Those who mourn are blessed: Reading scripture backwards.

A few weeks ago our pastor taught on the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12, and he highlighted something I hadn’t really considered: The verses from 3 to 12 are not simply separate sayings, like little nuggets of wisdom. Instead, they form a whole and each verse builds on the one before. They reveal a pattern for the life of a Christ-follower.

A few weeks ago our pastor taught on the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12, and he highlighted something I hadn’t really considered: The verses from 3 to 12 are not simply separate sayings, like little nuggets of wisdom. They’re not like some parts you might find in Proverbs, superficially a list of individual, wise sayings. Instead, they form a whole and each verse builds on the one before. Have a quick read through with that in mind and we’ll pick up after,

Jesus began to teach them,

“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.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“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.

Matthew 5:3-12

The first thing that struck me was that these people were “blessed.” Blessed?! Blessed… Maybe they were blessed because each ‘bad thing’ was followed up by a comforting thing, like “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” but that’s a little morbid, isn’t? If we put up with mourning we’ll be blessed by being comforted? Joy…  But I couldn’t get around the language, “Blessed are those who morn…” Blessed are those. You are, I am, blessed when I mourn.

blessed
adjective
1. consecrated; sacred; holy; sanctified: the Blessed Sacrament.
2. worthy of adoration, reverence, or worship: the Blessed Trinity.
3. divinely or supremely favored; fortunate: to be blessed with a strong, healthy body; blessed with an ability to find friends.
4. blissfully happy or contented.
Dictionary.com entry for “blessed”

Read as a whole, I started to wonder, who lives all these things?, and of course whenever you ask something like that, especially about virtues, the answer is usually Jesus! So, I began to see the life of Christ in those words.

Christ was poor in spirit, downtrodden, mispoken to, looked down upon. Christ mourned – for Lazarus, for Jerusalem, and certainly for the many he healed of sickness and sin, for his family because He knew where He was headed, for humanity as He hung on the cross because He knew who would ignore His Offer. Christ was meek – He didn’t respond in power when tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Christ hungered and thirsted for righteousness – He stayed behind at the temple as a child because ‘He had to be about His Father’s business.’ Christ was merciful – He had mercy on those he healed of sickness and sin. Christ was pure in heart – He lived a perfect life, to die a perfect sacrifice. Christ was a peacemaker – He didn’t incite violence from His followers, He went to the death peacefully. He was persecuted for righteousness’ sake – He went to the cross because He taught true righteousness.

Christ is our example. He wasn’t teaching His followers something He wasn’t already going through.

What really struck me though was, as I was trying to understand if each verse was really a step in a series, I wanted to confirm that by seeing if it could be read backwards. That’s when I started to see it like this,

  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they are poor in spirit. It was true. Those who understand their true, sinful condition before a Holy, sinless God, recognize they are poor in spirit and they mourn because of it.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they mourn. A true mourner, understanding his real, sin condition, is always meek – who, being honest of his condition, would not ask, “Who can save me now?”
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they are meek. The meek will admit they can’t do it on their own, they are not prideful, and they will search for what will cure them.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they hunger and thirst after righteousness. Those who find righteousness understand the mercy given to them in the sacrifice  of Jesus Christ on the cross, for their sins – and they show mercy out of grateful hearts and true understanding of the gift they have received.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they are merciful. The Book of James says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” You will only find the pure in heart when you find the one who is also merciful for they have the Spirit of Christ living in them, Christ, the One who is Mercy.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are pure in heart. Those who are pure in heart will also make peace with their neighbour because they are merciful, they know that strife would only harm their brother or sister.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for they are peacemakers. The peacemakers will be persecuted for their righteousness exactly because their persecutors are not peacemakers, because they are not pure in heart, because they are not merciful, because they are not hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they are not meek, because they are not mourning, because they do not recognize their poverty of spirit.

This is *jawdrop* and *mindblown* territory for me after actually parsing this scripture again and fleshing it out in writing.

What we have here, in the Beatitudes, are the steps of living the life of a Christ-follower. Don’t know where to begin in your walk with Jesus? Start here. Start with mourning because you are truly poor in spirit, as are we all, and go from there, asking God and considering how to recognize each point and how to apply it in your daily life.

And what is our reward when we have ‘climbed’ this mountain of the Beatitudes and become ever so ‘holy’ and ‘saintly’?

“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.

This, then, is where the text turns itself around and looks to your future because you have dealt with the past and present in the previous verses.

Rejoice and be glad!, you who are persecuted for Christ’s sake, for great is your reward in heaven! Those who have come to the point of persecution via the narrow way, Christ’s way, rejoice and be glad! You share in Christ’s death, you will share in Christ’s everlasting life!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Yes!!! … Ya! … Well, I mean… Er…

Yes, this is as hard as understanding ‘blessed are those who mourn’. I don’t pretend to think that ending on an vacuous  note of heart-pumping enthusiasm does justice to the actual day-in and -day-out life of a struggling Christ-follower.

Christ was headed to the cross. We are headed to suffering for His sake. We are not Christ, we are not God, we’re just people, and we don’t have what it takes like He did…

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Collosians 1:24-29

Christ is in you, Christian, your hope of glory! You can because He is able and He is with you.

The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Exodus 15:2

Selah.

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria

Lion of Judah: New verses with chords

I really enjoy this song so I added two verses which I’ve inserted as Verse 2 and 3. You can find the chords at Ultimate-Guitar.com [Note: Linked original version, not mine, as it’s not approved yet. Will fix link when approved. Link now works.]. Here’s a plain-text version for now.

Here’s the song, including new verses…

Continue reading “Lion of Judah: New verses with chords”

The Firelight In Your Eyes

In the dark I can see,
reflected, weaving and waving,
in this blessed early morning moment,
the firelight in your eyes.

Your lips, full, pained, hurt,
whisper out an injured stream,
while I memorize your eyes,
and the mirrored flame of your soul.

And I am struck dumb,
feeble words wretch forth,
anguished to see you lifted and built up,
to fan the heart and the flicker still there.

Who am I,
that I should be the one here,
so lacking, failing even in this,
to blow these embers back to life.

But God–this is not of me–
but God–in spite of me–
He can take you in the hollow of His hands,
and blow your embers back to Life.

When we part ways,
the morning darkness hides us,
when I hold you again, once and again,
heat rushes into me, melting the cold of many moonless ages.

In the darkness, parting, again I look deep in your eyes,
and the warmth of your embrace rushes out from me,
but my prayer has ascended to Him Eternal, that I see you again,
and the firelight in your eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

Directly Helping the Poor and Needy #TimCard #Charity365

That awkward moment… when you see a panhandler at the intersection as you’re driving your daily commute to and from work. Each and every day, the same man or woman for a few days or weeks at a time, then maybe a different person for a while, there most days of the work week, and most days you hope to avoid them or to avoid eye contact, at the least. A few more intersections, then you’re home free – for one more day…

‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ -Matthew 25:37b-39

That awkward moment…

…when you see a panhandler at the intersection as you’re driving your daily commute to and from work. Each and every day, the same man or woman for a few days or weeks at a time, then maybe a different person for a while, there most days of the work week, and most days you hope to avoid them or to avoid eye contact, at the least. A few more intersections, then you’re home free – for one more day…

And you feel a little guilty, but it quickly fades away once you reach your warm home, familiar family and friends, and your safe bed, and your peaceful sleep…

Until your next commute…

Continue reading “Directly Helping the Poor and Needy #TimCard #Charity365”

Creation doesn’t matter to my faith. Right?

Note: This post is a point-form summary for a small group discussion that I compiled from the last section, “Real, Eternal Value Intended by the Original Authors”, of my previous post Answering Genesis 1 and 2 Contradiction Claims.

Update 2017-07-29: Our small group discussion brought up some interesting points. Here’s some small updates I sent the group after the meet up…

Update 2017-07-29 (1): If anybody’s interested, here’s an AiG article on the ‘topical parallelism’ of creation days that Paul brought up (spoiler: it’s there on a surface read but the devil is in the details, as always; also like we discussed there’s no saying you can’t use various literary devices in different kinds of literature, even historical, it doesn’t take way from it): https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2011/12/10/its-not-so-parallel/

Update 2017-07-29 (2): I also didn’t know where to go with the point made about Christ needing to be a blood-relationship to a real Adam versus Christ atoning for our sin (we all sin, no Adam needed) or atoning for our sin nature (from Adam, so blood relationship required). In evolution, there’s no first Adam so we’re not blood related so biblically the kinsmen redeemer idea doesn’t work (so did Jesus act do anything?) But if Jesus only died for our sin acts then maybe a first Adam isn’t needed anyway. I don’t have a solid answer, it’s worth some googling, but apparently it has to do with Original Sin (sin nature) vs Imputed Sin (Adam’s sin is “credited” to us). The first is dealt with by the Holy Spirit through sanctification over time, the second was dealt with by Christ’s righteousness being credited to us (so would require a real first Adam for it to make any sense). http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-difference-between-original-sin-and-imputed-sin

Update 2017-07-29 (3): Btw, I don’t pretend perfection in understanding all this is achievable, but I just love how when you go digging usually you find these things have already been covered and they fit right in.

Note: This post is a point-form summary for a small group discussion that I compiled from the last section, “Real, Eternal Value Intended by the Original Authors”, of my previous post Answering Genesis 1 and 2 Contradiction Claims.

Is Genesis meant to be taken plainly?

  • What was the author intending to convey?
    • Poetry, parable, etc., or history?
    • No Jewish poetic forms (eg. parallelism absent), scholars agree
  • Jesus and the Gospels said they were given by Moses
  • Genesis 12-50 are not really disputed but 1-11 are
  • Colophons on tablets indicate knowledge known to the author up to the end of the tablet indicating historical records
  • Numbered days, ‘evening and morning’ language, strong support for ordinary, 24hour days
  • Similar language structure in Numbers 7 shows evidence original language choice in Genesis 1 specifically intended ordinary 24hour days as we experience them

Reading: Should Genesis Be Taken Literally, Genesis Is History

Continue reading “Creation doesn’t matter to my faith. Right?”

Ever feel like God is silent?

Ever feel like God is silent? Jesus said the fateful words on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?“, Psalms 22:1, a prophetic picture of Jesus’ crucifixion, but the very next verse says this, “My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer…” Even the Son of God experienced the Silence of God. Take heart, then, because ‘we have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, who has been tempted in every way, just as we are and yet did not sin‘ (Hebrews 4:15b), and now, because of this and through the Cross, ‘Jesus lives forever and has a permanent priesthood – so He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them’ (Hebrews 7:24-25). Selah.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria

True Feasting. A Thanksgiving Reflection on Isaiah 58.

Is not this the kind of feasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

True Feasting

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we feasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your feasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your feasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot feast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of feast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a feast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of feasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to fast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Based on Isaiah 58

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria

Money is a Test

Whatever you have, God has given it to test your loyalty, allegiance, and heart. Judas’ soul was cramped and traitorous; money revealed that. Joseph’s soul was generous and loyal; money revealed that too. And “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The following is an excerpt from James McDonald’s “Found a Faithful Steward” blog from June 23, 2014. It hit home with me because it started at basics and progressed beyond to some things we don’t often consider in how we think about and use our money.

Jesus said,
“For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also”
Matthew 6:21

Money is a test of your:

Work ethic: While not universal, generally speaking, if your wallet is empty, you ought to look closely at your work ethic. How hard do you work? How diligently did you work, save, and invest in your twenties and thirties? The test of money hints at the longitudinal arc of your work ethic.

Self-control: You’ll never experience financial victory until you spend less than you make. Some people spend more than they make for years or decades. They’re failing the test, which often leads to financial bondage, tension, and misery in their homes.

Integrity: How did you get what you have? Did you cut corners or twist the truth to win a deal? Withhold taxes? Neglect tithing? Jesus taught, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). The money test demonstrates your integrity—or lack therof.

Love for people: When you’re able to meet someone else’s financial need, do you? Can you recall people you’ve helped? Perhaps no one knows. Perhaps you didn’t get a tax deduction. You simply helped and loved others. If so, you’re passing the test.

Love for God: Jesus said more about money than He said about heaven and hell combined. Not because it’s the most important subject, but because until God gets hold of people’s finances, He doesn’t truly have their hearts.

Whatever you have, God has given it to test your loyalty, allegiance, and heart. Judas’ soul was cramped and traitorous; money revealed that. Joseph’s soul was generous and loyal; money revealed that too. And “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Found a Faithful Steward, James McDonald

 

When Giving Less Means Giving More #Charity365

There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them. –C.S. Lewis

The Impact

I have a cleft palate. Not the prettiest thing in the world, and certainly not the easiest to live with, but I’ve had to deal with it all my life and it has shaped and directed me, whether I wanted it to or not.

As it happened, I was watching TV on a recent, lazy weekend afternoon and channel hopped passed an infomercial about children with cleft palates. I backed up and figured I’d watch for a minute or two… Much later, after many tragic stories with amazingly happy endings, I was pretty convinced what organization I wanted to help next.

But I really didn’t have any more money to give…

Continue reading “When Giving Less Means Giving More #Charity365”

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria is a (poorly formed) Latin phrase I constructed from the translations for “mercy” and the common translation ‘to the Glory of God alone.’ Soli Deo Gloria was often used by composers, Bach and Handel, and I’m sure others, like I have, as it gained notice. Misericordia is a preface to the phrase with which I wanted to indicate a plea or request for mercy in response, generosity in understanding, or giving the benefit of the doubt. I used the composite form first in this post knowing that, in such a dense, lengthy post, I was liable to make errors in judgement which might impact the argument. It is essentially my plea that the reader not throw the baby out with the bathwater if there were some minor issues in form or substance. It is essentially my request to the reader to ‘be merciful to me, for it is intended to the Glory of God’.

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria