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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost 1915 Read the rest of this entry »

At some point during the life of every believer, we doubt. We doubt if we have been saved, we doubt that we truly believed, and we even doubt if God exists. It is natural and a part of our growing process, and even the disciples doubted and questioned before the resurrection. Nevertheless, how do we deal with those times of doubt? What assurances can we look to in order to know that we are truly Christians? Here in Romans 10:9-11 Paul writes a simple confession that helps assure our faith. Read the rest of this entry »

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:5-8

Here we see that Jesus is instructing his disciples in the manner in which they should not pray. Yet there is one poignant observation that should be made in which Jesus uses the term “when” in reference to our prayers. Though subtle Jesus is showing that his disciples are people who pray; even though the term is a subjunctive, implying “whenever”, it carries the force that we are to be a people who pray. Moving from that understanding, we find next that Jesus tells us how we are not pray. Read the rest of this entry »

33Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.37 Let what you say be simply Yes or No; anything more than this comes from evil

In these verses Jesus is calling to account the Pharisees teachings about the taking, and making, of oaths. In the Old Testament God had commanded that Israel make oaths in his name. We find this specifically mentioned in Deut. 10:20 where God commands, “You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.” (emphasis added)

What this command is teaching is the seriousness with which one was to take an oath. The teaching of the Old Testament is concerned with truth and honesty which is why in Exo 20:16 it is commanded not to bear false witness. This command is so strong that it invokes the name of God when making an oath and in ancient cultures this meant that you were submitting yourself to their righteous punishment of the God should you fail to fulfill your oath. What then does Jesus take issue with in Matt 5:33?

The Pharisees taught that what mattered in the making of an oath was the verbiage that was used. In fact there is an entire mishnaic tract dedicated the subject. A famous example which is given reads that if one makes an oath “by” Jerusalem it is not a binding oath; however, if one makes an oath “towards” Jerusalem then that is an oath that is binding in the sight of God. Instead of promoting truthfulness and honesty as the Old Testament taught they created “loopholes” which allowed for deception and deceit.

Jesus further goes on to show the failure of the Pharisees to understand that making an oath by anything is actually the same as taking the name of the Lord in your oath. The reasoning behind this is seen in verses 34-36 where he briefly explains. One cannot swear by heaven because that is the throne of God, and one cannot swear by the earth because that is his footstool. It is interesting that one would consider making an oath by heaven when that is expressly stated to be the dwelling place of God. Further the earth is God’s creation and as such he has dominion over it as the creator. One cannot swear by Jerusalem (and the Greek of this phrase can be “towards” demonstrating Jesus’ sense of sarcasm) because that is the city of the great king. We would do well to remember that Jerusalem was the site of the Temple and as such the earthly dwelling place of God, housing the ark of the covenant within the Holy of Holies. Finally one should not even swear by their head because we have no control over the color that our hair will be, we are, like the earth, God’s creation. So anything one makes an oath by leads back to making it by the Lord and so it is binding. Jesus then offers a better solution.

Instead of the taking of oaths Jesus is instructing that we need to be men and women of our word. The kingdom of God should be inhabited by those people who can be trusted for their honesty and truthfulness. When we say that we are going to do something then we need to do it. Likewise if we have committed not to do something we need to refrain from doing that thing which we have said we would not do. No longer should we be making oaths using flowery language in order for people to believe us, but rather we should be people who are known for our honesty and truthfulness.

One side note is that this does not prevent us from taking oaths within a legal context as some have interpreted. In those cases that is a political demand and one that is not in conflict with the Scriptures. Should one be called to be a legal witness it is acceptable and right to take the oath on the stand.

I have this rule: never go to bed angry with someone. I try very hard to follow this rule, and there have been times that it has made for some very long nights. This principle comes from Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger…” and most of the time this can be very easy to follow. Sometimes, not so much.

A few nights ago I treated my father-in-law badly and after he left my wife called me out on it. At the time, it made me pretty upset; partially at her, and mostly at myself. It was also late in the evening and she was getting ready for bed, but because of my rule I didn’t want things to sit between us. Thankfully it was something that we were able to talk through quickly, and while we were still upset with each other, we were no longer angry with each other. I went over the next day and apologized to my father-in-law and everything was good.

Now let’s consider what might have happened if I, or my wife, had just let things go. Perhaps the route things may have taken would be one filled with bitterness and resentment. She could hold that in mind every time she looks at me and those feelings would come back and continue to fester. Eventually we would be fighting over things that don’t matter because of this bitter root that was never expressed and we may never get back to the actual issue.

With the divorce rate being so high today having rules like this in place help to maintain communication between spouses. By not allowing the sun to go down on anger we enable our relationships to go back to a healthy, or neutral, status. Keep a short account and if you have to get a little less sleep, that’s okay. Better to have a good marriage than to get more sleep!

June 2017
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