Archive for the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ Tag

The Happiness Recipe

Jesus once sat down on a mountain side in Galilee and taught a multitude of his students about being blessed. The event is recorded in Matthew 5 and we have come to call it The Sermon on the Mount. Imagine how incredible it must have been to sit and listen to Jesus talk about being happy. You see so often religion makes us wary of being happy. Religion almost creates an atmosphere of guilt over pleasure and happiness. Jesus wants us to be happy in fact I can prove it…The heading over the first dozen verses in Matthew 5 in my Bible reads, “The Beatitudes”. Well, I have a confession to make. For many years as a teen and young adult I never knew what the word beatitude meant. It comes from the Latin beatitudinem and just means happiness. It is not in the original text but is simply a heading to help the reader better understand the context and meaning of what follows. I’d give the translators a C- for this one. Why didn’t they just put “Happiness” so we’d understand?

Two sources of my happiness!

Two sources of my happiness!

In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus gives a list of behaviors wherein he says, “Blessed are …” The word for blessed that we have, from the most reliable manuscripts, is a Greek word that just means the same- happy!

So think about these verses in the light of happiness. Happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Being poor in spirit simply means fully relying on God and this is how we see and experience the Kingdom of God.

Happy are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Well of course when we mourn the Holy Spirit comforts and works in and around us to restore our joy.

So you see The Beatitudes are not a formula to get in with God or make you right with him. The Beatitudes are simply a recipe for being happy.

How cool is that and why in the wide world of sports don’t the translators come up with something better than “The Beatitudes”? Why not put a new more easily understood heading over this part of the Sermon on the Mount like… The Happiness Recipe.

The $#*% that’s About to Hit the Fan

A Christ-centered, Trinitarian paraphrase of Matthew 7:15-27

(15) Beware pious predators who come to exploit your fear and shame in order to lead you down the easy wide road of religion.  They are wolves disguised as sheep, but there is no reason for you to fall for their tricks. (16) You will know them not so much by listening to their words but by attending to the fruit they produce.  If a plant produces grapes, you know it’s not a thistle. (17) Ask yourself: Is the fruit of the Spirit being produced here? – Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control?  If yes, then you know it’s a healthy tree, a prophet of truth.  If no, then you know it’s a sick tree, a prophet of lies.  It’s as simple as that.  (18) It’s impossible for bad fruit to come off a good tree, or for good fruit to come off a bad tree. (19) The time is coming, and it’s very soon, when the bad trees will be consumed in flames. (20) Keep watch for them, and don’t eat their fruit.

(21) As you watch for the coming of that day, remember: Saying I’m your king is not the same thing as living under my saving rule.  You will experience the Triune life only to the extent that you share in my obedience to Papa. (22) When the fire of catastrophe hits this generation, many will call out my name, saying “My king, my king, we have performed so many cool religious tricks for you!  Shouldn’t that exempt us from experiencing the awful consequences of our awful behavior? (23) Then I will say: “Look, buddy, whatever kind of privileged relationship you think you have with me, you DON’T. Your actions and their consequences are YOUR business, not mine.  If you don’t like the results of your behavior, you might consider behaving in some other way.  It’s your choice, not mine. Look me up someday when you’re ready to stop playing this game.”

(24) Everyone who, instead of playing games, thinks and lives in accordance with the truth, is like the guy who built his house on a solid foundation. (25) The hurricane came and pounded that house, but the house survived because it had been built on something real, solid, and enduring. (26) But those who do not hear and believe and act on what I’m saying, they are like the guy who built his house on sand. (27) The hurricane came and pounded that house.  It washed all the sand away, and the house collapsed – not one stone left on another.  This is not a game.

~ John Stonecypher

Listen Up, Posers

A Christ-centered Trinitarian paraphrase of Matthew 7.1-14

Beware the temptation to manipulate others by acting like you are better than them. (2) When you do, you’re just teaching people how they should treat you. (3) While you’re busy offering “helpful advice” to your neighbor on how to get the speck of sawdust out of his eye, (4) you have a whole log stuck in your own eye. (5) Listen, poser… Go deal with your log.  Once you become a clear-sighted person, your neighbor might even ask you for help with his speck.  Until then, mind your own business.  (6) When he asks for help, that means he’s ready to receive help.  But until then, even good advice is as useful to him as a Bible is to a dog.  Pearls are useless and annoying to pigs.  So too are pearls of wisdom to people who haven’t asked for them.

(7) After all, that’s how free, distinct-but-not-separate persons relate – We ASK things of one another; we make REQUESTS. You know how it works:  You ask somebody for something, and then they give it to you.  You knock on the door, and then someone opens it. (8) This is not rocket science.  If you want something, ask for it.  If you want to find something, look for it.  If you want a door opened, knock on it.  We relate to our Papa in the same way.  (9) Think about your own kids.  When your kid asks for a snack, do you give him a rock? (10) Or if he asks for a cheeseburger, do you give him a snake?  Of course not!  (11) You’re not exactly a star in the sainthood department, but even YOU know how to give good things to your kids.  How much more will your Papa, who sits in the driver’s seat of the universe, give to his kids the good things they ask him for! (12) In all your dealings with people, treat them this way, the way you yourself want to be treated.  That is Scripture’s wisdom in a nutshell.

(13) There is only one Triune life of love, but there are a thousand ways to avoid it, to participate less than fully in it.  These paths are easy; that’s why most people take them.  The destruction that is coming on this generation will be the result of the easy paths they choose. (14) There is only one path that escapes that destruction, and it is hard, very hard.  It is the way of peace and truth and forgiveness, the way of the Triune life in this world.  Only a few are walking that road.  Be one of them.

~ John Stonecypher

Healthy Habits for Living Loved: #1 – Secrecy

A Trinitarian Paraphrase of Matthew 6:1-16

(6.1) As you live out the Triune goodness in your life, beware the temptation to use it to impress people.  If love is a means to some other end, it is not love. (2) If ulterior motives are intruding into your attempts at love, try exercising the discipline of secrecy. For example, when you give to the poor, don’t publicize it. If you do it for publicity, publicity is all you’ll get.  You want more than that; you want to share in the Triune life of self-giving love. (3) So when you give to the poor, be sneaky about it.  Try to make it so nobody knows but you and Papa. (4) As this practice of secrecy kills off your ulterior motives, you will become more able to experience the joy of giving.

(5) If you want to impress people with your spiritual skills, just find a stage and perform a prayer on it.  It really works, if that is indeed what you want.  (6) But you want something more—real sharing in the eternal Triune conversation.  If your desire to impress people is poisoning your prayer life, try praying in private behind a closed door, where those ulterior motives won’t get in the way.  (7) And remember, our relationship with Papa is not magic.  There are no magic words or phrases that you need to use in order to make it ‘work.’  Long prayers are no better than short ones, and vice versa. (8) Don’t be like that.  Papa knows what you need even before you ask.

(9) You want me to teach you how to pray?  It’s REALLY complicated.  Watch this:

Hi, Papa.  We’re so happy you’re the one who’s running things.  You are wonderful to us; nothing compares to you. (10) More than anything else, we long for the day when the whole world will know you fully and happily work at your side. (11) But in the meantime, take care of our needs today. (12) Help us to share in your cheerful love for us and for everyone, despite the bad choices we will all make today. (13) Help us to respond wisely to today’s little trials, so that they won’t grow into big trials for tomorrow.  Help us to not believe lies today.

(14) Papa’s forgiveness is a funny thing: we receive it by giving it away to others. (15) When you refuse to give forgiveness to others, you are refusing to receive it from Papa. Not a real shrewd move.

(16) Anyway, back to the thing about secrecy… When you fast, don’t advertise what you’re doing.  That will work if you want to build a reputation as a ‘spiritual person,’ but that’s all you’ll get. (17) Instead, try being an undercover faster.  Wash your face and do your hair, (18) so it won’t be obvious you’re fasting.  The secrecy will kill off your ulterior motives, so that they won’t get in the way as you learn to live on Something other than bread alone.

~ John Stonecypher

To Live Greatly in My Kingdom (Part 2)

A Trinitarian-Incarnational interpretation of Matthew 5.33-48

(33) They say “Keep the promises you make in Papa’s name.” (34) But I say, don’t make promises like that. It is meaningless to make promises invoking heaven or earth (35) or Jerusalem (36) or your head, because none of these things are under your control. (37) Instead, speak simply. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Verbal manipulation is just another way of lying.

(38) They say “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” (39) But I say, when you face evil, confront it with the infinitely creative resources of the Triune life. Fight or Flight are not your only options. Don’t take to Fighting. Don’t take to Flight. Instead, take a Stand. Make peace aggressively. For example, let’s say you get bullied on the street. When the bully hits you on the right cheek, he is counting on you to either run away or hit him back. So do something unexpected, like offering him your left cheek, inviting him to hit you again. When you refuse to play the bully’s game, it opens up all kinds of new possibilities, even the possibility of peace and reconciliation. Because of my love for evildoers, I am taking on a cross. Follow me, and I will teach you how to take a punch.

(40) Or let’s say you get sued. You could play the victim and simply acquiesce to the other’s demands, boohoo, poor little victim. Or you could lawyer up and join him in the litigation game. But why not try something more creative? Don’t lose your shirt. Instead, GIVE him the shirt off your back. Heck, give him all your clothes, and maybe then he’ll get over his weird fetish for suing the pants off people.

(41) Or let’s say a soldier forces you to carry his stuff a mile down the road. You could play the role of the tragically oppressed, carrying his stuff and internally whimpering about the injustice of it all. OR what about this: Cheerfully carry his stuff two miles and then send him on his way with blessings in Papa’s name. That will certainly give him something to think about.

(42) Or let’s say a beggar crosses your path. You usually do your best to ignore him, or failing that, you give him some change so that he’ll leave you alone. Instead, remember he is Papa’s beloved child, just like you are. Manage your money in such a way that you’ll always have a little something to give (or loan) to him. If you don’t like that situation, maybe that will motivate you to look into the reasons why your brothers and sisters are starving to death on the streets.

(43) They say “Love your friends and hate your enemies.” (44) But I say love your enemies. Join in the Trinity’s life of outgoing concern and compassion for those people who are out to get you. (45) Living as Papa’s child means sharing in his kindness toward all people, regardless of how they act toward you. Whether you love or hate our Papa, he causes the sun to warm you and the rain to cool you. It is his great joy to do so. Join us in our joy. (46) Even total jerks love the people who are nice to them. (47) If you are opening your life to only a few privileged people who are just like you, then you are missing out on the adventure Papa is unleashing in the world. (48) Papa is giving sonship to all people, extending to everyone the life of perfect love he shares with me in the Spirit. So get on board. Become an active participant in the harmonious perfection of the incarnate Triune life which is Papa’s gift to all.

~ John Stonecypher

To Live Greatly in My Kingdom

A Trinitarian Christ-centered interpretation of Matthew 5.17-32…

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not here to negate Torah.  I’m here to do what Torah wanted to do but couldn’t. (18) Every syllable of Torah is there for a purpose, and every single one of them will see its mission accomplished 100%. You can count on that more than you can count on the stars staying in the sky. (19)  I have given you my kingdom; my reign is in your midst.  But to obey me just a little bit is to experience my kingdom just a little bit.  To obey me greatly is to live greatly in my kingdom. (20) I live greatly with my Papa in the Spirit; I want THAT for you, and I will not settle for anything less.  I don’t want you to miss out on ANY of this!

The religious professionals don’t know jack about the relational rightness I’m talking about, so don’t listen to them.  Listen to ME:

(21) They say “Don’t murder, or you’ll be liable to judgment.” (22) But I say you’re liable to judgment if you merely harbor resentment toward others.  If you insult them, an even harsher judgment will be necessary.  Calling someone names is a disease so serious that it can only be cured by fire, if it is to be cured at all!  The Triune Life is about more than just not murdering one another; it’s about love and peace! (23) There is no such thing as sharing in the mutual-giving of the Trinity without being reconciled to your brothers and sisters.  (24) If you have a conflict that is unresolved, go resolve it NOW.  It’s your top priority. (25) If you are being sued, do everything you can to settle the matter without going to court.  Whenever you can, you want to work through relationships, not through judicial machinery. The machine can throw you in jail (26) or bankrupt you before you even know what’s happening.

(27) They say “Don’t have sex with someone you’re not married to.” (28) But I say, to do it in your heart is just as destructive as doing it with your body.  Objectification is poison both for you and for your victim, and Papa has zero tolerance for the poisoning of his children. (29) No surgery is too drastic to cut malignant sexual cancers from your life.  (30) If any part of your life has become a doorway to sexually distorted ways of thinking and behaving, cut it off and throw it away.  If you don’t, it can destroy you.

(31) They say “Don’t divorce your wife without giving her paperwork.” (32) But I say paperwork does not make it okay to discard a woman like a pair of worn-out shoes.  In cases of extreme marital problems (unfaithfulness, for example), divorce is sometimes the best way for husband and wife to love one another.  But frivolous divorce is no better than adultery.

~ John Stonecypher

Woo-Hoo!

Here’s a Trinitarian paraphrase of Matthew 5:3-16

(3) The Triune Life has been freely given to all.  If you are spiritually impoverished, shout ‘WOOHOO!’ for this gift does not depend on your religious skills.

(4) If you are sad, shout ‘WOOHOO!’ for you will be comforted.

(5) If you are unassertive, shout ‘WOOHOO!’ for your inheritance does not depend on your ability to assert your right to it.

(6) If you are starved for the world to be put right, shout ‘WOOHOO!’ because you will get what you want.

(7) If you are kind to people who don’t deserve it, shout ‘WOOHOO!’ because the Trinity is like that too.

(8) If you long for an undistorted vision of Papa, shout ‘WOOHOO!’ because you will receive the desire of your heart.

(9) If you constantly find yourself in between warring parties, shout ‘WOOHOO!’ because you are behaving just like your Papa.

(10) If your fight for social justice gets you in trouble, shout ‘WOOHOO!’ because you are already experiencing the Triune Life that has been given to you.

(11) If people spread lies about you and insult you because of me, shout ‘WOOHOO!’ (12) because you are experiencing the life of Jesus in the world; you are in good company.

(13) Like a pinch of salt in a big pot of soup, you ‘little people’ have a much greater effect on the world than you’d think.  The trick is to stay spicy; it’s hard to be different from everybody else, but that’s the whole point.  The world already has plenty of landscaping pebbles; what it needs now is salt, really SALTY salt.

(14) Through you, light is coming into the world.  Like a city on a hill, you will be seen—just by you being you.  (15) And nobody puts a candle under a bowl; they put it on a  stand, where its light can bless everyone. (16) So don’t hide who you are. When people see the love inside you, they will see Papa and love Him.

~ John Stonecypher

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