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”

Nitty Gritty: From Mayhem to Ministry. A Testimony.

I play guitar with my church and, each week, I need to go online to find song chords. While searching this week, I came across this website, Musings of  a Minister’s Wife, after some Google results turned up guitar chords for her ebook of chord sheets. My curiosity was piqued by the domain name “musingsofaministerswife.com.” I thought to myself, ‘what would a minister’s wife blog about?’. Somehow I got over to the About page and that’s where things got really interesting when it started with this: In 2003, my husband and I quit relying on each other to keep our marriage together and started relying on God.  Wow!  What a change!  We are now bearing bigger fruit in a ministry of our own. I kept reading and was very pleasantly surprised by a couple who went through some amazing ordeals and came out on the other side loving God more. Here’s a taste of their story,

I first met Jimmy at work. He was a few months away from being married. I was in my third year of (a bad) marriage. I didn’t like Jimmy. He was cocky, so very sure of himself, so “I’m better than everyone else” of himself. Instant turnoff. Besides, I was married. We didn’t talk much. He stayed in his cubicle, and I stayed in mine.

As time wore on, my job blended with Jimmy’s, and we began to see each other on a daily basis. We worked together in the tech department along with 2 other people. We all went out to lunch several times a month as a group. One day, the other 2 weren’t available. But I was hungry. And I was lonely. And he was nice to me. And funny. He opened doors. He laughed at my jokes. He was getting cuter by the day. He treated me like a gentleman treats a lady, which was far from the treatment I was getting at home. Which Jimmy knew. He was all too familiar with decoding finger-print sized bruises on women’s arms. He was all too familiar with being lonely himself.

We had a nice lunch. It was our first time alone. Nothing happened. It was just a friendly lunch.

But there is such wisdom in not allowing yourself to be alone with a man.

Especially if you’re in a rocky marriage. Especially if he’s in a rocky marriage with a baby on the way.

Remember that part about Jimmy being far, far away from God? He wasn’t the only one.

You can read the whole story over at From Mayhem to Ministry.

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.”

Sanctus Valentinus

Oh, Saint, can you hear my voice from ages past?
I hope against hope because your voice seems to be the last.

Oh, Saint, may I ask a question?
Will you proffer a suggestion?

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

Continue reading “Sanctus Valentinus”

Of Time and Choice

Think of time as a sequence of individual moments, one moment leading another, each a three-dimensional cube. You, and friends, family and acquaintances, in each moment, as subject. You hover over your life-line. You can look down from above and see the entirety of your moment-picture life. From this vantage point, you grasp ownership of the choices, made in the now, that affect subsequent moments and people in time not yet present. This is God’s view: Your entire life laid out before Him, outside of time, readily accessible, and infinitely searchable. The one who grasps this view of his own life, he it is who increases wisdom, and he it is who approaches understanding.

mjg/11