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

How to find Church Guitar Chords Online

 

How to find Church Guitar Chords Online

For the past half year I’ve been part of a small church where most of our music comes from the hymnal. They’re very, very nice people, though, and are happy to have myself and a friend playing guitar in the front pews. We really enjoy it but it takes some effort to work with the piano players and their music so that we can find guitar chords to play from. This took me down the path of finding guitar chords for hymns and worship songs online. Here’s my tips for finding them…

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Sanctus Valentinus: Behind the Verse

Oh, Saint, to your name, thereof,
My question is this, what is love?

On a warm summer’s day, sunshine beaming down on country fields, and in the vibrant spring of my life, many, many years ago now, I once spoke these fateful words to a certain girl I liked very much: I don’t know what love is. What precipitated this sad half-truth was a silly conversation, strewn with longing undertones and yearning unsaids. Half-truth, I call it, and still do, even from the moment the words slipped from my mouth. I knew I could love, I believed I had been doing it for some time, but with such an abstract term, complicated by our overuse, I still wondered at, and was haunted by, the question: What is love?

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718 Days of Bible Verses

Congratulations to those who haven’t muted me yet for sharing bible verses, you’re very kind and patient! ;) For the record, since August 2012 when I started, you’ve witnessed about 718 days of bible readings, 453 verses shared, 52 books of the bible cited, 3 books shared from every chapter (Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon), and 2 complete bible read-throughs (sometimes sequential, sometimes alternating OT/NT).

Why would I do this? Because I believe “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) and I trust God when he says “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11).

These verses were shared primarily on Facebook and later ones simultaneously on Twitter (usually in shorter forms) on @Shovas .

Soli Deo Gloria

Without further adieu, 718 days of bible verses…

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Literally: Sad, Frustrated, Distracted. But Love. Church Heresies Then and Now.

So, the latest intra-Christian controversy to blow up is popular Christian worship act Gungor’s denial of the ‘literal’ reading of scripture, particularly Genesis, the creation account, Adam and Eve, and the Flood. This of course triggering the day before our traditional day of worship when Christians come together to worship God their saviour in spirit and truth. This, of course, all comes on the heels of the Tim Lambesis story who allegedly attempted to hire a hitman to murder his wife. It’s hard to try to move one’s heart towards God when we’re distracted by emotional issues like these. Here’s a few of the articles circulating:

It’s saddening, frustrating, and distracting…

Continue reading “Literally: Sad, Frustrated, Distracted. But Love. Church Heresies Then and Now.”

Song of Songs

Recently, on a Thanksgiving road-trip out east to PEI, I listened to a four-part message from James MacDonald called Romantic Love. I then found my next bible reading book was Song of Songs which that sermon series was based on. I usually share select verses, ones that particularly strike me, on Facebook and I was wondering how I’d do that with the intimate and personal nature of Song of Songs. So, I set myself a challenge: Read one chapter per day and try to find one thing to share from each Song of Songs chapter – something that would be ‘family friendly’ and not so sentimental as to make me look (overly) strange. Here’s the series of verses posted over eight days that I think provides an interesting overview of the whole book.

We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine. Song of Songs 1:4b

New Year’s Eve 2012

Praise the LORD!
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever!
Psalms 106:1

Thank you, Lord, for this past year. I am amazed at Your goodness, your will for me, your blessings to me and opportunities to serve you.

You know I haven’t had the best of days
But I want to stop and thank you anyway

Cuz every single moment whether sleeping or awake
Is your creation
And what you’ve made is good
I don’t always thank you for the rough days and
The hard times in my life
Even though I should

It’s odd to come to this point in the year and be thinking about O.C. Supertone’s Jury Duty but that’s how I feel about this year, particularly the lyrics referring to being thankful for the “rough days and hard times.” Oddly enough, these feelings aren’t about screw ups, or what we often think of as punishment or God’s discipline, but instead it had to do with positive decisions on my part that are causing anguish for a time with the hope of long term reward. I did this knowingly, but it’s one thing to understand a thing in the mind, it’s another to execute and endure that thing in the flesh over a period of time.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
Psalms 27:13-14

I will wait and trust in the Lord for his good plans because I know what He has planned for me exceeds my vain dreams and fantasies. I know this first hand.

One thing I have found invaluable this year is reading the scriptures. For the latter half of 2012 I started posting certain verses from my daily reading of the bible to Facebook. The reason I do this is because (1) I know God’s Word is living and active, and (2) I have always had difficulty describing just how brilliant the bible really is. So I decided to let God’s Word speak for itself since God has said it will not return empty. I truly believe the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of those who hear the Word and there will be results – I don’t have to dress up God’s Word.

Once again I think I’ll close with the words to Blessed Be Your Name as a reminder to myself to give thanks in all things,

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Selah.

Verse for this February twenty-ninth

Fourteen days have passed since the day that never was, and I find myself here, in this unwanted moment, this day that never belonged, this February twenty-ninth.

I was running that day, full strength and head strong, hurtling towards the precipice, adrenaline fueled, fight or flight blinded, heart pumping, right off the edge

where I remain, here, in the painless agony of the nothingness, waiting for the drop,

waiting to hit ground.

But I remain. Still standing, over empty space. And no sign appears, either falling down above to save me, or rising up  below to skewer me. I am lost, though not without compass, or a promise, and these I clench fast where naught else remain within reach and naught else remain to bear me up.

Here is where I make my stand, by will or not, in this void stillness. Here is where I make my leap of faith, this day so-called, this February twenty-ninth.