Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Making Oaths and Vows.

Continuing on with the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, "You have heard it said to those who lived long ago, 'You must not swear an oath falsely, but you shall perform your vows to the Lord." But I tell you, do not swear at all, not by heaven for it is God's throne, nor by the earth, for it is His footstool. nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black."

"Just say a simple, "Yes, I will," or "No I won't." Anything more than this is from the evil one."

After reading some Bible commentaries, it seems that in Jesus day it was a custom to say, "I swear by my head that what I am saying is true or "I swear by my heaven I will do it."

Neither shalt thou swear by thy head - This was a common oath. The Gentiles also used this oath. To swear by the head was the same as to swear by the life; or to say, I will forfeit my life if what I say is not true. God is the Author of the life, and to swear by that, therefore, is the same as to swear by him.

Because thou canst not make one hair white or black - You have no control or right over your own life. You cannot even change one single hair. God has all that control; and it is therefore improper and profane to pledge what is God's gift and God's property; and it is the same as swearing by God himself.

Neither by heaven, etc. - It was a custom among the Scythians, when they wished to bind themselves in the most solemn manner, to swear by the king's throne; and if the king was at any time sick, they believed it was occasioned by some one's having taken the oath falsely. Herod. l. iv.

I remember as a child making oaths that I was telling the truth to my friends. Our favorite one was, "Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye!" I'm not sure why sometimes we didn't believe each other. I suppose a lot of lying was going on! Anyway, we need not use oaths to make a point.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How Did Jesus Treat Adulterers?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us warnings about adultery. God also did this all through the Old Testament. Adultery is a grievous sin in God's sight and yet of course he forgives this as he forgives all sins.

Jesus came into contact with adulterers and prostitutes. He always treated them with the utmost respect and love. The woman he met at the well of Jacob had been married five times and was living with a man. Jesus asked her for a drink of water and then spoke with her about the things of God and told her he was the Messiah.  He said, "Whoever drinks of the water I give him will never thirst...it will become a spring of water welling up into eternal life." John 4:14

The Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. They wanted to stone her to death and asked Jesus what they should do. He said, "If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

No one did and Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No man, Lord." Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." John 8:10-11

Jesus loves to help us, no matter what we have done in this life. He longs for us to come to him. "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you to me with loving kindness." Jeremiah 31:3

Friday, November 25, 2011

Jesus and Divorce.

"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce. But I say to you, any man who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

God allowed divorce in former times, but men abused it. They decided they were permitted to divorce their wives for any reason. This led to women being thrown out and left in poverty. If they had children, they most likely stayed with the man. What a tragedy and abuse of women. Many became prostitutes to earn a living.

Palestinian Hebrew women were among the poorest in the world in Jesus' day. This was probably because they had no inheritance rights and could be divorced for the flimsiest of reasons. Hebrew men could divorce their wives for anything from burning the dinner (Hillel) to adultery (Shammai). Yet Hebrew women were not allowed to divorce their husbands. In a culture in which women did not survive unless they were linked to the patriarchal household, it was disastrous to be divorced. Seen in this light, Jesus' proscription of divorce is markedly protective of women. The raising of the son of the widow of Nain is another example of Jesus' compassion for the poverty of women entrapped by patriarchy.

Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, in his Life, tells us, with the utmost coolness and indifference, "About this time I put away my wife, who had borne me three children, not being pleased with her manners." http://bible.cc/matthew/5-31.htm

 "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel." Malachi 2:16

Divorce brings pain and poverty to men, women and children. God hates anything that hurts people. He wants us to love each other, have happy homes and children. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

How Important is Sin?

"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body be thrown into hell." Matt. 5:29-30

Strong words.

I've never thought that Jesus was literally tell us to maim our body in order not to sin. I've never really known what he meant by these dire warnings. So, I read the commentary and this is what it said.

And if thy right hand offend thee,.... Or "cause thee to offend"; that is, is the means of ensnaring thine heart; and of drawing thee into either mental, or actual adultery; for, as before, all unchaste looks, so here, all unchaste touches, embraces, &c. are condemned. As adultery may be committed in the heart, and by the eye, so with the hand:

Pluck it out ... - It cannot be supposed that Christ intended this to be taken literally. His design was to teach that the dearest objects, if they cause us to sin, are to be abandoned; that by all sacrifices and self-denials we must overcome the evil propensities of our nature, and resist our wanton imaginations.

Okay, that was the commentary and now I am writing my opinion.

In the verses before and immediately after this Jesus is speaking mainly about adultery. Therefore we can conclude this is about adultery also. If you are looking lustfully, if you are touching lustfully, you must do something about it for lust and adultery leads to hell. (it also caused hell on earth between people)

I can remember a pastor of my church who was always hugging the women. I let him hug me a few times but noticed it seemed too long and too tight. It turned out later his wife left him because of his addiction to pornography. I once had a dentist who went to my church. When I went to get my teeth done (I was in my twenties) he would sometimes rest his arms on my breasts. I was young, I thought he must have to do that. A few years later he asked me to have an affair with him. After I went to other dentists I realized he was touching me inappropriately. 

So, first with your eyes - look away if you are tempted. Run like crazy and pray.

With your hands- keep them to yourselves. 

Sometimes, years ago when I went to social gatherings,  I have sat next to a man and if we all started laughing I would touch him to push him or give him a little slap in jest. I shouldn't have done that as he might have taken it the wrong way.

Whew! A big subject and a touchy one! But one thing about God - He will talk about everything. I like that about Him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Jesus said, "You have heard it said, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery.' But I say to you everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

I think it would be best for me to talk about my own struggle with lust. I rarely have had trouble with lusting after a man, but there have been a few times. When I watched the James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig, I did feel lust towards him and it surprised me. I told my daughter, "I can't watch that movie again." She asked why and I told her, "That Daniel Craig turns me on!" So, for myself if I see anyone or thing that triggers lust in my heart I want to turn away and not look at it.

I worked with a man once who liked me and wanted to have an affair. My marriage was unhappy at the time. I was tempted but felt I couldn't quit my job. So, I prayed a lot about this and he was moved to a different area of the workplace. Also, God did take away the feelings I had for him. Still, now that I look back I believe I should have quit my job and trusted God would give me another one. It would have been a quicker and better way.

I do feel sorry for men because I think they have a much harder time with lust than most women. But I know God's grace is sufficient for everything and He can give us all strength of mind and purpose.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Going to Court.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been speaking of our everyday lives and giving us practical teachings. He now continues with the subject of what to if we are going to court.

"When you are on your way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise your accuser may hand you over to the judge who will hand you over to an officer, and you may be thrown into prison. And if that happens you won't be free until you pay the last cent." Matt:5-25

In old days debtors were thrown into prison until they or someone else paid off their debts. This was common in England and in ancient days.  Many were thrown into debtors prison. Jesus seems to be giving good advice in telling people to try to make a deal with the people they owe money to before going to court. The Romans counseled their people to do this also. In other words - don't be stubborn.

 It is remarkable that this very direction is found in the Roman law of the Twelve Tables, which expressly directed the plaintiff and defendant to make up the matter while they were in the way, or going to the praetor - in via, rem uti pacunt orato. - Blackstone's Commentary, iii. p. 299. Whether the Saviour had any reference to this cannot be determined. As the Roman laws prevailed to some extent in Palestine, however, it is possible that there was such an allusion. http://bible.cc/matthew/5-25.htm

This commentary goes on to explain further how going to court is a violation of the 6th commandment. I found this very interesting.

Agree with thine adversary quickly - This is still an illustration of the sixth commandment. To be in hostility, to go to law, to be litigious, is a violation always, on one side or the other, of the law requiring us to love our neighbor, and our Saviour regards it as a violation of the sixth commandment. While you are in the way with him, says he, that is, while you are going to the court, before the trial has taken place, it is your duty, if possible, to come to an agreement. It is wrong to carry the contention to a court of law. See 1 Corinthians 6:6-7. The consequence of not being reconciled, he expresses in the language of courts. The adversary shall deliver to the judge, and he to the executioner, and he shall throw you into prison. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our Relationship with Others.

"If you bring your gift to the alter (go to God in worship) and there remember someone has something against you, leave your gift. First go and be reconciled with that person and then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:23

If we have hurt a person in any way we are to go to them and ask for forgiveness before we come to God. Our relationships with other people are vitally important to God. We are to love others as we love ourselves and show this in words and deeds.

"This shows, that acts of love and friendship are preferable to sacrifices; and that sacrifices offered up in wrath, and whilst unreconciled to others, are unacceptable to God, and of no avail." 

Hubby and I say we are sorry to each other quite often. We both seem to drive each other crazy. I guess it is good for Christian growth since I have learned to pray desperately not to lose my temper with him! He probably does the same, I don't know. We do try never, ever to go to bed mad at each other and haven't done that for years. God has used our differences to teach us patience and to learn to say, "I'm sorry."

Thursday, November 17, 2011


"You have heard it said long ago, 'Do not murder.' and whoever murders will be subject to judgement. But I say to you, anyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be in danger or judgement. If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of coming before the court. And if you call him a fool, you are in danger of hell (eternal destruction)." Matthew

Jesus was quoting the Ten Commandments where it says, "Thous shalt not murder." He is saying there is more to this commandment. Anger leads to murder; so watch out for anger. If we move from anger to calling people names it can escalate even farther. The next step is hitting them or beating them.

What our Lord seems here to prohibit, is not merely that miserable facility which some have of being angry at every trifle, continually taking offense against their best friends; but that anger which leads a man to commit outrages against another, thereby subjecting himself to that punishment which was to be inflicted on those who break the peace. (Clarke's Commentary on the Bible.)

Anger is such a powerful emotion. I've learned over the years that when I feel anger growing inside to start praying right away for patience.  I still slip up once in awhile, but God tells me when I do. He works with us and forgives us.

One time, many years ago, I lost my temper at the lady at a dress shop who was rude to me and wouldn't let me return defective merchandise. I walked to my car and God told me I had to go back and apologize, which I did. Let me tell you, it is a good lesson! God was right of course, it was wrong of me to be nasty to a child of his, to a fellow human being who was maybe going through hard times. There was no excuse. Jesus didn't yell at the people who crucified him, how could I yell at someone who wouldn't take a pair of jeans back?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Pharisees

Jesus said, "For I tell you unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

The Pharisees were the dominant teachers of the people during this time. They were strict about obeying the law of God. Jesus once said to them, "You clean the outside of the cup, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee. First clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside may be clean also."

The majority of the Pharisees were not truly righteous, that is why Jesus said we must be better than them. They looked good on the outside, but inside were full of evil, for they had not given their hearts to God. Some were good men however, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  Their minds and  hearts were open to the leading of God and so recognized the Messiah when he came. Many priests believed after Jesus was crucified.

God said, "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people." Jerimiah 31:33

This is what it means to be more righteous than the Pharisees.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jesus Came to Fulfill the Law.

Jesus said,

"Do not think I have come to destroy the law or the prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not an iota or a dot will pass from the law until all is fulfilled. Whoever then annuls even the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 5:17-19

"The laws of the Jews are commonly divided into moral, ceremonial, and judicial. The moral laws are such as grow out of the nature of things, and which cannot, therefore, be changed - such as the duty of loving God and his creatures. These cannot be abolished, as it can never be made right to hate God, or to hate our fellow-men. Of this kind are the ten commandments, and these our Saviour has neither abolished nor superseded. The ceremonial laws are such as are appointed to meet certain states of society, or to regulate the religious rites and ceremonies of a people. These can be changed when circumstances are changed, and yet the moral law be untouched. A general in an army may command his soldiers to appear sometimes in a red coat and sometimes in blue or in yellow. This would be a ceremonial law, and might be changed as he pleased. The duty of obeying him, and of being faithful to his country, could not be changed." http://bible.cc/matthew/5-18.htm

The sacrifice of a lamb is no longer necessary because Jesus became the "Lamb of God" and gave his life in sacrifice. In this way the ceremonial laws were fulfilled. The Ten Commandments still stand as the Law of God forever. If Jesus would have changed them, we would have had no need of a Savior.

Jesus kept this law perfectly for us. We cannot be saved by obeying it. As Jesus said, "Without me, you can do nothing." He kept the law for us, he covers us with his righteousness, and he changes our hearts day by day. What a fantastic God we serve!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Light of the World.

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

As the sun lightens the world, so Christians are to lighten the world. We are to bring God's light to others and illuminate their minds about the ways of God. As a lamp gives light in the darkness so men can see where they are going, so God's light leads them.

"...let your light shine" We don't have to work hard to shine; we are to let God's light that lives within us shine out to others. Then they will thank God for what we have done.

In Jesus' time many cities were built on hills for protection. People could see the city from miles away. It could not be hidden and neither can our works be hidden. What we do in our lives is usually plain to see, if not immediately then people will know later.

Lord, may your light shine through us. May we be a blessing to this world. Amen

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Salt of the World.

The Beatitudes are finished now, but I thought I would continue on with the rest of Jesus' sermon which is called The Sermon on the Mount.

"You are the salt of the world; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men." Matthew 5:13

Salt makes food taste good; it also preserves food. 

I take this to mean we should be a blessing to the world as salt is to food. We should be useful and a help to the world. We should taste good - be a friendly, nice person that people like to be around. Perhaps we could make the sharing of our life and our faith salty and tasty!

What if we are not salty Christians? Jesus says then our lives have no worth. A serious thing to say. 

"The salt used in this country is a chemical compound - chloride of sodium - and if the saltness were lost, or it were to lose its savor, there would be nothing remaining. It enters into the very nature of the substance. In eastern countries, however, the salt used was impure, or mingled with vegetable or earthy substances, so that it might lose the whole of its saltness, and a considerable quantity of earthy matter remain. This was good for nothing, except that it was used to place in paths, or walks, as we use gravel." http://bible.cc/matthew/5-13.htm

Paul said,  "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:6

May God fill us with salt. May he make us attractive to all people we meet. May our lives be beautiful, flavorful and enduring.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Persecuted.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right, for the kingdom of God is theirs." Matt. 5:10

This is where God's mind and the human mind are vastly different. Would we say someone is blessed for being persecuted? No, we would probably say, "Oh, how terrible for them."

Good people of God have been persecuted since the son of Adam was murdered. His brother Cain killed him, "And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous." 1John 3:12

If we look at Cain and Abel, Jesus says that Abel was blessed (fortunate). I can see why this would be so. Which person in the story would you rather be?

The Romans killed the Christians in the arenas. The Catholics and Protestants killed each other in the dark ages. The Nazis killed Jews and Christians. Even today people kill in the name of God. And just as God did not save Abel's life, so he did not save millions of people through the ages.

Jesus went on to say, "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

I have to say I've had trouble understanding how a person could feel happy when persecuted. I honestly don't think Jesus felt happy the day of his death. So joy and gladness have to be more than feelings. I looked up the Greek and found a few translations of these words that make the above verse understandable for me.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad - Regard it as a great privilege thus to be persecuted and to suffer - a thing not to be mourned over, but as among the chief blessings of life. 

5463 xaírō (from the root xar-, "favorably disposed, leaning towards" and cognate with 5485 /xáris, "grace") – properly, to delight in God's grace ("rejoice") – literally, to experience God's grace (favor), be conscious (glad) for His grace

Speaking of Jesus, Paul says, "...for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such hostility from sinful men; so you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:2

To remember what Jesus went through, to look toward heaven and to have the mind of God in order to see how he sees; that is what is needed to have joy (regard it as a privilege) in persecution.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Peacemakers.

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the Sons of God."

"Those who strive to prevent contention, strife, and war; who use their influence to reconcile opposing parties, and to prevent lawsuits and hostilities in families and neighborhoods. Every man may do something of this; and no man is more like God than he who does it."  http://bible.cc/matthew/5-9.htm

Of all the prizes from the Nobel committee, none is more respected than the Peace Prize. When they choose someone to award, that person's name is on the front pages of the news all over the world. Peacemakers are respected.

War between nations brings horrible tragedy. Thousands and even millions of lives are lost, most of whom are innocent. Wars are usually fought because people in power are evil. I am sure God hates war.

There are wars in families too. Aunt Sue won't talk to aunt Mary. Sisters are jealous of each other. Brothers fight. Spouses argue over everything. Peace is needed everywhere: in the world, between neighbors and in the family.

If we forgive an insult, don't tell others of a wrong done to us, try to bring agreement between people, then we are a peacemaker. We may not receive a Nobel Prize, but we get something far better, the pleasure and smile of God upon us. When we act like a peacemaker God says, "Those are my children."

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Pure in Heart.

My Bible commentary says when something is pure it is unmixed with anything else. Pure gold is not mixed with any other metal. It says a heart that is pure is single-minded.

Is my heart single-minded? Is God first in my life? Is my heart pure?

When I look at myself, I don't feel pure but I try not to live by my feelings. God says I have a new heart, therefore I do have a new heart and I will give my heart to him each day and let Him change it.  The apostle John says to try to live with love so that, "...whenever our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows everything." 1John 3:20 And James says, "Indeed we all make many mistakes."

"Beloved, we are children of God and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." 1 John 3:3

There is an example of God purifying hearts in our family. One of my daughters had been angry at her real father, my first husband, for years. She once told me she would never forgive him for the past. But after my grandson's death she has become more committed and closer to God. After the funeral she told her father she loved him and later she told me she has forgiven him. God purified her heart.

"And God, who knows the heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us. And God made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." Acts 15:9

It seems to me our hearts are made pure by God through hope and faith, which is our trust in God and His promises. I do trust God that he is purifying my heart each day and that some wonderful day I will "see him just as He is".

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Beatitudes - Have Mercy.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." Matt. 5:7

1. Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power; clemency.
2. A disposition to be kind and forgiving: a heart full of mercy.
3. Something for which to be thankful; a blessing: It was a mercy that no one was hurt.
4. Alleviation of distress; relief: Taking in the refugees was an act of mercy.

If we are merciful to others, God will be merciful to us. I think that is a good and fair exchange!

In the Lord's Prayer Jesus says, "And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."

Jesus explained God's position on this very well in the parable of the two debtors. This is a short version of that story:

A king had a servant (or tributary prince) who owed him ten thousand talents ( millions of dollars). The servant begged for time and mercy. The king's heart was moved  so he forgave all his debt.

When the servant left the king's palace he came across a man who owed him one hundred denarii (15 dollars).

 "He seized him and began to choke him saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So the man fell to the ground and began to plead for mercy. But the first servant was unwilling to forgive the debt and threw him into jail until he could pay." When the king heard this he arrested and punished the unforgiving servant.

May God give us a forgiving heart and the grace to always show mercy to those around us.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Beatitudes: Being a Good Person.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." Matt. 5:6

When I was a child and watched movies on our little black & white TV I was always impressed with the good people in the show. I would think, "I want to be like that: brave, honest, loving, and good."

Later, as an adult Christian I still feel the same way. When I watch The Lord of the Rings, I wonder if I could be as brave as Frodo and Samwise Gamgee. Would I die for what is right? Would my faith remain strong? I long to be a good person.

Jesus says if we desire goodness in ourselves as much as we desire a cold drink and a good meal, we will get it. He will give his goodness to us. And just as we need to drink and eat food each day, in the same way we need to ask God daily for his goodness to live in us.

After we have asked, simply believe it is true for Jesus said it was. If we stumble and fall, he will pick us up, dust us off and help us keep walking in the path of goodness. "For I am the Lord your God who holds you by your right hand. Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.' "