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

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

It is Well with My Soul

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!

It is Well with My Soul

Silver Chair

Silver Chair,
how I hate you!
You’re always there, lurking,
at the end of every good thing!
(Stealing away every pleasure!)

Silver Chair,
how I hate your lies!
You tell me all this wasn’t,
while all the while I know it was! It was!
(You took it away!)

Temptation, come my way!
Lured and trapped,
sheep to the slaughter!

Silver Chair,
how I hate your words!
You speak to me of dos and donts,
but I know of your weels and your wonts!
(Cast it to the ground!)

Silver Chair,
how I hate your angles!
You make meaningless my pleasure
and you show me my measure!
(Burn bright to the ground!)

Temptation, come my way!
Lurid and tainted,
sheep to the slaughter!

Silver Chair,
trouble me no more!
You’re gone within minutes,
why should I care.
(Why do you care?)

Silver Chair,
how I hate what you show!
You show me what’s ugly…
you show me myself.
(Don’t show me myself.)

Temptation, come my way.
Bruised and broken,
sheep to the shear.

Silver Chair,
don’t leave me here!
You’re already gone,
you’ve left me alone.
(Don’t leave me alone.)

Silver Chair,
why did you go?
I want what you do.
Clarity. You do clarity.
(Clearly. You show me clearly.)

Temptation, go away.
Broken and beaten,
crushed underfoot.

Silver Chair,
you bring me clarity.
You put everything in its place.
All weights are set correct.
(Gravity sets all a’right.)

Silver Chair!
Reflector of my heart!
Don’t go!
You’re gone.
(I want to go with you.)

Temptation, get behind me!
Beaten and lost,
crushed under your foot!

Silver Chair,
you were never the thing were you?
You cleared the air, brought sanity to madness,
so I could find myself clearly.
(Clearly. So I could find You clearly.)

God,
have mercy on me,
a sinner!

 

Merry Christmas!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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

 

New Year’s Day 2012

Happy New Year! May your heart warm again to hope by the very sunshine shone forth only from the trust put in Jesus Christ, Saviour of your soul, God, Who knows the good plans He has for you!

Allow me to open 2012 with an old stand by, for the “old school Sanctus Real fans…”

Things were better last year. Things will be better this year.

Thank you, God, for blessing me, thank you for helping me be a blessing, thank you for changing me. You have shown your faithfulness in spite of my unfaithfulness. You have answered my prayers, you have carried me through, you have lead me and guided me according to your Will for me, revealing to me day by day your plans to bless me so incredibly. I am amazed that you care for the things that I care about. Forgive me for having such little faith. I believe, help my unbelief! Thank you for the sacrifice of Your Son on the cross for me, a sinner. May I ever more and ever better be Your servant.

Lord, you know my heart’s desire. Please bless me with opportunities to be a blessing, please bless me with courage and confidence to seize those opportunities, please bless me with Your creativity to create opportunities! I believe your best for me is yet in my future. This I know because I have seen Your great hand at work! I will wait on You, I will trust in You.

The Lord, God, He is Good. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Selah.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you and yours! May this season bring you happiness and joy in Jesus Christ and his victory over sin and death! Christmas, celebrating the birth of the Saviour, marks but the beginning of his Victory over sin and death!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, came to save sinners like you and I.

The good news is joyously simple…

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

Prayers and Promises

Did you know your prayers are already promised to you? Jesus says, in John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Why, then, have we grown up, from childhood, with the belief that “all we can do is pray about it and leave it up to God,” as if this were some thing to do with a little shame and as a last resort?

Hebrews 4:16 reads, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The King James reads “Let us therefore come boldly.” Jeremiah 32:27 reads, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Again, in Malachi 3:10, God says,  “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Why, then, do we approach God in prayer as if we were troubling Him, pardoning our interruption, and begging for a meager sustenance of small things, as if small and large to us were of any consequence to God Almighty?

I know why we do this. We do this because we have rarely and perhaps never experienced  God’s answer to prayer for the things He seems to want us to pray for and about and to fully expect from Him.

We have never experienced the extent of God’s power, as it is written, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) But not that only, “let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8) And, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)

God’s gift of prayer is not some weak kneed comfort. It is a voice with God Most High, your King, who has promised to act on your behalf,  and to comfort you, to strengthen you, to uphold you with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

Selah.

Post-Script: I owe James MacDonald’s Walk in the Word podcast for sparking my interest on God’s promises and our prayers. The podcast, part of a series, was called Promise #1 – God Is Always With Me.

Post-Post-Script: You may find this further reading of value for more clarity: Why aren’t my prayers answered? I’m sure a google of the same question will yield great results.

An Observation on Justice in the Aftermath of Atrocities

When one really thinks about the things that ordinary, average citizens went along with during the Nazi period of Germany, we begin to realize that we are lucky that we were not German at that point in time. We know we would most likely have fared no more ethically than those accused and convicted. And, yet, even knowing our own guilt, avoided only chance, we understand we must forge ahead and and prosecute these people to the full extent of the law, even to death.

When one really thinks about the things that ordinary, average citizens went along with during the Nazi period of Germany, we begin to realize that we are lucky that we were not German at that point in time. We know we would most likely have fared no more ethically than those accused and convicted. And, yet, even knowing our own guilt, escaped only by chance, we understand we must forge ahead and prosecute these people to the full extent of the law, even to death.

That’s the rub. How can one man convict, imprison and even execute another man knowing that, if in the exact same situation, he is just as guilty as the other.

We know, innately, however that the crime, committed by ourselves or others, must be punished regardless of circumstances. There is no mercy for those who, by frailty of mind, succumbed to terrible acts. We do not recognize the defense that, having swapped places, would we have done what the accused had done? We know we mostly likely would have but we understand that can have no bearing on the judgement delivered.

We judge ourselves in judging others; but escape the punishment delivered to the convicted.

Therefore, consider again the justice of God whose perfection can not abide imperfection as we can not abide atrocity.

Consider again the mercy given to us in Jesus Christ which forgives all atrocities.

And consider again what we know to be right in dealing with human atrocities – in the light of what we think we know to be right understanding our own sin.