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Posted By Nan

Matthew 5:43-48
These verses are a real challenge. We all want to hate those who hate us. It is so hard to love those who are awful to us. Despite this, Jesus is telling those who wish to be disciples that they must love their enemies. This is not actually new, after all in a previous blog I mentioned two verses from Proverbs, 25:21 about giving your enemy water if he is thirsty and 24:29 warning people not to do to others as they have done to you. So God had always instructed His people to love their enemies. Unfortunately, the law of Jesus’ day had changed that. It is a human failing to fall into the habit of hating our enemies and wishing to seek revenge. This is why we need a reminder of this as much as the Jews of Jesus’ day needed it.
Jesus identifies a number of reasons why we should love our enemies:
. we will be children of our father in heaven. Remember the sun God causes to shine, shines on our enemies as well and rain is for all people, good and evil (45).
. what reward is there in only loving those who love you? Where is the sacrifice in service to Jesus? (46)
. how do we set ourselves apart as being servants of Jesus if we behave no differently to those who are servants of satan? The people of the world look at our behaviour as indicative of God. Our behaviour must be better than that of the world or what perceived difference is there in serving God? (46-48) Our lives should shine forth the fruit of the Spirit. Therefore our lives should be full of:
Self control (Galatians 5:22-23)
So we must strive to be as perfect as possible, as God is perfect. In other words we must strive to live Godly lives. (48)
So this is easy right? Wrong. Speaking for myself, I find these verses the most difficult in the Bible. When someone hurts me I don’t want to forgive them. I don’t want to love them. I want them to suffer and know what they have done to me. However, that is my sinful nature speaking and I know that is not what Jesus wants me to do. So I choose to hand my hurt and pain and unforgiveness to Jesus and choose to forgive. I choose to forgive several times a day for years sometimes. I pray for people and wait, because I know that in time God will send the feeling to match my desire. I have spent more hours in prayer over this issue than anything else. I know that pain from my past is one reason I struggle to forgive and my gracious Heavenly Father is healing me of that pain. I look forward to the day when I can forgive easily, when I stop trying to take control of difficult situations and trust God to deal with my enemies and remember Ephesians 4:32 that I must forgive others just as in Christ, God forgave me. Until then I persevere, as we all should.

Posted By Nan

Romans 10:9-10: “… if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” NIV
Matthew 5:38
As I have mentioned before, this verse is frequently misquoted by people who wish to justify revenge and capital punishment. Even in Exodus 21:23-25, where it first appeared, its meaning was that the punishment for a crime should not be greater than the crime. It was not meant literally, but rather it was symbolic. Jesus very firmly placed the law of love over these verses here in Matthew. The concept of eye for an eye is repeated in Leviticus 24:20 and again it stands against the unforgiveness of retaliation. If you turn to Leviticus 19:18, you will see God commanded the Israelites not to seek revenge or bear a grudge against one another. Instead they were to love their neighbour as themselves.
Hatred, unforgiveness and the desire for vengeance is terribly destructive. It destroys our trust in God, it stands in the gap between us and God and blocks our access to Him. It causes changes in our bodies that harm our health. It turns us from loving, compassionate people to hard, bitter people. Now I understand why I wasn’t to write this blog until today. Thursday I met a woman who discussed her desire for revenge and her hatred for someone who has caused her considerable pain in her life. Although this person has caused her terrible pain we talked together of the need for her to let go of her need for revenge. It holds her back in that terrible place instead of allowing her to live her life to the full. It is sad to see her wasting her years wanting revenge on someone who is not worth the time and energy she is giving to her.
That brings to mind something I read recently. It was a blog post on (in)courage titled “The Importance of Knowing Your Credentials” by Angela Nazworth. She discussed letters she puts after her name that she earned, then talks about the letters she should put after her name as a Christian. One set of letters leapt off the page “WDF” – worth dying for. The irony is that woman who caused all the pain was worth dying for, but so was the woman I met who is in so much pain. She is worth dying for and she does not believe it. That is the sadness of these verses. So often we stand on our rights because we are hurting and we want revenge. We don’t want to hand our anger, hurt, desire for revenge, to God. We want revenge NOW. But revenge is never satisfying and pulls us down to the level of the person we want to hurt, instead of remaining at our higher level. So this woman said how do you forgive? I said you can’t, only with God can you forgive. You have to keep handing it to God. Acknowledge your pain and you anger. Admit you are angry with God for allowing it to happen. Ask Him to help you. These verses suggest accepting sometimes a loss of face. Surrender that to God. So much of abusive behaviour is about power and we don’t want to give up on the anger because we think we will lose power, but when Jesus allowed the terrible beatings and crucifixion during His last hours He never lost His power. He chose to allow those things. Ask God for that trust in God, that power of choosing and wait patiently for Him to give you what you need. To quote the lovely hymn by Lucy A Bennett “Trust Him when thy strength is small … when to simply trust Him seems the hardest thing of all”.

Posted By Nan

My apologies, due to illness I am unable to post a blog today. Be back Saturday.

God Bless.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 5:33-37
My Bible is a study Bible. I find it really useful to be able to look at the notes underneath when there is a difficult verse or something confuses me. When I wrote the Sermon on the Mount series and came to this verse I commented on how simple it was. In fact, I noted today, it is so simple there are no text notes for it. It is good this passage is simple. We make following the narrow way so hard, often impossible for people. We need to simplify the messages we send to others seeking the road, because following Jesus is not that complicated. What is hard is that we always want to do what we want and don’t want to wait on God, but it is not a case of learning all sorts of complicated rules. As Jesus said in these verses let your “yes” be “yes” and our “no” “no”. Of course, our promises are not something we make with no intention of keeping. When you make a promise you keep it!
When you first entered the narrow gate did you promise to follow Jesus on the narrow way? It is hard, He warned us of that. One of the things I find hardest is resisting the temptation to become complacent about what Jesus did for us. It is easy to be caught up in busyness and not notice the weeks speeding by as Good Friday approaches. To not spend time reflecting on what Jesus did. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of end of year and not stop to reflect on the miracle of Jesus’ birth. To me, this complacency is related to the difficulty we feel in keeping our yes and yes and our no, no. So how do we keep in simple? By doing the simple things. Praise God, pray, remember to ask for help and to thank God for His provision and for His answers to our prayer. Celebrate the simple things we see in life, they are all from God. Keep it simple and keep free of the temptation to make it more complicated as an easy way to deal with complacency.
Keep it simple. Keep it alive. Keep Praying. Keep Praising. Jesus’ death on the cross is a gift once, for all, that keeps giving. The simplicity is awesome.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 5:31-32
God’s intention for marriage was that the couple who married would become one flesh permanently (Genesis 2:24). In fact, God was stating a fact that sexual intimacy does unite people into one flesh. There is nothing more intimate, more vulnerable than the sex. Anyone who has been raped will relate the violation that is felt. There is not altering the fact that sex is an incredibly intimate act and our sexual parts are deeply private for every person. Yet we live in a society that often encourages people to see sex as something as casual as kissing. Something that doesn’t mean anything. But God intended sexual intimacy to be a special gift between a man and a woman. The truth is, if you have sex with someone you have become one flesh permanently. This has far reaching implications.
God knew this when He called sexual intimacy “becoming one flesh”. There is God’s intention and there is the result of sin, which even in Jesus’ time had led to divorce being readily accessible. I don’t deny that many people find themselves in terrible situations where divorce is a relief and remarriage in a new, healthy marriage a blessing. However, in my work I see the impact this has on families and especially on children. There is a readiness in today’s world for people to see relationships as “disposable” and there are many siblings who have only one parent in common. What I see is the difficulty this causes for the children. They are torn between their parents, if both parents remain in contact. If they are lucky the parents cooperate well in custody arrangements and the children are not damaged by conflict between their parents.
In reality, most people want the God idea. They want a relationship that lasts “forever”. Sadly, not enough people learn how to develop strong, enduring relationships before marriage. There is great pressure in society to rush to commence a sexual relationship when the relationship is not well established. Once sex becomes part of a relationship that old “one flesh” rule comes in and people stay together even when it is obvious they are not compatible.
Where does that leave us as followers of Jesus? God wants us to grow. He does not want our faith to become stagnant and die. He wants us in partnership with Him, growing in our faith and knowledge of him. If we can get this most important relationship right, then other healthy relationships will flow on from that. God is the ultimate partner in relationships. He never fails us as earthly partners will. He is always there, always persevering, never giving up on us, forgiving us and patiently guiding us to grow in our relationship with Him. To grow a relationship well requires time and our relationship with God takes time. We need to take that time out to spend time with God. Then we can grow along the narrow way and enjoy the earthly relationships He sends our way.



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