Sun, 26 May 2019
A lawyer was talking with a woman who had just lost her husband. He said to her, “Your husband did not leave a will, so we need to know the last words he ever said to you.”
She replied, “I don't want to tell you.”
The attorney said, “I am sorry for your loss, but he did not leave a will. We need to know his final words.”
But the woman refused. “I don't want to tell you,” she said. “It was something between the two of us.”
The attorney decided to try one last time. “Please, ma’am. Won’t you tell me your husband’s last words?”
Finally, the woman relented. “Okay, I'll tell you. The last thing he ever said to me was, ‘You don't scare me, woman. You couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with that old gun.’”
I trust that our relationships with others would never disintegrate to the point where we would actually shoot someone! But, as Jesus points out in the Sermon on the Mount, uncontrolled anger is just as deadly (and sinful) a force. We will take a look this Sunday at the danger of anger and how to be reconciled both with one another and God.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment”(5:21).
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire(5:22).
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly(5:23-25a).
Sun, 19 May 2019
Harvard is the oldest and, arguably, the most prestigious university in America. Not surprisingly, the competition for admission is stiff. Only about 5% of those who apply are actually accepted. Listen to these academic credentials for incoming freshmen:
To get into Harvard, you have to be nearly perfect academically. Truth is, it is hard to get into Harvard.
Let me pivot and ask you: “Is it hard to get into heaven?” Let me offer an answer: No, it is not hard; it is impossible--based on your own qualifications (and mark those final words well).
Listen to Jesus give the admission guidelines for heaven: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Were that standard not sufficiently high, he adds: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). What Jesus is saying is that you don’t have to be nearly perfect; you have to be perfect.
Perhaps you’ve been tempted to take solace in the hope that God might grade us on a curve. We just have to be better than the scoundrel scribes and Pharisees. Piece of cake, right? Not so fast.
There’s no curve in God’s grading scale. The passing grade is 4.0. 36. 1260. Perfection.
If this prompts a rising sense of alarm in you, good. The Sermon on the Mount, with its remarkably high moral demands, is not primarily given to tell us how we ought to live (though it does that). It is instead given chiefly to awaken us to the fact that we are dead in our trespasses and sins and that we don’t (and can’t) measure up left to ourselves.
It is given, first, to drive us to our knees in brokenness for our shortcomings, and, second, to lift our eyes heavenward in hope of mercy.
Join us this Sunday as we continue our walk through the Sermon on the Mount in our series called, “Culture Flip.”
“How to Get in to Heaven”
Sun, 12 May 2019
Culture Flip Week 2
Sun, 5 May 2019
Every year the Gallup organization releases a “World Happiness Report.” It ranks the countries of the world as to their happiness. Happiness is measured, in part, with survey questions such as, “Are [you] very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” “Very happy” responses are worth three points. “Pretty happy” is worth two points and “not too happy” is worth one point.
You might be interested to know where the United States ranks in the 2019 report. Let me go ahead and break the suspense: we are not #1. Despite our relative affluence and power, we don’t even make the top five or top ten. We barely squeak inside the top 20 at the #19 position. That’s ironic, isn’t it?
There’s an entire chapter in the “World Happiness Report” that explores this disconnect. Chapter five’s title begins, “The Sad State of Happiness in the United States.” Here’s a paragraph from that chapter:
“This decline in happiness and mental health seems paradoxical. By most accounts, Americans should be happier now than ever. The violent crime rate is low, as is the unemployment rate. Income per capita has steadily grown over the last few decades. This is the Easterlin paradox: As the standard of living improves, so should happiness – but it has not.”
We all want to be happy, but many of us are not. To make matters worse, we may not even know how to be happy.
But here’s the good news--there is a king who knows how to be happy—truly happy. It’s written into the very constitution of his kingdom. That King is Jesus and his constitution is outlined in the Sermon on the Mount.
Our U.S. constitution guarantees the right to the “pursuit of happiness.” And, to be sure, we’re all frantically pursuing it, but Jesus’ “constitution” guarantees the “possession of happiness.”
This Sunday we begin a study of that unparalleled teaching. It show the way to a happiness that is soul-deep and abiding, no matter what turn life takes.
“How to Be (Truly) Happy”