Tag Archives: Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:43-48

Matthew 5:43-48 NIV
[43] “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ [44] But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. [46] If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? [47] And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? [48] Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Dear God, I chose this passage because of the part in the middle about the sun rising and the rain falling on the righteous and the unrighteous. I forgot that that verse is right in the middle of all of this stuff about loving my enemies.

In this case, I think Jesus is referring to rain and sun as both good things that God gives to everyone, no matter how good or evil. What I’m taking from this is that we are all in this together, and beyond the fact that we share the earth together is the idea that my enemy is still your child and at the most basic level, I need to, at a minimum, be praying that they have a relationship that is as close to you as possible. If I think they are evil, then that is one type of prayer. But if they are a seemingly good person with whom I have simply become at odds then that is another type of prayer. And I might have a direct role to play in that person’s life, but if I allow the darkness of bitterness and hate to consume me then I am no good to them, to myself, or to you.

Father, make me an instrument of your peace. It is in pardoning that I am pardoned. Help me to care more about my enemy’s well-being and submit my own ego and demands for my rights to your will.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


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Posted by on October 25, 2018 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Exercise and Prayer (Matthew 5:3)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Dear God, it is so difficult to understand why I cannot be more attuned to your Spirit when things are going well. Why do I too often need to suffer first before I cry out to you? I was driving to work this morning and feeling pretty good. My marriage seems to be moving in the right direction. Kids are doing okay. Work is moving ahead and seems to be going in the right direction. So I was driving along and listening to some of my favorite secular singers on my Pandora app through my phone. About halfway to work, however, I thought, why am I listening to this? Why aren’t I filling myself with Christian music and thoughts right now? So I switched Pandora over the “Rich Mullins Radio” and listened to Christian music for the last five minutes of my drive (I’m blessed to only live less than 10 minutes from work).

Now, I’m sitting here disciplining myself to spend a little bit of time in prayer. It would be the easiest thing in the world to skip today. A little like skipping my exercise last night. I know I need it. I know I need you. I know it will be good for me. I know time with you is good for me. I know it will make me healthier. I know time with you will heal my soul. I know I’ll feel better when it’s over. I know I’ll feel better after I’ve touched you. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between the discipline of regular exercise and the discipline of regular, thoughtful prayer. If I go out and exercise once a week then I won’t feel much difference, but a month of exercising will bring about a change in me. It’s the same thing with prayer. One prayer a week won’t really have much impact on my life, but a month of praying regularly will.

Father, thank you for bringing me here today. I am sorry that I often need to be poor in spirit before I end up on my knees before you. I am sorry that I still try to take control of my surroundings and the events in my life so often. But here, in this moment, I bring my life to you, I lay it at your feet, and I ask that you will please do with it and me as you will. Love through me. Parent through me. Husband through me. Lead through me. And serve through me.


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Emails to God – Caiaphas’ Passover (Matthew 26:57-68)

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

Dear God, I wonder if they had to wake Caiaphas up when they brought Jesus in, or if he was sitting and waiting for them to come. After all, it was late, and in a society with no electricity, bed time was a little earlier than it might be now. I’m betting it was the latter. I would imagine that he knew the guards had followed Judas out to find Jesus, and he was sitting there waiting for Jesus to arrive.

I also wonder what this Passover was like for Caiaphas. I don’t know when he would have celebrated the Passover meal (I don’t know if Jesus did it early to accommodate his crucifixion, or if he did it with his disciples on the normal night), but I wonder what was going through his mind as he celebrated with his family and friends. Was his heart heavy? Was he apprehensive? Was he just flat out mad? Was he a victim of a mob mentality, or was he the creator of the mob mentality? Did you put a check in his spirit that made him wonder if Jesus might, in fact, be who he said he was? Did he rest easy in the thought that he had defended you against a heretic?

The truth is, there are no answers to these questions. Thanks to your grace, I will probably get a chance to talk to him about it one day in heaven. Either way, I am sure he now knows about the mistakes he made that week, but I also wonder how much you would hold an earnest heart against him (if that’s what he had) since it was part of your plan to begin with.

Father, I can see that there might be a difference between Judas and Caiaphas. I’m not saying there was one, but I can see where there would be one. Where Judas simply allowed his anger toward Jesus to become murder (see the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus saying that one was as bad as the other), Caiaphas might have been protecting himself, but he also might have been, legitimately, protecting you. So my prayer is, when (not if) I make mistakes, let them be the kind that are out of pure motive. Help me to discern between my own agenda and your agenda. Minimize my mistakes as much as possible and be glorified in my life.

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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Summing up the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24-29)

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Dear God, I think our temptation is to read this passage and focus on the house analogy. Do we do the right things? Do we ensure our lives are built on a solid foundation? But this passage isn’t about the house. It is about what we do with Jesus’ words. Do we put them into practice?

Frankly, you put a lot into this sermon. There is a lot here to absorb. There is a lot here to put into practice. I suppose that later, when Paul refers to us working out our faith with fear and trembling, at least in some part, he is referring to our ability to take the lessons from this sermon and put them into practice.

So what is in this sermon? In summary:

  • Beattitudes: Be humble, meek, poor in spirit, etc.
  • Be salt and light in the world
  • Murder, divorce, adultery: It’s easier to commit sins than you think.
  • Integrity and forgiveness: Be the kind of person who doesn’t have to take an oath because people trust you and to follow an eye for an eye.
  • Give to the needy
  • Fast and pray
  • Focus on heaven and not on earth. Worrying is not worth it.
  • Don’t judge others because you need mercy too.
  • Seek God and follow the narrow path.
  • Be a true disciple and discern from false disciples.

Father, help me to work out my faith with fear and trembling. Guide me as a husband, father, employee, friend, and member of the community. Help me to put all of these principles into practice so that I might be called your child.


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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – False Prophet, False Disciple, or Both? (Matthew 7:15-23)

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

21 “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 who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Dear God, these two passages are separated in the NIV by subtitles “True and False Prophets” and “True and False Disciples”. I would say that the concepts of false prophets are probably closer to false disciples than we might think. Sure, there are people out there who are simply manipulative, consciously misleading people for personal gain. But I think that is the minority. I think there are probably a greater number of false prophets who started out as false disciples.

I am thinking about one television evangelist, in particular, in my mind whom I judge to be a false prophet. His message isn’t about humility and decreasing as you increase. His message is about what I am owed by you and what you will give me. While this message has resulted in personal wealth for him, I don’t think he set out to intentionally mislead people. I think that somewhere along the way he became a false disciple and that lead to him being a false prophet.

The question is, How do I protect myself from becoming a false disciple? I think one of the best ways is through submitted community, meaning I need to have at least one other disciple outside of my home who has a chance to look at my life and critically evaluate me and speak your truth in my life. I need someone who can look at me and call me on things. At the same time, I need to be willing to call the other person on things. It is my responsibility to them to not let them become a false disciple.

Father, I want you to look at me one day and say, “I am so glad you are here. Yes, I know you.” I want to lead people into a place in their lives where they will one day be known by you as well, if they are not already. What I really want is to lead my children into a place where they are known by you. Please help me to be known by you and let my children (and my wife) be known by you as well.

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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – What does the Narrow Path Look Like? (Matthew 7:13-14)

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Dear God, is this gate for our life here on earth, or is it for what comes after we die? I have always taken it to mean life after death, but I wonder if Jesus wasn’t talking more about the life we live now rather than the life to come. If it is about life here on earth, what is the “life” to which Jesus refers, and what does it look like in someone who has found it?

I am convinced that “life” does not mean financial success, perfect children, perfect marriage, perfect career, etc. One of the ironies I saw in the lives of a couple of men who recently died was that they were estranged from their children even though many, many people looked up to them as men who were humble and truly loved you. And I agree with the perception of them as lovers of you. I believe they found the small gate. I believe they walking the narrow path. But somewhere along the way, Satan ripped their children from them. Not that their children are bad people now, but somehow the relationships were destroyed.

That is probably my biggest frustration about trying to walk the narrow path: Why don’t my life circumstances turn out prettier? Why do I still struggle with personal failings? Why do I still hurt my children? Why do I still hurt my wife? Even last night, I didn’t mean to, but I ended up hurting my daughter by telling her teacher something I suppose I shouldn’t have. She was embarrassed, and I think that event, in isolation, wouldn’t have bothered her so much, but I think it was built on other things that annoy her about me to the point where she was really hurt.

Father, I am sold out and committed to this path even though it isn’t always pretty. I believe the life you have for me on the path is filled with a peace that I cannot find on the other path. I also believe that the path is about submitting my life circumstances to you. At the same time, I am sure that you do not intend for this path to cause rifts in my relationships. I think that is where Satan attacks us because I am on the path. So help me to be aware of Satan and please bind Satan and protect all of us from his plans and attacks. I am frustrated that he has so much success in throwing little wrenches in my life. Please protect me not from trials, but from the sins I am prone to commit.

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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Giving Bread and Fish instead of Stones and Snakes (Matthew 7:7-12)

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Dear God, how often do we ask what we should seek? Do we question for what we should ask? On whose door should we know? I think that a lot of times people take the view that we can ask what we want of you and, if we have enough faith you will give it to us. If we know on the door of opportunity then you will open it to us and let us live this marvelously successful life. To quote one author, we can live our best life now. But that is a total misrepresentation of this passage. Even the example that Jesus gives in the second paragraphs are “need” items like bread and fish. He didn’t say, “Which of you, if your son asks you for a toy will give him a snake?”

I was talking with someone last night and they were remarking about a thank you letter that I sent them. They said that they were touched to see the need we met for a patient. In short, a patient needed a medication, and we were able to provide it for them for about $100. Their donation helped us be able to provide for that so I let them know. They were so delighted. They were delighted to give this person some medication. In essence, some break and a fish.

How much more, then, were you delighted when we were able to do this? How much more delighted are you when we (and I mean the collective humanity “we”) help to meet our neighbors’ needs?

Father, I think the thing that is pressing on my heart the most is the suffering of some friends. Some are sick and dying. They need some bread and fish. Some have just lost someone and are mourning. They need some bread and fish. Some are unemployed and scared. Some are just facing mountains that are bigger than they feel they can climb. I can even see something in my son now that he is being pressed. He hasn’t said anything, but I can see it in him. He is overwhelmed and he doesn’t want to talk about it. I can see it in him because I can recognize it from my own past as well. Please provide all of these people, including my son, with fish and bread. Use me to provide the fish and bread, and use others to provide fish and bread as well. Wrap all of these people up in your arms and give them your provision so that they might draw closer to you.

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Posted by on December 6, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Hypocrites (Matthew 7:1-6)

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Dear God, it is interesting that judgment and hypocrite are used in the same paragraph. I guess they do, indeed, go together, but I find it interesting nonetheless.

I certainly have a problem with judging others. I judge how they raise their children, do their job, treat their wives, represent you, represent themselves, etc. I judge a lot. And one of my son’s favorite criticisms of me is that I am a hypocrite. The biggest one he points out is when I call others insecure, because he says that I am incredibly insecure myself. I can see that. I mentioned a few days ago how I am still like a little kids a lot of the times and say, “Look at me, look at me, look at me.” I like attention. One time I took a personality test that said, in essence, “Confident, but needs compliments.” I interpreted it as, “Arrogant, but it needs fed.”

Father, I don’t want to be insecure because you are the source and the provision for all of the self-confidence that I need. I don’t want to draw attention to myself because I must decrease as you increase in my life. I don’t want to be judgmental because people need to feel your grace through me and not your judgment. I don’t want to be arrogant because then people will be repelled from me and not drawn to you through me. Help me to give grace and walk humbly in your love.

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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Consider the Lillies of the Field… (Matthew 6:25-34)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Dear God, I wonder if this was a new concept for the Jewish people to hear—God cares about the details. I can’t think of any other teaching before this in the Old Testament that indicated that every God-fearing person should look to you for the little provisions in their lives. Sure, you showed interested in special people in the Old Testament, but I don’t remember that everyone should have faith for these things.

I often struggle with how much to expect of you. As Rich Mullins put it once, “We all have it better than we deserve.” Is asking you for anything asking too much? Is it too much to ask for health for my children? Is it too much to ask for safe travel? Is it too much to ask for provision for the organization where I work so that we can serve our patients and our staff (including me) can be paid?

I think your answer to all of these questions is, “No, it is not too much to ask, but don’t get mad if, in My will and My wisdom I say no.” That is where we get hung up some times. We start expecting too much of you not realizing that it might fly in the face of the overall plan you have in mind. I always go back to the generations and generations of Israelites who lived in slavery in Egypt. I am sure that they prayed for freedom, but your answer was, “No, not yet.” You had a greater purpose, and their lives were part of the sacrifice for that purpose. I suppose that can be hard to hear for someone—that you need their life to be laid down for the greater good—but it’s what we sign up for when we submit ourselves to you and call you our Lord and Savior.

Father, help me to live in this peace. Help me to pray for all, and then accept all of your answers. Help me to pray with great faith and no expectations. Help me to truly believe that you can do anything you wish, whether naturally or supernaturally, but not expect you to do everything I want. And help me to completely submit my life to you.

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Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Storing Up Heavenly Treasures on Earth (Matthew 6:19-24)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Dear God, what exactly are heavenly treasures? My tendency when I read this passage is to focus on the love of money, but I want, instead, to focus on the flip side of that (according to this passage), which is the love of you. I cannot serve both you and money, so I am supposed to choose you. So what are the heavenly treasures I store up if I choose you over money? Do I really need treasures when I get there? If I get there and someone else has more treasures than me, will I be regretful that I didn’t store up more? I always kind of figured that when I die and end up in heaven, I will be so deliriously happy that I won’t have any cares, regrets, jealousies, etc.

Frankly, I’ve always kind of looked at serving you and not money as reaping the benefits of treasures in heaven here on earth. I don’t know if that is right or not, but that is kind of my motivation as I serve and love you. I am not looking for the heavenly benefit. I am looking for the earthly benefit. I am looking for the peace, patience, love, joy, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, self control, etc (Galatians 5:17) that comes from a relationship with you. I am looking for quality relationships with others. I am looking to make the lives of others around me better. So I don’t think about the treasures that await me in heaven, but about the treasures you have for me on earth when I submit myself to you and love you.

Father, help me to fully embrace you. I still love material possessions and find myself longing for them sometimes. Please help me to turn loose of this, and fully cleave to you. I guess my biggest fear in death is that I will look back with regret on the things I failed to do. Please help me to recognize the things you have me to do today, and then give me your peace over the things I end up failing to do. Help me to pursue purely your treasures here and ignore any earthly treasures.

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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Matthew


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