The Beatitudes of Matthew are some of the most often quoted teachings of Jesus by both believers in Jesus and those who see him as just another teacher. The Beatitudes, and the section that follows them, form the “introduction” to Jesus’ sermon—His manual—on being a disciple/follower/learner.

In our early-married years, Pam and I received old furniture from family or bought some at garage sales. One piece in particular was a little table that was completely worn out! It had many layers of paint and stain, one on top of the other. The brass handles of this little table were tarnished beyond recognition. We bought it because it was cheap, but later decided to take it on as a refinishing project!

Beginnings tell you a lot about any story. We recently watched an intriguing thriller in which the plot and key characters were laid out in the first five minutes of the show. Try missing the first 15 minutes of a good movie, and you’ll spend the rest of the time trying to catch up! The beginnings of our own lives tell us a lot about our journeys, too.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Do you have a “song” that is meant to be sung? You bet.

We recently had our Subaru wagon in the shop. It struck me that each season of our lives could be marked by the type of car we drove! The first car I drove after getting my license was a 1970 Ford Pinto Hatchback. You may have heard of them; they were recalled because of the gas tank exploding!

The first car I drove after getting my license was a 1970 Ford Pinto Hatchback. You may have heard of them; they were recalled because of the gas tank exploding! When I went to college I took a well-used 1968 Ford station wagon. A few years later, I bought my first new car, a Ford Fiesta! I think you are getting the picture—my pocket book didn’t allow me to pick from the “top of the line” row at the dealership (the cars with all the extras). I don’t have a big problem with auto lust, but I wouldn’t mind taking a drive in a BMW or Audi sedan every once in a while!

 
When God made man, He didn’t hold back any of the options or extras.

Pam and I recently became grandparents for the first time. I had been told by more experienced grandparents about what would happen in my soul, but I don’t think I really believed them. Well, it’s begun. I get so excited to see little Arie. Even seeing his picture can make me feel, “this little guy has part of me in him!” And surely, we see characteristics of his mom (our daughter) and his dad in Arie.

As a young man I remember being told things like:

 
Jesus didn’t come to set up a religion, He came to establish a relationship with us and start a community of friends who would follow Him together.
 
or
 
Religion is man’s attempt to reach and find God; Jesus represents God’s attempt to reach men and women that they would find Him.
 
Yet, we have a world filled with people attempting to reach God, please God, or serve God through religious behavior, performance, and rule-keeping.

A couple of posts ago, I talk about some of the challenges I experienced during my years growing up: moving 10 times before college, being a “late bloomer,” being in a religious environment that put a premium on good performance as a measure of spirituality. All this made ripe the possibility of a performance-oriented view of life. I felt I needed to work hard, perform for others, and please significant people (parents, teachers, friends, even God). While that impulse taught me the value of hard work, it also created in me the belief that full or true life was to be found primarily in performing, achieving, and pleasing people.

So—Jesus says, The eye is the lamp of the body…” (Matthew 6:22ff). He says, “If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”

 
What about how we view ourselves? When your mind goes into neutral or when you find yourself under stress, what do you say about yourself under your breath? Do you say, “I’m such a loser!” or “I’m so stupid.” or “I’ll never amount to anything.”