Sermon on the Mount

Imaginative Exercise: Storm Alert

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 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. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7:25-29

Jesus makes the subtle statement that storms inevitably come. They come for us all at some point in time. They even come for those who follow Jesus. If you glance forward in the book of Matthew, you’ll see that Jesus leads his disciples right into a storm (Matthew 8:23-27). It seems that the storm was one of Jesus ways of shaping the faith of the disciples.

Spend some time looking at this famous painting by Rembrandt (1632). Look at the different expressions on the faces of the disciples.

As you look at this picture, what is one storm from your life that comes to mind? Which person in this picture do you associate with most? How do they reflect how you normally respond to the storms in life? How can you imagine an intimate relationship with Jesus and a life built on practicing his words helps your life stand through the storms?

By Ryan Paulson 

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Imaginative Exercise: Storm Alert2019-02-09T12:05:58-07:00

Building Materials = Practice

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

My 8-year-old grandson who loves football informed me today his dad told him he wasn’t coachable. “Why?” I asked. “Because I won’t listen and do what he asks,” he said. Here is Jesus at the end of the Sermon on the Mount asking us, his disciples, if we are coachable. Every coach wants players willing to accept corrections and put them into action. Jesus asks his followers if they will trust him, humbly submit to his authority, and live in his way with a heart like his Father’s. God uniquely chooses and equips every member of his team. We just have to make the choice and commit to him.

A team isn’t built overnight however, it takes practice. Muscles aren’t built without repetitions, musicians don’t become skilled without discipline. Houses won’t stand against the storms without being built upon a solid foundation. Practice requires hearing and doing, listening, obeying, and putting your whole heart into it.  Jesus said the house that stood was built into the rock. Petra is rock in Greek, which means not a stone or a boulder but a massive outcropping. We have to use the building materials of practicing to grow a strong faith, stand firm and defend the truth.

Are you coachable? Jesus says hearing his words and doing them will make us wise. Our culture defines wise as living in the present and living for yourself. God says wisdom is living for him, serving others and the eternal Kingdom. We have a rock to build on. Jesus isn’t looking for superficial saints but deeply invested disciples. Practice building your life by hearing and doing. You could take time to read the Fall Connections Guide handed out recently and listen to God’s “coaching” for your “practicing” this fall.  What do you hear God calling you to do? Make a goal and a plan to build some spiritual memory muscle. If you need help, call our connections pastor, Yvonne Biel, at the church office: 303-797-1500.

By Donna Burns  

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Building Materials = Practice2019-02-09T12:06:00-07:00

Building Materials = Relationship

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 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 in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23

My wife and I enjoy watching the cooking show “Chopped.” On the show, each of the contestants has a set amount of time to utilize each of the items in a mystery basket and quickly prepare a great dish. Throughout the show, the camera pans to a previously recorded interview with each contestant. In this interview, each person shares their motive for being on the show and winning the $10,000 prize. Some want to boost their own business, while others hope to support a family member. Still others hope to make a difference in the community. Outwardly, it looks like they are all doing the same thing as they cook, but inwardly, their motives vary widely.

In Jesus’ teaching here at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, he is contrasting two lives. As we saw yesterday, we are all building a life. The decisions we make and the character we develop begins to form the foundation of our “house.” On the outside, it may look like all religious people are doing the same good things. Many are prophesying, driving out demons, and performing miracles in Jesus’ name. What could be wrong with that? Why would Jesus speak so harshly and say to them, “I never knew you!”? So what makes the difference?

At our core, Jesus desires a relationship with us. As we build a life, we must build our lives on him through faith. Jesus desires that we do the will of God from a place of relationship, rather than performance. There is great danger in fixating only on our outward duty and actions. We may think we can be “good enough” on our own strength. We may do many religious things for God such as giving to the poor, serving in our communities, tithing regularly, etc . But in doing so, we may miss the point. The true question is: do we truly know Jesus? God is much more interested in our relationship with Him than our performance for Him. When we begin to understand this, we experience a renewed freedom as we experience intimacy with Christ. Our hearts begin to align with His.

Today, read through John 15. What would it look like for you to abide in Christ? To rest in His love and to enter more fully into a deep, intimate relationship with Him? Take some time to write down a few things you are learning about the personality of God from this passage.

By Billy Berglund

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Building Materials = Relationship2019-02-09T12:06:00-07:00

Building A Life

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

We’re all in the construction business: we all build our lives. And, just like our homes, the foundation is what everything rests on. If the house’s foundation is weak, it can fail. The tricky thing about house foundations is they are largely unseen, including rebar, a key, strength-giving component. Throughout our lives, we make decisions with lasting effect, either reinforcing our foundation like rebar, or weakening it. If the foundation of our lives is weak, it too, can fail. It may not be as obvious as a house collapsing, but it leaves its own marks and scars.

Our lives’ foundations are really not visible to others. And, the foundation of those around us aren’t visible as we’re unable to see the heart. Only God can do that (1 Samuel 16:7). The good thing about all this is that we’re not responsible for the construction of each others’ foundation. We’re responsible for our own. Certainly, if something seems out of place, from what we can see, speaking in love with our fellow ‘construction worker’ could help their foundation becoming stronger.

While there are people who spend their lives building their homes, usually it doesn’t continue after the initial construction. Life building is vastly different! We’re continually building throughout the duration of our lives. It doesn’t stop. One decision leads to another, time after time, and we put another ‘brick in the wall.’ The most important ingredient in our lives is Jesus, and our relationship with him. This passage makes that very clear: Those who did these miraculous things had no relationship with Jesus. They were just wearing the right clothes and saying the right things. The decisions we make matter. Their impact leaves marks.

As you look at your life, wandering through one room after another, think about your foundation. What is your life built and dependent upon? Is the foundation constructed on a relationship with Jesus? Or are you going through the motions, copying what seem to be the right things to do, looking and sounding as if you’re part of something you’re not?

By Rich Obrecht 

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Building A Life2019-02-09T12:06:00-07:00

Imaginative Exercise |Galatians 5:22-23

READ: Galatians 5:16-25

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

REFLECT: Trees are meant to bear fruit. In fact, the act of bearing fruit reveals what kind of a tree the tree is (Matthew 7:16). In this passage, the Apostle Paul tells us how we bear good fruit (by staying in step with the Spirit) and what that fruit is. Review the list he gave.

Spend a few moments and think back through your previous day. What type of fruit did you bear? Were there times when you resisted the Spirit’s work and bore “acts of the flesh” such as jealousy and anger?” Who was hurt by your unwillingness to stay in step with the Spirit? Spend some time in confession and repentance.

My guess is there were also times when you saw the Fruit of the Spirit in your life because you were in step with God’s Spirit. Maybe there was one characteristic you saw rise above the others. Take some time and think through what was going on in your heart when that fruit was borne. Also think about how that fruit benefited the people around you. After all, trees don’t eat fruit. Rather, they produce fruit for the benefit of others. Who was the beneficiary of your staying in step with the Spirit today?

RESPOND: Take a deep breath and soak in the truth that Jesus is there with you. Close by asking Him to help you stay in step with his Spirit today. Ask him to give you eyes to see the people you interact with today who might need to be reminded of his presence. Pray that you might bear good fruit in the lives of the people you love – that they might reap the benefits of your staying in step with Jesus’ Spirit today.

By Ryan Paulson 

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Imaginative Exercise |Galatians 5:22-232019-02-09T12:06:01-07:00

Narrow Walk of Jesus | Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easythat leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14

This passage is full of contrasts. And really, the Sermon on the Mount has been full of them as well. Our God is an artist and He uses language masterfully to communicate.

How can a narrow gate lead to life? Isn’t that counter intuitive? But hasn’t the whole Sermon on the Mount been counterintuitive up to this point? Choosing forgiveness, praying for our enemies, not being anxious.

I think the biggest contrast we see here is that those choosing the wide gate actually think they are choosing a path to life. Instead, it leads to destruction. Isn’t that how Satan works? He promises freedom, satisfaction, happiness, but in the end we find ourselves knee deep in sin, disappointment, and guilt – enslaved by our desires.

Ironically, the narrow way Jesus invites us to is not easy but it leads to life. True freedom. Joy, Real joy. This path holds life now. In this life. Not just in the life to come. Wholeness and peace in relationships and peace in my soul now. Choosing trust rather than worry is harder but it leads to life. Choosing to value God’s kingdom over earthly treasure is difficult but it produces godly fruit. Choosing to resist lust is the harder road but behind it leaves a legacy of integrity and faithfulness.

Though the way is hard, we are not alone. Jesus walked it. He walks it with us now. We follow His invitation to enter in with Him. And though the way is narrow, the promise of His presence makes the burden light (Matthew 11:30).

Today, think back through some of the themes and teachings from the Sermon on the Mount: lust, forgiveness, money, worry, reconciliation, prayer, fasting, judgement, etc. Ask yourself: Am I choosing the narrow way? The way of Jesus? This is not merely the moment of salvation; this choosing of the narrow way is how we live out each of these themes in our everyday, minute by minute lives. If you’ve found yourself on the wide path, heed Jesus’ call to enter the narrow gate. He has made it accessible to you, to all. As you reflect on this and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you on the path of life, may your soul be encouraged by this song: Christ Be All Around Me.  

By Ellen Rosenberger 

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Narrow Walk of Jesus | Matthew 7:13-142019-02-09T12:06:01-07:00

Narrow Way of Life | Matthew 7:15-19

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15-19

Beware! This single word from Jesus should challenge us to lean forward and pay attention. Then Jesus tells us there is a type of person who looks harmless and gentle (sheep’s clothing) but is inwardly dangerous (ravenous wolves). I’d like to turn the question back on us. What if we are the wolves? What if we are the ones who others should be watching out for? I’ve always assumed this text was talking about someone else. I’ve also tended to assume that it is someone I wouldn’t like anyway because none of my close friends could be wolves, could they?

Jesus says that we can tell whether a person is a wolf by their fruit. What fruit do I produce? Let me ask it differently: how is my way of life producing goodness, grace, life, and hope in this world? This challenges me so much. For much of my life I’ve thought that my aim as a believer was to learn the correct set of beliefs and try to convince myself that I believed them. Oh, I also thought some actions were important but only the ones everyone saw, like church attendance, smiles on Sunday, and appearing to be put together. Christians are not perfect but they should be continually transforming into the image of Jesus. We must ask ourselves if that is actually happening. The way we test our doctrine and beliefs is by the fruit (transformative power) of those beliefs.

I believe Jesus is a pragmatist. He advocates for a way of life that actually works in the real world. He created us and the world so he is uniquely qualified to know what works well. The way of Jesus is a way of living and it should change us into something better. Dallas Willard jokingly said in an interview, “if there was a better way, Jesus would be the first one to recommend it.” So, how is your fruit? Do your actions and beliefs actually help you become a better human being?

Try using a tool that Willard calls VIM (vision, intention, means). Think about an aspect of your character that you want to see transformed for today. Vision: imagine behaving and feeling differently. If you struggle with anger, imagine responding in a situation without anger. Intention: commit in your heart to figuring out how to respond the way you have imagined. Intend to do it. Means: choose a few practical activities to help yourself succeed in your intention. For example, plan to get some more sleep or have a go-to action in mind when anger flares up.

By Aaron Bjorklund 

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Narrow Way of Life | Matthew 7:15-192019-02-09T12:06:01-07:00

Natural Way Vs. Narrow Way | Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14

Decisions. Everyday we make lots of them: what to do, what to say, what to wear, where to go, what to eat. The list is endless. If you are like me, sometimes you have trouble making decisions.  I fight to hold my tongue and not say hurtful words. I struggle at a store not to make an over-the-budget purchase. I agonize over resentful feelings and time management. All these decisions reflect the constant conflict between the natural sinful man and the spiritual man at war within us as Paul writes about in Romans 7:21-25.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus helps us in our daily struggle to choose well. He presents some of the areas we have to choose between: the two masters, two treasures, two preoccupations, two crowds, two destinations, light and darkness. What do these choices look like for the Kingdom of God? Seek first his presence, and worship him alone. Develop Christlike character, by increasing our faith, our hope, our love, and knowledge of his word. Strive through prayer and example to introduce others to Christ while there is still time. And use our time, talent, and treasure to benefit Kingdom causes. Though these are general ways we live out the Kingdom, Jesus has personal ones for each of us as well.  

Enter the narrow gate. It’s a command to take urgent action. The gate Jesus invites us to choose is narrow and the road is straight. It’s difficult and takes determination, but it is life. God provides us a way in, through Jesus. It is accessible. Our life depends on these choices. The kingdom of God living through us on earth depends on our decisions. We can do this, together, with Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Walk back through the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6, and 7. Ask God to show you the steps you have taken to follow Jesus on the Narrow Way, or the steps you need to take.  Be specific about what God reveals to you.

By Donna Burns  

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Natural Way Vs. Narrow Way | Matthew 7:13-142019-02-09T12:06:01-07:00

Imaginative Exercise | Matthew 7:12

12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Imagine you woke up one morning and this was your day. As you move through this imaginative exercise pay attention to what emotions come up in each interaction.

Beep. Beep. BEEP! Time to get up. Another day. But you’re tired. You stayed up late last night getting school lunches ready and cleaning up the kitchen, because it’s easier getting things done around the house when kids are asleep. You groggily get ready for your day and your spouse asks you a question. Your snappy response causes raised eyebrows. But they give this reply, “You must be pretty tired after working hard last night getting things ready for the kids. I hope you can get some rest in your day.” After breakfast one of your kids offers a “thank you for the food” and proceeds to clear the table on their own.

On the drive to your doctor appointments you approach a four-way stop at about the same time as another vehicle. The other driver smiles and waves you on. As you enter the doctor’s office a stranger holds the door open for you and says a warm “good morning.” While you fill out paperwork, the nurse gifts you with a genuine compliment. Later you get a text from a friend saying they’ve been thinking about you and praying for you.

You stop by the grocery store; as you’re trying to get a toddler and a baby in your van and load up groceries, your toddler pukes all over themselves and you. Someone had just parked right next to you. Instead of merely asking “Do you need any help?,”  they just do. They hand you wipes, load your groceries and take the cart to the corral. At home, a meal with a kind note is waiting for you. Your anger spills out on a child who has neglected chores, they embrace you and say “I love you. And I’m sorry.”

The dreaded thread pops again – a stream of messages with a family member you’ve been having a conflict with. You know the previous message you sent was filled with accusation and emotion. You read their simple reply: “I can see how you feel that way. That must have been really difficult for you.”

Your head hits the pillow and you remember these words from Romans 5:8: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So undeserving of how you were treated all day. And yet that’s how Jesus treated and treats us. Lavish love. Intentional love. For sinners.

Review how this imaginative exercise made you feel throughout “your day,” and go and do likewise. Help a stranger. Offer words of empathy. Choose to react in kindness to unkindness. Be generous. Isn’t that what you would like others to do for you?

By Ellen Rosenberger 

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Imaginative Exercise | Matthew 7:122019-02-09T12:06:01-07:00

Intention to Love | Matthew 7:12; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

In 2009, Simon Sinek wrote a book entitled Start With Why that eventually became a bestseller and he gave a TED Talk that now has almost 40,000,000 views. Sinek proposed that we often approach life and business incorrectly. We start with the wrong question. We start with what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it, but we fail to ask the most important question: why are we doing what we’re doing? Sinek argues that this one question can help both individuals and organizations keep their values and create productive pathways that will lead to their flourishing. If we start with the wrong question, we never end up in the right place.

Jesus knew the power of a clarifying question. In Matthew 7:12 he said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus calls on people to live their life asking one simple question: what would I want other people to do to me? How would I want to be treated? Jesus knows that wired into our souls is a desire for our own good. In his brilliance, he calls us to utilize that self-love as a way to discern how to accurately love others.

Jesus goes so far as to suggest that if we ask this question and act on the answer, we will in turn keep the entirety of the scriptures (the Law and Prophets). That’s quite the statement! Everything Jesus wants of us is contained in projecting the love we have for ourselves onto the other. What if we started asking that question more? If I were difficult at work: how would I want to be treated? If (when) I cut someone off in traffic: how would I want to be treated? If I had immigrated from another country: how would I want to be treated? If I were responsible for a  miscommunication: how would I want to be treated? If I fail: how would I want to be treated?

It’s a powerful question. It’s a clarifying and helpful question because we typically know the answer to it – we know how we would want people to interact with us. Jesus simply says, you know what you would want others to do to you…now go and do that to others.

Today, read through 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 one time slowly. Then, read it again, but everywhere the passage says “love,” put your name in the place of love. Use this practice as a prayer asking to become this kind of person.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

By Ryan Paulson 

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Intention to Love | Matthew 7:12; 1 Corinthians 13:4-72019-02-09T12:06:01-07:00
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