“That One Rule” ( Matthew 7: 12, KJV ) by Carley Evans


We know how to give good gifts to our children, says Jesus. We know this even though we are evil. Jesus says if we know to give good gifts to those we cherish and guide, then we may expect God, our Father, to give even better gifts to us. All we need do is ask. And, we need to ask for that which is good.

Jesus says:

“Therefore, all things whatever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

“Therefore” because of God’s willingness to give good gifts to us, we must be willing to do good to everyone — not just good to those we love, our children.  If we expect God to be good to us, then we must be good to others. How can we accept goodness from the hand of God while dishing out evil to neighbors, co-workers, friends, strangers, enemies?

“Enter at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in that way; because narrow is the gate, and hard is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Jesus says it is so much easier for us to treat others poorly, without thought of the consequences to their hearts. The damage we do is the easy and broad way that leads to destruction. The narrow way is hard to follow; it’s tough to do good to others all the time. Sometimes, we are irritated, depressed, lonely, angry, insulted, haughty, insecure. Sometimes, from our hearts come all sorts of evil words and deeds.

Rather, look for opportunities to do good to others, even to those who may not treat you well. No one is beyond God’s loving-kindness. Find the narrow gate; walk in the hard way. If you stumble, pick yourself up and ask God to forgive you. Then, keep to the narrow walkway. It leads to life.

“Judge Not” ( Matthew 7: 1, KJV ) by Carley Evans


Jesus warns us not to judge others. As we judge others, we often call condemnation down upon ourselves, for the measure we use to judge others is the measure that is used to judge us. Unless we are without fault, then the judgment against us is greater because we fail to “consider the beam that is in [our own] eye” before we attempt to remove the “mote that is in [our] brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3)

And, what is that mote when compared to that beam?

If we are so busy looking for motes in others, we fail to find the beam in ourselves. The hypocrite is the one who pretends he is without fault; being without fault, the hypocrite falsely believes he is prepared to remove motes from others’ eyes.

 

“Unless You Turn” ( Matthew 18: 4, ESV ) by Carley Evans


Jesus’ disciples feign wanting to know “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1) Imagine them looking at one another, thinking – for example – “Surely I’m better than Matthew; after all, he’s a tax collector!” – or – “I’ve got to be greater than Judas; after all, he complains about wasting an expensive ointment, pretending he cares for the poor.” Martha must think, “I’m better than Mary.” After all, Martha complains about her sister, Mary – implying that she is lazy. Martha wants Jesus to rebuke her for sitting at His feet while she prepares the meal. Peter even briefly appears to think he’s better than Jesus, rebuking Jesus for saying that He will be killed and rise from the dead. “Far be it from You, Lord! This will never happen to You.” (Matthew 16:22)

When they ask Him about being the greatest in the kingdom of God, Jesus shows His disciples a child. He tells them that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus calls us to turn and become like children. Sounds similar to turning back the clock, perhaps wiping the slate clean and starting over from a place of innocence and great humility. We are to think better of others than we do of ourselves; treat others as we would wish to be treated. We are not to put stumbling blocks in the way of others; or lead others into temptation. Jesus warns, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened about his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,” says Jesus. “For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

“Aspire To The Realm Above” ( Colossians 3: 1, NEB ) by Carley Evans


Paul calls us to “aspire to the realm above.” John the Baptist says, “The kingdom of Heaven is upon you.” (Matthew 3: 2) Jesus says, “Is there a man of you who by anxious thought can add a foot to his height?” (Matthew 6: 27) Jesus points to the impossibility of anxiety changing our circumstances. He tells us our worries accomplish nothing of value, asking: “And why be anxious?” (Matthew 6: 27)

 

As we set our minds on things above, we are called to leave bitterness behind. Paul writes, “Have done with spite and passion, all angry shouting and cursing, and bad feeling of every kind.” (Ephesians 4: 31) We are instead to “be made new in mind and spirit, and put on the new nature of God’s creating.” (Ephesians 4: 23-24) We are not to lie but “speak the truth to each other.” (Ephesians 4:25) Whatever comes from our mouths should be “only what is good and helpful to the occasion, so that it brings a blessing to those who hear it.” (Ephesians 4: 29-30)

 

Jesus tells us, “‘You have learned that they were told, ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you this: Do not set yourself against the man who wrongs you. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn and offer him your left. If a man wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. If a man in authority makes you go one mile, go with him two.’ ” (Matthew 5:38-42) Jesus commands us not to judge; rather we are to forgive. “For if you forgive others the wrongs they have done, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, then the wrongs you have done will not be forgiven by your Father.” (Matthew 6: 14-15)

 

As we “aspire to the realm above,” the things of the world become less compelling. The “bad feeling of every kind” is — hopefully — lessened.

 

Jesus asks us, “Why are you such cowards?” He exclaims, “How little faith you have!” (Matthew 8: 26-27) Yet, He calls us friends, saying, “Follow Me.” (Matthew 8: 22)

 

As Jesus’ friends, we need only pray: “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17: 5) Help us, Lord, to “aspire to the realm above.”

“The Good News” (Luke 2: 8 – 11, ESV) by Carley Evans


Shepherds live out in the fields with their sheep. They stand watch over each and every one of them. The night is long, dark. Perhaps they take turns sleeping.

Angels appear, announcing the birth of a Savior in the city of David — David, who is also a shepherd, one of some note.

The angels come to humble men in the midst of their occupation. (Jesus does this often. He finds Peter the fisherman in the midst of fishing, Matthew the tax collector in the midst of collecting taxes. He interrupts lives, saying ‘Come, follow Me.’)

The angels interrupt the shepherds, announcing that a Savior is born to them. The Savior is come to save them.

This is Jesus’ message. He tells us He has come to save us from ourselves, from our sins, from our separation from God, from death itself. This is the good news.

“The Signs Of The Virgin Birth And of Jonah” (Isaiah 7: 14, ESV) by Carley Evans


God tells Ahaz to ask for a sign. But Ahaz responds, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”

So, Isaiah tells Ahaz and us that God will give a sign. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when He knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.” (Isaiah 7: 14 – 15)

The Son of God comes as “a great light.” (Isaiah 9: 2) He comes as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

When Mary and Joseph present their son as holy to the Lord on the eighth day of his life — offering a pair of turtledoves — Simeon, a “righteous and devout” man who is “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” sees Jesus. When Simeon sees the Christ child, he takes Him in his arms, saying: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation for the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.” (Luke 2: 25, 29 – 32)

Simeon lays eyes on the sign which God promises to Ahaz, and which Ahaz does not request.

Simeon tells Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2: 34, 35)

Jesus is a sign that is opposed.

Jesus Himself warns, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16: 4)

The two signs God gives us are the virgin birth of Jesus and the resurrection of Christ.

“Beware Of Sheep’s Clothing” (Deuteronomy 18: 15, ESV) by Carley Evans


God warns us not to speak “presumptuously.” We are not to presume that we speak “a word” from the Lord. “When a prophet speaks in the Name of the Lord, if the Word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken.” (Deuteronomy 18: 22)

God tells us we “need not be afraid of him,” of the one who has presumed to speak for God. (Deuteronomy 18: 22)

God forbids certain practices in the prediction of the future, including divination, fortune-telling, interpretation of omens, sorcery, necromancy, seances. Whereas God at one time spoke to us directly, the Lord says He will provide a prophet who is like Him. He says, “I will put My Words in his mouth, and he shall speak.” (Deuteronomy 18: 18) We are to listen to the Words of a true prophet. We are to test the prophecy and the prophet, however.

Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7: 15 – 16) Further He warns, “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 I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ” (Matthew 7: 22 – 23)

False prophets may very well do “mighty works,” but remain inwardly “ravenous wolves.” The mighty work may emerge from a practice which God forbids, or from motives not at all related to heaven’s calling.

God says, “That same prophet shall die.” (Deuteronomy 18: 20)

“Seasoned With Salt” (Psalm 1: 1 -2, ESV) by Carley Evans


The psalmist is not saying that we should not be around “the wicked.” Rather we are not to “walk in the counsel of the wicked.” We are not to “sit in the seat of scoffers.” We are not to base our decisions on the recommendations or rules of the wicked and scoffers.

Jesus does not come to take us out of the world, for we are “the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5: 13)
As salt, we keep the world seasoned, preserved, cured. We make the wounds of the world sting.

Paul reminds us to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” (Colossians 4: 5) He tells us to “let [our] speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that [we] may know how [we] ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4: 6)

Jesus prays to the Father, “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one… As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world… The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me.” (John 17: 15, 22 – 24)

“Pride Fails” (Ezekiel 28: 2, ESV) by Carley Evans


“Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god–“

 

James warns us, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?…Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us?’ But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4: 4, 5, 6, 10)

Solomon warns, “The Lord tears down the house of the proud;” (Proverbs 15: 25) and tells us that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16: 18)

Jesus preaches, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5: 5) “I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5: 39 – 44)

Humble yourselves; and God will exalt you.

“You Will Find Rest” (Psalm 119: 143, ESV) by Carley Evans


What has found me out, discovered me after a long hunt? Turns out that “trouble and anguish have found me out.” And this pain is the common ground of all men and women, boys and girls.

 

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” (Psalm 55: 4 – 6)

The difference is that, in the midst of this terror, Christians find delight in God’s commands.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” says Jesus. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I Am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28 – 30)