What Is Your Second Mile?

“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41, NIV)

The gist of the passage is that back in ye olden Bible times, a Roman soldier could conscript anyone to carry his gear for up to one mile. Many Jewish people would put a marker exactly one mile from their houses so they would know precisely how much they were required to do.

Remember Simon of Cyrene? The Roman soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross, probably based on this idea.

But pay attention to Jesus’ own words.

If anyone asks you to go one mile, go two. In other words, do above and beyond what is expected of you.

So the question that I heard today is the one I now pose to you: what is your second mile?

How can you serve where you’re planted in a way that goes beyond the minimum requirement?

It’s not necessarily about doing more, but about how you do what you’re doing. It’s all about your attitude.

Where you are, what you are doing, is your ministry, whether it’s in a church building or a seminary or a classroom or in a grocery store or in your own home.

I think the Apostle Paul nailed it when he said this: “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work” (Colossians 3:22-25, The Message).

That goes for any sphere of life for wherever you live,work, play, and serve.

Do it all as if you were doing it directly for Jesus Himself.

See everyone you meet as possibly Jesus in disguise and treat them like you would treat Him if you knew He was standing right in front of you.

More About Blessed

If you turn on TBN, you might hear some old preacher talking about how God wants to bless you. By that, he probably means that God wants to shower you with riches and mansions and luxury cars and yachts and so forth.

But when I read my Bible, I get a different version of what it means for God to bless someone. What Jesus calls blessed in the Beatitudes is far better than what any health-and-wealth preacher might call it.

Not that God doesn’t grant wealth as a blessing, but I think the idea of blessing is so much more than that. After all, doesn’t the Bible say not to store your treasures on earth where thieves break in and steal and rust corrodes? Will you be able to take any of your wealth with you? Of course not.

The older I get, the more I see that the best blessing God gives is God. More than any gift God gives, God giving Himself to anyone is the best gift of all. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving, because you will never in any lifetime get to the bottom of Who God is or how much He loves you.

To be blessed is to know God and to know Jesus, who is God with a human face. All of us take that privilege for granted all the time, but have you ever stopped to think that the Creator and King of Everything has sought you out for a relationship? That should boggle our minds.

At the end of the day, I’m blessed. I know that God will supply all my needs through Jesus because ultimately my greatest need is Jesus. And He will take care of all my other needs, too.

You can have everything your heart desires and not have God and you will be miserable. You can have nothing but God and you will find that He is enough.

That’s another reminder to myself.

 

 

 

Blessed are the peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9)

Blessed are those who make peace, not those who wait for peace to fall into their laps. We have to work for peace sometimes. As crazy and contradictory as it may seem, we even have to fight for peace sometimes. We have to be willing to pray against the powers of darkness. We have to be willing to practice tough love when the easy thing to do would be to ignore the situation until it goes away. Sometimes peace making can be a bloody and brutal event. Just ask Jesus, who in order to make peace with God for us endured the cross and all the horror and shame there.

There are three types of peace: peace with God, peace with others and peace with yourself. I think that this verse is not so much about finding peace with God as it is establishing or reestablishing peace with others and with yourself.

The Message says, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” Jesus prayed for unity of believers above all things for His people. If there is unforgiveness or conflict, it grieves the Holy Spirit. It also is a bad witness to an unbelieving world. If we can’t love each other who we see every day, how can we claim to love a God whom we have not seen? How can anything we say be true if there’s no love to back it up?

Father, forgive me for the times when I was not brave enough to fight for peace and instead settled for truce or a cold war of lost opportunities and relationships. Help me to see that You want your children to love each other and forgive each other and bless each other. Send your Spirit to bring revival into your people so we can be the ones through whom You radically change the world.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are the pure in heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Blessed are the pure in heart. You may be like me and think, “Well, that rules me out right there. I am not pure in heart. If you could only see inside my heart and see some of the addictions and lies and crap that I carry around, the last word you would use to describe my heart is ‘pure.'” I have good news for you. If you have trusted Christ for your salvation, He has cleansed your heart. God sees you now as if you had never sinned. You are pure in heart.

The Message puts it this way: “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” That’s what being made righteous means– your inside world is put right with God. Then, instead of seeing fate and coincidence and random occurances in the outside world, you see God. You see His hand in everything.

Soren Kierkegaard said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” To stay pure in heart, it is important to not have divided priorities. Like loving God and money, or God and popularity, or God and success, or God and (you fill in the blanks). If anything competes with God for my attention, that thing must go, whether it be a possession or a relationship or a cherished dream. God is jealous and will not abide anything put alongside of Him as equal importance.

The good news is that the effort to have one focus is not a “strain and try harder”, but a “be filled with the Spirit and transformed by the renewing of your mind” event. Your and my job is to know God. To know what blesses and breaks His heart, to know what His will is for the world, and to know His Word so well that it becomes a part of you. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they know the Father and the One He has sent.”

Lord, I long to stay pure in heart and not wear myself out chasing in five different directions things that can only truly come from You. Be my passion, my heart’s overwhelming desire. Be so glorious in my sight that everything else fades away. Show me Your glory, and then I will be satisfied. Thank You that You have promised that one day I will see You clearly and love You perfectly.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are the merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

In the Bible, grace and mercy are many times used together. I’ve heard it put this way that grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Mercy is withholding the right to revenge and giving grace instead. One of God’s characteristics is that He is merciful. If anyone had the right to exact judgment on what we’ve done wrong and how we’ve screwed up and when we’ve outright rebelled against Him, it’s God. But He in HIs grace gives us what we don’t deserve– forgiveness– and in His mercy withholds from us what we do deserve– everlasting punishment in hell.

To be merciful is to be like God. To forgive, even when forgiveness is not sought, is to be like God. Mercy is loving the unloveable. It’s easy to love someone who loves you back, but God calls us to love those who are so caught up in and trapped by fear and addictions that they are unable to love us back.

I like the Message version. It says, “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

If you show mercy, you get mercy. I also like to think that one of the characteristics of those who have experienced God’s grace and mercy is that they live out that grace and mercy toward others. You forgive much because you have been forgiven much. You don’t worry about the $100 worth of wrong someone did to you when God just forgave the $1 million worth of wrong you did against Him.

Brennan Manning says it best: “Our encounter with Mercy profoundly affects our interaction with others . . . . We look beyond appearances, beneath surfaces, to recognize others as companions in woundedness. Human flesh is heir to the assaults, within and without, of negative, judgmental thoughts, but we will not consent to them because God is merciful to us. We will not allow these attacks to lead us into the sins of self-preoccupation and self-defense. Swimming in the merciful love of Christ, we are free to laugh at the tendency to assume spiritual superiority– in ourselves. We are free to extend to others the mercy we have received.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6)

When I think of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, I don’t think of when I would like dessert after a good meal. I don’t even think about when I am late for a meal and how “hungry” I feel. I think of someone who is starving to death and the lengths they will go to get food. To hunger and thirst for righteousness means more than simply wanting to in right standing with God and to please Him; it means that everything in me longs and yearns to see God glorified by my life.

The Message puts it this way: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

The question is: How badly do you want God? Not how badly do you want your prayers answered or how badly do you want gifts and blessings from God, but how badly do you long for God Himself? Honestly, I seek after many other things more than I seek after God, including but not limited to approval, attention, a dating life, and spiritual experiences. Is it any wonder that these things, whether I obtain them or not, will leave me empty and hollow? Only God can fill a God-shaped hole in my heart.

The hard part is that if you love and long for God, you will love and long for fellowship and community with His people. If you don’t love and long for His people, you don’t really long for God. Jesus says, If you love me, you will love my church (and that doesn’t mean you will love a building or a campus, it means you will love God’s people). If you are pulling away from God’s people, how can you say you are drawing near to God? I know there are seasons of solitude that God calls us to, but if we have no desire to pray for and support and encourage our brothers and sisters, we really are saying we have no desire for God.

Sometimes, when someone isn’t in a place where they can seek God and God’s people, we can rally around that person and pray God’s healing and restoration for him or her. A friend of mine said sometimes when you can only give 40%, I must be the one to give the 160% to make up the difference.

What does it mean to be filled? It means overflowing beyond your capacity to receive. It means God gives you so much that it runs over in you and spills into the lives of those around you. To be filled means to have life abundantly, or life to the full, that God will give beyond anything we could ever ask or expect or hope. As John Piper says, “God will not give up the glory of being the Giver.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are the meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

To be meek is not to be a pushover. To be meek is to be strong, but under control. It’s strength with a purpose, focus and goal. Think of a bridled horse whose strength is harnessed for a race. John MacArthur states, “True meekness is power under control. We can see that in light of the different ways the Greek praos was used. Medicine taken in the proper dosage can be helpful, but an overdose may kill; a domesticated horse is useful but an undomesticated one is destructive; and a gentle breeze cools and soothes, but a hurricane kills.”

Again, I like the way The Message puts it: “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” To have power under control is to be content. To not fight against God’s will, but instead fight against the things in your life that oppose God’s will. If you are not content with who you are, you will expend useless energy in striving to be someone you’re not and to meet the expectations you’ve projected onto others about yourself (which can’t be done. I know. I’ve tried)

The best example of meekness is Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11. He who was God and equal with God made himself nothing, becoming a slave. His strength was geared toward laying down His life for us on the cross. He had no other focus but doing the will of God.

John MacArthur writes that some of the ways that you know can know if you are meek are obedience to God’s word, becoming angry only when God is dishonored, making peace, gentle in how you teach others and– most importantly–receiving criticism in a loving spirit and loving those who are giving the criticism.

What is the result of meekness? We inheirit the earth. That means that we belong to the God who owns it all and has given us everything we need. It means that one day we will reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). The best part is still that we have God with us, for us, and in us. How could it possibly get any better than that?

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are the mourners

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

It seems like we as a society don’t really do well with mourning. We would rather be entertained and amused. Sadness and grief are things that we move past as quickly as possible, and those that don’t are looked upon unfavorably, like “Why can’t they just get over it?”

The Message puts it this way: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

How are we to mourn and what are we to mourn for?

I think we mourn not as those who have no hope, but as those who do. Our sadness is a sadness that is based in the hope of a better day yet to come. Our grief is a grief that has joy at its core– joy that whatever we’ve lost will be restored to us a thousand-fold. We mourn knowing that one day we will rejoice and sing– and laugh– over the momentary afflictions that have been far outweighed by an eternal hope of glory.

What do we mourn for? We mourn over the loss of loved ones, because death is certain for every single one of us. We mourn over the wasted lives around us. We mourn over so many hopes we had that were unfulfilled and dreams we had that were dashed against the rocks of reality. We mourn over sin in the world, and what how it mars and wrecks and leaves a ruin in so many lives. We weep for what God in Jesus wept for– that so many will live and die and pass into eternity separated from Him and never knowing what real hope, faith and love look like. They will never know that God had a better, more abundant life in store for them if they would only say yes to Him.

It’s good to mourn for these things, but also to rejoice that all these things will one day end. Jesus has already overcome all the things that cause sadness and grief.

I would like to close this with words from Rich Mullins that may not quite fit, but I loved them so much that I had to add them here:

“It is the living who mourn at a funeral– not the dead. We mourn because the lives of the dead who made our own more lively, and since we are (or had been) so knit together, the loss of another’s strand will eventually cause our own unravelling. Fellowship is the mingling of threads that make up a fabric, and only in a fabric do we have some kind of meaningfulness.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are the poor in spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)

To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge before God and others that you are spiritually bankrupt, that you have nothing of worth that you can bring to God or give to others. All you have is filthy rags, as Paul described human righteousness. You are admitting helplessness and insufficiency, which are very un-American concepts, but very biblical ones.

I like the way The Message puts this verse. “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

To be at the end of your rope is to admit you have gotten yourself in a fix that you can’t get yourself out of. That you are hopelessly and gloriously confused and lost. That you need Someone to rescue you.

It also means that you aren’t in the Who’s Who of Christianity or in the Most Likely to Succeed in Spirituality. From a worldy perspective, you don’t count. But in God’s eyes, you are a treasure and a masterpiece. I like what Brennan Manning says about this verse:

“You poor, you nobodies, you of little account by the world’s standards, you are blessed. It is my Father’s good pleasure to give you a privileged place in the kingdom– not because you worked so hard, and not because you are saying all the right things or doing all the right things or becoming all the right things, but because my Father wants you.”

So if you feel like giving up or quitting, don’t. Remember that God loves you. He’s very fond of you and He will never give up on you. He has placed people in your life who are cheering you on and who will also never give up on you. Remember that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to people like you. It is God’s good pleasure to give it to you.

And the best part about the Kingdom is that God comes with it. Better yet, the Kingdom of God is God Himself. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is the Holy Spirit power that raised Christ from the dead. And it’s yours.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.