Thursday, December 10, 2009

Heavy Stuff

Matthew chapter 6 starts off with a bang: Giving to the needy. This is something that is close to my heart. I am such a soft touch for giving all I can to those who need it. I have been there too many times-the one in need and been blessed by others. (Joe has to reel me in sometimes.) It's such a great feeling to give when you are able, but if we aren't carfeul, we may start giving only to get that feeling.

If we are giving only because we want to hold something over someone else's head or because we want to look good in front of others, we've missed the point. So much of the giving Jesus did He did in private. He told the people he healed not to tell anyone, but they usually ran off and yelled about it anyway. I probably would have too. Well....after I wrote that last line I had to stop and think for a minute. Would I? Do I? I guess I don't really that often. He has done so much for my family and for me personally, but I don't give Hm the glory very often-not publicly. Usually I'll offer up some cliche "we are blessed" or something like that. But if I really look at all the things God has done for me and the many, many times He has saved me from myself, I would probably fall over. I probably wouldn't be able to stop crying. If someone carried me out of a burning building and placed me out of harm's way, I would probably feel forever indebted to that person and do my very best to stay in touch and sing their praises. But I don't do that enough with God--the God who has carried me out of the worst imaginable burning building...

A key to this chapter seems to be, again, about motivation and genuineness (is that even a word?) Why do we do what we do? Is it so that others will think we are pretty great or because we truly want to please God? I really don't want to be fake...said that before...and this is an area where it's so easy to be fake.

Uh oh...lengthy aside about to take place...

About being fake... Christians are bombarded with stereotypes and expectations. The world holds a certain view of who Christians are and how they act. That's unfortunate but what's worse is that Christians sometimes adopt these same expectations of themselves and each other. Casting Crowns sings a song about this very thing..I know, a complete surprise that I would refer to them...It's called Stained Glass Masquerade. It's not exactly in topic for today, but important.

Prayer is also another area where Jesus says to be private. That doesn't mean we can't pray publicly, but our heart should be in the right place. Our goal when praying in public shouldn't be to impress others with how eloquently or beautifully we pray.

I kind of struggle with some thoughts on prayer. First of all, Matthew 6:7 says not to babble when we pray, but to get to the point (my paraphrase!) Maybe a rule of thumb could be: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sinner.) Now here's my struggle...I have also heard that God wants a relationship with us, that He wants us to have constant conversation with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:17; pray without ceasing or pray continually, depending on your version.) Soooooo how do I do both? I guess maybe the meaning here is to get to the heart of the matter. Be real with your prayers instead of yammering on with flowery words that don't get to the heart of it. God knows what we need anyway. The purpose of prayer isn't to fill Him in but for us to keep communicating with Him. I think about my kids...I know they get hungry and that they love me, but it's so nice to hear them say, "Can I please have some [insert food here]?" or "I love you mommy!" Even though I already anticipate these things or "know" them, it sure is nice to hear.

Part of our prayer is supposed to be asking forgiveness for our sins and asking for help in forgiving others. (Matthew 6:12). Then, verses 14 & 15 talk about us needing to forgive others if we want to be forgiven by God. I think that could be confusing if someone misunderstands that to mean that if we don't forgive others we aren't going to Heaven. I am by no means a Bible scholar, but I think it means that if we do not forgive in our hearts-if we continue to hold grudges and be judgemental of others-then there's a chance that we don't have a real relationship with God. After realizing all He has done for us (dying a painful death) and how we didn't deserve it to begin with (Romans 5:8) and we still hold to condemning someone else...something didn't "take" when we became a believer. Just my thoughts...I could be completely wrong...I think this is different from wanting to forgive someone but struggling with actually doing it.

The next part (Matthew 6:19-24) kind of confuses me a little because it seems to veer off topic right in the middle of the paragraph (kind of like my writing ). This section is about Treasures in Heaven. A "Mandy Paraphrase" is that we shouldn't put our heart into our possessions here on this earth because they are fleeting. Moths eat and destroy and thieves steal. We should put our treasures where they belong-where they cannot be destroyed-in Heaven. Matthew 6:21: "Where your treasure is there your heart will be also." I don't think it's "wrong" to have possessions, but if they become our focus over God, then something's wrong. The second part of verse 24 says, "You cannot serve both God and Money." Interesting that the word 'money" is capitalized in that verse-showing that it is a proper noun. Its importance increases in that verse., even then...2000 + years ago... people struggled with keeping up with the Jonses.'

The last section...and I am tired by now! about worrying. This is a subject I am intimately familiar with, unfortunately. I think I was ingrained with worrying since I was little. My mom is a worrier and she (unintentionally) passed that on to me. Now my kids get to experience my overly cautious, somewhat smothering idiosyncrasies.

I think the entire paragraph can be summed up by the thought that we ned to seek God first and everything else will fall into place. It won't always be dew drops on roses and whiskers on kittens, but it will happen. It usually happens in a way we least expect (since that's how God seems to like to work) and better than we could have ever planned or hoped. I love irony. He can even take what we have so miserably screwed up and make it work out. I am a prime example of that. I have run ahead, misjudged or flat out ignored God and did what I wanted too many times. Even still, I have been blessed in ridiculous amounts. I have learned some really hard lessons and still carry the scars of some of them, but they made me who I am.
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