BLESSED ARE YOU …

I’m reading through Matthew 5, 6, 7, as a discipline as I continue to preach through this teaching in anticipation of going deeper spiritually and taking people deeper spiritually. Jesus was with a great crowd of people and he and his disciples, (don’t think just 12), went over to a mountainside. (The hill region) The mountainside acts as a natural amphitheater. Jesus understood this and fully expected that he needed a place where he could speak to many, many people. So he sits down and begins to unfold the very core offeet of Jesus his teaching: this constitutes his “yoke.” From a teacher-student relationship a “yoke” is the burden of understanding or interpretation of, a given teacher in relationship to the subject at hand. So when Jesus says, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” he is speaking of people buying into his interpretation of something; in this case the Law of Moses.

Jesus begins with the word “Blessed.” Blessed is “Makarios” in the Greek and it is translated 44 times as blessed, 4 times as good, 1 time as fortunate and 1 time as happier. (in the NIV 1984) So as Jesus unfolds his interpretation of life and the Law at the beginning, he starts with the fact that your life is favored, good, and happier, when and if … these things apply to you. There seems to carry in this word the understanding that the face of God seems to be attuned to, or turned toward the person that is poor, that is mourning, that walks humbly, who longs to do right by others, that is merciful to those around them, that is focused upon one thing, who choose to make peace in peaceful ways and means, and even find themselves persecuted because of their desire to do what is right for everyone.

“Blessed are” does not seem to “inclinate” that these people go through life without any problems or getting everything they ask God for. It appears more right to understand this is a list of people that are giving their lives away; that live in contentment in their circumstances and focus a little more outward.

Jesus was teaching in the presence of a military state. The Roman army and culture that was trying to push into their existence occupied them. Everywhere they turned their lives and subsequently their religion was bumping into the laws and expectations of Rome.

In the midst of all of this Jesus begins what we call the “Beatitudes”, the list of blessings. This is in direct relationship to Isaiah 61, which Jesus reads in the synagogue (Luke 4) as he launches his ministry.

1“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV)

The Kingdom of God has broken through into a dark world. The focus of God is upon this world and specifically all the people of this world. All of this teaching has an eschatological focus: The Kingdom is here but the Kingdom is coming as well. As children of the Kingdom our transformation will be evident to all when we can find our peace and relationship to God the father in being content that God is with us in all of this. Whether in the “now or the not yet,” we WILL find relief and salvation from God.

Blessed are you today in your present circumstance, your desired circumstance and your eventual/ eternal circumstance, for the gaze of God is upon you. Find your contentment today in his shadow.

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Stop struggling, stop striving today!

Joseph's Pictures 219Psalm 29:10-11 (NIV)

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

 

Today I want to share a moment of serendipity with you, a moment that occurred as I was reading my Bible. I opened up to a passage and as I prepared my heart I saw a passage above that I had marked previously. As I gazed upon my marks and read the words, God poked my heart and said, “Good morning Joe.” So I pass this on that God may also poke your heart and let you know that he is here. Now matter what it is that you are about to face, big or small, he is here. No matter how loud the noise, how dark the night, how evil the valley, he is here. He knows your name. He loves you. He prepared a place for you near him. Like the swallow that builds her nest near the altar, God has a place for you as well. It is in his blessing.

“The Lord sits…”

Notice that with everything that is going on in your world and mine. With all the false media, the lies, the hate, the wars, the hurt, the rejection, and all the meaningless activity of the mass of humanity, God sits. He isn’t running around threatening, shaking his fist. God is not scared or worried. No, God sits. He is relaxed and watching his children. For some he is sad, for some he rejoices but for all he sits and is working for our good. The scripture says he sits enthroned OVER the flood. He is not worried about the turbulent waters that are crashing down and destroying the earth that time he “started over” with Noah. God is not spazzed or even remotely worried about that flood will do anything other than what he will allow. No, in all our worry, and as we try so hard to get God all wound up in our drama, he sits above the threats. Close your eyes and look at how peaceful he sits on the throne. God is at peace always.

“The lord is …”

I cannot make you believe that God is. I know he is. I cannot prove it to you any more than you can prove he isn’t. I entered this world as a self-absorbed narcissist and until I realized that I am the one that is responsible for my sin, I had no hope. When I saw the God sent his son to die for my sins so that I do not own them, so that I do not suffer the consequence of them nor will they keep me from the throne room any longer, when I surrendered to that truth, my life began to change. You see, In my life, “The Lord IS …” Not only is it true that God is, he is enthroned as the King of the universe. I do not have to be able to answer all the “Why’s” and all the “How’s” or anything else, to know that I am created. The cake doesn’t have to thoroughly know the baker to know there is a baker and the cake is not it. God is too grand, to beautiful, too wonder-full for me to comprehend. Any one that says otherwise is a liar and the truth is not in them. I cannot fathom the depths of God other than to try to understand what he has revealed and reveals to human kind. The lord is King over all that he has made, he is alone is judge, not me.

“The Lord gives …”

Of all the “deities” in this world that have been made up, the God of the Bible is hands down the most generously giving and the most loving. The Lord gives. God wants to give. It is his love language. He gives life, he gives a place with him in heaven, he gives forgiveness when we slander and crucify him. He gives when we need help, he gives when we need knowledge, he gives when we need love, he gives when we need a family, he gives, and gives, and gives. We on the other hand take, and take, and take, and take. It’s our humanity. It’s our sin. You cannot out give God, but you do not want to understand how stingy he can be. When God asks for us to give back to him, he is serious. To ignore obedience to the Word is to prove that we esteem God as nothing more than a spiritual vending machine. It only proves the depth of our self-centered depravity; shame on us. Sometimes what God gives is the strength to face giants, kill lions, strike down serpents, overcome disasters and face adversity with grace and hope. That’s more than any other clay figurine on a shelf is going to give you. My God says he will give you the gift of his presence; You will not be alone. The Lord gives.

“The Lord blesses …”

As we consider “The Lord gives,” what ever the Lord gives is a blessing to you and I. We may always know why he allows the pain and struggle, and it certainly was not his initial plan for humanity, but he come-follow-mecan work it out for our good. The blessing of God is gold in the hands of the righteous. The joy of knowing that the favor of the King of the universe rests upon you brings peace. It doesn’t mean there are no problems in your life. It isn’t a reflection of the absence of struggle and hurt, no, it is the knowledge that he is your father, and he is doing what is best for you at every turn of the sun. It I knowing that though you are outside in the playground called earth, he is intimately aware of what you are doing and going through. Not only is he watching you, but he is “standing” right here while you are preoccupied with all that is going on. His blessing is his gift to you. It is for eternity, but you need to take it. You need to receive it and open it. Know this peace that in the face of death, carries you through all the darkness you may face and all the joy you may encounter.

Today, as you go through this day, remember,

“The Lord sits …”

“The Lord is …”

“The Lord gives …”

“The Lord blesses …”

and YOU are the object of all this love today.

 

 

 

IT COULD BE ME?

Lion roaring1 Peter 5:8
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

I want to go HOME

I sit here in my favorite coffee shop looking out at the world and I struggle to even want to be here. When I say “here” I mean, “on the planet,” not here in the coffee shop. The coffee shop feels safe, it feels friendly, it feels comfortable. It is small and for whatever reason I feel protected, like I do in my home. My home is safe, my wife makes it a refuge. When I am here or there the “ugly” is far away. There is no hate allowed here at the coffee shop. Everyone is welcome to come here. They will love you and serve you and make you a coffee that will rock your world.

But I cannot live here in this oasis and last week was terrible in our hemisphere. I don’t think it compares to things going on in other parts of the world: the starvation, wars, kidnapping, mutilations and the bombings and genocide. But that doesn’t make it less real.

I CAN FEEL IT

I feel the evil affecting my soul again and I have to reach deep to shake myself. Then today I woke up to a pastor falling to alcoholism and it just touched me hard. I don’t idolize him. I have been to his church conference and it was good. I don’t care for some of his theologies, (surely the kingdom of God is not about punching people in the throat or shooting them if they enter his home) but hey, I like his preaching and I like that he is sold out to the kingdom work in a large, get off your butt and do it big, sort of way. I love that he appears to spell faith, “RISK.” I appreciate that he gave and gave and gave. I really appreciate that he inspired me at one point in my own ministry. But, my heart hurts for him and I feel afraid, and yes, I know this fear is not from God.

There have been times

This pastor IS still a leader; as pastors we are all leaders. Leaders in a war we can barely see, but we see better than the average church go-er. The battle worn, the mutilated, the broken, the chewed upon, they walk into our offices every day. At times we can jump to it and bind up the weary and the broken hearted, comfort and bless, and at times we have no clue what to do or how to help. Sometimes we watch people switch sides in the battle and at times we watch people walk away wondering, “What could I have done better?” Beating ourselves up believing we failed, or thinking we “could have, should have,” and yet, we aren’t God. And If I can be honest without being needy, at times I have envied those that could throw up their hands and walk away. I would dare say there are times I have longed to be able to do that.

As I think about this man and his ministry to so many, I am aware of Peter warning us all that Satan, a very personal accuser, is a roaring lion, but he is not just running around or laying around making noise, no, he is seeking some to devour, to destroy.

Could that be me?

I cannot help but glance around and wonder when and how he will come after me. For I know my calling is to give him reason. Will he wreck my life today? Can I remain focused through the negativity thrown at our local leadership, the world attacking our local church and the hate being spewed across all the news venues, as well as standing against my own temptations? Will he sneak up when I least suspect it and destroy everything God has allowed me to be a part of? And if he were to succeed, then what of the church (the people), what of those that work here and have their income here? The weight, the fear, it can be incredibly unbearable at times.
This is the fear that haunts me daily as I hear King David saying,

                   “5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
                      sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
                       6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
                      you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
                      7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
                      wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
                                                      Psalm 51

He has given me a hope

What is our hope then? Who can be called his son or his daughter that is born of this world? There is none, no not one, that is righteous enough in and of themselves to enter heaven; to dwell with God. We all stand condemned whether it is in thought or deed; we all were born evil, sinful and lost. We all need a rescuer, a savior and I for one am grateful that God sent one.

I am in need as well

I have not yet preached a sermon, done a deed, planned an outreach, sacrificed, given or paid for something, nor led a person to Christ, or any other thing that would even catch God’s attention, let alone impress him to allow me to enter his presence. My good “things” will never outweigh the dirt on my soul, the selfish intent of my heart nor the greed in my spirit. I need a savior. I need Jesus more than anyone else on this planet.

lion in the grassSo today I look around and tentatively, with great fear, I stare into the tall grass of this world, looking for a telltale sign of a lion. Is that a shadow of something prowling? Is that the swish of grass, dragging down the side of my soul’s predator, as he moves closer for the pounce? Today will I be the focused attention of such a vile spirit? Is it greed, or lust, pride, or idolatry about to break forth from the grass and kill me?

Of the tribe of Judah

My hope is in the Lion next to me: The Lion of the tribe of Judah in whose shadow I run. In whose name I have life. Praise God his love was sacrificial and daily transforming. Praise God almighty that his name is

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

Praise God he knows my name, and though the enemy may wound me, he cannot take my life, for I have given it freely to my Lord, it belongs to him. But I still fear the wound the enemy may cause; so I watch.

Cry with me, pray with me

Today my souls cries in pain for this pastor that I love, that does not know me. Today I know, there but for the grace of God go I. Today I do not get haughty or take any joy, for that could just as quickly be me.
Today I am aware that I need your prayers just like this pastor does.