The Beatitudes (You Are Blessed, vs 7)

The Sermon of the Beatitudes (1886-96) by Jame...
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Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7, NIV).

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for (Matthew 5:7, The Message)

The message is so simple that it can be easily overlooked. Special blessings always come when we care for others. If we help others we may get a respite from our own struggles. In fact, we often find out how blessed we are.

There’s something intrinsic about caring for others and giving back. It often comes with special warmth in our heart and soul. When we care for others, we are cared for; respite for now, but possible greater rewards await. The idea of paying it forward comes to mind.

Jesus denied self to save humankind. Let us deny a little of our pain, joylessness and busyness to relieve the pains of others. When we do so we go a long way in bringing peace to someone in this world and isn’t this what it is all about—being there for others.

The value of sharing oneself is the ultimate modeling of Christian living. Let us pledge to do more of this in 2012.

The Beatitudes (You Are Blessed, vs 6)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6, NIV).

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat (Matthew 5:6, The Message).

As a child, I was coaxed to eat my spinach and other green vegetables to grow and be strong like Popeye the Sailor Man. As an adult, I know it is critical to eat my green vegetables to be strong and to stay healthy. In fact, today I have an appetite for green vegetables and it’s the same appetite that I now have for God. We need to eat our vegetables and God is like that vegetable. He is our nourishment; nourishing our soul, our spirit, in such a way, that we hunger for more.

I think we hunger more for God when things don’t go as planned. We hunger for God, when one day of missed blessings, turns into weeks and then to months. I hunger for His love, His comfort, for His wisdom and just to know who this God is. I am so hungry for God that I am salivating.

It is ironic but, for me, this Beatitude verse closely aligns with Psalm 111:10a, which reads “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (NIV). The Message Bible says that the “the good life begins in the fear of God”.  Fear in this case, means our reverence to our God. It means that we accept His awesomeness. When I think of God’s awesomeness, I think of an all powerful being that cannot be manipulated or controlled; a being that I desire to know in a more intimate way.

To get there I must have wisdom and that wisdom attainment begins when I seek, when I hunger for that relationship with God. A relationship that may require us to “wrestle with God, play with God, weep with God, argue with God, laugh with God, love God—and (yes) fear God…(Richard Schmidt, 2005, p. 273)*.

When we get to a place and realize that God is greater than our image of Him. That heaven is more than that pie in the sky; we then hunger to know more of God; sometime weeping, sometime in anger, but always in reverence and awe and always with an appetite for more.

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*Schmidt, Richard H. (2005). Praises, Prayers, & Curses: Conversations with the Psalms. Cincinnati,Ohio: Forward Movement.

The Beatitudes (You Are Blessed, vs 5)

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5, NIV).

 You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought (Matthew 5:5, The Message).

“Why can’t I look like that, talk like that, sing like that, be smart like that”?

We always discount who we are.  If we are not content with our own gifts—the ones that God has anointed us with–we cannot and will not be used by God to impact our world.

What are you good at? What are your strengths? What do you hear others say about you? What do you like to do; love to do? What doesn’t seem like a chore for you? Think for a moment; no, really reflect? What are you good at?

Those are your talents; the gifts God anointed you with. Cultivate them; try to find ways you can use them and yes, maybe make a little money as well.

We need not covet another person’s gifts, talents or looks; we just need to cultivate and appreciate the ones that God has given us. Don’t doubt yourself, you are unique; your talents are your gifts to the world.

So don’t forget, God has blessed you and God wants you to use your unique talents to bless the world. In other words, like Oscar Wilde said, ‘be yourself, everyone else is already taken”.

 

 

The Beatitudes (You Are Blessed, vs 4)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew, 5:4 NIV)

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (The Message).

What a paradoxical statement!  How can that be? Let’s think this through? What’s dear to us can vary over time and/or we can have many things that are dear to us:

            A pet

            Our jobs (careers)

            Parents

            Our spouse

            Our church

            Our brothers, our sisters, our homes, you name it.

For me it was the loss of a job and to certain extent a career that I spent 30 years building.

But you know I am surviving. I am embracing the process and learning to live by faith one day at a time.

I trust God to take care of me; yes, for the essentials (shelter, food, clothing, etc) and for the existential (the meaning of life, why me God, etc).

Yes it is scary, but I embrace this uncertainty, this mystery because the Lord has taught me that He is my shepherd and I shall not want (Psalm 23:1) and that He will carry my burdens daily (Psalm 68:19). 

So in this time of loss, uncertainty and yes, questioning, my faith in my God is unwavering.

I know that God hears my sighs, sees my tears and even when I cannot pray intercedes for me with groans that words cannot express (Roman 8:26); and because of this, I know without doubt that I am in God’s care and in His will. Amen.

 

 

 

The Beatitudes (You Are Blessed)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3 NIV).

“You are blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (The Message, Matthew 5:3).

God, I am at the end of my rope right now. In fact, I am losing my grip. I wouldn’t want to wish this _____________ (you name it) on anyone. But you said that I am blessed.

How can that be? Explain that to me? It is like I am in an endless pit. Teach me the secret of more of you. I want that reality for my life.

But then it hits me. If I put my focus on you instead of my problems I will feel blessed; blessed in such a way that I want to help others. One writer said that when we allow God to translate our problems into a ministry that our pain becomes someone else’s gain.*

We learned that when we are poor in spirit, we have more of God; and, isn’t that what we pray for anyway.

 So as I pray daily, I remain hopeful, even as the grip gets tighter, in the words found in Ecclesiastes 7:8:

The end of a matter is better than its beginning,

 and patience is better than pride.

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*Batterson, M. (2006). In a pit with a lion on a snowy day.Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books

 

 

 

Our Paradox, Not God’s

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God” (NIV).

As we, the faithful contemplate your silence; we can come dangerously close to questioning your existence. Where are the angels, do we really have a Heavenly Parent? Who is this Jesus, “the supposed Son” and oh yes, our comforter, the Holy Spirit? It is easier, but not comforting, to believe the “foolish ones;” who say when we die we simply cease to exist or disappear into a great, dark abyss.

How else can we explain the killings and assaults on human lives? How else can we explain the hatred, the injustice and discrimination of the vulnerable or those who are different?

How else can we explain the loss of lives and properties by tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and other storms that this evil world creates; how else can we explain 9/11 and the purposeful goal of one group to annihilate another. Our history, the world’s history bears this out.

What loving God would allow such destruction, such evil?

O, but then, a gentle spirit reminds us of the great mystery; the mystery of the Cross and the desires of our hearts to fight for justice, to right the wrongs and to help the helpless and the loss.

What causes us to praise YOU in the midst of these injustices; even when they are at our front doors? O God, we are “as the deer that desire cold fresh water, our soul pants for you O God. Our soul thirsts for YOU, the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2).

Some say that you thirst too; you thirst to have a relationship with us. Some believe that you too cry along with us as evil tramples upon us. So, why the silence; aren’t you the omnipotent one? So what’s the answer Lord? Is life meant to be a struggle always?

So as I anxiously waited and prayed, with multitude of doubts, God gave me a glimpse of heaven; yes, I had a peek. I had a peek of heaven, not visually, but within my soul. O what an adventure. It is hard to put into words, but my soul was fueled with joy and thanksgiving. It was a wonderful gift; a miniscule sample of things to come.

So in this silence God strengthened my faith and I realized that things happen in this world that is unexplainable. So will my lot in life improve because of this, not really? I am no different from anyone else who has suffered and will suffer. My job is, to partner with God, to the best my understanding and abilities, to make heaven on earth for others.

As I Speak

God, as I speak with people, let me not talk about my pain, sorrows or injustice. God let me speak of your love, your comfort, and your protection.

God, as I speak let me talk about your willingness to “go ahead” and pave the way for me; so my pain, sorrows, and injustice that I suffer are bearable.

For you oh Lord, have already taken the major brunt for me; your spirit prays for me when I know not what to pray—“making prayer out of my worthless sighs, my aching groans” (Roman, 8:26, The Message).

God as I speak…let me be genuine in my praise for you. Amen

Just A Praise

“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders” * 

 

 

God, I often find it hard to shout for you; to praise you for the things that you do for me.

What are those things? Oh, it may be surprising. It is not those earthly, material things that are needed to survive. No, it is the things that are not often seen by the naked eye.

 It’s that inner peace, that inner comfort and inner joy. It’s that unexplainable, undescribed knowing—that vision, that hope, that desire of my heart to be a part of you. It is that desire to be with you, to share you with others. It’s that spiritual resource, the fuel that I need to go another day. To be all I can be until I can dwell in you completely.

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*Psalm 9:1

My Eyes On God

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” Psalm 25:15 (NIV)

 I decided to check several other versions:

“…for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.” (The New King James)

“…If I keep my eyes on God, I won’t trip over my own feet.” The Message Bible

Oh yes, that’s the one for me; “I won’t trip over my own feet. How many of us have done that—trip over our feet or put our foot into our mouths.

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God, this verse speaks to us today. How can we go wrong, if our thoughts are always on you? Who can hurt us, if our trust is always in you?

 God as we hunger for you; guide us toward your truth and teach us your ways. We don’t want to falter; nor do we want to hurt or to be hurt.

Our wish is to serve and to show others your way. Amen

No One Else

“I called out to God from habit more than from expectation and because I had no one else to call to” (Richard H. Schmidt, 245).*

God, I thank you for taking the brunt of my blame and anger.  Thank you for being with me even through my doubts and fear.

God, I thank you for hearing my prayers and rescuing me when no one else cared or could. Thank you for being my comforter, and my shepherd.

Thank you for being there when I call on you when I am in distress; and somehow and in some way, you have that answer for me.

Like Richard, I too call upon you out of habit, but you know God some habits are good for our health and our souls. I pray that I will never break this habit. I pray that someday my prayers won’t be out of habit, but a desire to have that special relationship with you. Amen.

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 Schmidt, Richard H. Praises Prayers & Curses: Conversations with the Psalms. Forward Movement, 2005.