Tag Archives: Sermon on the Mount

The Way is Hard That Leads to Life

61twhS0uwFL._SL500_AA300_[1]If you think it’s cold outside, you should read the book I recently finished: Endurance, the incredible tale of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic catastrophe. If you don’t know the story, in August of 1914, Shackleton’s ship Endurance set off from Britain with hearty souls planning to traverse the great southern continent of Antarctica, a feat never before accomplished. On board were Shackleton and 27 other carefully selected men. But in January of 1915, only a day’s journey from the debarkation point, ice floes captured the ship fast and she remained trapped until October of that year, at which time the Endurance was crushed by the ice.

All 28 men escaped and had just their tents, lifeboats, gear and food from ship supplies to survive on ice floes for months. To say they ate a lot of seals and penguins is an understatement. I’ll spare you all the details, but the 28 eventually made it to the uninhabited and very inhospitable Elephant Island after not touching land for 497 days. Shackleton then led a crew of 6 men on a lifeboat through the stormy southern ocean on a 720 nautical mile journey to the South Georgia whaling station. Finding help, they returned to rescue their 22 friends on Elephant Island in August of 1916.

Shackleton’s journey provides a fitting illustration of Jesus’ warning in Matthew chapter 7. You see, the vast majority of people in our culture believe that the way to heaven is a leisurely walk around the block on a pleasant summer’s day, but this is a deep delusion. In reality, the way to heaven is more like Shackleton’s journey from the ice floes of Antarctica to safety 1,000 miles away. So Jesus said…

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 (ESV)

The way is hard, yet most people in our culture believe that the gate to eternal life swings wide, that the path to heaven is broad and easy. The conclusion they reach is that just about everyone and his brother is going to heaven. But Jesus makes clear that eternity is attained only by walking through a narrow gate, and only the way that leads to destruction…is easy.

Those who find eternal life are few. Few.

The whole chapter is full of warnings moving us to plan for eternity. Jesus begins with instructions about judgment, and ends with warnings to build our life on His Word lest we not survive the storm to come. Along the way, He warns about false prophets and the need to bear good fruit, and even gives a haunting picture of how He will reject people on Judgment Day who were under the distinct impression they were “good Christians.”

“I never knew you.”

And in the midst of this powerful chapter filled with thoughts about preparing for eternity is a bit of out-of-place instruction on…prayer. How strange.

Or not…in fact, maybe Jesus has more than only “Daily Bread” prayer in mind here. That too, of course, but maybe He’s also thinking about recognizing our need for help on the impossible journey to heaven and asking, seeking and knocking on His door TODAY for eternal life.

A cross reference may help to tie it all together…

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Luke 11:13 (ESV)

For unparalleled success in leading his entire crew home safely, Shackleton is hailed as a great leader of men. Similarly, only The Great Leader can take us through the narrow gate. So…ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.

Everyone who asks…receives.



Posted by on January 9, 2015 in Uncategorized


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How to Overcome Anxiety by Amazon


Join Edgewood Community Church as we read through the New Testament this year in a program called “Inspired”. Today’s reading is Matthew chapter 6.

Diane and I were both off the Sunday after Christmas, and we made our way to Appleton Alliance, that megachurch on Hwy 41 with huge windows showing what looked like a great children’s ministry. Because of that, I thought it would be a good place for the budding Children’s Ministry Director from Edgewood (my sweetie) to steal some ideas…and I was right. And her husband got a couple of ideas too, which you will see in a moment.

We did get a tour of their terrific kid’s ministry, but for now I’ll just tell you about the worship service we enjoyed: the speaker was their Executive Pastor, Brian Dainsberg, who gave a great message on the most underlined passage of the Bible from Amazon Kindle. Apparently Amazon can track what is most underlined from all those millions of people with a Kindle or Kindle App. Big brother, anyone?

Anyway, do you know what the most popular passage of the Bible is, at least according to Kindle users? It’s from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verses 6 and 7, which says,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

Here’s the thing: Apparently people around the world, when they turn to the Bible, are especially drawn to a passage on anxiety. And that’s not too surprising, is it? For we are an anxious people, and this is something that Jesus spoke to in His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?…Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

Mat 6:25, 31 – 32 (ESV)

Of course, Jesus’s answer to anxiety is simple and beautiful: seek first God’s Kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these things would be added (verse 33). In other words, focus on serving the King and advancing His cause, and you can trust that God will provide all you need. Amen.

Brian closed his message with a little twist on a famous sermon from Jonathan Edwards on happiness, where the great New England preacher gave three reasons Christians should be happy. Brian turned them into three reasons we should never be anxious, so when trouble comes in the New Year, and you’re tempted to gnaw your nails off, think about these three wonderful (and absolutely Biblical!) truths:

We should never be anxious…because:

  1. Our bad things will turn out for good.
  2. Our good things can never be taken away from us.
  3. The best things are yet to come.

With these things in mind, it really will be a Happy New Year…not to mention an extremely Happy Forever.

Friday: January 9, Matthew 7






Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Uncategorized


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I’m So Glad That I’m Not Like That Sinner Willy Loman

In college I took a Short Stories class to meet an English requirement, and after about half a semester in the class, I approached the professor asking if she would give us a few stories to read that actually had happy endings.  It seemed that almost everything we were assigned was dark and depressing, and personally, I like to feel good after immersing myself in literature. Well, we watched a movie the other day based on a play that would have fit right into this class.  It was an abridged version of Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman.  Josh had mentioned that he loved the play after being exposed to it in high school, and so I decided to surprise him for Christmas.  Now this was a sad story that I approved of (I’m sure Arthur Miller would be glad to hear that).

If you don’t know, Death of a Salesman tells the story of Willy Loman, a 60-year-old washed-up salesman who has blown just about everything in life.  The story is a recounting of his life and failures.   In short, Loman is a man without substance – a salesman on a short fuse who is not about making sales but about having contacts, always longing to be “well-liked” and to have sons who are well-liked too.  He dreams of the numbers of people who will one day come to his funeral, testifying to his beloved status. And at the heart of the story is a Boston mistress and a motel on his sales route, where Willy heartbreakingly fails everyone in his life, and forever drives a wedge in the relationship with his son Biff.

Viewing Willy Loman’s life is…uncomfortable, for through his skillful and subtle writing, Arthur Miller points his narrative finger at the failure in all of us.  In fact I think that whereas we are tempted to ask the question at the end of the story, “Am I Willy Loman?” the better question is, “Where am I Willy Loman?”

I think this is the heart of the challenge that Jesus offers his disciples in Matthew chapter 5, the first third of the Sermon on the Mount.  The Lord wants us to see what so many never do see, that we have failed God in almost every way.  Adultery and murder may seem like unreachable sins to many, but Jesus brings them right down to shelf level where we can all partake:

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

– Matthew 5:28 (ESV)

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;

– Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV)

It’s easy to look down on the Willy Lomans among us, but Jesus says that none of us will get to heaven if we don’t have a righteousness that surpasses the scribes and Pharisees. (Verse 20) And who, pray tell, could ever be that righteous?  And then, of course, we can’t forget the impossibly high standard that closes this chapter, the standard that neither Willy nor anyone else will ever meet: “Therefore, you must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

Maybe our first step, therefore, is to recognize that, indeed, we are, all of us, Willy Loman, and in light of that truth, begin following the Lord as He points us to another way of righteousness.




Posted by on January 7, 2015 in Uncategorized


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