I trust that you all had a wonderful thanksgiving...we certainly did. Thanks for the discussion already posted here in regards to the part of Matthew In The Now that I have written so far. I really appreciate your insights, and your encouragement. I remember that when I did John In The Now a couple of years ago, that having to go through and so closely examine the meaning of each verse of the Fourth Gospel really brought about an amazing amount of revelation for me...and the same thing is happening to me now as I again go, word by word, phrase by phrase, through this powerful biography of Jesus, the Christ. I know that I probably should pace myself a little with putting it all here on the blog every day so that you could have more time to digest it, but I have found that when I'm in a productive writing zone, I need to ride the wave of creativity as far as I can. I also want to get as much of it done as is possible before we go to Brazil next week. Each chapter that I finish seems to be my favorite, so here's my current best chapter. Enjoy!
1. “Don’t set yourself up as a judge who takes the liberty of casually condemning others, or even as a critic who thinks that he or she has the right to criticize them, because when you do that, you set a universal law into motion that will inevitably bring negative things back into your own life. In other words, don’t judge so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves.
2. “For in direct proportion to your judgment, criticism and condemnation of others, you will be personally judged and criticized and condemned. It’s just the way the law works. And in accordance with the measure you use to deal out to others…whatever you may deal out…it will be dealt out again to you. You define the terms of your own life in this sense.
3. “And why do you fixate on the very small particle…the tiny speck of sawdust…that is in your brother's eye, while you are completely unaware of and oblivious to the huge beam of timber that is in your own eye?
4. “Or how can you obsessively say to your brother, ‘Let me try to get that tiny, superficial splinter that I’m preoccupied with out of your eye,’ when all the while there is the beam of timber that is obvious to everyone but you lodged in your own eye?
5. “Don’t be such a clueless hypocrite! Work on dislodging that beam of timber from your own eye first, because until you can completely remove such glaring, personal obstructions, you’re frankly not qualified to take on the responsibility of extracting anything at all from your brother's eye, no matter how big or how small.
6. “Don’t treat these holy truths and sacred concepts like scraps that are fit only to be thrown out to the dogs. Rather, value the truths you hold dear and esteem them highly, as if they were exquisite pearls, not as if they are old leftovers to be tossed into a feeding trough for pigs. If you don’t discern your audience, or if you are flip with sacred things, you run the risk of presenting priceless pearls to pigs, who, when they realize that you have not fed them the slop they desire, will trample the gems and turn and tear you in pieces.
7. “But keep on asking – never stop expressing your desires, or challenging the boundaries of your faith – and it will ultimately be given you. Keep on seeking – never abandon your sense of wonder or your inquisitive interest in the mysterious – and you will ultimately find . Keep on knocking – never believe that your possibilities are exhausted or that your opportunities are finite – and the door will ultimately be opened to you.
8. “For everyone in this life who keeps on asking keeps on receiving. And he or she who keeps on seeking keeps on finding. And to him or her who keeps on knocking, doors will continue to be opened.
9. “Or what father is there of you, if his hungry son asks him for a loaf of bread, will ignore the request and instead hand him a stone to eat?
10. “Or if he asks for a fish, will serve him up a snake for dinner?
11. “If you then, with all of your potential for evil, know how to give good and beautiful gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in the heavenly realm lavish the best gifts on those who keep making a demand on Him!
12. “So discipline yourself to live by this simple rule: whatever you desire that others would do to and for you, do also to and for them. This not only will set positive things in motion for your life, it will fulfill all the Law and the teaching of the Prophets, because this basic principle is the sum of all the writings of the holy books.
13. “Enter into the full blessings of kingdom-life through the narrow gate of this kind of discipline. For the gate that leads to self-destruction is wide and easily accessible, and many are unwittingly entering through it.
14. “But the gate of selfless servitude is narrow and the way is compressed…the way that leads to a fulfilled, kingdom life in the now…and few are those who find it.
15. “Beware of false prophets who come to you dressed as sheep but, inside, they are devouring wolves whose only intention is to scatter the sheep and bring division among them.
16. “You will fully recognize them by the fruits of their relationships and their track record with people. Do people pick grapes from thorns or figs from thistles?
17. “Even so, every healthy tree bears good, nutritious fruit, but the diseased and decaying tree bears bad, inedible fruit.
18. “A good or healthy tree can’t bear worthless fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear high quality fruit.
19. “So every tree that does not bear good fruit…fruits of love, selflessness, empathy and consideration for others…needs to be cut down and thrown into the fire of purification.
20. “Therefore, you will fully know and discern them by their fruits.
21. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the blessings of kingdom-life. Just going through the motions of mechanically calling on my name or religiously praying a prayer does not automatically give one access to the kingdom of/from the heavens. Only those who do the will of My Father will enjoy the benefits of the kingdom in the now.
22. “When judgment comes on their lives, many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, haven’t we prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons and done many mighty works in Your name?’
23. And then I will say to them openly, ‘While you’ve been busily going through the motions of the ministry, you’ve never developed a real relationship with Me. It’s as if I’ve never known you. You haven’t shown Me your love, and you haven’t loved the people who have partaken of your so-called services. You’ve done so many things in My name for the wrong reasons that I want you to keep your distance from Me until you repent and get your priorities in order…until you start really representing Me and living your life the way I want you to live it!’
24. “So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible and wise man who built his house upon bedrock.
25. “And all manner of inclement weather bombarded the house…rain fell and floods came and the winds blew and beat against it. But, no matter how bad the weather or how strong the wind, it did not fall, because it had been founded on the stable rock.
26. “Likewise, everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not demonstrate them will be like a stupid man who built his house on the sand.
27. “And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell. And when it fell, the damage was complete and severe.”
28. When Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount and finished His teaching, the crowds who had come to hear him were just astonished and left speechless. They had never heard anything expressed in such a direct manner…so practical, and yet so profound...and they were overwhelmed at His teaching,
29. for He was obviously speaking as One Who had authority and was comfortable with it, and not as did the scribes, whose insecurities caused them to hide behind their religion.