Posted in Learning from His Word, Living out our faith

Oh yes, insults are a certainty for the blessed!

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matt 5:11-12.

Today, in America and the Western World, the insults have begun.  Christians in America and Europe have had a time of relative peace, and I do not believe that was a good thing.  The majority of Christians either became comfortable and complacent, letting the days, weeks, and yeacandles_13426cprs go by without dedicating a part of their day to prayer and studying God’s word.  That meant, of course, that we lost sight of our primary focus – following Jesus, and seeking to do the will of God.

What is the will of God, you might ask?  To draw near to Him. To learn from Him. To worship Him. To believe in Jesus.   Then to go out and serve Him.  Be a light of hope and love in a dark world.  The ways we can serve God are many, and as we study His word they become obvious.  No matter which service we dedicate our lives to, in the end it will be pleasing to God.

But we have fallen away, intrigued and enticed by modern technology and our ability to hear the world, see the world, while picking what excites and stimulates.  However what excites and stimulates us seems to be something that must continue to be fed a stronger and stronger diet.  We increasingly need to see more violence, more sex, and more evil.

The results have been that we have become more and more angry at life, empty inside,  filled with pride, and control freaks.  More and more of us are turning to drugs and alcohol to fill that emptiness and to get the “good feeling” that seems to elude us.

Interestingly, however, there is what I will call a growing remnant of Christians in the US and Europe who are turning back to God, and in Him are finding the joy that can only be found in Him, the peace that can only come from Him, the a love that overwhelms us.

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This flies in the face of the proud, those who need to be in control, and those who don’t believe in God, let alone Jesus.  And since they cannot find the joy, peace, contentment, and love that we have – they strike out.

This is why we see a rise in insults that fly across the social media sits day in and day out.  This is why we see good, decent, quite, unassuming Christian people abased in public.

Jesus clearly told us that as followers of Christ we would be insulted and so much more.  And we are only at the beginning of what is to come.  Darkness cannot stand even a spark of light because it reveals the ugliness of the dark world.  And Christian, who are serving God, are lights in the ever darkening world.

I take heed to this message in the book of Jude, the last book in the Bible before the book of Revelation.  It is a powerful book with only 25 verses.   I invite you to read it sometime soon.  For now, I close with this….

A Call to Persevere

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ forsmile_7209cetold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Doxology

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

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Posted in Learning from His Word, Living out our faith

How pure is your heart?

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

So far we have read five of the nine “Blessed” statements Jesus presented at the very beginning of his first public teaching.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.”  (Matthew 5:3-7

Note how each of these speaks of a part of our inner character followed by the positive results we receive when we are open to a molding process which will develop these qualities within us.   Notice also how the first statement focuses our work almost solely on our own selves.  There is not outward reach involved.  In the third we begin to see our character changes affecting the world and people around us. The work of God within us will begin to make a difference outside of us as well.   The impact of our “Blessedness” increasingly affects the world as we grow into and onward from one Beatitude (“Blessed are..” statement) to the next.  This process of moving our focus from loving God, to loving ourselves, and then on to loving others.  In the process we continue to be blessed internally because that is just what the love of God does within our souls and spirits.

Amazingly, we once again see how all the teachings of Jesus fit together into the laws given to Moses by God during the Israelite journey from Egypt to the promised land (what we know now as Israel). This is what Jesus meant by “All the Law” when he answered the religious leaders of his day when they asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:37-40)

To love God with all our heart, soul, and mind fulfills the first four commandments, and to love our neighbor as ourselves fulfills the last six.

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

This declaration by Jesus gets to the real motive behind our interactions with others whether by word or deed.  As we are moving from loving ourselves to loving others, Jesus cautions us to watch  our motives.  They must be pure, unmixed, and unsullied.

This is only possible once we have truly become humble and meek (see previous posts).  Once we have our eyes off of ourselves, and are looking at others through God’s eyes, only then might we speak and act with our motives pure, without any ulterior motive, without any need for a thank you, without any need for self-approval, or without a need for the approval of others.  Is our service to and for others something we do for Christ or for our own prestige?  Is our prayer and Bible reading time done to spend time with God, to grow closer to Him, to listen to Him, or is it read_7203cdone a duty, to build ourselves up, or as an example for others, “look at me!”?  To quote William Barclay once again, “Is our religion a thing in which we are conscious of nothing so much as the need of God within our hearts, or a thing in which we have comfortable thoughts of our own piety?”

Can we measure up?  Based on where one is in their spiritual maturity, there can be a growing number of moments when our heart is pure, but we can claim only moments of pureness, not a lifetime.

“Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’”?  (Proverbs 20:9)

This is a tough one.  Stop and consider your own life.   And yet Jesus makes it even tougher when he says only those pure in heart will see GodOuch!

Thank you God for not leaving us in a state of hopelessness.  It is important to understand that the purity Jesus is speaking of here would be impossible without the grace of God. It is through Jesus that God’s grace cleans our impure hearts through which we can see God.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51:10.

God bless you as you continue to seek Him and follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

Posted in Learning from His Word, Seeking Him

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst?

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

 

As I was thinking about writing this blog, the subject of hunger brought back a memory I would like to share.  It was that moment in time when I finally understood the hunger of people around the world.

I was listening to the radio on the way to work one morning.  It was during a week when there was a campaign to introduce listeners to sponsorship programs for children around the world who live in impoverished communities.  Because my heart aches so at the conditions these families live in, we had already sponsored some during the past few years.  I was not planning on sponsoring anymore, but then I heard a field team member describe the time she saw a woman making what looked like cookies out of mud. The mother would form them and then let them bake in the sun.  When they were ready, she would feed them to her child. The field team member approached her and asked why she was feeding her child mud cookies.  The mother’s answer was, “I know that my child is starving because I have nothing to feed her.  She is going to die.   At least with these mud cookies, I can keep her from some of the pain she would feel.”

Bam! That hit me so hard.  As a mother of three, I cannot imagine living in such poverty that I would have to watch my children slowly die of starvation.  To make cookies of mud, just to ease the pain, would be a job filled with love and great emotional pain.

I’m sure you know by now that I ended up sponsoring another child.  God has provided the extra dollars needed each month, and we have been blessed to correspond with a child and his grandmother (who is raising him).  As is so typical of God, when he blesses one person, He often blesses another.

All this being said, Jesus is not talking about physical hunger when he says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  Although he is not speaking of physical hunger, but rather spiritual hunger, much of the story I just shared plays out in the souls of people today.  People are starving, and are eating mud cookies to try to relieve the pain while their souls slowly die.

There is a hunger in all of us for something we just can’t put our hands on.  We cannot think enough, touch enough, smell enough, see enough, taste enough, or hear enough to find it, unless we are willing to consider that God might be what we are starving for.

If we can open up the door of our lives just enough to consider that God might be real, and begin to search for Him, then we have a chance of finding the food and drink that will satisfy our souls and bring as an amazingly full life.

Are you willing to allow God to feed you or are you going to keep eating the mud cookies that the world feeds you to keep you somewhat pain-free until you die?  In case you are wondering what mud cookies you might be eating, let me suggest it could be some that I ate for part of my life: packing my life full of activities and responsibilities so there was no time to really contemplate my loneliness and emptiness, addiction, wrapping my life up in my children and their sports, plays, concerts, groups, and activities while setting my life on hold, watching hours of TV (IPADs and tablets were not available then), striving for success as a business owner, and most of all searching for the all elusive feeling of being loved and wanted.  Those were my mud cookies, but when I hit rock bottom, and saw death as my only escape, the God I had ignored all those years, whispered to me  as I was planning my suicide, “What will happen to your small boys?”

I am lucky that God could pierce the darkness I had been living in, a darkness created by a soul craving for something and not knowing what it was, and so eating every mud cookie she could find to survive the pain.  He took this starving soul and fed me with the love and His word. He filled the emptiness with the Holy Spirit and new Christian friends.  He totally transformed my life.

I hope you do not have to starve to the point of death before you will open the door of your life to God.  I hope you will understand that when Jesus said, if you hunger and thirst for righteousness (living a God directed life) you will be filled.

Today I am filled with and abundance of joy, peace, and love.

My prayer is that you will be too.

God bless you my friend.

 

Posted in Learning from His Word, Seeking Him

Blessed are those who mourn? Really?

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

This particular passage in the Bible is one that most non-theologians do not understand.  I know that for years I struggled with this scripture.  Yes, I agree that those mourning will be comforted, but does that make them blessed? Take a parent who has lost a child, for example.  How would comfort from God or from friends move them to say, “We are so blessed”?

Yes, many have come through extremely sorrowful times, and have grown closer to God through that time, and so they are blessed.  But that is not the case for all.  There has to be something else, something different, something better that Jesus meant when he said made this statement.  And there is!

If you read the last post, Jesus referred to the “poor in spirit” as those who recognize their wretched state, how being in control of their lives has really been a disaster, and they finally turn to the One who was standing nearby ready to help when asked – God.

Today read the next thing Jesus said to the multitude of listeners, “blessed are those who mourn”.   It is meaningful that this statement is the second in the list of “blessed.”

First a person is blessed when they understand they are lost and need God.

Second, however, the recognition of that is followed closely by realizing what our sin has cost our God – the horrific death of His son on the cross.  We mourn because we realize it is our sin that was responsible for the 40 lashes that ripped the skin on his back wide open.  It was our sin that gave Jesus the crown of thorns that cut into his scalp.  It was our sin that made necessary the nails in his feet and hands.

Who crucified Jesus?  We did.  You and I, and when we let that sink in, we end up on our knees in sorrow.  The word “mourn” here came from a Greek word that meant a deep, heart-wrenching mourning.  It is the type of mourning that causes one to groan out loud as they bend over in anguish.    If we truly grasp the damage of our sin, we will enter that place of mourning.

But Jesus tells us we will be comforted.  Indeed we are, because we know we have a risen King, not one still in the tomb.  When Jesus broke free from the grave, he smashed the head of the snake, by ending death forever for those who believe in Him.  Our bodies will return to the earth, but our souls and spirits will go on to live forever with the King of Kings, our Lord, Jesus.

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For those of us who have lost loved ones, we also receive comfort in knowing we will see them again.

So yes, Jesus did mean that those mourning the loss of their loved ones will be comforted., but he meant so much more.  He meant that we, when we discover the cost of sin, our sin, will be comforted as well.

Thank you Jesus.

Amen

Posted in Learning from His Word

Blessed are the poor in spirit…

Welcome!  We now consider the blessedness of the poor in spirit.  The word “poor” comes from the Greek word ptōchos  which is a description of someone who has nothing, someone who is destitute.  This is the type of person Jesus calls blessed?  How can this be?  When we consider the Hebrew usage of the word “poor” we find passages which speak of people, who in their desperation sought God and found, in trusting Him, relief from their complete helplessness.

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Consider these verses in Psalms.

From the bottom of my heart praise rises to him. Where is his equal in all of heaven and earth? Who else protects the weak and helpless from the strong, and the poor and needy from those who would rob them? (Ps 35:10 NLT)

You sent abundant rain upon your land, O God, to refresh it in its weariness! There your people lived, for you gave them this home when they were destitute. (Ps 68:9-10)

But He lifts the needy out of their suffering
and makes their families multiply like flocks. (Ps 107:41 HCSB)

I will abundantly bless its food;
I will satisfy its needy with bread. (Ps 132:15 HCSB)

Jesus is saying that it is when we find ourselves in complete wretchedness, with nowhere to turn for help, that we turn and seek God. It is then that we come to know the joy that can be found only through Him.  It is then when we find the kingdom of heaven is right here, right now.  It is only when we realize we are not able to solve our problem, or repair the damage in a relationship, or in our lives, and we fall to our knees and seek God, that He will be found.

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jer 29:13).

For me it was on the laundry room floor, when I realized I could not go on to live another day, and I cried out “God, if you are real, I need you now.  I cannot live another day.”  God met me and has been guiding my life ever since.

Have you had that utter hopelessness?  Maybe you are feeling it now.  If so, the kingdom of heaven (on earth) is so close, you just need to reach out and seek Him.  He will lift you up and fill you with hope, and that hope will grow for as long as you continue to seek Him.

My life today is totally different from what it was 20+ years ago on the laundry room floor.  It started to change the moment I cried out to God, and it has been an unbelievable journey ever since.  Each day I grow.  Each day my love for God and people deepens.  Each day I praise God for the kingdom of heaven living I am blessed with.

I hope you will join God’s family by reaching out to Him today.  He is right there waiting for you.  It just takes a genuine desire to know Him and be known by Him.

And then joy will replace heartache, contentment will replace want, and peace will reign when there should be no peace.

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful” (John 14:27).

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).

Blessings!

Posted in Learning from His Word

Blessed!

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

(Matthew 5:3)

Jesus begins his most important teaching message with these words.  Therefore they may be pretty important.  This is the first statement made in a short eight statement “Blessed are” teaching at the very beginning of the Sermon on the Mount which is recorded in the book of Matthew (with a shorter version in Luke).

These eight statements are the heart of everything Jesus says and does during his three year ministry, death, resurrection, and direction for his disciples and followers on through the ages.  It seems to me that we need to understand what Jesus is saying in these eight statements, so we can apply them to our own lives and our service and outreach to others.

Let’s begin then shall we?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The phrase, “Blessed are…” is used in each of the eight statements Jesus makes.  If we translate it from the Aramaic language in which Jesus spoke , the translation would read, “O the blessedness of the…” In this case,  “O the blessedness of the poor in spirit!”  In all actuality, what Jesus said was an exclamation not a statement.  This immediately changes how we read the Beatitudes.  Jesus is not speaking about things we hope for, or states of being that promise bliss.  Not at all, these are congratulation exclamations on what is.  Jesus is essentially saying that the “blessedness” is not something believers can hope for, but rather what is theirs in the here and now.  (For certain, there will be an even greater fulfillment of these when Christ comes again, but the kingdom of heaven living is available to us right now.)  This is something Jesus preached in so many different ways.  We would be well advised to grasp the importance of this, which is why I believe Jesus started his first major teaching with these eight statements.

It must be noted that the translations we read are taken from the Greek translation in which the New Testament was primarily written.  The Greek used the word makarios, which they used to describe gods, in other words they are attributing a god-like joy to try and grasp the fullness of the blessing of joy, and the certainty of it.

“Makarios, then, describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and changes in life…..The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable.  ‘No on’, said Jesus, ‘will take your joy from you’ (John 16:22).  The beatitudes speak of that joy which seeks us through our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, and pain and grief, are powerless to touch, that joy which shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol.1, 103)

Do you have such a joy?  Would you like such a joy?  There is nothing like it, that I can tell you.  Come, Jesus calls you.  Come to the fountain of living water only he can provide.

Come back and read more as we work our way through the beatitudes and glean the greatness of the life we have, or can have, through Jesus Christ.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27)

Posted in Learning from His Word, Living out our faith

Holidays can be such horrible times for grieving people

2015-01-01-06-12-05When Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays and anniversaries come and a family is grieving the loss of a loved one, the pain of that lost intensifies.  They are flooded with memories, and can see the loved one’s face, but it is a face that cannot be touched.  Painful!

Can we find comfort in God’s words at these times?  Some can because in the scriptures we see real life, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the painful.  We read about David’s grief in the Psalms.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. (Psalm 31:9)

my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.  (Psalm 88:9)

Those of us who are friends and family of the grieving, can get comfort from the words about Jesus in John 11:33-36.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:33-36)

Why can that bring us comfort?  How can we use this to comfort our friends and family?

Well, you see, the grief of Jesus was different from that of David.  David was grieving the loss of a loved one.  Jesus was grieving the grief of a loved one.  Jesus was not grieving for Lazarus.  No, he already knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the grave.  No, he was grieving over the pain death had brought to Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus.  Just like Jesus had compassion on others whose hearts were wrenched in grief, he acted in love and brought life back to their loved ones.  So, it was with Lazarus.

Jesus wept for the pain being suffered.  He still weeps for the pain we must endure as we grieve.  What we must remember is that shortly after Lazarus was raised from the grave, Jesus went to the cross and died to conquer death forever.  There will be a time when there will be no more death.  There will be a time when we will live with them forever.

Christmas is a time to find comfort in that promise as you worship the baby born in Bethlehem, and know that baby grew and conquered death.  He crushed the head of Satan when he took the punishment for our sins and robbed Satan2015-03-25-07-58-56 of our souls.

Easter is a time to remember that event even more significantly.

If you have family members who do not know Jesus Christ, please pray about how you might help steal them back from Satan’s eternal home, and live with them forever in the place of no tears.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelations 21:4)

 

Let joy mix with your tears.  Let peace mix with your pain.  Let HOPE, Jesus himself, fill your heart.

God bless.