Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Matt. 6:7-15

So when you pray, don’t babble on like the religious folk who don’t know the true God. They think that the louder they yell and the more they repeat themselves, the more likely they are to be heard by somebody “up there.” Don’t imitate their misguided example, thinking that verbosity and eloquence usher you into the throne room of God. Before you even open your mouth, your Father in heaven knows exactly what you need.
With these things in mind, pray like this:
Powerful Father,
Let your character be known throughout the earth.
Help us to bring your way of life to the world around us, and use us to accomplish your purposes.
Give us whatever we need to follow you today, whether that’s patience or courage or a hot meal.
Forgive us for forgetting that everything we have is yours, so that anything “owed” to us is really owed to you. But you have canceled all debts! Help us to live in that knowledge.
Protect us from paths that entangle and constrict; rescue us from the things that separate us from you.
If you are able to forgive others when they have hurt you, then you know that you have received God’s forgiveness. If you can’t bring yourself to let go of anger and bitterness, you don’t really understand how much God, whom you have betrayed every day of your life, has chosen to forget in your case.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Matt 6:5-6

And when you pray, don't be like the pretenders who love to make a show of prayer. They put on their act in prominent places--street corners, even churches--anywhere they will be seen by human eyes. I'm telling you, whatever admiration they get from the crowds is all the reward they're going to get; God doesn't hear them because they're not really talking to God. But when you want to pray, go into your bedroom and shut the door. Talk to God as if every word you whisper is a secret. (If no one else can hear you, then you can be sure you're not trying to impress anyone.) Your Father, the only one who is with you when you are alone, will listen.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Matt. 6:1-4

Beware of being a "good person" just to impress the people around you. If your so-called righteous deeds are rooted in a desire to win the approval of friends or family or whoever else might be watching, they're worthless! If you want to make a donation to a charitable cause, don't hire a marching band to announce what you've done. The kind of people who make a show of their moral exploits are fakes, nothing more than actors charading as my followers. They do this for attention, hoping that others will be dazzled by appearances. This temporary admiration--if they succeed in charming their audience--is all they'll get for their petty righteousness; it credits nothing to eternity. Don't get the wrong message, giving away your money is a good thing. But if you're going to do it, do it and be done with it. Once the money leaves your hand, forget you ever had it. The only way to be sure you're not living to impress others is to be subtle with your philanthropy and quiet about your acts of kindness. God sees these secret acts. You're not investing in a black hole; you're both an instrument and a recipient of the gospel of abundance.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Matt. 5:17-48

Don't misunderstand what I'm doing here. I didn't come to discredit everything God has already taught you, and everything that has been passed down to you through tradition. All of that stuff--the sacrificial laws and opaque prophecies--they were pointing to me. I came to fill those ancient words with new meaning; or really, to show you the meaning that has been there all along. Don't take this lightly or use me as an excuse to ignore what Scripture actually says. Not a single law or word of prophecy will become obsolete until it has accomplished everything it was intended to accomplish. Whoever makes nothing of one of God's commands--no matter how small and inconsequential it seems--and then leads other to do the same, that person is accomplishing nothing of eternal value. On the other hand, anyone who obeys them and even teaches them to others, that person is spreading the character of God in huge ways.

But listen closely, even if you obey the law as well as the most meticulous priest or pastor you can imagine, that still wouldn't put you in relationship with God.

Growing up you were always taught that you shouldn't murder. If you did, you'd be considered guilty by everyone. But I say that even if you get mad at a friend you're guilty. If you insult him to his face you should go to court; actually, if you tear him down with your words you deserve death. This is so important that if you're sitting in church and realize that things aren't right with a friend, you should get up and walk out. Go to your friend and make things right, then go back to church. Along the same lines, if someone sues you, figure things out with them before it goes to court. Otherwise you'll be at the mercy of the judge and once you get your sentence, your power to compromise and make things right will be gone.

Growing up you were always taught that you shouldn't sleep around. But I'm telling you, if you even look at a woman in an impure way, that's just as bad! If your biggest struggles start when you look places you shouldn't, cut your eyes out of your head and throw them off a cliff. Or if your hands are the problem, slice them off and feeds them to the dogs. Seriously, aren't you better off losing a small piece of who you are, rather than letting your whole body be dragged along and destroyed by the miseries of sin?

If you want to divorce your spouse, you're considered a respectable person as long as you fill out all the paperwork. But the way I see it, if you leave your wife for any reason other than sexual unfaithfulness, you're forcing her to break her vows, and anyone who marries her is committing adultery.

You were always told not to break your oaths, but I say don't swear oaths at all. Anything you could possibly swear by--heaven, earth, Jerusalem--they were all created by God. Even your own head isn't under your power! You could stare in a mirror all day long and not be able to change the color of one hair, so how do you expect to have power over future events? Speak with confidence about the present; leave the future in God's hands.

"If you hit me, I'm going to hit you back." That's your right, isn't it? But what if you didn't resist people who mean to harm you? What if, when someone punched you in the jaw on the right side of your face, you turned your left jaw so they had a clear shot? And if someone thinks you owe them your shirt, why not give them your coat too? If someone wants something from you, give it to them!

It seems natural to love your friends and family, and to hate the people who hurt you. But I say, show kindness towards the people who have hurt you most deeply. Desire good things for them! If you do, people will recognize God's character in you. Think about it. People who hate God and spend their lives cursing his name, they get to experience the beauty of a sunset or a starry sky just as often as those who have dedicated their lives to serving God. If you claim to follow God, imitate him in that! What's so noble about showing love to your friends, anyway? Everybody does that, even the very worst people. Don't define your goodness by comparing yourself to criminals; you will always be able to think of someone worse than yourself. Try comparing yourself to the perfect Creator, then see how you match up.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Matt. 5:3-16

They're better off, the ones who have been beaten to a crawl,
because in the end, they get God.
They're better off, the ones whose hearts are torn by sharp sorrow,
because they will be held by the King who has suffered.
They're better off, the ones who are gentle,
because this world belongs to them.
They're better off, the ones who hunger and thirst for what is good,
because in the end, they will be full.
They're better off, the ones who show kindness when pain is deserved,
because they will be shown kindness in place of pain.
They're better off, the ones who never turn their gaze from the face of God,
because they get to see Eternal Beauty with their own eyes.
They're better off, the ones who restore broken relationships,
because people will know that God is their Father.
They're better off, the ones who are hunted down and tortured for living like Jesus,
because they are experiencing abundant life.
You're better off when people question your integrity behind your back, even though you're trying your hardest to follow Christ. Get excited and celebrate, because you get to be with God! Anyway, it's proof that you're doing something right, because people who follow God have always been treated like that.
God made you to be salt in this world. But if salt becomes bland, can it be filled with flavor again? It's worthless and will be thrown out in the street, where people will step on it and never even notice.
God made you to be a light in the darkness. You wouldn't build a city on a mountain peak unless you wanted people to see it. And would you light a lamp only to cover it with a blanket? No! You would put it in the darkest room of your house and let it chase away the shadows. In the same way, let God's character shine through you, so that when people look at you, they know what God is like and want to know him for themselves.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Poem

Snow blankets the earth as I watch from inside.
I'd forgotten 'til now what the cold feels like.
The handshake is harsh,
But the beauty is gentle
And meek.

Strangers next door keep conversation polite,
But Ehrky and I choose to stay out of sight.
He doesn't pick sides,
But he shadows the doctor
By night.

Scanning shop windows in a foreign land,
An ornament preaches from a castaway stand.
Engraved on a dove:
Ich werde bei dir 
immer sein.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Pink plastic tea cups
Tipped up, pinkies out.
It is play—but how formal!

How normal it is
To sit here, Astroturf
Beneath our toes. It grows,
I think. Though slowly,

Rising from the field:
The smell of mud, and drums.
Blood runs to the sky.
Guns may kill, but scars
And stripes can only save
A dead man.

The weather’s fair today.
Here’s cotton for your ears;
A cloth, for the smell.