Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Matthew 7:21-28 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
Hearers and Doers
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
28 Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching,
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Twenty years ago Susan and I built our first house when I was pastor in Georgetown. Up until that time, we had lived in parsonages. Since it was built on the western side of the San Gabriel fault, which follows Interstate 35, there was limestone just under the surface or exposed everywhere. As the builder talked about our foundation, he said that they had to use jackhammers to dig the footing all the way around and that they had to raise the height of the foundation because the house essentially sits on a huge rock that bulges up in the middle. I liked that. My first thought was of the words of Jesus at the close of the Sermon on the Mount: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house. It fell and was completely destroyed.”
I felt good about that foundation, since it was built on rock. What a great foundation! There was no shifting clay, prone to crack foundations on the western side of the San Gabriel fault.
When Jesus spoke about houses and foundations he knew what he was talking about. We know from the gospels that Jesus was a stonemason by trade and his family was most likely in the construction business. The Greek word that is translated “carpenter” in the gospel of Mark when Jesus’ trade is described is the word “techton,” which means “construction worker.” Jesus’ trade involved using all the materials available for building—including wood. However, houses were not built of wood. They were built of stone. The people there, listening to Jesus’ teaching, understood well the significance of building houses upon rock versus sand. But many people chose not to live in the rocks. It meant grading the side of a slope and hauling up materials. Living in the hills made for more difficult travel. Water had to be carried uphill and winter winds were colder. Many people followed the path of least resistance and built along the riverbeds. It was just easier that way.
Though flooding was a danger, most of the year the streams trickled pleasantly down the hillsides into the river nearby. But on rare occasions, perhaps only once a generation, the 100-year flood would come. There would be a combination of an unusually heavy snow, a quick spring thaw, a torrential downpour. The result was a vicious flashflood that swept away everything in its path. Entire villages washed away. House after house gone—completely destroyed!
That’s the image drawn here in Matthew 7. It comes from the life of these people gathered around Jesus on that day he delivered this sermon. Jesus was talking about a choice that was very real in the life of the people: what kind of foundation will I build on? There is hardly a more important decision than the foundation on which a building is built. That’s why in construction core samples are taken and engineers involved in planning before the dirt is even moved.
The Foundation we build on is the key!
So, how does Jesus’ parable speak to us today?
First, it suggests that we are all involved in building a life and the structure of our faith. Jesus was calling on us to think about the building of our lives. These words of Jesus raise a very important question for us: On what kind of foundation are you building your life?
It’s an important question because storms will come. They come to every life. Very few people, if any, avoid the storms. For some, they are frequent and severe. For others, only a few storms assault in a lifetime, but the storms of life confront every human being. Your educational background, your place or position or prestige, your wealth or lack thereof does not matter.
We are not exempt from the storms of life. They come at us from all directions. They hurt. When the storms of life rage against us–no matter what they are–we need a firm foundation. That foundation is the teaching of Jesus put into action. Jesus said very plainly, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” The kingdom of God—or the kingdom of heaven, as Matthew prefers to call it—is whenever and wherever the will of God is done. Therefore, simply to say “Lord, Lord” doesn’t make present God’s kingdom. To live within the kingdom and make it manifest in our lives is to live according to the will of God. He then said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.”
It is clear that building a life on words and thoughts and intentions is not enough. A life built on a strong foundation requires action.
Some of the people who use a Christian vocabulary most vocally and loudly live lives that bear little resemblance to self-giving, loving, disciplined and trusting life of Jesus.
Can you hear Jesus’ words echoing through the ages? “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven . . .”
The hope of the world is that there will be many people who will build their lives on the firm foundation of understanding and living Jesus’ teachings.
Look at the life of Jesus, watch him love, listen to his teachings. There is the building code, if you will, for a firm foundation.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster