The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash (Matthew 7:27).
It’s terrible when houses fall.
It’s worse when lives fall.
Don’t fall, Beloved.
But everyone who hears these words of mine but does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand (Matthew 7:26).
…but does not put them into practice…
Wouldn’t wanna let that slip by, would we?
It’s the end of the semester. A twelve-year-old student stands in front of me, eyes rimmed with panic, and asks, “What can I, like, do to, like, you know, like, raise my grade?”
“Easy,” I respond. “Build a time machine, travel back a few months, and do the things I told you to do then.”
I have a tendency toward sarcasm. It’s not always helpful.
As a teacher and a father and a brother and a friend I’ve dispensed a load of advice over the years. Most of it solid. Much of it ignored. There are few things as frustrating as handing someone the solution to their problem, wrapped up with a metaphorical bow, and then see them walk away and toss it in the metaphorical trash can. You know the feeling, because you’ve been there yourself.
I’ve also received plenty of excellent advice over the years, much of which I’ve ignored. That’s not nearly as satisfying to talk about, however, so I’m not going to.
Good, godly advice is a treasure not to be wasted. And there is no gooder, godlier advice than that which comes from our good God. His words are life; what say we live them today, ya?
Happy Wednesday, Beloved.
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock (Matthew 7:25).
Family and I went camping once upon a time.
Oh yeah, we’re great campers.
God, in his wisdom, decided to impress the above Scripture upon us in a delightfully graphic way. He sent wind. Really windy wind. All night our tent sagged and swayed and slipped and smooshed and threatened to take us to Munchkin Land. Not restful, and decidedly not peaceful, and mildly terrifying.
We’ve spent numerous windy nights in our house over the years. Nothing much to report. It’s actually kinda fun sometimes, if we notice it at all.
Because our house is built on a solid foundation.
And…you know…it’s not made of fabric.
Every life has storms, Beloved. Where will you spend yours?
How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore (Psalm 133).
When I was little, my mom used to sing to me at bedtime. One of my favorites went like this:
Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
In today’s climate, some will consider that song wildly inappropriate. “Red children? Yellow? How racist!” Others will ask, “What about brown children? Why are they left out?” None of those questions ever came into my little-kid brain. All I heard was that Jesus loved us all; all children were precious to him.
Today we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. The best way to do that? Dwell together in unity, brothers and sisters of the One who loves us all.
The oil is entirely optional.
Happy Monday, Beloved
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock (Matthew 7:24).
I haven’t built a house, but I have built a shed.
Before you get the wrong impression and think I’m handy or something, you might wanna read this post from long ago. Then you’ll understand that when I say that I built a shed, I mean that I squinted and made man sounds while friends who actually knew what they were doing designed and laid out the structure and showed me which end of the hammer to swing.
I did most of the roofing myself though…course I fell off the ladder.
Another story for another time.
The point is, we poured a concrete foundation. I wanted this structure to last, and I was told that stability begins at the bottom. If your foundation isn’t solid, it doesn’t really matter what you build on it, you’re gonna wobble.
Build well today, Beloved.
Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22-23)
Am I the only one who finds this terrifying?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m out there prophesying and performing miracles…although I do teach middle school, so the driving out demons part…
No, I get terrified by the thought that Jesus might one day say to me, “Hey! I don’t know you! Back off, Pal!” I think that maybe I haven’t prayed enough, or studied enough, or meditated enough, or been enough for him to know me, to accept me, to–
–and then I realize–
Once again, I’m worried about earning what I already have.
What was I thinking? Of course he knows me! He’s been with me every moment of every hour since I surrendered my heart and my throne to him. He’s seen me at my very best–which is none too great–and my very worst. He’s heard the thoughts that I share with no one else.
He’s been in the car with me when some idiot cuts me off.
Beloved, if you’ve opened the door, if you’ve asked Jesus to come into your heart and life and to forgive you and make you whole…he has. It’s an invitation he has promised never to turn down. The miracle isn’t that he knows us; it’s that he knows us to the core–and loves us still.
Which he does.
Happy Thursday, Beloved.
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).
Remember Middle School?
Yeah, I know it’s painful, but bear with me…
Whenever the teacher assigned you to groups, there was the one guy who talked a good game, and looked really busy, but actually didn’t accomplish anything.
Remember how annoying that guy was?
Yeah, so…don’t be that guy.
Happy Wednesday, Beloved.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them (Matthew 7:18-20).
Notice that Jesus says cannot instead of does not. A tree is simply incapable of producing fruit that is against its nature. Jesus is talking about teachers here, and reminding us to judge their message by the fruit it produces. Now I know some of you will extrapolate here. You will wig out over this, thinking “I sin sometimes. Sin is bad fruit. Therefore, I must be evil.”
Remember, Beloved. We are still in process. I have a rose bush in my yard that produces two kinds of roses. There are scraggly, grungy little reddish flowers that come from the wild root, and there are beautiful, healthy white blossoms that come from the bush that has been grafted in. When I take care of the plant and keep it well trimmed, the beautiful blossoms are evident. When I neglect it, the grungies take over. But that isn’t one tree bearing two kinds of fruit; it’s two trees vying for dominance. As it is with you, Beloved.
As it is with me.
Do a little gardening this morning. Prune your roses.
Happy Tuesday, Beloved
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:16-17).
The fruit of the Spirit is love.
Is this person loving?
The fruit of the Spirit is joy.
Does this person bring joy?
The fruit of the Spirit is peace.
Is this person a peacemaker?
And patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control? You know what to look for. If you don’t see the fruit, you gotta wonder about the tree.
Judge wisely, Beloved.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (Matthew 7:15).
So that’s where that came from!
You would think that sheep would not be fooled by a fake sheep. You would think that sheep would instantly recognize all the subtle differences between themselves and this newcomer. You would think that sheep would be able to discern that these differences are not merely small variations in preference or style, but fundamental, essential, core differences. You would think that sheep would know the truth well enough to spot the lie.
But then…sheep aren’t very smart.
Be smart, Beloved.