put God’s Kingdom first & have all else

Matthew 6:25-34

25“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?

26Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you worth more than they?

27Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying?

28And why do you worry about clothes?  Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread.

29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!

30If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you — you of little faith?

31So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ’ or ‘What will we drink? ’ or ‘What will we wear? ’

32For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

34Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Quote from Jesus, the Christ
Version: Holman Christian Standard Bible

Work towards the im-perishable

John 6:27

Jesus makes reference on how important it is to live your life the way God wants us to live.  In this instance some people followed Him after He journeyed overnight to another location.  Jesus perceived their wanting another meal, after all, who would not like a second meal if the first was pleasing and, quite frankly, a bit of a miracle?  He uses the situation as a springboard to highlight the importance of listening to God in our daily life.  Eating is important — we can’t live too well without it.  It’s just that living in the Kingdom is also necessary and healthy for us.

Paul correlates eating and the Kingdom of God in Romans 14:17. The Holy Spirit’s entanglement with righteousness, joy, and peace in his comparison means more than the eating of food.

Take time to truly nourish your soul: build some time with Jesus, set apart some time to pray, listen.  Chew the cud on God’s Word.  Consider Luke 16:13 (and surrounding verses).  You either serve God, or you are tied to the tethers of this world.

Big Lesson from “Little” Jude

Build yourself up.

Jude — Ah-a-al-l-l-l-l-l of it

Jude is tucked away at the close of the New Testament, just in front of Revelation.  When perusing through the Bible don’t blink or you’ll miss it.  It is 1 chapter in length, sincerely compelling us to “contend for our Faith”.  But the word “contend” is used in many translations.  It is defined as an ongoing effort, a struggle — I think upwards or uphill against gravity like climbing a mountain, with thorn bushes and obstacles along the path — towards a goal.  This goal is knowable, defined and is obtainable, reachable.

Jude’s unction for writing is to preserve a genuine Faith, the True Faith.  Giving examples of how God rewards the faithful he then begins a laundry list of worldly ideas.  Sometimes to know what it is we a talking about we take a look at what it is not.  I wish we could do without this but to know the True Faith it is sometimes good to remind ourselves what to stay away from.  This litany seems to drag on but verse 17 turns a corner.

In verse 20 you look to yourself and in prayer in the Holy Spirit you “strengthen” yourself.  Do not turn aside but keep the goal in mind.  Continue to tread towards the summit.

To carry this Faith you must know what the task is.  And use the Faith you already possess.  Could it be you are honing your Faith?  Like a pilot of an airplane flying to a destination making course changes along the way.  At takeoff the heading is established but nudges are needs to stay on course.  The Faith is summed up pretty well in Matthew 5.

Another practical application in these Covid 19 times is to watch yourself and stay healthy.  Watch how often you expose yourself to catching this disease or spread it to others.  I live in New York State and Gov. Cuomo has become the herald for lowering the transmission of Covid.  I applaud this attitude, others do not, which is their right to choose.  But for you: you take responsibility for your health and the health of people around you.

In Him,
Jeff

Thomas Merton’s Joy (by way of prayer)

“The true contemplative is not one who prepares his mind for a particular message. . .” Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton is portrayed as owning a great joy.  In Dialogues With Silence, a book of Merton’s writings and drawings, Jonathan Montaldo, editor, embodies Merton’s thoughts.  And captures the “joy” surrounding Merton with Merton’s own words:

(this is verbatim from pages xii and xiii)

. . .situated him among those rare human beings who love the life they are leading and who have found their own true place.  He reflects his typical joy as a monk in this journal entry dated May 21, 1963: Continue reading “Thomas Merton’s Joy (by way of prayer)”

Listening Prayer

Matthew 14: 25-29

There are many aspects to Prayer.  Examples: procuring items, plea for healing, calm your mind.

the ideas
may be jumbled

Let’s look at Listening Prayer

When you place your thoughts in God
God places thoughts in you

If this seems daunting to you try a small amount.  Begin with a minute.  Set your timer if you want,

 

“Lord, if you want,
I will climb out of the boat”

“Come” Continue reading “Listening Prayer”

Submit to Each Other (Become One)

The Jesus – God relationship is what our relationship (you and me) is to reflect.

Ephesians 5:21

Also Philippians 2:3
John 17, verses 11 and 22
Romans 14:5,

Submission: one of the more difficult areas of Faith.  Submit to a group, organization, individual person, God alone.  What is God’s will?  How is it qualified, quantified?  Confusion and competition when so many people and organizations want our attention, obedience.

We need to focus on Christ.

I foster the personal side of our relationship with God; where God communicates with us (substitute the word “me” for “us”) directly, unencumbered, open, raw — a relationship available for believers and non-believers, on an individual level.  (Admittedly, it would be hard for an unbeliever to have this personal thing going on while not believing).

I consider this relationship:

higher – it lives in Heaven above Earthly standards
more important – directly influencing
deeper – the most meaningful
our story – what we were meant for
further – wears better, like some old tattered jeans
more encompassing – a relationship without bounds
beyond – not held by Earthly bonds

Example:  As a Christian Musician, an ability not mentioned very much in this blog, I run across songs and instrumentals, or let’s say, ‘some melodies with words attached’ and ‘melodies without words’.  I am inspired by both! and I know both would be inspiring to Christians in the context of worship.  Yet when meeting with church musicians and pastors, I usually discover a much different view of which piece of music is “inspiring”, with the vast majority are “melodies with words attached”.  It causes me to wonder if we are losing the art of instrumental music in our worship services?

Do I listen to what I deem an “urging”, the call of the “Spirit within”, or not?

Continue reading “Submit to Each Other (Become One)”

Purifying and the Yardstick

James: 4:8  “purify your hearts” (ease your double mindedness)
Mark 4:24  be careful how you measure — what you use in measuring

What is the criteria you use when measuring yourself?

When you take stock in who you are, or “judge” yourself, be mindful of the standard you are using and choose the Standard God would have for you.

Put Others First

But can you truly, always put others ahead of yourself?

Philippians 2:3

This passage reveals a mindset we are to nurture: place other people higher than yourself.

An intriguing principle, and a virtue residing in the arena of a “matured” Faith, carrying a high degree of difficulty because to achieve God’s standard, you attach reigns to yourself.

But can you truly, always rank others ahead of yourself?

 

something more than cleansing rituals

Consider Hebrews 5:11 through 6:3.

The mature Christian Faith is defined as “beyond the cleaning rituals” used in preparing for a worship service.  And for that matter, this Faith surpasses ‘judgement for eternity’, ‘laying on hands’, and ‘defining what eternity will be like’.  So, true Faith, the way I envision it, is not the ceremonial aspects or traditions; but is rather the motivations behind our actions.  Why we do something, sometimes, might be of greater importance compared to what we do.  (I invite your comments about this).

But as is said a few verses later,

“We should have a life in the Spirit.”  

(There are several verses on this Spiritual Life sewn throughout the New Testament).  This “life within God’s Spirit” is the life Jesus “let out of the bag” to us.

The Spirit takes our hand leading us to a deeper relationship with God and, thus, a renewed relationship to humanity around us: seats us in relationship with God.  I emphasize “with God” specifically because, for example, we can talk to a person and not be talking with that person.  Talking with a person is a 2-way connection.  We talk to God and God talks to us.

After elaborating upon the above these passages, Hebrews 6:10 reassures us in that God is aware of our (your) deeds and amid the dreams, trials and accomplishments of this life, rewards you (and me).

Loving, Thanking, & Assuming

These 3 aspects of the Christian faith have been on my mind recently.  So I will help us to be mindful about all 3.

We need to check ourselves every now and then to make sure what we are saying and doing have perception as loving acts.  Sometimes in the way we treat other people we say things or do things and the other people don’t see, may not perceive this as a caring act.  We can mean well but they may not take it that way.

To be thankful for everything is an overwhelming aspect of the Christian Faith.  It’s difficult to be thankful when things are not going, or at least you perceive they’re not going well.  In this world we suffer losses and setbacks, heart aches and failures, but move your attitude to a place where thankfulness arises.

And the third item, this morning: assuming, can catch us off guard.  We know that other people think differently than I / we think: have different terminology, define words differently.  But it is fairly easy for me to go through my daily life thinking that other people, since they’re doing the same things — get out of bed, eat breakfast, go to work, buy groceries, meet with friends or family, go to church, watch a movie, read a book — are gathering the same ideas that I am gathering.  And as such, are forming the same opinions and attitudes as myself.  But there is a good chance they are shaped differently by these same experiences.

Be mindful.

-Jeff