Cure for the Guilty Conscience

Paradox of Matthew 5

“What joy of those who mourn…”

Matthew 5:4, paraphrased by Ted Kell

In Matthew 5:4, Jesus tells us that we will be blessed when we mourn. He’s not talking about the mourning that comes with a tragic event or with anxiety of tomorrow.  Nor does he refer to the despairing sorrows of the world or morbid self pity.  There’s a special kind of mourning that Jesus speaks of that brings us blessings.

It’s human nature to want to run away from something that you know you’ve done wrong.  Maybe you want to hide from it or brush it away and try to ignore it as best as you can.  But as Christians, we are called to mourn for our sins.  We mourn because we realize that we will never be perfect.

We are told in Hebrews 12:14 to “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (NIV).  We must live a holy life to be an example for the people around us; but to be holy one must reach perfection, and it is impossible for us to live a perfect life, so we mourn because we fail our calling.  Like David when he wrote Psalm 38:17 & 18, “For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin…” (NIV) and Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5 when he declares that ” ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty…” (NIV) we must recognize our sinfulness and we must mourn for it, because it’s our sins that lead to our death.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that in Christ we are a new creation: “…the old has gone, the new has come!” (NIV) But when we sin, we return to our old sinful nature, and so we mourn.  We mourn because it is our sins that sends us to death, but Jesus took our place.  He was nailed on the cross for our sins.  We can never be perfect the way that He was perfect.

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” Psalm 32:1

In our mourning because of how sinful we are, God sees our grief and He forgives us.  We can take comfort in His forgiveness and be joyful: our sins are erased and we are made alive when we believe in Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Savior.  (Ephesians 2:1-10) Our sinful death has become a merciful resurrection.

A letter from Paul to the church in Corinth, concerning godly grief and forgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:5-11,NIV; 7:2-16, ESV):

“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent — not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.  Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven — if there was anything to forgive — I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.  (2:5-11, NIV)

Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together I am acting with great boldness towards you: I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. 

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn — fighting without and fear within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more  For even if I made  you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it — though I did regret it, for I see that the letter grieved you, though only for a while.  As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting.  For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted.  

And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.” (7:2-16, ESV)

 

God’s Kingdom is for the Empty-Hearted

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In this week’s cassette tape study, late preacher Ted Kell tells us about the kingdom of heaven, and how we can be in God’s kingdom, starting today into eternity. It’s a glorious existence to serve the King of kings, Lord of lords, Heavenly One, and Creator. Let us define what His kingdom is, and how we go about entering into the gates.

First of all, let’s describe the difference in philosophies between the physical realm and the heavenly realm. With the physical, there’s this philosophy that if you can’t see or touch in tangible form a building or throne, there is no kingdom. People love to visit castles in England, and onion domes in Russia with their colorful tops, and the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, from times gone by; or like the young man who asked our current US President recently on Twitter, “It would be my honor to mow the White House lawn some weekend for you… I have been mowing my neighbors’ lawns for some time” — if there is no stepping into the threshold, no soles of one’s shoes hitting the marble floor before the throne where Abe’s statue sits in the Washington memorial; like that, if it hasn’t been experienced physically, then it can’t be marked off the bucket list, therefore it cannot be said that we ever “entered into the kingdom”.

In heaven’s philosophy, God the Creator made the whole world, and His kingdom is where His throne, and His authority, is. In Isaiah 66:1-2, we can read that God is with the hearts and minds of those who are contrite. (To be contrite means to show remorse or to have the desire for atonement.)

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,’ says the Lord. ‘But on this one I will look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.'”

Kell said, paraphrased, you’re God’s people. Ours is the kingdom. The whole earth is ours — the Alexanders think it’s theirs but it’s not, it’s God. His great victory is ours, too, because God lives in us, within us. We must empty our selves, our egos, in order to receive God’s victory.

With that mindset, we can ask ourselves, what in life can be taken away from a Christian? How does one break a man who is already broken? What’s the victory in beating a man who has already given up the physical? So it is for the kingdom inheritors who accept Jesus’s words as true, and follow His example, becoming brothers and sisters in His blood as we sacrifice our selves on the cross next to Him.

Apostle Paul described his own poor and contrite perspective in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, as he explained his works, along with Apollos’s (another servant of Christ):

 “So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries. Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

“So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.”

It’s mysterious to fathom God’s kingdom, both physically and spiritually, and the sooner we admit the answers don’t come from ourselves, the sooner we will enter into the gates and step before His throne.

Finally, Ted Kell told of a sobering example where soldiers from World War II defined the meaning for us, what it means to lose oneself to gain the kingdom:

7 troops from the Ukrainian army bravely volunteered for a dangerous work -utmost secrecy- against the ominous Nazis who came with tanks and artillery in a complete takeover. They volunteered to conduct a Kamikaze-type journey of blowing up the enemy’s tanks. As they stood before their leader, he began selecting the troops who would carry out the mission, and they waited anxiously to find out who among them were chosen. 7 names were on the board. The leader struck out 3 of the names. Immediately, those 3 troops began to protest, as they thought that being struck out meant they weren’t chosen. “We volunteered!” they objected. “We want to go!” The leader was quick to correct the misunderstanding. “Your names weren’t struck out because you were not chosen. You are chosen. After today, you will no longer be accounted for by the army officials. You 3 cease to exist. We are not responsible for your lives.” The chosen volunteers were going to be removed from the roster- proving the extent of deadliness in their mission.

Through it all, the glory of war did not leave those Ukrainian soldiers, because they chose to sacrifice themselves in the most rewarding call of duty, with their very lives, volunteering headfirst for the suicidal course of action. They even protested when they thought their names were canceled. Likewise, we as kingdom inheritors must voluntarily lose ourselves in order to gain possession of the kingdom. Whoever is willing to lose his carnal, physical life for Jesus Christ’s sake will in return find his spiritual, immortal life. Guaranteed!

“Now when He (Jesus) asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

 

Victims of Depression Suddenly Started Winning! /Random Thoughts

I saw a retweet on Twitter one day, months ago – and it still haunts me – from a tweeter I wouldn’t recommend following, a more-than-slightly disturbing thought. I quote Bucky Isotope (@BuckyIsotope),

“Over there sits your childhood stuffed animal slowly losing atoms to chaos. Piece by piece he says goodbye. Piece by piece you join him.”

No idea whether he meant his words as a joke or truth, but either way, the concept is horrifying to my mortal mind, who’s sitting here without answers for common questions we all have from time to time…

“Why am I here on this earth?”

“What happens after death?”

“Will I die young or old, and… does it matter because either way I still die.”

In addition, to quote someone else, Hector Berlioz said,

“Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its students.”

Supposed to be funny, yet for people prone to depression, they’re weird and depressing thoughts! In fact, time itself is ultimately depressing and to be honest, I personally don’t know how anyone stays sane when their naturalistic, mortal life is the focus, and not the spiritual, immortal life.

Here, I want to tell you something good: you see, if you change your depth of field (like the way you do in the lens of a camera) and get with Christ, you can be unafraid of all this. Time. Death. Separation anxiety. All this kinda stuff. Nothing about the scientific definition of decay and decomposition, or anything else, has to be depressing anymore! Because there is a verse in the Bible, one singular quote that can fit in a tweet if you get the right version, which I can bet was made to combat that very thought Bucky’s tweet made me (and maybe you, too) think.

“The world is passing away. And everything that people want in the world is passing away. But the person who does what God wants lives forever.” 1 John 2:17 (ICB)

I don’t know if I can get this point across enthusiastically enough, so let me just get it straight to you: the world may be losing atoms to chaos, and our stuffed animals and all of life’s stuff may be saying goodbye with our bodies and desires, but if we do what God wants, we will live beyond the world’s chaos. Sure, the chaos may be slowly sucking our particles into a vortex of ruin, but there is an immortal presence we have, a forever existence, known as our souls, which can follow Jesus Christ into eternity.

…And that’s the moment when I’m like, all victims of depression everywhere suddenly started winning!

Because like, if you’ve got Christ, you can say when you hear dry comments and jokes that turn into depressing thoughts for you later,

“Who cares! I’m beyond that.”

No matter what the problem is, whether it’s about dying, or lying, or bodily pain, or sickness, or bullies and hate speech, or climate change, or college, or breakups, or whatever! You can say, “I don’t care” and mean it! That stuff can roll of your back like it’s no big deal!

I’m not talking about not caring to the point where you don’t work your hardest to live, laugh, and love. What I’m talking about and who I am talking to is victims of depression where like, you care too much, or the questions circulate in your head all day, or some tweet makes you crazy because of who-knows-what-reason, just, it does. Because.

Jesus is the greatest cure for depression we’ll ever find, the best pick-me-up if you’re down and out, or whatever you want to call it – point blank he’s freedom. He makes you free. He loves you and he will overcome for you.

So… the world can have its problems. Meanwhile, we can have Jesus… you with me?

“…Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” -Jesus (John 14:27, The Message)

The Bridge

Poor in Spirit, Rich in Blessings

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “poor”?  Homeless? Moneyless? No jacket or socks to keep the chill off your skin?  Sure not the meaning that comes from Matthew 5:3.

In the Old Testament, the word poor was used for the Israelites when they were sent out into the wilderness.  They had refused to trust that God would deliver a nation of giants to them and gift them with the giants’ rich land, even though it was the land God had promised their forefathers.

In Hebrew, the word poor is “ani”, which is translated as afflicted or destitute of worldly (physical) goods.  If you’re poor then you have absolutely no power.

In New Testament Greek, the word poor is “penes”, which comes from the word “ponos”, or pain and anguish.  So when Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit, He is talking about people who are suffering and in pain.

Being poor in spirit is the root of the beatitudes; it’s the attitude that all the other beatitudes are built on. The principle of spiritual poverty is humility: to be aware of our sinfulness and our need for God’s mercy. As human, we should know that we cannot escape our sins. We try to do good. We help people when we see trouble. We try to tell the truth and we try to live righteous lives. But we fail every time.  No matter how perfect we become we are still in a spiritual debt that we can never repay.

But then something amazing happened: Jesus was rich, but He became poor for our sakes. He was born into a poor family.  His parents gave two turtle doves for Him when He was born (Luke 2:22-24). This is the sacrifice reserved for the poor. Jesus was later supported by the women who He had healed as He went and preached (Luke 8:2-3). He also took the food that he ate from wild trees in the streets (Mark 11:12-14).

The truth is, Jesus gave up his rich life to live a life that would eventually turn so many people against him that they placed him on a cross.  He became our sacrificial lamb. He bought us so that we can reach the kingdom of heaven with His perfection.

God doesn’t despise the person who is broken spirited. All we have to do is ask Him for strength.

“But it is good for me to draw near unto God: I have made the Lord Jehovah my refuge, that I may tell of all thy works.”  Psalms 73:28 (ASV)

Ted Said Happiness Is Our Identity, Not Our Goal

I don’t think my readers have to guess I’m a Bible geek. It’s always been that way since I can remember, partly due to the influence of teachers and scholars whom I’ve never met. I only heard them, and heard about them, thanks to the power of audio recording, word of mouth, and probably The Great Commission. All my life, Dad has always harped on Sunset preachers Edward Wharton, Jim McGuiggan, Richard Baggett, and Ted Kell, among others.

A few weeks ago, in the garage we found an old box of Bible courses from Sunset Preaching School, now known as Sunset International Bible Institute. That’s where my father was schooled. This particular Sunday, I listened to a dusty old tape which had a lecture on it from the late Ted Kell; he stated that it was the year 1974, so it’s been more than 40 years ago. Wow… I still shake my head in amazement that he was talking about subjects so relatable. It’s like he was talking about today! Except I think the world is even worse since he talked. (Maybe I’m just a millennial, aka Snowflake, aka Woman of Generation Why? as they call it…)

Ted Kell’s lecture was about the Beatitudes. Since I talked about Matthew 5 in our last study, I was extremely curious to know more. I listened closely. Here’s a summary of what I learned from him thus far:

The Beatitudes is part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is Jesus Christ’s longest sermon ever recorded. People from all over Palestine came to listen to Jesus teach, and ever since that time up until present day, it has continued to be the most popular part of his ministry; yet it is the least applied.

If the Sermon on the Mount is the essence of the Bible, then the Beatitudes is the ESSENCE of the essence. More specifically, the Beatitudes is where you go to find the principles of God’s laws, the very seed in which all the other verses of the New Testament grow from. These verses, which are Matthew 5:1-12, are also the answer to finding joy and godly fulfillment.

People are miserable today, Kell said; newspapers made the claim that anxiety and depression plagued the Post-Activism Era. People gave up on their dreams, dropped out of college, and committed suicide. (As it still is today. While I write, my thoughts drift to the recent suicide of Chester Pennington, vocalist of Linkin Park.) However, healing and prevention and freedom are found in Jesus Christ, only in him. You must apply his words to your life to get relief.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks to the multitude. He was first walking in a plain with a crowd of thousands of followers, when he saw how huge the crowds were, and decided to climb a mountainside and sit down, to teach. In Bible times, it was custom for the teacher to sit down before he began teaching. You can see that in Luke 4:20—Jesus was reading from the scroll with the prophet’s words, in the synagogue, fulfilling the very words as he read them, and then he sat down and said, “While you heard me reading these words just now, they were coming true!”

Jesus amazed the crowds at the synagogue, and he amazed the crowds at the Sermon on the Mount both. The Bible tells us that, in Matthew 7:28-29:

When Jesus finished speaking, the people were amazed at his teaching. He did not teach like their teachers of the law. He taught like someone who has authority.” (ERV)

The question still remains as to how, then, should we apply The Beatitudes? None of Jesus’s teachings come naturally to the human disposition. Everything he says runs counter to human nature. So we cannot be a natural peacemaker, or a natural poor spirit. Transformation of character is only possible when a Christian actively seeks Christ.

To review our knowledge, allow me to explain the vernacular usage of “the world” or “worldly people”, before we go any further. I have a friend who seemed to relate the Christian’s use of “the world” to a sort of anti-globalism stance, or some kind of pro-xenophobia agenda. No, no. Let’s define “the world”, and the difference between “the worldly” and “the righteous”:

The righteous is the flock, the sheep, in which Jesus is the Shepherd. The world are those who reject His teachings. Please refer to the picture below, to see a list of traits, taken from the Beatitudes, and then the antonyms, which can be applied to the worldly person.

righteousVsWorldly

“ Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2  (WEB)

Beatitude comes from a Latin word, beatus, that means “blessed”. There are a lot of beatitudes in the Bible, not just in Matthew 5. You can especially find them in Psalms. For example,

“Blessed is he who considers the poor. Yahweh will deliver him in the day of evil.” Psalm 4:11

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you; who have set their hearts on a pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5

The Beatitudes aren’t so much commands as they are praises, praising those who are all these things: poor-spirited, mournful, gentle, thirsty for what’s right, full of mercy, pure-hearted, makers of peace, and persecuted for God.

The Beatitudes are also steps. You won’t mourn until you are poor in spirit, and you won’t be meek until you are mourning your emptiness. Once you’re meek, you will hunger and thirst for righteousness. That’s why this applies to all people, regardless of nation, heritage, origin, race, color, or language.

“Blessed” comes from the Greek Word, makarios, which is defined by BibleHub as “blessed, happy.” Ted Kell explains blessedness as a divine blessing only from the Lord, not from any other source. To quote 1 Timothy 6:15, “I command you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of Kings, and Lord of lords…” Lord Jesus is blessed, and he shares his blessings with us, if we follow his teachings. What’s awesome about that is, the generic story behind gods and goddesses is that they live it up and enjoy life, but God sent Jesus so that we can be blessed and happy ourselves. Only God has blessedness, and so only in God can we find real happiness.

Conjointly, happiness from God is independent of circumstance. The word “happiness” can be misleading because it comes from the same word roots as happenstance, which means it occurs from an accident or lucky break or chance encounter, but God’s happiness is different than that. It does not come from random happenstances. It comes from faith in Jesus Christ, and joy in the works we partake in on His behalf. Therefore, that’s why I say that in conclusion, the key phrase to summarize Ted Kell’s first sermon tape on the Beatitudes is this: Happiness is our identity, not our goal.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Jesus (John 10:10)

“I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10

I want to end with a fable:

In a quaint cottage set in medieval England, there once was a woman named Beatrice. Her name means bringer of joy, or one who brings blessings. From a young age, she strove to represent that; she strove to be what her name was. She married an average man. He was hardworking and sensitive, a good listener, and a light sleeper.

Beatrice did everything to bring blessings to her husband and her neighbors. She made them plum pudding on holidays, sewed them scarves on their birthdays, and kept the house clean and comfortable for visits. When her husband was sick with a cough, she made him the tastiest soup. If a cat came for milk, she always set a bowl out, warm and fresh.

As months and years went by, Beatrice grew weary of being the bringer of joy. She sometimes got sad at how much work it was, but she never stopped.

Soon, she bore twins. It was a happy event, but then again, she was forced to learn how to forgive, after the twins turned into obstinate brothers that always fussed.

As the years progressed, she began to notice her husband becoming restless. At night, he would toss and turn, and some nights he would stay out late. It left Beatrice alone to raise her sons, and sometimes the neighbors criticized the lack of authority in the house.

One day, Beatrice asked her husband why he had been distant. His answer surprised her.

“I toss and turn because I hear you crying in the kitchen. I stay out late because I want to make enough to buy you jewels. You never ask for anything but you give everything. If you yelled at me, I would feel more human. If you hated me, it would be more natural, yet you never do. You are the purest person I have ever known.”

“But, my husband,” she said, “I don’t need jewels. I love you and want you to come home so you can be with your sons.”

“Ah! See? Still, you consider not yourself. How, Beatrice? How? How do you bless me so much? Tell me your secret.”

Beatrice took a moment of silence, and her head was bowed, as she thought about his question. Finally, she answered simply but surely. “What’s in a name unless you live to make it true? I live to own up to who I am, and I live to make the blessings new, every day. For I am a bringer of blessings, not one who brought or one who will bring. I must bring today, and every day, to keep my name with meaning.”

Moral: Beatrice the name also derives from beatus, the same word Beatitudes derives from. Like Beatrice lived to see her namesake be real, we need to live up to our namesake: Christian.

“They will know we are Christians by our love.” -Peter Scholtes

Prayer Petition: Don’t Destroy History, God

“So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” Ezra 8:23

After spending weeks and weeks on the Christian book study, “Girls With Swords”, I found myself missing the multimedia experience Prayer Petitions have to offer. Although it was good to challenge myself to get in front of the camera and chat about my worst and best moments of reading a book, especially since I desire to be an author, there’s something to miss about the relevancy of a Prayer Petition. The people of the world are so in need of prayer, and so desiring to be lifted up in community, and joined together through the struggles being faced, and that is what these videos I (and Kat) make offer. That is why my ministry of video-making is so important right now; I feel it can be a hope and a light to those truly suffering.

This week’s Prayer Petition is a request to unite in prayer for history. History comes in all forms of media – vinyl records, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, slides, and vintage photos to name a few – which are all destroyed by fire. Lately, as we can see in the news, it seems God has chosen to allow fires to destruct buildings and forests and other terrain. We should pray about it, because God has told us our prayers matter (James 5:13, Psalm 102:17).

Our Living Hope

We all hope for things: dreams for the future, happiness for a friend, safety and security in a time of distress… What are you hoping for?

As Christians our hope reaches further than the hope of the world.  Our second birth, which is baptism (John 3:1-8, Romans 6:1-7, 1 Peter 3:21), delivers us into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We are promised an eternal inheritance that is kept in heaven for us.

1 Peter was a letter that was written for Christians who were displaced and scattered.  During the time the letter was being written, Christians were being slandered and persecuted and attacked with accusations, often false to get them into trouble with the government.  Rome wasn’t friendly to people who claimed to follow Jesus.

Peter wanted to encourage the scattered Christians to be loyal in their faith, even during suffering.

Things that the world hopes in passes away; but as Christians our hope is in the eternal.  Ours is a living hope, one that never perishes or fades away.  Our hope is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Romans 6:8-10 says “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”

We as Christians need to be optimistic.  We have a hope that reaches further than the hope of the world; we have a living hope.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8,9

A song that we sung during worship fits this message very well: ­­We Have Heard the Joyful Sound by William J. Kirkpatrick and Priscilla J. Owens.

“We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Bear the news to every land, climb the steeps and cross the waves; Onward!—‘tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

“Waft it on the rolling tide, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; Tell to sinners far and wide, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; Sing, ye islands of the sea, Eco back, ye ocean caves; Earth shall keep her jubilee, Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

“Sing above the battle’s strife, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; By His death and endless life, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; Sing it softly thru the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves, sing in triumph o’er the tomb, Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

“Give the winds a mighty voice, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; Let the nations now rejoice. Jesus saves, Jesus saves; Shout salvation full and free, Highest hills and deepest caves, This our song of victory, Jesus saves, Jesus saves.”

Girls With Swords, Final Week

This week, we’re discussing Chapter 9, Sword of Harvest, of Girls With Swords.  The contents of the pages honestly alarmed me: author Bevere compared Christianity, and the Word of God, to a machete, which is a sword known to be versatile and effective, yet easy to carry and wield. I was alarmed because, at the very beginning of the book, I was lead to believe we would have sympathy throughout our study, for those stuck in situations like human trafficking, sexual abuse, violence, and domestic abuse, and so I found the sword/faith comparison this time a little disturbing, a bit frightening.

To compare our power as Christians to that of a machete, in modern days, is harsh and uncouth. This type of sword may have originally been a North American invention (as author Bevere states), and it may be used for numerous things such as cutting vines, gathering crops, and altering territory, but right now, it is only seen as a tool for murder, at least in the news. I extend a bit of grace to the author for the fact the book’s copyright dates back to 2013, so perhaps she wrote it without modern news in mind. But even that’s not an excuse. Here’s a story from 2008, about churchgoers in Kenya being literally slaughtered by a violent mob who held machetes (click here to read it), which was a story that came before she copyrighted the book. She writes her book for an international audience; then she must write for a broader view than her own!

To strengthen my argument, I took a quick moment on Google to search the term “machete”. At first you can see stores that sell them, the movie from IMDB titled “Machete”, among an assortment of things. But go to “News”, and all you see is violence, killing, and attempts to chase, threaten, and harm one another with the sword. I understand reading the Bible can even be harsh sometimes, and there are times when addressing war and weapons are acceptable, but considering the audience she boasts about having at the beginning of the book, I would think she’d consider their lives, stories, and traumatic experiences. I read a story, about a year ago, in a newsletter I get, where a woman talked about raiders who were Muslim came to her Christian village and horrifically slayed the villagers with the weapon, and she couldn’t get the image out of her mind, the image of her attacker holding the machete. How would she feel after reading Chapter 9? I don’t know, but I thought the book was meant to heal people like these, not remind them of their horrors, even making them feel like they need to hold the sword and wield it, like some sort of revenge or surrender.

Therefore, the uncouthness of the book leads me to say, I can no longer study the book, seeing as I feel betrayed for the sake of the audience (I thought) we both want to reach out to. I started with hope that insight would come; instead, as the book progresses, it gets repetitive (same message about good vs. evil repeated chapter after chapter), it gets shallow and gimmicky, which she herself condemns. Bevere also does interpret the Word and doesn’t teach it deeply; she simply uses it to further her message, which can be misleading.

After all, I’ll even confess. A hint of remorse is in my heart now, when I think of my earlier video activities, where I compared our lives to that of the samurai, or the musketeer, and others – yes, I taught it that way to be excited and zealous for the journey, and help others understand a good message, but I ask myself now, when can comparisons go too far? Can they be used to enshroud the truth, rather than reveal it? I feel that’s true in Chapter 9, that she cannot be straightforward and won’t tell us in more detail what we need to know, for right living, and for being God’s girls.

So after 9 weeks, I am frustrated and disappointed at Girls With Swords. Kat backed me up by saying, “Face it, it’s not the book I thought it would be.” Our study has not been worthless, but I would like to move on to something else now and conclude the study. Thank you so much for being interested, and let me know if you have questions or requests.

A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Proverbs 17:22

 

Girls with Swords, Week 8

(All of the following Scripture is taken from the New International Version Holy Bible.)

God is love.

“Do not those who plot evil go astray?  But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.” (Proverbs 14:22) ~ “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3) ~ “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12) ~ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) ~ “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” (Proverbs 21:21) ~

God Loves you.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so,  but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:1-8) ~ “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5) ~ “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12) ~

Love all people.

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) ~ “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is a fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10) ~ “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48) ~ “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all that I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) ~

 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.” (James 2:8)

 

Lisa Bevere’s workbook, the Fencing Manual, made the statement: “For far too long the Word has been interpreted rather than proclaimed.” Then it asked the question: “What is the difference?” Lacy’s written reply was,
“Interpreting Scripture is when someone tries to grasp its meaning, with bias that overcomes willingness, and so the Scripture is read with the bias as absolute truth, rather than God’s word and meaning.  Contrastingly, proclaiming is when Scripture is read in context, read cover to cover, and shared.” -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“The language of God is LOVE.  That needs no words at all.  Wouldn’t it be something if the church just… stopped talking for a change and just… ACTED on love, instead of speaking?” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual