Blessed Are Those


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Micah 6:1-8

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Matthew 5:1-12

Psalm 15


Micah delivers a powerful condemnation of God’s people—of us.  O my people, what have I done that makes you turn away from me? TLB

Micah has God’s people responding, Could I give my firstborn to pay for my crimes,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

No, he has told you what he wants, and this is all it is: to be fair, just, merciful, and to walk humbly with your GodTLB

Jesus echoes those words as recorded in Matthew. But before we get into them, please reread the first two verses. Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach themNIV One day as the crowds were gathering, he went up the hillside with his disciples and sat down and taught them thereTLB

It is easy to see the word crowds and assume that Jesus taught the masses. Yet, the text is clear that Jesus went away from the crowds and spoke to his disciples. But he did it in such a way that the crowds could hear every word. Why?

Jesus completed the task of calling twelve followers (even though Matthew only mentioned four) and he now wants those twelve to know they are special. But he also wants everyone else to know it as well. In effect, he is saying to the twelve, “You were once just one of the mass, now you are my men. I have chosen you to be humble in spirit, to know sorrow and provide comfort, to give up the things of the world for the things of God, to do good, to show mercy, to remain pure, to work for peace, and to be willing to take on my suffering.”

He is also telling the crowd that these men are special. They are men of God, and you can count on them to do what I will teach them to do. You are the salt of the earth….

At this point, Jesus is still talking about the disciples but is making a gradual turn towards a sermon directed at the disciples and the crowds equally.  “Yes, these Twelve are the salt of the earth, but you soon will be as well.”


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Walking in Darkness

Isaiah 9:1-4

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Matthew 4:12-23

Psalm 27:1, 5-13


Our modern American view of walking at night includes plenty of street lights, but if you are in a wilderness area the experience is different. With only the stars to guide us, seeing a tree before walking into it is just possible, unless it is a small tree. With a full moon, it is possible to tell the difference between a large rock and a shrub, most of the time.

We are creatures of the light. We do not function well in the dark. That is not just a physical condition. Our eyes need light, and our souls do as well. As Isaiah said, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them. GNT

Jesus brought the Light to us. Matthew used a heavy hand to link Jesus with the Isaiah passage to make sure we did not misunderstand the importance of it. As John described it: In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it outPhillips

Paul had to remind the church at Corinth that the Light of the world is Jesus. John announced the coming of the Light, but he was not the Light. Peter walked with the Light, but was not the Light. Paul preached the Truth of the Light, but Paul is not the light.

If I walk with Jesus, I walk in the Light. No matter how dark this world may seem, the Light is here for those who believe.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

You Are My Servant


Isaiah 49:1-7

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

John 1:29-42

Psalm 40:1-12


Paul reminds us that Christians must be in fellowship with the Messiah. The word koinonia means fellowship, but also partnership, communication, and communion. All of that and more is wrapped around our willingness to join our lives with the life of Jesus.

In both the Greek and Jewish worlds of the First Century, anyone who chose to follow a teacher—Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Gamaliel, Yeshua—expected to live in the shadow of the teacher, soaking up all his knowledge and imitating him in all ways. It was not something to be taken lightly. It was 100% dedication.

The problem most of us face is the totality of true dedication. On the average, Americans are awake 112 hours per week. Forty of those hours (or more) are spent earning a living; thirty are spent watching TV; nine for Facebook alone; add sports, visiting, eating, caring for others, etc., and we have an hour or so to follow Jesus—every week.

So, how do we dedicate ourselves to our Teacher in the Twenty-first Century? Start with the largest chunk of the day: work. A follower of Jesus will choose to work at a job that is consistent with his teachings, but even that is difficult to determine. If my job provides for my family, I may consider it consistent, even if my job is robbing banks. I don’t think Jesus would agree. My job must help people without hurting people. Still, there are problems. Bringing coal and oil out of the ground provides the energy to power our cars and homes, but it also pollutes the land, air, and water, often making people sick and even killing some.

To be a servant is to work, play, eat, care, and commune in a way that respects other people; in a way that seeks to help, not hurt. We must consider the options of every choice we make. If I spend an hour fishing, that is an hour I might have done a thousand other things. If I eat fish, it is at the expense of the poultry, pork, and beef growers.

If I fly to Haiti to help build a school, it is at the expense of a Haitian who could have been hired to do the work I did. In fact, he might have been paid the $400 or so I gave to the airlines to get me there. A short term mission is a good thing, but it is always at the cost of other good things.

We make such choices every day. Let us be aware of the costs, both to us and to them.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Price of Wisdom


1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 
John 1:43-51 


O Lord, You have examined me and know meJSB

You are so familiar with all my ways
that before I speak even a word, Adonai,
you know all about it already

The wisdom of God is beyond anything we can comprehend. Before I was born, God knew every word I would say, every thought I would think, every dream I would dream. He also knew every emotion I would experience, every love and every hate.

I took a college class in English history in which I had to wade through the actions of a dozen or so kings, finding out which made wise decisions, and which failed to do so. At least I did not have to keep track of the six wives of Henry VIII (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived).

When we humans study history, we know next to nothing about what those long-dead people were thinking, and we can only guess what would have been the best choice in every case.

But God knows every thought, as well as every option open to the king, prince, minister, or peasant. God knows what our lives would be like today if King Charles I had not chosen to force the English people to return to the Roman Church. That decision led to a four-year war in which both sides executed uncounted churchmen on both sides. Charles was executed, and Oliver Cromwell set himself up as the all-powerful Lord Protector.

Or consider a smaller decision. During the American Rebellion, a British sharpshooter (sniper) had an American officer in his sights, but when he saw that it was George Washington, he chose not to kill him. That may effectively have ended the war. It certainly would have changed the development of the office of President if we had still won our independence. Only God knows.

One year at church camp—I was about eleven—we all went on a picnic in a wooded spot below a cliff. Several of us ran to the cliff and, having climbed it several times before, we had no fear. What a difference my one decision made. Instead of climbing face in, I chose to face outward and fell thirty or so feet, landing poorly on my feet. I was lucky to sustain a bad ankle sprain as the price for my certainty that I had wisdom.

What is the Price of Wisdom for God? He knew that 146 people would die in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. It would have been so easy for him to smother the flames that started in one rag bin.

God set us loose in this universe where our decisions often have disastrous results. He created us with the ability to make choices. He gave us the knowledge of right and wrong. He agreed to let us have our way.

The price is that God must suffer all the horrors we suffer. He must stand by as we knowingly or unknowingly harm ourselves and others. He also knew that 79 years to the day, another 87 people would die in a New York fire, the second most deadly in the city.

God cries for us. He does not want these bad things to happen, but He must allow us our freedom. Without freedom, we cannot choose God, and He wants more than all else for us to choose Him. That is the only choice we can be sure will end in the best way.


Read my earlier comments on this theme here.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

To Fulfill All Righteousness


Isaiah 42:1-9

Acts 10:34-43

Matthew 3:13-17

Psalm 29


Matthew alone of the Gospels records the exchange between Jesus and John regarding Jesus’ baptism. Here are three translations of the text:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consentedNIV

Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized there by John. John didn’t want to do it. “This isn’t proper,” he said. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you.” But Jesus said, “Please do it, for I must do all that is right.” So then John baptized himTLB

 Then Yeshua came from the Galil to the Yarden to be immersed by Yochanan. But Yochanan tried to stop him. “You are coming to me? I ought to be immersed by you!” However, Yeshua answered him, “Let it be this way now, because we should do everything righteousness requires.” Then Yochanan let himCJB

Righteousness is a key word to understanding this text. It appears 213 times in the NIV Bible and righteous another 493. Clearly, God believes in righteousness. As God’s human on earth, Jesus understood that he had to be righteous.

So, why baptism? Jesus had many promises to fulfill, one of which was to be King in the line of David. God chose David to be king and told Samuel to anoint him. With that anointing, the Holy Spirit hovered over David.

For Jesus, the anointing was baptism. John used the same method as the Jewish mikveh. Before presenting one’s self before God in the Temple, a man (or woman) would immerse himself under the flowing water of the mikveh. John used the flowing water of the Jordan for the immersion.

The act is about cleansing one’s self of sin. That is why John said, “I should be baptized by you.” Remember that Jesus and John were cousins only six months apart in age. They knew each other. John knew that his job was to prepare the way for King Jesus; that is, the Messiah. John knew he was not perfect and that the Messiah was perfect. To him, baptizing Jesus made no sense.

But it made sense to God. The Messiah, Jesus, the source of fire baptism and the source of Living Water, accepted the shame and humiliation of a sinner’s baptism. And God used that act as an anointing of Jesus.

At that moment heaven was opened, he saw the Spirit of God coming down upon him like a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased with him.”  CJB

Just as happened with David.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence