacrifice for us, and then command us to do likewise.

Seth l. Witcher, Jr. D.D.S.