April 16, 2010

“Blessed are the peacemakers … Blessed are those who are persecuted …” (Matthew 5: 9, 10)

As Jesus profiles the character of a disciple that makes them salt and light, a solution and an answer of His to the problems and the problem people of this world, He describes the fourth pair of Beatitudes when He declares that they will be peacemakers who get persecuted.

A synonym for “peacemakers” is “reconcilers.”  Paul writes (in 2 Corinthians 5: 13-6:2), that every believer who has been reconciled to God through Christ has committed to them the message and the ministry of reconciliation.  Today many people are alienated from God, from themselves and from other people.  The acute need today is, therefore, for reconciliation.  To quote a theologian, who was interpreting the passage referenced in parentheses above, “It is the will of the Reconciler that the reconciled are to be the vehicles of reconciliation in the lives of the un-reconciled.”

Since reconcilers go where the conflict is happening they are often in great danger.  Such is the case with the disciples who are living the fourth pair of Beatitudes.  You would think that if a person had the eight blessed attitudes in their life people would gather around them and sing “For he’s a jolly good fellow!” But the opposite is true.  They attack and persecute such a person.

The reason for this is that when they meet such a person they have two choices: They can realize that this is what I should be like, or they can attack that person and try to prove that they’re really not what they appear to be.  Those who are the salt of the earth irritate and burn the moral sores of those who are lost.  Two men in a pew, which one are you?

Surrender and Hunger

April 9, 2010

“Blessed are the meek…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”  (Matthew 5:5, 6)

Now that we have set aside some time to celebrate Holy Week and Easter let’s return to the blessed attitudes Jesus told us would make us salt and light, part of His solution, and one of His answers in this world.  These attitudes come in pairs.  The first pair was to be poor, or broken in spirit, and to mourn over the hard reality of how spiritually bankrupt we truly are.

The second pair is to be meek and then hunger and thirst for what is right.  Meekness is not weakness.  We read that Moses was the meekest man who had ever lived at his time in history and Jesus clearly said “I am meek.” (Matthew 11: 28-30.) If you are acquainted with Moses and with Jesus you know that these men were anything but weak.  A synonym for meekness is tameness.  A good metaphor that illustrates meekness is when a powerful horse takes the bit and surrenders to the will of its rider. 

Another good Biblical example of meekness is when Saul of Tarsus surrendered his will to the Christ he met on the road to Damascus, asked what his Lord wanted him to do, and became the Apostle Paul.  Saul became meek then he hungered and thirsted to know what was right. The promise is that they will be filled with righteousness.  They will also passionately oppose what they encounter that is not right.  This second attitude is not that we are to hunger and thirst for happiness, but for rightness.

 Would you like to be part of the solution and one of the answers of Jesus in this world?  Then surrender and be filled with what is right.

How Important Is Holy Week?

March 31, 2010

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” (John 12:23)

Approximately half the chapters in the Gospel of John record the first thirty-three years of the life of Jesus and the other half record the last week of His life.  The solemn words quoted above announce that His hour had come.  This is where John divides his writings and begins to tell us about that last week of Jesus’ life.

If you add together the number of chapters in all four of the Gospels you come up with the number eighty-nine.  Four of those chapters cover the birth and the first thirty years Jesus lived on earth.  Eighty-five cover the three years of His public ministry.  And twenty-eight cover that last week of His life.  This means that last week is seven times more important than His birth and the first thirty years He lived according to those who wrote the four Gospels.

The authors of these Gospels tell us by the way they have prioritized the last week in the life of Jesus that what we call “Holy Week” was the most important week in His life.  They did this because it was during that week that He suffered and died and was raised from the dead for our salvation. Traditionally, we make much of Christmas, but the four Gospel writers make much of Easter. As committed followers of Christ should not this week that was so very important to Him be the most important week of our Church year?

If you want to make this week important to you, if you’ve never done so before, believe that this was the week Jesus died and rose again for your personal salvation.

The First Couplet

March 23, 2010

“Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who mourn…” (Matthew 5:3-4)

Jesus gave this teaching to those who professed to be His disciples.  They were with Him on the slopes around the Sea of Galilee while He was ministering to a vast multitude of sick people.  Mark 3:13 & 14 tells us that by personal invitation Jesus invited these disciples to join Him at a higher level surrounding the Sea of Galilee, so that He might teach them how to be part of His solution and His answer to all those problems at the bottom of the mountain.

The first two attitudes He taught them were to be poor in spirit and to mourn.  Poor in spirit means broken in spirit and mourning could at least be applied to the mourning we experience while we are learning that we are poor in spirit.  I paraphrase these first two attitudes with the words “I can’t but He can.” One of the best ways He teaches us that we can’t is failure.  We hate to fail.  We loath failure.  We are driven in many ways by the fear of failure.  That’s why there is much mourning involved in learning these first two attitudes.

Another application could be that Jesus is teaching His disciples to look down the hill at all those hurting people.  He is asking, “What makes you think you can be an answer of mine or a solution of mine to their problems if you never know what it is to mourn yourself or experience the broken spirit that confesses “I can’t but He can?”

Have you learned this yet, or are the experiences of your life vehicles of God through which He is trying to teach you these first two blessed attitudes?

A Checkup from the Neck Up

March 19, 2010

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness…” (Matthew 6: 22, 23)

Jesus began His greatest discourse by teaching His disciples that if they wanted to be His solution and His answer to the problems people have in this world, they needed a checkup from the neck up.  According to the verses above, the right attitude can be the difference between light and darkness in our lives and in the lives of those with whom we relate every day.

He therefore gave them eight blessed attitudes that would make them salt and light for Him in this world, as through them he would make the difference between a life filled with darkness (unhappiness, depression) and a life filled with light (happiness and meaning) for themselves and for those to whom He would send them.

This discourse is called “The Sermon on the Mount” and it is recorded for us in the Gospel of Matthew chapters five, six and seven.  Before looking at these eight attitudes individually it’s good to make some observations about them as a unit.  They divide into two sections between the fifth and sixth attitudes and they fit into four couplets.  The first section could be called the attitudes we must learn while coming to God through Christ, and the second section describes the attitudes we must learn while going for Christ as salt and light.

The four couplets are the poor in spirit who mourn; the meek who hunger and thirst for what is right; the merciful with a pure heart and the peacemakers who get persecuted.

Where is Your Heart?

October 15, 2008

Where is your heart? (Matthew 6: 19-21)   Jesus told us we should not lay up treasures on earth where they depreciate and thieves steal them from us.  He told us we should lay up treasures in heaven, or in the spiritual dimension, where they will not depreciate or be stolen.  He added that our hearts will be where our treasures are.  In other words, Jesus told us, “If you really want to know where your heart is, show me your treasures.”

A practical application of this, if you really want to know where your heart is, look over your old check stubs and calendars for the past five years.  Consider how you are spending your money and time.  Then you will know where your treasures are, and where you heart is.

Millions of people are crushed and depressed these days because they have lost their treasures on Wall Street where greedy and corrupt men have stolen them.  If their hearts were in their treasures on earth, and the way they were laying up treasures on earth, they need to listen to and understand Jesus as He tells them where their heart should be.

Where is your heart?