New Year’s Resolution: To Be Heaven Here On Earth

You are given the option for immortality. Do you take it or do you decline?

Mom eagerly shared with me this thought from the writer’s app called 1000+ Writing Prompts.  “This is the question we face every day.  God has given us the option for immortality, and it’s up to us to take it.”

It’s a good thought to begin the new year with.  You are given the option for immortality.  To choose Jesus Christ is to choose eternal life.  To deny Him is to decline the option for immortality.  Or more accurately, to accept a harsh damnation as your eternal fate.

“But because of your callous stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are [deliberately] storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will pay back to each person according to his deeds [justly, as his deeds deserve]: to those who by persistence in doing good seek [unseen but certain heavenly] glory, honor, and immortality, [He will give the gift of] eternal life. But for those who are selfishly ambitious and self-seeking and disobedient to the truth but responsive to wickedness, [there will be] wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and anguish [torturing confinement] for every human soul who does [or permits] evil, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, but glory and honor and inner peace [will be given] to everyone who habitually does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For God shows no partiality [no arbitrary favoritism; with Him one person is not more important than another]… on that day when, as my gospel proclaims, God will judge the secrets [all the hidden thoughts and concealed sins] of men through Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:5-11, 16 (AMP)

Eternal life is a mystery to a mortal’s mind.  Humans are born, they live, and they die.  It’s common knowledge that people can only dream of defying.  It is impossible to accurately imagine what eternity will be like.

“Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.

“You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies—humans, animals, birds, fish—each unprecedented in its form. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection “seeds”—who can imagine what the resurrection “plants” will be like!

“This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body—but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural—same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!

“…I need to emphasize, friends, that our natural, earthy lives don’t in themselves lead us by their very nature into the kingdom of God. Their very “nature” is to die, so how could they “naturally” end up in the Life kingdom?” 1 Corinthians 15:35-44, 50 (MSG)

Like a seed planted into the ground, the seed dies and is shed away as the plant begins to grow; that is how Paul describes our mortal bodies.  After we die, our spirit will be given a new heavenly body.  Our new selves will shine with splendor possibly even greater than the sun, moon, and stars.    And definitely much greater than our own weak and sinful earthly bodies.

“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” 2 Corinthians 1-10 (NLT)

In a common belief among many Christians, heaven is explained in the last chapters of the book of Revelation (chapters 21 & 22), but allow me to correct that belief with an awesome thought.  Or maybe I’m not correcting; more just expounding on the idea.  Try to imagine it like this…

WE are the description of heaven. Christ’s church is the Holy City, New Jerusalem.

Let me try to explain it for you:

When the book of Revelation (chapter 21) explains the new heaven and earth, it says “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”  (vs. 2-4, NIV)  The description of the new heaven and new earth that John saw sounds exactly like something that Paul wrote to the letter to the church in Corinth, when he wrote “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.  I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” (2 Corinthians 11:2, NIV)  As Christians we-the church-are the bride of Christ, brought to Him in godly splendor because of the blood that He has shed for us.  And now, because we have the Holy Spirit, God can dwell in us and give us peace and comfort.  We no longer have to fear the destructive nature of death, because Jesus has redeemed us and reconciled us to God.

The explanation of New Jerusalem, found in Revelation 21, also points to our salvation through Jesus Christ.  The city is described with the language of the prophets: 12 gates, which the number 12 symbolizes God’s people, like the 12 tribes of Israel; the walls of the city has 12 foundations, each with the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb, broadening God’s holy people to not only the Israelites, but also the children of the new covenant, which is everyone who accepts Christ as Savior. Each of the four walls of the Holy City has 3 gates on it- 3 is the number of God, the Trinity, and explains that there is no obstacle stopping anyone from entering into God’s presence. An angel measures the city and finds it to be 12,000 stadia in length, width and height- 12,000 is a multiplier of both 12 and 10.  The number 10 is, like the number of fingers and toes you have, the number of completion.   So by putting 12 and 10 together, it means that the city is made up of all of God’s people, not just some of them.  No one is left out.  The wall of the city was also measured and found to be 144 cubits thick, which is another use of the number of God’s people, since 144 squared is 12.  The measurements, the gates, and the brilliantly shining stones of the Holy City explains to us how precious Christ’s church is.  The church is literally heaven on Earth.  All people are welcomed into it, and once a citizen of God’s Holy City, New Jerusalem, we will inherit God’s promise.

In chapter 22 John tells “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down to the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse…” (v.1-3, NIV)  The city’s street leads to the tree of life, which brings healing for the nations and bears fruit all year round.  That’s what we as Christ’s church, the Lamb’s  bride, the Holy City needs to be doing. We need to be healing the nations.  We need to be bearing the fruits of the Spirit.  We need to be examples of God to the people around us so that they can see His glory: wiping the tears of the mournful and ministering to those suffering from pain.  That’s what God does.  It’s also what we should be doing.

We are also told that in the Holy City, “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”  (v.5, NIV) Talk about being the city on a hill!  That’s exactly what Jesus called us when He spoke in the sermon on the mount: “You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (AMP)

The explanation of the new heaven and new earth, the New Jerusalem, and the new Eden that’s explained in the final pages of the Bible is not describing how heaven will look like.  There’s no way we can fathom the greatness of God’s dwelling.  Much like the royal Priesthood spoken of in Hebrews,  we are meant to think of the description as a shadow of what heaven will be like.  In fact, we as Christians are called to be the foreshadow of Heaven.

 “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’  He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.” Revelations 21:5-8

Returning to the writing prompt, we are offered a choice of immortality. Will you accept or decline the offer? If  you choose to accept, then you must, in turn, share the offer to others as well.  For 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 says:

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (NLT)

As we begin 2018, let’s consider our role here in the physical life.  Why not make a new year’s resolution to be heaven on earth to all the people around you?  You may even snatch a life from the fiery fate of Hell.

"But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!" 1 Corinthians 15: 51-57 (MSG)
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To Infinity and Beyond! (From Abstract to Absolute)

You must have felt, the air is chilly, when that craving for hot, steamy satisfying tea appears, where you crave that comfortable heat to fill your body, your hands, your head, your heart; you don’t want to freeze, so you want hot tea. Your favorite flavor may be zesty lemon, fresh mint, or spicy cinnamon. “Ahhh” would be a natural reaction your lungs have when steam fills yours nostrils, cheeks begin to rosy up, and your nose gets runny.

That’s how I feel when I get tea. You?

At least with the leading brands like Yogi, tearing back the paper and pulling out the stringed teabag lately brings the reading of a wise proverb. One tea stated,

“Love without trust is like a river without water”.

I like that one. Another tea stated,

“The gate to happiness is self-compassion”.

(What is happiness? …self-compassion?)

Wise sayings like these are usually harmless. Mostly they hold some truth, take them as they are. However, the second message (about self-compassion) can be interpreted both to harm and not to harm, due to its abstractness. For example:

A mother’s interpretation might be: “I should care about me this weekend. I’ll soak in a long bath while the hubby’s home.” Mostly harmless.

A painter’s interpretation: “Heed not the family business. Instead, do what makes me happy and go to art school.” Maybe harmful, maybe not.

But then a troubling interpretation from an angry teen: “To protect myself, I should get rid of the bullies. Tomorrow the gun goes in my backpack.” Mostly harmful!

Do you see where I’m going?

There’s no need to blame the teabags for sinister influence. These sayings are far too short and vague for the granting of ill intentions, and it’s entirely the responsibility of each person how he thinks, how he plots, or how he reacts. Right?

With that said, what concerns my writing today is the manner in which we consume abstract thoughts like these – even if each person is responsible for their own living and own behavior, it is the responsibility of a society, or a community, to provide the ambience needed for people to produce good thoughts each on their own.

It is a matter of how we habitually think and live. If we make a habit of consuming messages that are vague and abstract, our lives will be lived in the same abstractness. Our lives will be lived for the general purposes of “happiness”, “wellness”, or “productivity”; that is, the persons that we are will become bounded to the finite. The predictable. The limited. The temporary. Without the eventual consumption of that which is deep, unlimited, and endless, we will never find the absolute truth that sets us free.

As I have taught from week to week for more than a year now on my blog, I teach again: we can find that absolute truth by reading the entire Bible. It allows us to live a life boundless and free, unpredictable, unimaginable, and everlasting. Partly the purpose of my blog has always been to discuss again and again the Scriptures so you will come to know the Bible without having to read it alone and in cold, hard truth. I pray you come to see the burdens-lifting message of the gospel.

The inspiration of my writing today came from a teabag message I have not yet shared with you. I believe it is my favorite, because it brings to my mind the entirety of Christ. Quote:

“Love is an experience of infinity.”

What Yogi meant by putting it on its product I don’t know. Maybe,

God is love.

Love at its fullest mends all hurts.

Love shared by two people has an out of this world feeling.

Lovers are metaphorically stargazers who will never see every star no matter how long they gaze.

Love literally does not stop when completely unconditional.

Love has no ending of explanations.

Christ, however, reveals the quote much less abstractly, in fact, as Paul states it, there was a mystery and that mystery is now seen in Christ. All that was abstract is now absolute in our Lord and King who reigns on heaven and in earth. Read this passage in Ephesians 3:14-21 to get a true taste of infinity!

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

 

 

Give Me the Bible

My father was stationed overseas when I was born.  Yakota Air Base was our home for the first 3 years of my life, so my family has had a kindred heart for Christians in Japan.  When I would brag to my friends in school that I was born in Japan, they would always come back with a reasonable question: “Can you speak Japanese?”  The question bothered me at the time, because I was a quiet child and didn’t even speak much English until I was 3 years old.

When I was 13, we moved to Germany.  We lived 2 years on the German-Dutch border, in the small German town of Gangelt.  We had a German neighbor and received advertisements in the mail in a language we didn’t know.  We made some special friends in our small church group which met at a chapel at the Nato base my father was stationed at.  If it weren’t for the gracious people of Germany who would gladly speak English for us, we would probably have been clueless about a lot of things there.

So I have always had a pretty good concept of foreign languages and different cultures.

If I were to pick up the little red Dutch Bible that I have in my library, I wouldn’t be able to read the words because I don’t know the language.  Even if I browse the pages of the Japanese Bible that I have, I may recognize a symbol or two from where Lacy and I are working on learning, but I still wouldn’t be able to read it and understand what it says. I can bet that if I were to know Japanese or German, when I read the Bible I would still have to focus on the words and grammar, because it’s not my first language.  It’s not the language that I hear when I think thoughts in my own head.

 “Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.”  Luke 24:45-48 (WEB)

Aside from Japanese, which I’ve always kinda wanted to learn ever since my friends asked me if I could speak it, another language that I’ve always found attractive is ASL.  My mother has always had a desire to learn sign language (and she passed the desire on to Lacy and me), so when she saw a piece of mail with a man on the envelope signing the words “Please open”, it was no surprise that it stole her attention and made her open and read the enclosed letter.  It was from the Pioneer Bible Translators, an organization that translates Bibles into foreign languages.  Their goal is to translate the Bible into every known language, so no man will be hindered from knowing God due to not having His Word in their own language.

This particular letter from Greg Pruett, the president of Pioneer Bible Translators, was talking about a personal experience when he was trying to decide whether to pursue a version of the Bible for the Deaf.  In it, he says “Brothers and sisters, it’s time for us to repent of how we have ignored the Deaf of the world as if they were not included with us in the message of God’s love. It’s time to take action…”

“Now, why would the Deaf need their own Bible?  They just speak English, or Dutch, or Korean, or Italian, or whatever the language of their environment.”  I’m sure that thought would go through the mind of many people.  But in knowing the differences that can be found in languages, it makes perfect sense to me.  Sign Language, as well as other languages like Japanese, isn’t as complicated as English.  Where we speak what we want to say in complete sentences, “I would like to give you this gift.”  They don’t clutter their thought with the needless extra words.  “Give.”

“It is true some Deaf learn to read by memorizing what each sequence of letters represents.  But this is tedious and unnatural, and those words will never be their heart language.  Most Deaf think in sign. For God’s Word to resonate deeply within their hearts, they need it in sign language.” –Greg Pruett

Also, according to Greg Pruett, people who were born deaf have a disadvantage.  When they read a Bible verse in the language of the country they live in, they only recognize the words as symbols on a page.  They have never heard the sounds that they must read.  While people who speak English see the word “Pizza” and think of how it sounds (like PEETsa), the person who uses ASL as their native language might read that word as a “Z” drawn with the index and middle finger.  Like this…

The truth is, Sign Language is an entire network of languages that haven’t even been considered for a Bible version of its own until recently.  And each region of the world has it’s own version of sign language.  ASL is “American Sign Language”, and is used by Americans.  But Pioneer Bible Translators are working to expand their reach to include the Deaf community all over the world.  They want to make many versions of a sign language bible, made into phone apps, a website, DVD, or memory card for the phone or computer; they want God’s promise to be carried even into the most silent of communities, so that all will have the chance to find God’s truth.

They are trying to raise $100,000 by the start of next year.  Would you be willing to help them out?  You can donate on-line or by check, by visiting http://www.PioneerBible.org/YearEnd2017

 

PioneerBibleTranslators

Below are some amazing videos of songs which have been translated into Sign Language.

“Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven! –were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed.  I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.”   Galatians 1:8-9 (MSG)

The Social Gospel

Do you hear the word “unbiased” often? Many people, especially millennials, strive to be unbiased in their viewpoint. I myself have heard the word a lot in conversations with friends when we talk about politics, education, and religion. It seems that the more a person learns, listens, and observes, the more unbiased she or he becomes.

First, let’s get the dictionary definition of unbiased:

Dictionary.com:

Unbiased (Adjective) - Not biased or prejudiced; fair; impartial.

English Oxford Dictionary:

Unbiased (Adjective) – showing no prejudice for or against something; impartial.

Merriam Webster Dictionary:

Unbiased (Adjective) – 1. Free from bias; especially: free from all prejudice and favoritism: eminently fair; an unbiased opinion

To be unbiased means you are able to understand opinions other than your own; your opinion is tolerant, because your mind reflects other opinions, and you believe the other person’s worldview to be acceptable and pure despite being different from your own.

Contrarily, a biased person is seen as someone who takes a stance FOR or AGAINST a view. Being unbiased, however, means to take a neutral stance, neither for nor against a view. For example, if you are having a discussion about politics, and you are talking to a biased person, he or she would obviously argue in favor of a certain candidate, and if you didn’t agree, then you are wrong; but if you talk to an unbiased person, he or she would stay neutral and would never take a view, instead listening to your point of view and debating the candidates without loyalty to a side, and with a broad outlook on pros and cons.

There are both qualities and flaws of unbiasedness: the qualities are sound judgement, ability to see all sides, and knowledgeability; the flaws are a sense of apathy, nonchalant impression of outcomes, and never being a team player.

I desired to be that, until I learned that living my life trying to be unbiased (as a rule of thumb) was a trap secularism set for me – the trap we shall call The Social Gospel – which swayed me to avoid righteous action and stop from speaking truth. Don’t get me wrong, the dictionary definition of unbiased is ok, or using the word in a sentence, or being unbiased accidentally on occasion, but when you try and live by the principle of it, it becomes the antichrist!

 “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” 1 John 4:2-3 (NIV)

What is the Social Gospel, you may ask?

The Social Gospel defined is the life principle of caring about others’ views and teaching God’s love, while refusing to care about their souls, their sinful habits, or the possible descent into Hell they may endure.

It’s not easy to say this, but being unbiased is a dangerous trap that can lead to numbness of character and lack of obedience. By reading the Old Testament, we can see how passionate God’s people were as warriors, prophets, and kings, and it can be a hard pill to swallow for a person who sails through life trying to stay neutral. Even in Romans, there’s a warning: don’t seek after self-contentment; seek the truth of God’s wrath and judgement toward evil, realizing that you can grow haughty in your pursuit of open-mindedness.

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.”  Romans 2:5-11 (NIV)

The Righteous Alternative

Avoid The Social Gospel. Utilize that unbiased attitude in a different way than what secularism teaches: be unbiased for God, being willing to listen to and accept God’s word, will, and way in a fair and tolerant manner.

Hmm, if you’re like me, you might have been told, “Christians are more biased than secularists” but that’s not true, because you have been called to imitate God, and God is the #1 most impartial, fair, merciful, and just judge that ever lived!

“Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.'” Acts 10:34-35 (NIV)

 

Psalm 103 (CEB)

Let my whole being bless the Lord!
Let everything inside me bless his holy name!
Let my whole being bless the Lord
and never forget all his good deeds:
     how God forgives all your sins,
heals all your sickness,
     saves your life from the pit,
crowns you with faithful love and compassion,
     and satisfies you with plenty of good things
so that your youth is made fresh like an eagle’s.

 The Lord works righteousness;
does justice for all who are oppressed.
 God made his ways known to Moses;
made his deeds known to the Israelites.
 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
very patient, and full of faithful love.
 God won’t always play the judge;
he won’t be angry forever.
 He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin
or repay us according to our wrongdoing,
     because as high as heaven is above the earth,
that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor him.
 As far as east is from west—
that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.
 Like a parent feels compassion for their children—
that’s how the Lord feels compassion for those who honor him.
 Because God knows how we’re made,
God remembers we’re just dust.

 The days of a human life are like grass:
they bloom like a wildflower;
     but when the wind blows through it, it’s gone;
even the ground where it stood doesn’t remember it.
 But the Lord’s faithful love is from forever ago to forever from now

for those who honor him.
And God’s righteousness reaches to the grandchildren
         of those who keep his covenant
and remember to keep his commands.
 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

 You divine messengers,
bless the Lord!
You who are mighty in power and keep his word,
who obey everything he says,
bless him!
 All you heavenly forces,
bless the Lord!
All you who serve him and do his will,
bless him!
 All God’s creatures,
bless the Lord!
Everywhere, throughout his kingdom,
let my whole being
bless the Lord!”

Hymn of the Day: Almighty by Wayne Watson

Hungry for Salvation

“At high altitude, the body's caloric needs are astronomical ... we were starving in earnest, with no hope of finding food, but our hunger soon grew so voracious that we searched anyway ...again and again we scoured the fuselage in search of crumbs and morsels. We tried to eat strips of leather torn from pieces of luggage, though we knew that the chemicals they'd been treated with would do us more harm than good. We ripped open seat cushions hoping to find straw, but found only inedible upholstery foam ... Again and again I came to the same conclusion: unless we wanted to eat the clothes we were wearing, there was nothing here but aluminum, plastic, ice, and rock.”              

Miracles in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home, by Nando Parrado

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, God.” Psalm 42:1 (WEB)

As Christians, we are reassured that “Blessed are those who hunger (Greek word peinaó: to be needy or desire earnestly) and thirst (Greek word dipsaó: to suffer from thirst) after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6 (WEB)

If we earnestly desire for God’s will to be done in our lives, then we will be strengthened by God.  Like a survivor of a flood who climbed to the roof of their home to wait for a boat to rescue them, we need to understand that we need a savior too.

I’ve been blessed not to know hunger like Nando Parrado and his Rugby teammates when they were stranded in the Andes after their Flight 571 crashed in 1972, but spiritually-speaking, we need to seek for sustenance; we need to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Luke 18:18-23 tells of a certain ruler who asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  This man wanted salvation, but he wasn’t hungry enough for the answer that was given to him.  Jesus’ response made the man very sad.

The men in Luke 9:57-62 weren’t hungry for righteousness either, when Jesus called to them “Follow me!” and they tried to stall their obedience by saying “first allow me to say goodbye to those who are at my house” or “allow me first to go and bury my father.”

To hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, you must be willing to seek His will and ready to obey.

In order to survive the 72 days in the freezing mountains, Nando and his comrades were driven to do what they believed was despicable and unthinkable; they had to eat the flesh of their own friends and family who hadn’t survived the crash.  It was the only way that they could survive the environment and find life.

We too, may face a task that we believe is too big for us, or one that goes against what we think is morally true. I’m assuredly not saying that the Bible tells us to eat our family or friends, but Jesus does say in Matthew 10:34-38,Don’t think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn’t come to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at odds against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s foes will be those of his own household.  He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me. He who doesn’t take his cross and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me.” 

Jesus’s response to the rich ruler was “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)  And Jesus’s response to us is “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me…for whoever will be ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed, when he comes in his glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23, 26)

 

“But you who forsake Yahweh, who forget my holy mountain,  who prepare a table for Fortune, and who fill up mixed wine to Destiny; I will destine you to the sword, and you will all bow down to the slaughter; because when I called, you didn’t answer. When I spoke, you didn’t listen; but you did that which was evil in my eyes, and chose that in which I didn’t delight.”

Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh,

“Behold, my servants will eat, but you will be hungry; Behold, my servants will drink, but you will be thirsty.  Behold, my servants will rejoice, but you will be disappointed; Behold, my servant will sing for joy of heart, but you will cry for sorrow of heart, and will wail for anguish of spirit.”  Isaiah 65:11-14 (WEB)

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”   Isaiah 32:17 (ESV)

Inherit the Earth!

Want to know how to inherit the earth? First, I’ll tell you what happened to me today. After that, I’ll explain.

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Today I learned that bird-watching is a good test of one’s patience. Your eye has to be skilled, watching and waiting for the bird to appear. My family got a hummingbird feeder for our backyard, filled with bright-red, citric hummingbird food, and it hangs outside on the white arch.  From the window, you can watch for the little bird. It comes every 15-20 minutes on the clock. When it comes it is sudden: the hummingbird in a flash appears and feeds for 10 seconds or less, zooming off, and then you’re stuck waiting for it to come again. (Taking a picture is even harder than waiting.)

I’ve seen videos where others have the perfect spot for hummingbirds, bringing large enough numbers so that the buzzing noise their wings make, collectively, is loud enough to be heard even at a distance. Maybe someday my feeder will do that, too, but as of today, I saw only two hummingbirds come at the same time and one ran the other away – that little green one was possessive of her food saying (I can imagine) “It’s mine! Go away,” dive-bombing at the other one, making him leave.

It’s odd, yet amazing, how animals act as the defenders of their good green earth. There’s this narrative society declares, about how peaceful nature would be if only humans would stop their wars, and although I understand, it makes me surprised when I see animals angry or possessive, bickering at one other about what they think is theirs. My Dad saw the birds fighting and said, “They should know, it’s not private property! The feeder belongs to everyone.” Ha! Absurd to think the human is telling the birds to be nice, considering I favor that popular nature narrative I told you about.

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I continually ask myself, what is meekness and what is meek? Even a person who is said to be sweet, gentle at heart, or a humble person can find him or herself thinking, “I’m meeker than my Christian brother” and comparing their blessings, or comparing their lives to see which is more blessed. In reality, in the moment a person revels in his own meekness, is the moment of weakness instead of meekness.

Let’s repeat that thought:
In the moment a person revels over his meekness is a moment of weakness, not meekness.

No matter who you are, becoming meek needs discipline. That’s why God tells parents to discipline children, wives to submit to husbands and citizens to obey governmental authorities. If a person is not disciplined, meekness is only but a concept, and not a precept.

Without discipline, meekness is a concept not a precept.

Once a person becomes an adult, becoming meek needs self-control. You have to control yourself to be a meek adult. That means controlling what your body does, controlling what your mind thinks, and controlling what your mouth says. Like reins direct a horse’s will and body strength, self-control directs a person’s body and makes a temple for the Holy Spirit.

Self-control allows the Holy Spirit to take the reins.

Listed below are four ways you can be meek:

1. Live Confidently Knowing God’s Power.

Job 1:21 When Job heard that all his servants, his livestock, and his children died disastrously all the same day, he glorified God with these words: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Luke 1:38 Mary asked the angel how she was pregnant since she hadn’t been with a man, and he told her with God nothing is impossible. She said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” Her willingness is an example on how to receive God’s power over our lives.

2. Live Obediently Submitting to God’s Authority.

Luke 22:42 “Not my will, but Yours, be done.” Jesus prayed in the garden with his friends nearby, relinquishing his will obediently to God, knowing his fate would always be to die on the cross for the sins of humanity, but he prayed with the desire for God to change His mind, anyway. He gave up his will for his Father’s.

Acts 8:3, 9:1, 9:6 Saul threatened, imprisoned, and punished Christians fervently up until the day he saw the light (literally) in which he asked Jesus, who appeared to him in the light, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Instantly, he was meek enough to know all he did was wrong and Jesus truly was the Messiah.

Jeremiah 18:1-11 God, the Potter, and mere mortals, the clay: the Lord said, “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel!  … Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” He spoke to His people Israel. Presently, God is calling us to submit to Him in Christ Jesus for the salvation of our souls.

3. Live Unselfishly Taking God’s Direction.

James 1: 21 “…lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word…” The man who endures in good even when evil tempts, tries to love the lowliest of persons, and gives up personal pride is living by “the implanted word”.

Psalm 25:4-5 A prayer from our mentor David, asking for God’s guidance: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.” That’s how we should talk to God.

4. Live Honestly Keeping the Peace.

1 Peter 3: 15-16 “… sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”

Ephesians 4:2-3 “…walk…with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I think the way to do that is to not think too highly of myself, and listen sooner than I speak.

Application of “Inherit the Earth”

The Jews in Jesus’s time were aware of his meaning when he said, “the meek will inherit the earth”. Like our popular idioms nowadays (i.e. “Hit the nail on the head” means exactly on point, you can picture a nail being hit by a hammer), the Jews knew to imagine great fortune and blessings when he said the phrase “inherit the earth”. Psalm 37:28-29 says, which the Jews also lived by, “For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed; the offspring of the wicked will perish. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.” The Promised Land was a gracious gift to Israel from God, with the promise it would be theirs forever, as long as they obeyed God. Therefore in the Hebrew culture, it was common knowledge that God blessed those He loved with an inheritance of land and people, so Jesus Christ could say to his listeners this concept and immediately they would gain encouragement. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”, his listeners understood that he was comforting the common folk and lowly people of the land, and the ones who served God without trying to possess or gain anything in return.

In conclusion… Here’s how I sum up Creation vs Creator after today:

NATURE: It’s a dog eat dog world. (I learned that from hummingbirds.)

HUMANS: Bombers and missiles and nukes, oh my! (I learned that from news about North Korea.)

GOD: There are many rooms in my house. I am preparing a place for you. My Son Jesus will come back and take you there when it’s time. (I learned that from the Bible.)

 

Meekness Defined

“Pop, pop, pop! Bom, bom, bom!  throughout the day. No time for memorandums now. Go ahead! Liberty and Independence forever.”

~Davy Crockett, the last entry in his diary, on the 5th of March, 1836

In the battle of the Alamo, do you think you would you hear Davy Crockett telling his fellow patriots “Proud men, we’ll need to be meek in this battle!”  To call the battle of the Alamo meek would be like trying to pronounce Hurricane Harvey as a meek storm in the wake of its devastation at Rockport and its torrential downpour over Houston this weekend. The defenders of the Alamo fought courageously, and the Tropical Storm Harvey still threatens Southern Texas with its strong winds and flooding waters. That’s not the image of meekness, is it?

In today’s world, meekness is labeled as weak.  The Merriam-Webster explains the word meek with 3 definitions.  The first is “enduring injury with patience and without resentment: mild”; the second definition states “deficient in spirit and courage: submissive” and the third says “not violent or strong: moderate”.

The definition of the Greek word πρᾷος, or práos, according to the biblehub.com is “mild, gentle, meek, kind”. HELPS Word-studies gives the example: “the necessary balance of exercising power and avoiding harshness”.

As Christians, we need to show meekness.  But what defines meekness in God’s book?

“So I am not the one living now—it is Christ living in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God. He is the one who loved me and gave himself to save me.” Galations 2:20 (ERV)

Since it is Christ living in us that inspires our actions, and Christ says “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29, ASV), we should strive to be meek like Him.

John 2:12-17 shows us an example of Jesus’s meekness.  While God’s temple was supposed to be a house of worship and reverence to the Lord where people would come to find forgiveness through sacrifices that they offered, the Jewish leaders had set up stalls and tables in the temple, and the people were told to buy the perfect sacrificial offerings from the temple, when their own offerings didn’t match the priests’ standards.

…it was almost time for the Jewish Passover Feast. So Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple he found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves. He saw others sitting at tables, exchanging money. Jesus made a whip out of cords. Then he forced all these men, with the sheep and cattle, to leave the Temple. He turned over the tables and scattered the money of the men who were exchanging it. Then he said to those who were selling pigeons, “Take these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place for buying and selling!”

When this happened the followers remembered what was written in the Scriptures: “My strong love for your Temple completely controls me.” (ICB)

HurricaneHarvey-HibiscusLeaf_2017-8-27

Quoting Psalm 69:9, this is a good example of what meekness truly means.  “My strong love for your Temple completely controls me.”  It’s not mildness or submissiveness or the lack of strength as the world sees it.  It’s zealously letting God’s will be the one to control the actions that you take.  Like Moses, who was called the meekest person on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3); like Stephen, who portrayed a godly meek spirit with a powerful speech (Acts 7); like Daniel, with his meek request to disregard the king’s orders (Daniel 1:5-21); like Paul, who boldly wrote letters to Christ’s churches “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10-13); and like David’s meekness when he wrote his psalms and praises to the Lord; we need to represent Jesus’s “meek and lowly” spirit in our own lives.

 

 

Psalm 46:9-11, ESV

“Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

 

Psalm 69:9, 16-20, 30-36, ESV

“For zeal for your house has consumed me,
    and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me…

“Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
    according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Hide not your face from your servant,
    for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.
Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
    ransom me because of my enemies!

You know my reproach,
    and my shame and my dishonor;
    my foes are all known to you.
Reproaches have broken my heart,
    so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none,
    and for comforters, but I found none…

I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs.
When the humble see it they will be glad;
    you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy
    and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
    the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
    and build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;
    the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
    and those who love his name shall dwell in it.”

 

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 NIV

The Holy Spirit, Our Paraclete

Have you ever heard the word paraclete? I had not heard it before today, although I should have, because I took Ancient Greek in 4th grade. (Shows how little I’ve read my Greek Bible since I was nine!) Paraclete is a word describing the Holy Spirit, our advocate, comforter, helper, and parakletos is the ancient Greek word with the same meaning. The word was originally used by the apostle John. I will share with you the four Bible verses that use the word parakletos, with the original Greek, and the literal English translation. It’s awesome. I got this from my Greek bible:

John 14:16

“καὶ ἐγὼ ἐρωτήσω τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἄλλον παράκλητον δώσει ὑμῖν, ἵνα μένῃ μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα…” (“And I will ask the Father, and another Paraclete he will give you, that he may remain with you forever.”)

John 14:26

“ὁ.δὲ παράκλητος, τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, ὃ πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί.μου, ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα, καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα ἃ εἶπον ὑμῖν.” (“But the Paraclete, the Spirit the Holy, whom will send the Father in my name, he you will teach all things, and will bring to remembrance your all things which I said to you.”)

John 15:26

“ὅταν.δὲ ἔλθῃ ὁ παράκλητος, ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω ὑμῖν παρὰ τοῦ πατρός, τὸ Πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, ἐκεῖνος μαρτυρήσει περὶ ἐμοῦ·” (“But when is come the Paraclete, whom I will send to you from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me; also ye and bear witness, because [the] beginning with me ye are.”)

John 16:7

“ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ τὴν ἀλήθειαν λέγω ὑμῖν· συμφέρει ὑμῖν ἵνα ἐγὼ ἀπέλθω. ἐὰν.γὰρ ἐγὼ μὴ ἀπέλθω ὁ παράκλητος οὐκ ἐλεύσεται πρὸς ὑμᾶς· ἐὰν δὲ πορευθῶ, πέμψω αὐτὸν πρὸς ὑμᾶς·” (“But I the truth say to you, It is profitable for you that I should go away; for if I go not away the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”)

Our modern English Oxford dictionary defines it the same:

Noun

(in Christian theology) the Holy Spirit as advocate or counsellor (John 14:16, 26)

Paraclete is a wonderful word that has disappeared from modern versions of the Bible, where we simply use the words Comforter, Helper, or Friend. I understand why, because a lot of modern people don’t know what that word means, but I think that should change. We should begin to use the word derived from the Greek again!

 

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)

 

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