Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Having Authority

Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
-Matthew 7:28-29
These words are typically interpreted as being an indication of Jesus' divinity. I don't believe it. I think Matthew here is making a more general statement about the authority of the people of God. I think it's about a new way of looking at God, the Bible and religious tradition. God is empowering people to act apart from the authority of tradition.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Doing the Will of God

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
-Matthew 7:21
I was pondering this word today, trying to figure out what it says to me. It's always easier to imagine a word like this speaking to someone else. I can stand beside Jesus and listen to him tell the hypocrits that putting his name on their big shows won't get them anywhere, but I'm a big fan of Jesus' teaching, so I'm OK, right?

But I know that's all part of the shell I need to crack to get to what God wants to say to me through the Bible. I know if I really want to hear it, I can't be pointing it at others. I need to look deep into it as it faces me.

To do that, I had to extend the list Jesus offers. On that day, many will say to him, "Lord, Lord, did we not pray in your name? Did we not go to church? Did we not read our Bibles? Did we not love your teaching?" These are all good things, all commendable. The last one on my list drove the point home for me. "Did I not love your teachings?"

I do. God knows, I do. My love for Jesus' teaching is why I'm a Christian. Yet I'm afraid sometimes (too often) my love for his teachings far outpaces my actual performance of his teachings. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." To "know" Jesus, and to be known by him, is to do what he says.

Don't get me wrong. I try to be a follower. I intend to be. What this drove home for me today is that I need to watch myself and make sure I don't lapse into simple admiration. I need to be a doer.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
-Matthew 7:7
This is one of those passages that always makes me scratch my head. I look at it, and it just doesn't seem to be true. Christians ask and don't receive all the time. What does it mean?

Searching my mental concordance I get a suggestion from James: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures." (James 4:3) But applying this to Jesus' saying strikes me as overly pious. It doesn't feel right. It might be right, but it doesn't feel right. It's not right in the way that it first strikes me to apply it, in the pious way.

I was ruminating on this passage, looking for a better way in. What does it mean? And then I thought occurs to me. Go back and read what I said above, "I look at it." I'm looking at the text. I'm analyzing it. I'm evaluating it. I'm asking, "Is this true? What does it mean?" But these are the wrong questions. This is the wrong approach. I'm sitting in judgment over the text, instead of letting it speak to me.

So I step back, and I listen. "Ask, and it will be given to you." What should I ask? Ah, now there's a better start. "Seek, and you will find." What should I seek? "Seek first the kingdom of God." "Knock, and it will be opened to you." And here I realized that someone else was knocking. "Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me."

I see that I can't just pull these verses out of the Sermon on the Mount and apply them willy nilly as if they were the words of a genie granting wishes. They have to fit into the Sermon on the Mount. They have to be a part of what Jesus is telling me (telling us) about the Kingdom of God.

And so what I take away today is not answers but questions, questions that I should constantly be asking. "What should I ask? What should I seek? Where should I knock?" If I ask these questions, I think, I'll be on the right track.

Fallen Off the Wagon

I am a creature of habit. Without routine I'd accomplish nothing at all. And so, when I break my routines, I accomplish nothing. My last blog post was two weeks ago. That's no disaster I suppose, but the reason I started blogging again was to prop up my habit of renewed daily reflection on the scriptures. That habit lasted a few days longer than my blogging, but it turns out I did need the support.

Writing helps me think, and the blog is a good outlet for that. I had a few things I wanted to pursue that I didn't blog about, and hopefully I'll go back and pick them up, but in the mean time, I need to restart the routine machine. Consider this post a sputter.