Sermon on the Mount – Insights for Life

OK!  No one faint!  My last post was October 14, 2012 and it wasn’t even a real post.  I cheated and re-blogged one of my daughter’s post’s to her website.  I openly confess, I have been VERY lax in blogging and have no real excuse.  I could explain that my life is extremely busy and I just haven’t had the time, but then that would just be a cop-out for “it has not been a significant enough priority.”  So there you have it;  it has not been a significant enough priority in my life.  I would like to say I am going to change that…  Maybe I will.  Then again, maybe it will be another 3.5 months before my next post.  I hope not!

With those formalities out-of-the-way…

The last several sermon’s I’ve preached to the youth, and this one to the adults, have had a focus on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  I find it significant that Jesus’ first sermon, in the first book of the New Testament, has so much meat for living our daily lives as Christians, followers of Christ!

After being obedient in His baptism, and being told that “this is my Son, in whom I am well pleased,”  Jesus is immediately taken by the Holy Spirit to be tempted and fast for 40 days and nights (To me the “nights” part is significant because when I commit to a fast for X number of days — when sundown comes on day X, it is over!!).  After conquering temptation and fasting, he immediately begins preaching repentance and gathering disciples.  His first recorded sermon starts by talking about be blessed — you can say that word with two syllables or one it still means the same thing. 🙂  Most people think of the word “blessed” as meaning either “happy” or “receiving favor”.  While both of those are valid and have something to do with its meaning, the Greek word we translate as “blessed” is “makarios” which implies a deep-rooted sense of well-being (because of our relationship with God).

To me the beatitudes are promises that we are assured of because we are followers of Christ.  When we are poor in spirit (lacking the fortitude to go on spiritually), we will be backed up by the kingdom of Heaven.  When we are morning, we will be comforted.  When we strive for righteousness, we shall receive the ability to achieve it (through Christ)….  And, when we are reviled and persecuted and spoken evil against because we are followers of Christ, we will be able to rejoice because Christ is storing up rewards for us in eternity!

Sure he has built up a small group of disciples by this time (Matthew 4), but He is preaching to thousands (compare to “televised” for the time) and telling them “when you are persecuted for MY SAKE,” you will receive awards in eternity.  No wonder they marveled at His teaching as “one who had authority and not as their scribes.”  (Matthew 7:29)  He makes the claim that if they followed him, they will be persecuted — who had the authority to make such claims — the Messiah!

And it just gets better form there…  Jesus repeatedly uses the phrase, “You have heard that is was said…” Typically, He says this when the then modern-day teachers have taken a scripture and either misinterpreted it, or taken it out of context, or both.  For instance, He says in Matthew 5:43, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy”  Nowhere in the Old Testament does it say hate your enemy.  This is clearly a reference to a popular teaching of the day.  All throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes the popular teaching of the Law at the time and takes it to a whole new level.  He reset’s the original intent of the Law — after all, He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17) — the only one capable of fulfilling it, and doing so on our behalf.

The bottom line, the Sermon on the mount is chock full of Christ’s “reset” on His intent in the OT.  Three short chapters in Matthew (5-7) contain His expectations on how He wants us to live our life, how we should react to circumstances we encounter in life, and how we are to treat others.  I think it is worth at least a week’s worth of repeated reading — hey why not 40 days.  After all the first two things he deals with in terms of life circumstances are (in order) anger and lust — coincidence?  I think not!

How have the teaching of the sermon on the mount affected your Life?  Care to share?

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re-blog: day 12: engage

Imagine what the world would be like if we were all transparent with each other, if we shared our struggles and allowed others who have been there to build us up.  And, we could build others up where we see struggles we have been through.  That would be amazing.  Honesty and openness!  Check out this wonderfully insightful post by my wonderful daughter!

day 12: engage.

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Oswald Chambers: A Man I Will Meat in Heaven

Oswald Chambers is one of those communicators that tells it like it is.  No sugar-coating, no dancing around political correctness (of course there was no need for political correctness in his time).  He just talks about the Word of God and exposes His truths in simple, matter-of-fact terms.  Just as God’s Word is black-and-white, Oswald exposes it to us in black and white.  Mostly what we have from Oswald is lectures that he gave as a professor at several Bible colleges in England and the US.  He has been teaching me since my brother’s wedding when as the best-man in the groom’s party I received a copy of “My Utmost for His Highest.”

In preparation for a couple of my sermons in the coming months, I ran across another book of Oswald Chambers entitled “The Moral Foundations of Life: A Series of Talks on the Ethical Principles of the Christian Life.”  You have to love titles from the early 1900’s, so formal and detailed.  The titles of Oswald Chambers’ books were created by family members or colleagues because all of his published works were printed after his untimely death from complications of an appendectomy.  (Why am I providing all these atypical details?  Because I want to encourage whoever is reading this blog to do a bit of your own research of Oswald Chambers’ life.  He truly is worth looking into.

So, the whole reason I was inspired to write this post after a long weekend that didn’t feel like a weekend, is this; I went back and re-read the very opening of the Moral Foundations of Life book and was astonished at the value and truth that is in every single word of his first paragraph.  Here it is in its entirety:

Beware of thinking of will as a faculty. Will simply means the whole nature active. We talk about people having a weak will or a strong will, it is a misleading idea. When we speak of a man having a weak will, we mean he is without any impelling passion, he is the creature of every dominating influence; with good people he is good, with bad people he is bad, not because he is a hypocrite, but because he has no ruling passion, and any strong personality knits him into shape. Will is the essential element in God’s creation of a man. I cannot give up my will: I must exercise it.

I would like to be able to say that I have always stood on my own will (wouldn’t we all), but that would be lie.  I have stood on both sides of this paragraph.  I have been so impressed by someone or something that I allow my will to be shaped by that influence, good-for-good, and yes, bad-for-bad!  And in these cases, as Oswald so simply states when I do this it is because I am not passionate enough about my beliefs and faith and give up my free will.  I allow myself to be influenced by someone or something else and at that point, give up the very gift of God that is key to our humanity.

One may argue that if we allow ourselves to be influenced by good and allow our wills to be submitted to those things, that is not so bad.  In my wife’s equine terms, “WHOA!!!”  God’s point behind free will is choice.  If we find ourselves “going with the flow” because the river we are floating in is Christian, we are still giving up our free will.  We are allowing other’s to determine our direction.  Or, as Oswald states, we are allowing our position to be determined by others, not because we are hypocrites, but because we have “no ruling passion, and any strong personality [that] knits [Us] into shape.

God gave us the ability to choose in ALL things.  We must determine to choose free will and not willingly give up the things we know are true and righteous because we are impressed by someone’s or something’s charm.  We have all been there, good or bad, impressed by someone or something and find ourselves blindly nodding our heads in agreement to the very thing we would, if we stepped back and stood and tested His will for our life, and said, “No, that is not true in my life.”  Instead, we find ourselves saying, “Yep, that could work for me.”

I want to encourage you to use your God-given gift of free will.  It is a gift, and like any gift is meant to be used, or as Oswald Chambers state “practiced.”  I love that verb (practice) because it means you get to do it over-and-over until you get it right.  There is no implied limit.  Just keep practicing!  When you find yourself blindly nodding your head in agreement to someone or something, do a check, “Do I WILLINGLY agree with this, or am I just nodding because it seems like the right thing to do at this moment.”  Then, behave accordingly!

To encourage others, share where you have stood on your free will and have been blessed, or blessed others by practicing your God-given gift!

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The Bunk House Vacation (Mission to Honduras)

The Faith 2012 Mission Family Picture

Living in a bunk house with 30 some people and in a room with six other guys (yes the night was filled with all sorts of strange noises) is not the typical way Mindy and I and the kids have spent our summer vacation. We’ve been on RV tours of the Southeast US, cruised the Caribbean and Atlantic oceans, holiday ski trips, cottages on the outer-banks… All in all some very nice vacations. About a year ago, we decided to spend this summer’s vacation on a mission trip. We checked into several mission organizations and discovered that they all required youth to be at least 14 years old. That was a deal breaker for us because our youngest, Brenna, is 11.

God is good and knew just the answer, about the time we were getting frustrated, my mother mentioned that she would like to take Brenna with her on her annual mission trip to Honduras. Mom is a seasoned veteran for this particular trip so we decided to tag along. Originally, all the kids were going to participate, but they are grown and school, work, and life had them all dropping from the team. While it wasn’t a whole-family vacation, it still ended up being a family vacation, just not blood-related family.

Our Home.

With the Bowman clan down to Mom, Mindy, Brenna, and I, we set about joining in on the fund-raisers, team meetings, and planning. In an earlier post (And Away We Go), I mentioned that despite all these activities with the team, we were what I would call acquaintances more than anything else. But then the trip happened and in a very short time, in the blink of an eye, we were family. I can’t say when the transformation occurred, but it did. You might think living with 30 people will do that, but it seemed to take place instantly, even in the airport. I suppose thinking back, I shouldn’t be surprised because the Holy Spirit has wonderful ways of bringing unity even among a diverse group of men, women, children, teens, young adults, middle-aged, and seniors. Psalm 133 says this (ESV):

133:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.

And Blessings abounded throughout our journey. On our closing evening in the bunk house, we had a wonderful candle light service where each person was able to talk about one (or several) thing(s) that impressed/touched them the most.

Candlelight memories

I am certain that we all could have talked for hours that evening remembering things that happened, people who touched our hearts, little hands that reached up for the love of Christ. You can read many of these details in Mindy’s posts (here, here, and here). While all of those things she mentions are spot on, I think what amazes me the most is how God can transform a diverse group of people into a unified body working on the great commission. Of course, God’s Spirit working through Kim (our fearless leader) had a good deal to do with that. His Spirit worked through each of us that week in ways that are incomprehensible unless you’ve been there and done it.

While I may have a serious battle would from a rough round of “pato, pato, gonzo” (yes, duck, duck, goose), I would go back in a second.

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The “Love Does” Project: Bigger than me!

Grand Spiral Galaxy: NGC 1232
Picture Credit: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap120107.html

Before we left for Honduras (stay tuned), I talked about the Love Does Project for the Ground Zero Youth Group.  My assignment to the youth before leaving for Honduras was for each of the youth to “get started” on their dreams.  Last night after worship, we had a check-point.  To my delight,  forward motion was made on most of the dreams.  We also had a couple of youth that did not get to participate in the first meeting of the Love Does Project, so their assignment for this week is to spend some intimate time with the Father this week and ask Him to give them their own Love Does dream.  One that is bigger than anything they can do on their own.  A dream that requires us to step out in faith and God to show up in ways we can’t imagine or perceive.

Before I elaborate on that last point, I want to provide a brief update on the individual Love Does Dreams:

Christian Marathons to raise money for Charities: Red Cross chosen as a charity, researched the requirements for sponsors, emergency medical, and security personnel.  Next steps: Contact Red Cross to work together on planning.

Juvenile Detention Center Ministry: Have correction office contact and will be work with them to understand the requirements and limitations of teens visiting teens in JDC.

Nursing Home Ministry: Select local nursing home and understand how youth can build relationships with the elderly in their care.

Military Ministry: Have Navy recruiter contact and will be working with him to understand how GZ can “adopt” several deployed military personnel to support via correspondence, prayer, care packages, etc.

Simms Park GZ worship: Working with the city council to secure permit and establish guidelines for meetings.  Setting a date for later this month to kick-off first event.

Orphanage Ministry: Selected a children’s home in Tampa.  Will be contacting this week to see how we can build “big brother/sister” relationship.

Christian Rock Concerts for Charity: “Bullying Awareness” selected as the charity/cause.  Next step is to write form letter to solicit local and national artists to participate and send to as many as possible.

One of the “new” dreams that one of our youth talked about was to create a local art gallery for young artists.  This is in early “dream” stages.  More to follow on a later update.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog…

These are all bigger than each of the dreamers.  Truth be told, each of these dreams is bigger than our group combined.  Is that stopping the dreamers from moving forward?  No!  This small group of dreamers is stepping out on faith and believing that God is going to do all the heavy lifting.  We need only to step out and DO… step out and GO! If we are acting on faith, we are pleasing God.  Hebrews 11:1-2 says this:

[11:1] Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. [2] For by it the people of old received their commendation.

And Hebrews 11:6 says this:

[6] And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Chapter 11 of Hebrews (often referred to as the “Hall of Faith”) is filled with examples of those who stepped out in faith, believing beyond themselves in a God that is able to produce results that are beyond their own capabilities and even their understanding.  A God that shows up in ways unimaginable that bring glory to Himself.  This is the very same faith I see in the eyes of the GZ youth.  Ready, not to accomplish things on their own, but to allow God to accomplish things bigger than themselves by doing love, in faith, knowing that God will accomplish His glorious purpose through their “mustard seed” contribution.

I eagerly await the next post in this series!  I can’t wait to share what God is doing to help us fulfill the great commission right here in our own neighborhood!

Next step: infecting the rest of the church with the “GO” vision the youth have caught.

Do you have a big dream God is calling you to allow Him to complete?  Share your Love Does Project with us so we can pray for and encourage you in your faith walk!

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Return Home!

Just a quick post to let y’all (Tu todo) know we are back.  Safe and sound!  No worse for the wear!  In fact, better for the wear.  We now have a new family in both the team with whom we served and those whom we served.  Truly an enlightening and fulfilling experience.  We have many stories and thoughts to share, but seeing as it is 12:50 AM and we will be at Worship in the morning, the coming week(s) will be filled with Honduran memories.

More to come… 🙂

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In the Words of Jackie Gleason, “And away we go!”

Love Came Down!

Our Honduras T-shirt logo. Designed by my beautiful wife!

And again, in the words of John Denver: “My bags are packed, I’m ready go…”  The good thing is my Sweetie‘s bags and daughter’s bags are packed and ready to go with me.  I wish this young lady and this young lady  (and their brothers who don’t blog) where going with us, but alas they are grown-up and have responsibilities!

In just a few short hours we will be getting up to head to TPA to fly to Miami, then off to Honduras.  It has been months of planning, meetings, fund-raisers and all the while getting to know (a little bit) the wonderfully diverse group of brothers and sisters in Christ who all share a burden to take the love of Christ, along with medical supplies, exams, eye glasses, flip-flops, school supplies, health kits, clothes, and many wonderful surprises for the little ones to the wonderful Honduran people located in the villages near San Francisco, Honduras.

While many of us, at least to me, are still what I would call acquaintances — because you don’t get a whole lot of time to really know each other while serving and busing tables during a fund-raiser — I am certain after the next seven days, we will know things about each other that only close family knows.  FUN!!

Something I am really looking forward to is serving Christ alongside my blood family.  There will be three generations of Bowman’s along for the ride.  It is not as if we have not all served Him together in countless ways in the past, but this is a focused, week-long effort were we get to “GO.”  Not that all our other efforts together aren’t GO’s, they are.  I suppose it is the month’s of effort and planning that goes into this that makes this a little more like the great commission.  (As I write that, that Still Small Voice says to me, “They are all the great commission, treat them all equally!”)

So there you have it.  Kind-of puts things into perspective.  Every opportunity we have to serve is the great commission.  It doesn’t matter if we are crossing the Gulf of Mexico or crossing the street, we are called to GO and show Christ’s love to all those we meet.  We are called to be His hands and feet in all that we do, not just the big efforts, but the everyday activities we are involved in:  going to the grocery store, walking the dog, cooking a meal, household chores, driving the kids to school, and yes, driving on US 19 in Pasco/Pinellas county, FL.  (Those of you who do it, know!) 🙂

My Savior and King, I thank you for this opportunity to do good works that you planned for me to walk in.  Let each of us be real examples of Your hands and feet as we minister to Your children (young and old).  Let us walk in humility, always pointing to Your glory, honor, and power!  And, let us return with a renewed and  re-vitalized call to the mission field in our own back yard — to our neighbors.  In Your Mighty Name, Amen!

Where has God called you to minister in your own back yard?  What are some of your favorite missionary stories (local or abroad)?  Share them so we can all be encouraged!

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