Blog #1,796 (or What I Took Away from Another Good Night at Kairos)

Tonight’s guest speaker was Tyler McKenzie, who spoke from the Beatitudes about what it meant to be blessed.

American culture has a decidedly different take on what being blessed looks like than Jesus. Unfortunately, too many believers (including me at times) have fallen into their idea that wealth, success, power, popularity, and recognition are what it looks like when you’re blessed.

Jesus had a very different idea. He said that you were blessed if you were poor in spirit, mourning, meek, righteous, merciful, pure in heart, and persecuted. Those are not concepts that you’ll find in the self-help section of the bookstore or in any motivational speeches. At least not in 99% of them.

Blessing involves foregoing the immediate and temporary pleasures of the now for a greater and lasting joy that’s partly now but mostly later. It means following the path of Jesus, who for the future joy set before Him endured the present pain and suffering of the cross.

Pain and suffering aren’t words we normally associate with blessing. I’d much rather have comfort and convenience (and chocolate as often as possible). I’d rather choose the easy over the hard path. Sometimes, I’m content to hunker down in my safe haven and pray to be able to coast into heaven. But that’s not the gateway to joy.

As I remember, the Greek word for blessed is a very interesting word. Before Jesus used it in this context, it wasn’t ever used to refer to people but rather to the gods. But here Jesus is saying that if you’re poor in spirit, you have the joy that God has. You can experience (or come as close to experiencing as any fallen human can) the state of blessedness that God lives in. You can have joy overflowing and life abundant.

I don’t want this to turn into another burden of “you and I really need to add this to the list of things we need to work on.” It’s not something I need to work on, but something Jesus is already working on in me. Ultimately, I’m not blessed because I have it all together but because I know that Jesus has it all together and He has me.

 

Something Good to Remember on a Monday

Matthew 5:1 says, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.”

I’ve read past that a thousand or more times. I’ve rushed past those words to get to the Sermon on the Mount, the good stuff. But I think I’ve done myself a disservice by not paying attention to this verse, particularly the first three words: “Seeing the crowds.”

Did you catch that? He saw the people who came to see him. He didn’t see bodies. He saw faces lined with pain. He saw heartaches and anxieties and unrest. He saw people just trying to get through the day.

Just as he sees you and he sees me.

Do you ever feel unnoticed? Do you ever post on facebook and no one responds? Do you ever comment on someone else’s post and he or she responds to everyone else but you?

Do you often feel invisible in a crowd? Has the thought ever crossed your mind that no one would miss you if you were suddenly not there? Or like George Bailey, do you think the world would be better off if you’d never been born?

You may not feel like anyone knows you or the secret shame and pain you carry. Jesus does.

You may think that you don’t matter to anyone. You matter to Jesus.

You are not alone. You have an advocate, someone who is on your side, who fights for you, who roots for you, who won’t abandon you in the dark or in the storms. His name is Jesus.

I didn’t come up with this, but it’s still true: if you had been the only one lost and in need of a Savior, Jesus still would have gone through every bit of the cross just for you. He loves you that much.

If your Monday’s been awesome, that’s great. God rejoices with you. But if your Monday was horrible and couldn’t end soon enough, this promise still holds true.

This is from a ragamuffin who needs daily reminders of the goodness of God as much as anyone else. God is faithful, even when it seems he is absent. He is good, always.

 

Last Thoughts on the Beatitudes

Obviously, I’ve had the Beatitudes on my mind for some time now, having blogged on each one individually for the past several days. The question that remains is how do they all fit together. And what is the purpose? Ok, so I lied about only having one question. Sue me.

How do they fit together? It seems like they are all describing one person. A believer.

What is the purpose? If it’s a to-do list, I’m sunk. I can never make myself be poor in spirit or meek or any other of these things. The same goes if it’s a list of to-be’s, as in you should be all these things if you are a believer. Then what? I heard someone say that the Beatitudes are what it looks like when the Kingdom of God breaks through in a person. When God’s reign is manifested in an individual.

Well, then. How can we seek for a Kingdom breakthrough? By seeking the Kingdom. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). And the Kingdom is nothing more than God Himself, God ruling over His creation. So seek God first, and everything else will fall into place. Make Jesus your first– your only priority– and you will have found your purpose.

Again, I like how the Message puts it: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” Steep your life in God. Let every part of your life be filled with every part of God. Let every thought, breath, word and action be a living prayer to Jesus. Live with open hands and open minds toward all that God has for you.

Jesus, be thou my vision, as the old hymn says. So fill me with Your Spirit that all I see is You and how You are working in the world. So inhabit my senses that my heart breaks with what breaks Your heart. So enrapture me with Your love that everything else fades away.

Amen.

Blessed are you when people insult you

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

In all honesty, I don’t really like these two verses. I would much rather Jesus have said something like, “Blessed are you when people compliment you, flatter you, and tell you what great blogs you write and how spiritual you are.” I am not much for being insulted or persecuted or slandered. Probably not many people are. In fact, I would go so far as to say no one apart from the indwelling Spirit of God would count being insulted as a blessing. No one.

But if I am not ashamed of the gospel and proclaim it as the very power of God unleashed in the world, then I will face all these things. If I stand up and say that Jesus is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth and the ONLY life, I will be mocked, ridiculed, called all sorts of names, and ostracized. The sad part is that if I truly am radical about my faith, I will be insulted and persecuted and slandered by those in the Church who go by the name Christian.

I love the Message version: “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

When the truth is too close for comfort, people get uncomfortable. They react. Whether they are openly opposed to God or just those who want heaven, but not Jesus, they will lash out when someone threatens their pseudo-security. God also responds; God knows what you have done and will reward you. I’ve said this before, but the best possible reward is not anything God gives you, but God Himself. He is our great Reward, our great Inheritance. I think Francis Chan said that the great news of the Gospel is that you get God. All of God.

Lord, I don’t want to be a Christian who gets along with everyone and never causes trouble or stirs up dissention. I want to be a fork in the road, so that when people come up to me, they must choose to go one way or another to get by me– either toward or away from Christ. Hide me behind the cross, so that if there be anything offensive about me, it would be what the Greeks saw as foolishness and the Jews saw as a stumbling block– namely, Christ crucified. Jesus, get me out of the way so that You can get in the way of every single person I meet.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.