"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Kingdom Living (Part 1 of 2)

In just a few weeks, we will begin a new sermon series and small group study at River Oaks. An 8-week survey of one of the more powerful passages in all of Scripture. A teaching series that should be incredibly challenging to all of us. On February 5th, we start Kingdom Living: A Study of the Sermon on the Mount.

For the past several months, I have been anxiously looking forward to, and preparing for, our time in Matthew, chapters 5-7. In this text, we find such rich instruction from Jesus to his 1st century crowd of disciples, and even richer application for his 21st century crowd of disciples.

The Sermon on the Mount covers some of the most well-known and beloved content found anywhere in the New Testament. Think about the Lord's Prayer, the Golden Rule, the call to be salt, light, and fruit. Or, "Judge not, that you be not judged," "Ask ... seek ... knock," and the list of "You have heard that it was said," relative to anger, lust, divorce, oaths, revenge, and loving enemies.

But as any good sermon goes, there must be an introduction to all of these teaching points. The Sermon on the Mount is no exception. In Matthew 5:1-11, the scene is set and we are provided the outline for what Jesus will cover throughout this sermon. It is a list commonly referred to as the Beatitudes, and they form the core from which Jesus will develop the remainder of the sermon.

Below are these Beatitudes. They represent significant truths for followers of Christ who look to incorporate these characteristics into their life. Technically, they are not optional. Jesus does not qualify his sermon by remarking that what he is about to preach are only suggestions. As a disciple, one who comes to Jesus on the mountainside, sits down, and seeks to understand, this teaching represents our pursuit; what we strive to be each day, a little more than the previous, as part of the sanctifiation (or the becoming more Christ-like) of our lives.

As a parallel thought, in a part 2 post, I would like to consider the application of the Beatitudes as it relates to our running, or specifically, our Running for God. I'm not sure what this means yet, and I will stress that it is not a contextual exegesis, but more of an analogical comparison for the purpose of encouragement and reflection. Hopefully it is both of these, plus a little bit of fun. Be back soon.

Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Gustave-Dore
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 
- Matthew 5:1-11

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