From the Galilee we took the route to Jerusalem that Jesus would have taken: not the western route along the Mediterranean, via the Roman road, nor the central route, through Samaria, but the eastern route, along the Jordan River. When we arrived at The Dead Sea, we made the steep climb from Jericho through the Judean Desert, took the modern tunnel that cuts through one of the many hills that encircle Jerusalem, and when we came out, there it was.

People will tell you that the Grand Canyon is majestic, and probably every American has seen photos and videos of it. But the Grand Canyon itself, when you see it in person, is more astounding than the hype. I remember the first time I saw it it literally took my breath away.

Yosemite Valley is the same way. Many of us have seen pictures of it and heard how beautiful it is, but when you enter the tunnel through the heart of the mountain and emerge and see the valley before you–El Capitan and Half Dome and the surging waterfalls–it’s better than you anticipated.

That’s how it was for me when we came out of the tunnel through Mount Scopus, took the curve and saw Jerusalem across the Kidron valley. A place I’d heard about my entire life, a place I’d wanted to visit, only to get there and find that the actual experience of being there was better than I’d hoped.

“If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem”

The psalmist wrote those famous words from Psalm 137 while in bitter exile in Babylon. My life in Dallas is not bitter, and I’m glad to be back home, but I understand the ancient poet’s words. I have much more to say about my first visit to the Holy Land, but let this suffice for now: I loved every minute of being in the land of the Bible, and I never want to forget what it was like to see Jerusalem for the first time.





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The Sea of Galilee is beautiful at night and in day.

These last few days I’ve been in the Galilee, in the north of Israel, and it is the particularity of the place that’s made the biggest impression on me: it was on this beach that Jesus called to Peter and the others when they’d been fishing all night and caught nothing; it was on this lake where Jesus calmed the storms; it was this hillside on which Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount; it was in this synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus taught from the Torah; it was this cliff outside of Nazareth from which the neighbors of Jesus tried to throw him, etc. Of course, there is no way to know that it was this exact spot on this beach, or this exact spot on this hillside, or this exact spot on this cliff, but that’s not the point. The point is that these things actually happened, and they happened somewhere right here–if not this exact location, then it was another nearby. The reason this has hit me so hard is that history can be difficult to believe in: I can know intellectually that the Battle of Gettysburg happened, but it’s still hard to feel that it happened. Being here has made me feel what I already believed intellectually: Jesus really lived.

From my first few days in Israel, that’s been my biggest lesson: Jesus was actually here. And if he was, that changes everything.

Being here has made me feel what I already believed intellectually: Jesus was actually here. And if he was, that changes everything.





How to Subscribe to Updates from My Blog

If you sign up for my Andrew Forrest newsletter, I’ll send you a white paper I’ve written called “The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use to Become a Better Communicator”.

I’m also blogging through the Gospels each week day in 2019, and have a separate mailing list for folks who only want to receive the Gospel posts. Subscribe here to receive a weekday update on that day’s Gospel reading.

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From my hotel room, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

Long flight and no sleep, but worth it. We just arrived in Israel and came directly to our hotel on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is serenely beautiful.

It’s hard to describe what it’s like to have heard about something one’s entire life and then to actually see it.

Grateful!

Blogging from Israel

I’m in the Holy Land with 86 folks from our church. My plan is to blog and post as I go. Wish you all were here, too.


How to Subscribe to Updates from My Blog

If you sign up for my Andrew Forrest newsletter, I’ll send you a white paper I’ve written called “The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use to Become a Better Communicator”.

I’m also blogging through the Gospels each week day in 2019, and have a separate mailing list for folks who only want to receive the Gospel posts. Subscribe here to receive a weekday update on that day’s Gospel reading.


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As I’m sure you have heard, Jeff Bezos is getting divorced. This is news because Mr. Bezos is–at least on paper–the world’s richest man, and presumably his divorce settlement will have effects on both his company–Amazon–and maybe on the American economy itself. I am very sorry for this news; Mr. Bezos and his wife are real people with real feelings, and it must be humiliating to have your private details known all around the world. I feel sorry for them.

But this news just proves once again what virtually everyone who ever lived used to know, and what most people today have forgotten: our deepest problems are spiritual problems.

The spiritual is real, but it is not the material. The material can be experienced with the five senses; the spiritual can’t be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or heard. But it is definitely real.

For example, friendship is spiritual in nature. It has effects in the material world, absolutely–you might meet a friend for coffee and the mugs you hold are material–but the source of the friendship is spiritual.

If it were the case that our deepest problems were material, then money would fix our deepest problems. But they aren’t, and it can’t. Our deepest problems are spiritual. And so Jeff Bezos–world’s richest man–is getting divorced.

If it were the case that our deepest problems were material, then money would fix our deepest problems. But they aren’t, and it can’t. Our deepest problems are spiritual. And so Jeff Bezos–world’s richest man–is getting divorced.

In Matthew 9, Jesus first forgives a man of his sins, and then heals his paralysis. Why? Because the man needed both–spiritual healing and physical healing. Jesus clearly knew that if he had only healed the man’s legs, the man would still be lacking. It would be false to say that our material needs don’t matter–the baby would never have been born in Bethlehem if God didn’t love the material world–but it is true that our deepest problems are spiritual.

The good news: the God who is Spirit entered into material reality and fixed our problem himself.

Scripture:

Matthew 9:1-8


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Do you actually want to change, or would you rather wallow in the filthy status quo?

“When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.  ‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding.  The demons begged Jesus, ‘If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’
He said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.”

Matthew 8:28-34

Jesus performs an astounding miracle in their village, freeing these two men from filth and misery, and the villagers would prefer he leave than cause any more changes to the way things are.

You don’t think that those villagers had parts of their lives that needed healing? But rather than begging Jesus to stay and work among them, their immediate response is to beg him to leave and never come back.

How true of human nature–so often we prefer the pain we know to the possibility of change.

Today’s Scripture

Matthew 8:28-34.

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But First, a Fall Recap: Not Easy, But Good

As I told you last summer, I felt like I needed to step into the leadership gap of the Munger youth ministry for the fall semester to keep the fires burning until we could hire a permanent leader. So, how did it go? As with most important things in life, it was not easy, but it was good. I made this commitment in the midst of the biggest fall we’ve ever had at Munger, but the extra responsibilities and time away from my family wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was that I knew that if I were evaluating my job performance as Munger youth minister, I’d give myself a D-. I knew that I wasn’t really able to actually be the youth minister our community needs. I knew I didn’t have enough hours or energy to lead this vital ministry well. I knew that some parents were frustrated. But, I also knew that there was no alternative, and we were doing our best, considering the obvious limitations. And, despite all of that, the whole experience was a blessing for me personally. We had a selfless and faithful group of volunteers step up, I was able to get to know some of our students and their families, and I learned a lot about what the future could look like for youth ministry in our community.

But, while all that was going on, we were working hard to find a permanent youth minister. Though I’m sure some of our parents were thinking, “Why is this taking so long?” the truth is it is not easy to find great people.

And we needed someone great. The more time I spent in the Munger youth ministry, the more I became convinced that whoever we hired needed to be a game-changer for us. In sports terms, we needed to hire a franchise player whom we could build around for years. And so:

  • we hired a specialty search firm that we really liked;
  • I talked to people I know all over the country, asking for names;
  • I called in every favor ever owed me;
  • But–of course–our new guy didn’t come through any of those efforts!

Instead, a woman in our congregation had been telling a friend of hers for years that she thought he’d be a good fit at our church. Years before, the timing wasn’t right and her friend wasn’t looking for a job, but this December he said that he was interested. After lots of conversations and evaluations, I’m excited for you to:

Meet Rich Roush, the New Munger Youth Minister!

Rich Roush is the new Munger youth minister! God has answered our prayers with someone great. Not pretty good, not well-we-really-need-to-hire-a-warm-body-at-this-point-so-I-guess-he-will-do, but someone who we genuinely think is the best possible person we could have found.

Rich and Megan Roush and their kids.

Rich is married to Megan, and they have 3 kids aged 3 and under. (I know!) Rich himself came to faith in Christ as a senior in high school through a church youth ministry, and feels a particular responsibility toward and affection for middle school and high school students.

Rich’s Record of Longevity

I have kids that will one day be in our youth ministry, and the more I talked with Rich, the more excited I got for my children to benefit from Rich’s leadership. Rich has been at both of his previous churches for 7 years each, so he has a record of building a ministry over time. And over time what the Lord has been able to do through Rich’s leadership at his previous churches is impressive.

I have kids that will one day be in our youth ministry, and the more I talked with Rich, the more excited I got for my children to benefit from Rich’s leadership. Rich has been at both of his previous churches for 7 years each, so he has a record of building a ministry over time. And over time what the Lord has been able to do through Rich’s leadership at his previous churches is impressive.


Rich, in His Own Words

Where were you raised?
I was raised in Waco, Texas, which was already pretty cool before it became the shiplap capital of the world. Just saying.
Where did you go to school?
I did my undergraduate studies at Baylor University (BA in Business Administration) and my graduate studies at George W. Truett Theological Seminary (Masters of Divinity in Theology).
Who’s in your family?
My wife Megan and our three kids: Olivia, Griffin, and Shepherd. 
What brought you to Munger?
A good friend of mine, Ashley Dalton, recruited me. It started a few years before I joined the staff. Every time we crossed paths she would rave about Munger and would say she could see Megan and me there someday. So yeah, now you know who to blame.
What’s your favorite thing about our church?
Its commitment to raising up the next generation of Jesus followers. The best is yet to come.



What Happens Next?

Rich’s first Sunday with us will be February 10. This spring, we’re going to keep our regular Wednesday evening schedule (7:00-8:30 PM) for middle and high school students, and 11 AM Sunday schedule for 6th Grade Confirmation; this will allow Rich to join in and get to know the students, families, and volunteers. Other stuff will be added as we go. Stay tuned and sign up here for the Munger youth ministry newsletter.

Do You Already Receive the Munger Youth Newsletter?

If not, be sure to sign up here.

Summer Dates–We’re Going to Big Stuf Camp!!

We have over 100 spots reserved for Big Stuf at Panama City Beach, July 11-15. Registration will go live on our website at noon on Thursday, March 21. It will be first come, first served, and it will sell out. (More info to come.)


A Specific Prayer Request for Rich and Megan

Rich and Megan want to move up to Dallas ASAP, but they own a house in Waco that they need to sell. (Rich has been working at Baylor University for the past year.) Please pray that their move and housing situation goes as easily and quickly as possible.

But Wait, There’s More New Hires to Come!

The Munger Youth Ministry has HUGE potential, so we have set aside the funding necessary to allow Rich to hire at least one more full-time youth ministry staff member. Good people are hard to find, but I certainly hope we’ll be able to make at least one more great hire this year. Pray for that!

Can You Imagine?

The opportunity we have at Munger to reach middle school and high school students is HUGE.

Can you imagine what it could mean for the students in our community when we have the ministry built to reach them, teach them, and unleash them in the name of Christ?


How to Subscribe to Updates from My Blog

If you sign up for my Andrew Forrest newsletter, I’ll send you a white paper I’ve written called “The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use to Become a Better Communicator”.

I’m also blogging through the Gospels each week day in 2019, and have a separate mailing list for folks who only want to receive the Gospel posts. Subscribe here to receive a weekday update on that day’s Gospel reading.

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After Jesus calms the story, the disciples are amazed and say to each other,

What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!

Matthew 8:27

Matthew is using dramatic irony here: we (the readers) know something that the disciples (the characters) don’t: Jesus isn’t an ordinary man at all, but the God of Israel himself, incarnate.

When someone like that asks you to follow him, providing lame excuses as to why you’d really like to follow him but it’s just that you’re so busy–that makes no sense at all.

Today’s Scripture

Matthew 8:18-27


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One of the most amazing things about the ministry of Jesus is that it is for everyone. Although Jesus was a Jew and his ministry was to the people of Israel, he made it clear that he was inviting anyone who would hear and respond into the eternal life of the Kingdom of God. For example, in today’s passage after he heals the slave of a Roman centurion–a man who was a living embodiment of Roman oppression and pagan idolatry–Jesus says this:

“I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 8:11

Wow! Jesus is saying that there is nothing about a person’s identity before he or she encounters Jesus that precludes that person from following after Jesus. If he is willing to follow Jesus, then even a Roman centurion can be his disciple.

But then Jesus says something troubling (as he always does):

“But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 8:12

That part I don’t like as much. In that specific context, Jesus is saying that just because you were born a Jew in Israel does not mean that are exempt from responding to Jesus. But, applied more broadly it means this: even religious people like me have to actually say yes and follow–no one gets a free pass.

P.S.

Peter was married! I love those little details the Gospel writers throw in from time to time.

Today’s Scripture

Matthew 8:1-17


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I’m blogging through the Gospels in 2019. Subscribe here to receive a weekday update on that day’s Gospel reading. (There is also an option to subscribe to non-Gospels posts as well through my plain ole Andrew Forrest Newsletter.)

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Storms are inevitable in life. And what’s worse is that they are also unforeseeable. In literal storms, millions and millions of random occurrences come together to produce the winds and the waves; life’s storms are also the result of random interactions of complex systems. So, how do you prepare for something inevitable that’s also completely unpredictable and random?

In what follows, I want to talk about how we can become the kind of people who can weather life’s storms by walking us through the Sermon on the Mount. I personally have been doing a lot of reading and studying recently of this famous set of Jesus’ teachings (Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy has been a particularly helpful source of ideas), and I finally feel as if I understand what he was getting at, which is exciting, because this is AMAZING stuff! (This will be a much longer post than I’ve been writing recently in my weekday commentary on the Gospel reading, but I want to help you understand how in Matthew 5-7 Jesus is giving his followers practical advice they can actually use to become the kind of people who survive life’s storms.)

Amazed At What He Had To Say

There’s this really fascinating aside Matthew gives us after Jesus wraps up the Sermon on the Mount.

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

Matthew 7:28-29

Having just heard Jesus give this famous set of teaching, his hearers are amazed. What Jesus has been saying was so insightful and unusual and so obviously cut to the heart of the matter of everyday life that it was nothing short of astounding. And you know what? Nothing has changed in 2,000 years–these words are still AMAZING.

The Two Kinds of People

Let’s begin at the end. Jesus closes the Sermon on the Mount by saying that there are two options in life: the way that seems easy but actually ends in ruin, and the way that seems difficult and unpopular but actually results in blessing [Matthew 7:13-14]. He expands on this by talking about how it’s not what people say that matters, but what they actually do (and how to tell between the talked and the doers) [Matthew 7:15-23], and then he sums up the entire set of teachings with a little parable:

“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.  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. 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. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27

In his conclusion, Jesus says that the difference between the people who are destroyed by life’s storms and those who survive them are that the survivors actually do what Jesus said to do. But how do we actually do that? That’s what he’s been telling us in the previous 3 chapters of his famous sermon. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount is meant to be a How-To manual to becoming the kind of person who can weather any storm. And the first thing we have to understand is what Jesus meant when he talked about the “Kingdom”.

What the Kingdom Is

Here’s how Matthew sums up the central message of Jesus:

“Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”

Matthew 4:17 NIV

Another way of translating this might be:

“HEY! Turn around and change your mind: living in the reality of God is now one of your options.”

Matthew 4:17 AFV [Andrew Forrest Version, in the vein of Dallas Willard]

A kingdom is wherever a king’s will is done; beyond that frontier, it’s no longer that king’s kingdom. Queen Elizabeth reigns over the United Kingdom; she does not reign in France. Each of us has our own kingdom or queendom; where my will is done is my kingdom. So, my body is one part of my kingdom, for example: I command my finger to move, and it does; I command my mouth to speak, and it does. The kingdom of heaven is wherever God’s will is done. The only place in the Creation where God’s will is not done is here, where God has permitted for a while his human creatures to exercise their own reigns. This is why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth [as it already is] in heaven.”

From the beginning, it was God’s plan that men and women would exercise their free will and rule in his name over the earth [see Genesis 1:26]; it remains God’s will that we would freely choose to align our kingdoms under his Kingdom.

So, the message of Jesus is that through him God’s Kingdom is now available to anyone, anywhere, RIGHT NOW if they are willing to do what he says. Apprenticeship or discipleship to Jesus is learning to live your life in the reality of the Kingdom. In the Sermon on the Mount which follows, he provides some practical examples of what Kingdom life will look like.

The Introduction and Overview

Jesus begins the Sermon by telling people that there is no spiritual condition that precludes them from learning to live in the Kingdom now: not the spiritually poor, not the mourning, not the meek, etc. [We call this section “The Beatitudes”, Matthew 5:1-12.]

Then, Jesus tells his followers that living in the Kingdom will make them distinct from people around them: it will be as if they are salt–thereby bringing out the flavor in life–or light–thereby showing others how best to live. [Matthew 5:13-16.]

To be clear, Jesus wants his followers to understand that he’s not doing anything new, that this is ultimately what the Old Testament is all about, and that he’s not come to abolish “the law and the prophets”. [Matthew 5:17-20.]

With those remarks out of the way, Jesus explains what it looks like to put his words into practice and live in the Kingdom. What he is going to do is take familiar situations that arise and give an example of what Kingdom living would look like in each of those situations.

Here’s the point: it would seem at first that going along with the conventional wisdom in each of the examples that follow would be the best course of action; actually Jesus wants us to understand that if you just do what everyone else is doing—“the wide and easy path” he references in Matthew 7:13—it will be the equivalent of building a foundation on sand.  Instead, if you do what he says to do, as counterintuitive as it might seem, you’ll be building your life on bedrock.

Here’s the point: it would seem at first that going along with the conventional wisdom in each of the examples that follow would be the best course of action; actually Jesus wants us to understand that if you just do what everyone else is doing—“the wide and easy path” he references in Matthew 7:13—it will be the equivalent of building a foundation on sand.  Instead, if you do what he says to do, as counterintuitive as it might seem, you’ll be building your life on bedrock.


A Practical Plan for Becoming a Survivor

Anger

Jesus begins his advice by talking about anger. He tells his hearers that though it is obvious that murder will mess up your life, the anger and contempt that are behind and underneath murder are also spiritually dangerous. So, rather then indulging in anger, Jesus tells his followers that they should actually seek reconciliation with people with whom they have bad blood. Living in the Kingdom is trying as hard as humanly possible to be reconciled with others. [Matthew 5:21-26.]
Building on Sand: anger and contempt.
Building on Rock: seeking reconciliation.

Lust

Next, Jesus tells his followers that though it is obvious that adultery will mess up your life, what’s really important is to rid your thoughts of lust. Lust is using someone else’s image for your own gratification, which is evil because people were created in the image of God, and not for the purpose of pornography. Jesus says that Kingdom living, then, is about doing whatever it takes–he uses the hyperbolic image of cutting off your own hand!–to learn to see other people as God sees them, and not as objects of desire. [Matthew 5:27-30.]
Building on Sand: indulging your thought life.
Building on Rock: disciplining your thought life.


Marriage and Divorce

People have been having marital problems since the Garden of Eden, and they had marital problems in Jesus’ day, too. But Jesus tells his followers that marriage is not primarily a contract between two people for the purpose of meeting their emotional needs; rather it is a covenant before God. And so Kingdom living is about being reconciled with your spouse (remember reconciliation is an important Kingdom value) as far as is in your power. Now, if your spouse persists in adulterous behavior, reconciliation is clearly outside of your power, but Jesus tells his followers divorce is a last resort. [Matthew 5:31-32.]
Building on Sand: leaving a marriage when it doesn’t fulfill your emotional needs.
Building on Rock: working towards reconciliation as far as is humanly possible.

Manipulation (“Oaths”)

Then Jesus takes on a pervasive human behavior: that of trying to manipulate other people into doing what what we want them to do. In his day there had developed this convoluted practice of swearing on the Temple in Jerusalem to convince people you were sincere. (“I swear on the Temple I didn’t take your money!”) We don’t do that, but of course we try to use language (social media posts?) to get other people to do what we want them to do. In contrast, Jesus says that kingdom living is much simpler: just say what you mean, and leave it at that. [Matthew 5:33-37.]
Building on Sand: trying to manipulate others.
Building on Rock: saying what you mean, and leaving it at that.



Vengeance/Retaliation/Enemies

You will have enemies; people will seek to do you harm. Though it seems natural to us to hit back and hate the people who hate us (the wide and easy path always seems “natural” to us at first), Kingdom living is about forgoing retaliation and instead seeking ways to bless the people who mistreat us, even to the extent of praying for God to bless them! Jesus makes the reason explicit: when you try to love the people who hate you, you are acting like God, who wants to bless all his children. So, Kingdom living is learning to act like God in the times of inevitable conflict we will encounter. [Matthew 5:38-48.]
Building on Sand: vengeance and retaliation.
Building on Rock: seeking to bless those that hate us.


Virtue-Signaling (e.g. Giving and Fasting)

Jesus tells his followers next that they should be careful of trying to impress other people with how they help the poor or do “spiritual” things like fasting. Instead, those should be personal practices and a way of life that’s more private than public. In other words, learning to live in the Kingdom is learning not to need to impress other people with how good you are. (Think of all the virtue-signaling on social media.) [Matthew 6:1-4, 16-18.]
Building on Sand: virtue-signaling to impress others with your goodness. Building on Rock: doing the right thing because it’s right, not because people will see you do it.

Prayer

Jesus tells his followers how to pray. Learning to live in the kingdom is to make prayer a habitual action (“When you pray, go in your room and shut the door….”) and to use Jesus as a model for prayer. [Matthew 6:5-15.]
Building on Sand: praying haphazardly.
Building on Rock: having a plan for habitual prayer.

Money/Wealth

It seems that having more money will make you happier, but Jesus points out that which we all already know: more stuff won’t necessarily make you happier. (If that were the case, then the people in Beverly Hills would be the happiest people on earth, but we know that isn’t true.) Living in the Kingdom is learning to trust God more than our own stuff. [Matthew 6:19-24.]
Building on Sand: thinking more stuff will make you happier.
Building on Rock: learning that trusting God actually makes you happy.

Worry!

If there were ever a topic for practical pastoral advice, it would be worry! Jesus tells his hearers that worry, which seems so natural (“the wide and easy path”) will actually be harmful. So, he tells his followers to focus only on the problems of that particular day (over which they actually have some measure of control), and leave the rest of God. [Matthew 6:25-34.]
Building on Sand: getting worked up and worried over things you can’t control.
Building on Rock: focusing on what you can control today, and working to trust God with everything else.


Other People’s Behavior and Hypocrisy

Jesus tells his followers that though discerning between good and bad, right and wrong has a place, focusing on other people’s behavior and ignoring our own is foolish. Rather, kingdom living is about turning most of your attention on your own shortcomings and working on those. [Matthew 7:1-6.]
Building on Sand: judging other people by their actions and yourself by your intentions; getting all worked up over other people’s hypocrisy.
Building on Rock: focusing on your own actions and shortcomings.


Asking God for Stuff

Which brings us to the final bit of practical advice in the sermon: definitely ask God for stuff you need! Lots of folks think “I don’t want to ask for the wrong thing; I’ll just pray a generic prayer for God’s will to be done.” Instead, Jesus tells his hearers to ask boldly. [Matthew 7:7-12.]
Building on Sand: refusing to ask and not persisting in prayer.
Building on Rock: asking and persisting in prayer.


Two Kinds Of People

All of the above is Jesus providing his hearers of examples of what Kingdom living looks like. Each topic he covers is a topic that each of us encounters all the time; doing what Jesus said is putting his principles into practice when you encounter anger, lust, worry, etc. Anyone can choose to participate, because Jesus came to bring the good news of the Kingdom to everyone. But, he concludes with telling his followers that hearing is not the point: actually practicing what he said is the point.

The people who actually do what he says will be the kind of people who, rather than going along with everyone else by taking “the wide and easy path” will be the kind of people who take the narrow, hard path that actually leads to life.

The people who do what he says will be able to survive any storm–even death!–because they are learning to live the eternal life of the Kingdom RIGHT NOW.

If you want to learn how to survive life’s storms, start doing what Jesus says. Go down the list, and begin to practice the kingdom response or mindset. It works.

The Sand Palace of Mexico Beach

In October of 2018, Hurricane Michael came ashore in the Florida Panhandle. It made landfall on the town of Mexico Beach. When the winds died down and the sun came out afterward, this is what remained:

The Sand Palace of Mexico Beach. [credit: Johnny Milano for The New York Times]

This house, called “The Sand Palace”, was built by two men in 2017. They didn’t do whatever everybody else did, they built their house their own way, to withstand the storm of all storms. What they didn’t know was that that storm would arrive just a year later. When it left, all the houses around theirs were destroyed, whereas the only damage the main structure of their house retained was one cracked shower window.

Storms in life will inevitably come; no one is exempt. Jesus says the only way to prepare is to start learning to live in the Kingdom now, and the Sermon on the Mount offers advice how to do just that.

What are you waiting for?

Today’s Scripture

Matthew 7:13-29, though I actually just covered Matthew 4:17-7:29.

And, In Case You Missed It

I preached a version of this message last night.


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My little daughter recently had a sinus infection that caused one of her eyes to swell shut. (This happened over Christmas. Of course it did.) The doctor prescribed medicinal eye drops, which we were to apply to her little eyes several times a day. I don’t know if it’s easier to rope a calf than to apply eye drops to a squirmy toddler, but I’m certain it’s more pleasant for both cowboy and calf. After dropping the clear little drops in her hair and her ears and her mouth and her nose, we decided on a different tack: bribery. “If you let me put the eyedrops in your eyes, we’ll give you some ‘choca”’. (“Choca” being her word for chocolate.) It worked. A drop was equal to a chocolate chip, and soon several times a day we were being asked for “I-jops” and “chocas”, and dispensing a fair quantity of both.

And then her prescription ran its course, the infection went away, and we no longer needed the bribe. However, like many a corrupt Third World bureaucrat, my daughter had become hooked on the hush money, and would silently sidle up to me several times a day, climb into my lap, stick her face in mine, cock her head like a crow, and earnestly ask, “I-jops? Chocas?”

Weak father though I am, I am not about to give her medicine she doesn’t need, and so I’ve been politely turning down her requests. If it were good for her, I’d refill the prescription, but it isn’t and I haven’t.

But you know what? I love it that she asks, and I hope she never stops asking me for things.

Jesus says that if human fathers like me delight in giving to our children, how much more will the one he calls our “Father in heaven” delight in giving to his children.

So, when he says in today’s Gospel reading, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”, I wonder: maybe he really means it.

What do you need to ask for today?

Today’s Scripture

Matthew 7:7-12


How to Subscribe

I’m blogging through the Gospels in 2019. Subscribe here to receive a weekday update on that day’s Gospel reading. (There is also an option to subscribe to non-Gospels posts as well through my plain ole Andrew Forrest Newsletter.)

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