07/23/2017 – Matthew 5:7 – Happy to be Blessed: “Mercy-Full–>Mercy-Filled”

Click HERE for an audio of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:7                                                                                                                          07/23/2017

Happy to Be Blessed: “Mercy-Full->Mercy-Filled”                                                       Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

In elementary school I was at the top of my class in math. No one was smarter. Then, in Jr. High School my Dad’s job moved him two times; thus I went to three different Jr. High Schools for 7th and 8th grades. Each new school I went to used the same PreAlgebra and Algebra 1 Math Books, but each time we moved the new school was a few chapters ahead of the old school. And since I had always been the smartest math student in my class, I just kept figuring I could catch up on my own…. I never did.

In 9th grade Geometry, Mr. Frasier new I wasn’t a slacker, he knew I was trying my best. By this time I even learned to ask questions and stay after class. But I could not understand math any longer.

In 10th grade Algebra 2, Dr. Jenkins understood exactly what Mr. Frasier understood.

In both classes I had earned a D+, something like a 67%. But both teachers had mercy on me. Neither wanted my GPA to suffer irreparably, so after both teachers suggesting I give up on math, they both gave me a C-. That was real Mercy.

 

In our Summer series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the fifth Beatitude: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed, shared, and talked about over these last several months. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

 

The 1st Beatitude is about being “POOR in spirit”, acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy, our need for God.

The 2nd Beatitude is about “MOURNING” our sinful tendency, receiving God’s comfort and grace.

The 3rd Beatitude asks us into “HUMILITY”, we know our spiritual poverty and mourn it, so we cannot exalt ourselves because we are unworthy.

The 4th beatitude deals with desiring legal, personal, and social “RIGHTEOUSNESS”, and Jesus promises to satisfy that desire.

 

Then this 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-7 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

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

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy. (NIV)

 

The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” is the last in this intro-series.

These first four Beatitudes all remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed.

 

I began this message today with that story about my High School math teachers being merciful to me to help illustrate what mercy looks like.

“Grace” is often defined as getting what we DON’T deserveI did not deserve a C-, but I got one anyway – we do not deserve forgiveness, but God offers it through faith in Jesus anyway.

“Mercy” is often defined as NOT getting what we DO deserve – I did deserve a D, but I did not get that – we do deserve banishment, but God offers grace through faith in Jesus anyway.

 

Mercy is the generosity, tenderness of heart, and kindness of soul that moves us to alleviate the sufferings of others. It is one of the characteristics that reveal the children of God, for God Himself is “rich in mercy – Ephesians 2:4 tells us.

Lamentations 3:22 remind us that God’s mercies are never-ending.

 

The Apostle Peter tells us that those whose lives are marked by a deep and lasting heart of mercy are made this way by experiencing the mercy God shows us by allowing us to be born again! (I Peter 1:3)

 

Have you been “born again”? Do you know Jesus in a way that demonstrates faith and trust in Him as both Savior and as Lord?

If you say YES, then carrying the Christ-like characteristic of mercy will be a real thing.  People will say, look at her, she cares for people. They will watch you and wonder why you are so generous toward others, so tender-hearted.

If you say YES to that question about having a full-on relationship with Christ, but feel like you lack that love for the lost and the lonelyhere’s how we develop it:

We grow in mercy as we REFLECT on God’s mercy to us!!  Reflect on the truths of those first four BeatitudesPoor in spirit, mourning our sinfilled lives, humbly asking for God’s help, and hoping to gain in Christlikenessreflect on the fact that God’s Son died for you! Above all – He thought of you!

Reflect on that, son.

 

Then, after realizing how amazing God’s grace is – we will always want to share His grace with everyone around us – we will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, take care of the infirmed. We may not all do all of that with perfection, but some of it we will excel in!

Jesus said, Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, even as your Father in heaven is merciful.”

 

As discipled followers of Jesus we are already what we hope to becomefull of mercy. But here’s the thing – as we live lives mercy-full what we are promised is to be, ultimately, completely mercy-filled. We have it, and then we get even more!

 

And this Beatitude, some believe, promises ultimate mercy on our souls! As we SHOW mercy to others, God promises eternal mercy on our souls!

 

We are invited to find God’s ultimate SATISFACTION in Christ. The imperative of this indicative/imperative clause is to be merciful; the indicative is that as those who know the deep, deep love of Jesus, we are already mercy-filled!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Steward, Gary; “Blessed Are The Merciful”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 21.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

07/16/2017 – Acts 17:27 – This Is where God Is

Mark Wheeler

I Chronicles 16:11; Psalm 14:1-2; Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:11-12, 31; Acts 17:27

This Is Where God Is

07/16/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Jennifer and I returned from our vacation across the globe on Tuesday evening, after traveling the equivalent of 46 hours straight, from Maasai Mara, Kenya, to Nairobi by van, from Nairobi, Kenya, to Dubai by plane (and then bus), from Dubai, UAE, to Seattle by 15 hours of plane (and then trains), and from Seattle to Spokane by plane and minivan.

And those 46 hours followed almost three weeks of incredible sites, experiences, and people, including our son Andrew in Kyrgyzstan and our C.E.O. director Edina in Kenya.

 

Today, I want to show you some photos (I narrowed it down to about 75), and in the process of showing you some of what we experienced tell you stories of how we encountered GodGod’s presence and God’s power, God’s patience and God’s peace, God’s persistence and God’s people.

And Jennifer, who always catches things I miss, sees things I don’t, learns things I remain stupid about, is also here to add her insights as we share.

 

And when we’re all done, I hope we leave some time for some of you to also share stories of how you have experienced God so far this Summer.

 

Our bulletin cover and our Call to Worship, and our Sermon Notes page list a few of the dozens of Bible verses that talk about seeking God. Let’s take a quick look at those as we start flipping through some Kygyzstanian photos.

Psalm 14:1-2, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;  there is no one who does good.   The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand,  any who seek God.

 

Acts 17:27, “He has done this so that they would look for God, somehow reach for him, and find him. In fact, he is never far from any one of us.”

I Chronicles 16:11,Search for the Lord and his strength. Always seek his presence.

Matthew 6:33, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 

Our first stop was in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, northwest of China, in the mountains along the ancient Asian Silk Trading Road. Kyrgyzstan is part of what used to be the USSR and has been an independent nation for fewer than 30 years. Mostly Muslim in religion and mostly rural, farming, in industry.

Everywhere we went Andrew introduced us as his parents and siblings, and everywhere we went the men would gather around and start talking, in their best English, to ask what I did for a living…. There are lots of ways to respond to that question, but to limit the potential walls that might grow, I simply answered that I work for a Christian Church, a Protestant Church. That answer seemed to open doors for sharing about their faith system and so we could talk, a little, about how we were similar and how we were very different.

Knowing that people can only see the light of the Gospel when the Holy Spirit opens their eyes, it was my job to faithfully reveal that light in ways that could pique interest.

From my personal devotional reading this morning I ran across this promise in Luke 12:11-12 & 31. Hear the Word of God: “ When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” And, “Seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

 

I was invited to participate in the slaughter of a lamb, a sacrificial lamb – I was reminded of the Old Testament requirement of a sacrificial lamb as a sign of our repentance and contrition. If I had to sacrifice a lamb for every sin I ever commit, I would consider my action and my disobedience to God much more seriously….

 

I experienced God in the majestic beauty of mountains and wildlife, in the warm hospitality of the people we encountered, in the respect and admiration and love people of every generation and walk of life had for Andrew, in the humble act sacrifice.

 

Kenya: very different natural beauty, very different warm, generous hospitality, very different wildlife, renewed relationships with orphaned children and their caregivers, and with Edina Nekesa Wanyonyi (our spiritual daughter), and hospital stays (but these are Jennifer’s stories).

I experienced God in more directly Christian atmosphere, and again, in the care of brothers and sisters sharing their all with us strangers in their midst, family from across the globe.

 

Where have you seen God this Summer? How have you sought His presence and power?

 

Let’s encourage each other to continue to seek His Kingdom, every day!

 

07/02/2017 – Luke 3 – God Spoke to John … in the Wilderness

Mark Wheeler

Luke 3

God Spoke to John … in the Wilderness

07/02/2017

Family Solution Centre, Eldoret, Kenya

 

Bwana asa fiwe!

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

What a deep privilegeGod is so good!

 

I am so deeply honored to be asked to be here with you today! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for ALL people! And while we speak different mother-tongues, and live in different cultures, we also speak the SAME language of God’s love, we live in the SAME culture of Christian, biblical ethics, and we have ONE HOPE, ONE BAPTISM, ONE LORD, Jesus ChristAmina?!

I pray that God blesses you, that God blesses US as we listen to His voice call our name today, and as we follow, more closely, today!

 

When WAS the last time you heard God’s voice?

  • What did He sound like?
  • What did He say?
  • What did you do?
  • How did you feel? Afraid? In awe? Humble? What is the correct response?

 

One year ago, my brother in Christ, Pastor Cary, had asked me if I might consider joining him on a “mission trip” to Kenya? He was going alone, and would love a brother to join him.

  • I said YES – I might consider it!
  • Then I turned to my wife, and we prayed, and we both “heard” God say, “You should go!”
  • My Church, then prayed and heard God say, “You should go!”
  • And then a small group of others from Pastor Cary’s Church heard God tell them “You should go!”
  • And the 6 of us joined together and were welcomed into the ministry and into family of our dear Edina Nekesa Wanyonyi.
  • God kept saying, “You should go!” So, fearfully, humbly, and excitedly, we all obeyed. God is so good!

 

Today, I invite you to hear the Word of God from the Gospel According to Luke – chapter 3.

 

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when (A)Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and (B)Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of (C)Annas and(D)Caiaphas,

This is real history. This actually happened. When Luke wrote this Gospel, his readers could remember the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor, and Herod and Philip and Lysanias were in charge of Galilee and east of the Sea of Galilee and southern Lebanon, and when Annas and Caiaphas shared the high priesthood. People knew these times, and they lived under these rulers.

Notice what Luke does –

  • 1 Emperor (Tiberius – talented, ambitious, cruel, licentious, infamous, inhuman! – sought world dominion!, evil, mean-spirited, egomaniacal),
  • 1 governor (Pontius Pilate – the local representative of the tyrant Tiberius, life and death were in his hands),
  • 3 tetrachs (Herod, Philip, Lysanias – vassals of Rome – whatever Tiberius, or Pilate, wanted, they did!),
  • and 2 high priests (Annas and Caiaphas – priests who were in it for the glory of themselves!)
  • Ruled by tyrannical Roman political sovereigns – and Led by degenerate Jewish religious leaders.

 

And the next line in the Bible says, “the word of God came upon John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.” This seems like the most important sentence: “Neno la Mungu lilipomjia Yohane, don wa Zakariya, kule jangwani.”

 

The Word of God (the Greek word used here is Rhema – that means the voice of God, the vocabulary of God – this different than when we say the Bible is the Word of God – that is Logos of God; when John writes the Word was with God and the Word was God, that is Logos – this is Rhema, the spoken words of God) came to JohnNeno la Mungu lilipomjia Yohane.

  • The Word of God did NOT come to Tiberius – their king
  • The Word of God did NOT come to Pontius Pilate – the governor
  • The Word of God did NOT come to Herod or Philip or Lysanias – the local rulers
  • The Word of God did NOT even come to Annas or Caiaphas – their priests
  • The Word of God passed the emperor, passed the governor, passed the tetrarchs, passed even the priests
  • The Word of God came to a person prepared by God, chosen by God, to receive it!
  • The Word of God came upon JOHN! Neno la Mungu lilipomjia YOHANE!

 

And where did God speak to John? Where was he when God’s Word came to him? He was in the wilderness!

John was not in Rome – He was not in Tiberius – He was not in any local county seat – He was not even in JerusalemJohn was kule jangwani! In the wilderness!

This seems very important to me!

Where will God’s Word find its home? Where will the Word of God find vantage ground?

  • Not in Rome – that’s not a surprise, not impossible, but not where God chose … this time.
  • Not in Jerusalem – we might have expected it there! The religious center, the capital of Israel … but not this time.
  • God’s Word came upon John kule jangwani! In the wilderness!

 

Where does the Word of God find a home today? Maybe in Nairobe. Maybe in Mombasa. Maybe in Kitale or Bungoma.

  • Does the Word of God find vantage ground in Kiminini? Yes it does!
  • Does God’s Word speak in Eldoret? Yes it does!
  • Does the Word of God live in Spokane, WA, USA? We have heard it! Yes it does!

 

This is what qualifies someone to preach. Yes, we need to prepare. We need to go to Bible School. We need to read, to study, God’s Word. We need to pray for God’s wisdom.

But what qualifies someone to preach God’s Word is when the Word of the Lord comes upon him!

The Word of the Lord came upon Johnin the wilderness.

Luke is careful to tell us that this was of world-wide significance! All of time is measured by the events immediately following this story! And Luke tells us exactly when it happenedthe 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor, during the reign of Herod and Philip and Lysanias, and when the Jews had two High Priests – Annas and Caiaphas. This event was the beginning of everything!

 

Tell me if the power of the Word of God, nguvu za Neno la Mungu, has come upon you! Shout out to me if you have ever experienced God’s Word – living, alive, in you! Everything was changed for you!

What does John do when he hears the Word of God? Listen: he came into all (F)the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, (Isaiah 40)

(G)The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight.
(H)Every ravine will be filled,
And every mountain and hill will be 
[a]brought low;
The crooked will become straight,
And the rough roads smooth;
(I)And all [b]flesh will (J)see the salvation of God.’”

So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “(K)You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and (L)do not begin to say [c]to yourselves, ‘(M)We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so (N)every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

The Word of God came upon John in the wilderness, and the people recognized something about him that was different, something that was worth listening to, something that intrigued their minds and their hearts.

John’s mission, to prepare the Way for the Lord, was Baptism of Repentance! And his opening words, his greetings to the people who came to him was, “You brood of vipers! You offspring of snakes!” These people knew the Bible stories, they knew the Creation stories of Genesis. What was the creature who slithered to Eve and lied to her about eating the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? – The Serpent! It was Satan. The Father of Lies. John was calling his audience a “Litter of Liars! A Society of Deceivers!” John was not trying to make friends! He was trying to save souls!

One of the lies the people believed was that it was good enough to simply be an Israelite! Belonging to a family that was somehow connected to Abraham was good enough. Having parents or grandparents who are active in the Church makes me a Christian. Being a Church Member gives me God’s favor! That is a lie! All of that is a lie!

God never called us to simply be good Church Members! What does God call us to? He calls us to be Blessing Bearers, to the world – to our families, to our neighbors, to neighboring clans and tribes and nations. Luke tells us in the Book of Acts that Jesus tells us to be Blessing Bearers in Jerusalem (or Spokane, or Eldoret), in Judea (or Spokane County, or Uasin Gishu County), in Samaria (or Washington State and the USA, or Kenya, or Uganda, or Tanzania, or all of Africa), to the ends of the earth! Jesus does not say, start at home and eventually move farther away, when you feel ready to do more. He says, start at home, and start in the region, and start with your neighbors, and start all the way across this planet we call Earth, all at the same time!

Be Blessing Bearerscarriers of God’s Good News! Growing in the Fruit of the Holy Spirit every day. When we stop growing and bearing God’s Fruit, He will prune us and cut off the branches that are dead and take an axe to the root of the tree that bears bad fruit!

What does John tell his listeners after the Word of the Lord came upon him? God’s Word for his audience was “Repent! Today! Before it is too late! See the log in your own eye, and turn your life toward God! Repent!”

 

Jesus comes to be Baptized by JohnJesus, the Son of God comes to a Baptism of Repentance! What does Jesus need to repent from? He has not sinned. He has never stopped loving the Lord His God, or His neighbor as Himselfthe Law is fulfilled in Him, not broken by Him. Why does Jesus come to be Baptized for Repentance?

Listen to the story:

21 (AB)Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was (AC)praying, heaven was opened,22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “(AD)You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

 

I believe Jesus was Baptized by John for three reasons:

  • Submission to God’s authority
  • Example to God’s people
  • For the public display of the Holy Trinity – the Father spoke words of love and affirmation, unearned praiseMy beloved Son, in You I am well-pleasedno miracles yet, no water into wine yet, no lame given strength in their legs yet, no blind given their sight yet, no dead raised to new life yet, no Gospel Words preached to crowds or even to individuals yet; but the Trinitarian Father expresses His oneness and love for His Son, and the Holy Spirit makes a visual appearance in the form of a dove.

This Baptism shows the world that Jesus, while completely human, and tempted in every way, is truly Godin the flesh, incarnate, who was to live and die and conquer death and ascend to heaven – and to one-day return!

In fact, the very next set of paragraphs tell of Jesus’ genealogy, all the way back to Adam, whom Luke calls, “son of God”.

 

And what does God do with Jesus as soon as He is Baptized and OrdainedGod sends Jesus into the wilderness – the same wilderness where John received the Word from the Lord! And Jesus doesn’t go to a Wilderness Resortnot a Hilton Hotel or even a lovely Guest House. Jesus goes into the Wilderness for 40 days of Prayer and Fasting!

John heard the Word of God, and he was sent out of the Wilderness into the populace to preach repentance and to prepare the way for Jesus to come and offer salvation through faith alone in God’s grace alone by way of Jesus’ death and resurrection alone.

Jesus heard the Voice of God, and He was sent INTO the Wilderness – for time alone with His Father, to strengthen His resolve, to give muscle to His trust, to add credibility to His testimony.

 

The Word of God, Neno la Mungu, is still active and alive today! God calls your name! God gives you charge. Because God loves you, and wants you to serve in His army against evil and on the side of Grace and Justice.

Do not be like a brood of vipers – be children of God! Serving in His Kingdom. Today – because today, God’s Word is for you! Amina! Amina! Amina!

 

Resources:

Morgan, G. Campbell; The Gospel According to Luke; Revel; Tarrytown, NY; 1931; Pp. 47-56.

 

06/18/2017 – Matthew 5:6 – Happy to Be Blessed: “Hunger/Thirst–>Satisfaction”

Click HERE for the AUDIO version of this message

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:6

Happy to Be Blessed: “Hunger/Thirst–>Satisfaction”

06/18/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

It was Tuesday, December 11, 1984. I was working as a substitute teacher in a Jr. High School English class – and I could barely make it from the beginning of one period to the end without needing to run to the restroom.

That evening I went to our church’s Session Meeting, but felt ill all evening long. I spent the night hovering over my apartment’s toilet, and I called in sick the next morning. By the time Wednesday was ending my fiancée’s family invited me over to their house so they could look after me while I recovered from this “flu”.

So I spent all day Thursday sick to my stomach, and drinking Orange Nehi soda … and going to the bathroom. No matter how much I drank, my thirst could not be satisfied. And some of you can guess the next paragraph.

On Friday I went to the doctor, and was admitted to Placentia-Linda Hospital with a blood sugar level of 983. A normal fasting blood sugar should be below 100. Higher than about 170 is considered diabetic.

My body was rejecting my efforts to rehydrate because my glass was full of more sugar, so I eliminated more fluids than I drank – which only increased my thirst, which caused me to drink more Nehi, which caused me to go to the bathroom, which increased my thirst, which caused me to drink more Nehi ….

I lost almost 30 pounds between Tuesday night and Friday morning – all in water weight.

I was never going to satisfy my thirst with soda. But with an IV drip, my thirst ended and my weight regained over the weekend.

 

I tell you that story, not so you’ll feel sorry for me, or be shocked about my near-death experience, but because those few days in the hospital taught me a lesson about faith. In our series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the fourth Beatitude: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

I was driven to this passage by the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed, shared, and talked about – and there were more this week (shootings, fires, auto-accidents, Navy ship-accidents, diagnoses, emergency surgeries, etc). These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-6 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

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

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

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

 

The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” is the last in this intro-series.

The 1st Beatitude is about being “POOR in spirit”, acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy.

The 2nd Beatitude is about being “MOURNING” our sinful tendency, and receiving God’s comfort of grace.

The 3rd Beatitude invites us into HUMILITY, we know our spiritual poverty and mourn it, therefore we know we cannot exalt ourselves.

These first three Beatitudes all remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed. My friend and colleague, Pastor Chris Merkling, told me that the Greek island of Cypress was nicknamed Makarios Island, because it was like paradise – it had everything! The implication of this kind of blessedness, Makarios blessedness, is that nothing is lacking! Total SATISFACTION is acquired.

 

So, the first three Beatitudes lead us to WANTING to be more like our Savior Jesus. One of the ways to understand the word “Christian” is that it implies something like “little Christ”. The first time the people of the Way, the followers of Jesus, the Disciples, were called “Christians” was in a Greek-speaking Gentile city of Antioch – and it was probably meant as a slanderous slur on one’s intelligence. In a world where it was illegal to be of any religion other than the state sanctioned Roman gods religion, the name “Christian” might have been meant to belittle those who belonged to this break-off sect of Judaism that claimed Jesus as Lord (instead of the Roman Emperor). And if I am willing to be called a “little Christ”, I might take that as a challenge to become even more Christ-like! “Lord I want to be a Christian in my heart….

So, the first three Beatitudes lead us to WANTING to be more like our Savior Jesus – hungering after Christ-like righteousness and thirsting after Christ-like holiness – and Jesus, in this fourth Beatitude promises that that desire will be SATISFIED!

 

Let’s take a minute to examine this phrase of hungering and thirsting, and what righteousness means, and how we will be filled, so we might claim a better understanding of what it describes, and what it demands.

 

Most of us in Spokane have rarely really been hungry or thirsty. Yeah, our stomachs growl sometimes and our tongue feels parched – but most of us seldom actually have nothing to eat or can’t turn on a faucet and find very drinkable water (Airway Heights not with-standing).

But 2,000 years ago (and still today in most third-world nations) truly dying of starvation or of thirst was a real danger.

I opened with my story about when my Juvenile Diabetes hit me because I could literally have died of blood clots or of dehydration or of coma-induced heart failure. And my cure was very literally killing me!

Jesus uses the image of hungering and thirsting as a metaphor to suggest the urgency one who recognizes his/her sinful condition would go after their salvation through the gift of Jesus Christ.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness, then, means we should urgently pursue righteousness!

 

The Bible speaks of three kinds of righteousness.

  1. LEGAL righteousness – Jesus SATISFIES this with His death on the cross. This is the kind of righteousness that Paul mainly deals with in His epistles. This is the one that describes that “all of have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” … and that the “wages of sin is death … but that the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 3:23, 6:23) The theological term for this is “justification”.
  2. PERSONAL righteousness – our growth in Christ-likeness. The theological term for this is “sanctification” – becoming more holy, sanctified, saintly. To hunger for this kind of righteousness is to yearn for God’s rule in our lives (“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …”, Matthew 6:33).
  3. SOCIAL righteousness – the Church bringing the Kingdom of God into our broken and fallen world! This involves us praying for our leaders, and for our family, and for those hurting, suffering, anywhere. This involves us going to the polls and casting our votes for those things we value. This involves our standing up to injustice, racism, ageism, bullying, etc. This is usfeeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, inviting in strangers, clothing the naked, looking after the sick, visiting the imprisoned” (Matthew 25:35-40). This is the kind of righteousness thirsting after that draws the world in to the Kingdom of God. This is the Church in action – hospitals, schools, orphanages declaring the glory of God!

 

Being FILLED means having our hunger and thirst completely SATISFIED! God promises to bring satisfaction to our souls.

I saw that Alice Cooper is coming to Northern Quest Casino. His only song that I can think of is – “School’s out for-ever!” (1972 rock classic) which always reminds me the 1965 Rolling Stones classic, “I can’t get no satisfaction”. That is such a sad song about striving for the wrong things!

We CAN get SATISFACTION!

 

Are you hungry for the things of God? Do you thirst for righteousness? Are you longing for holiness? Personally? In society?

Or are you OK with just a nibble of righteousness, a taste of justice and love? Is your faith fired up for more, or does it feel more like a worn out ritual, a duty, a dull routine where you just drift along?

 

We are invited to find God’s ultimate SATISFACTION in Christ. The imperative of this indicative/imperative clause is to seek after righteousness, to long for holiness in our lives, to discover the satisfying swallow of sanctification. Blessed are those who hunger for holiness, who thirst for righteousness, not settling for soda to settle our stomachs, but yearning for righteousness of God’s glory!

 

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Doriani, Dan; “Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 19-20.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

06/11/2017 – Matthew 5:1-5 – Happy to be Blessed: “Meekness–>Earthly Inheritance”

Click HERE to LISTEN to this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:5

Happy to Be Blessed: “Meekness–>Earthly Inheritance”

06/11/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

After many years of marriage, Tom finally got tired of how his wife, Liz, had been ignoring him, so eventually he confronted her with what he perceived to be the problem.

“Come on Liz, admit it,” he ranted, “You only married me because my granddad left me $6 million, didn’t you?”

“You really are silly, Tom,” retorted Liz, “I couldn’t care less who left it to you.”

 

In our series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the third one: Blessed are the meek, for they inherit something far greater than $6 mil from Someone with far more resources than anyone’s granddad. I was driven to this passage by the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed, shared, and talked about. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-5 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

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

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

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

 

These blessings state a TRUTH that demands a RESPONSE. They present the beautiful structure of the character of Christ. I have introduced you to the idea of the “indicative-imperative” clause. The Beatitudes exemplify this kind of clause. Jesus indicates a truth and then commands a compliant response. First, they describe something of Jesus Himself; and then as His disciples, His followers, His Church (the Body of Christ), they describe something, in perhaps a more longed-for dream than an actual reality yet, of us. That’s the Truth.

Then they demand a Response to that stated Truth.

 

So, let’s unpack this phrase so we might claim a better understanding of what it describes, and what it demands.

 

First, look at the result of “meekness”: “inherit the earth”? Whew! Is that like the poor guy who inherits his rich uncle’s used pencil eraser collection? Who would want this?

I saw a cartoon the other day of a big group of people lined up at the Pearly Gates and St. Peter on the phone to God saying, “It’s the Meek. They’re asking for an upgrade to Saturn…

With a little research, and Old Testament word study, we discover that the word used for “earth” in Hebrew, and here in Matthew’s Greek New Testament, is the same word that is often used for “land”. It turns out that the phrase “inherit the earth/land is used over 40 times from Genesis through the prophets. It’s used 8 times in the book of Psalms, and 5 of those times are in Psalm 37. This is a Psalm filled with God’s blessings for those who live connected to His ways.

“Inherit the earth”, we discover, is biblical code-language for “enter the PROMISED LAND.”

The “Promised Land” is a theme that goes all the way back to Abraham, in early Genesis. Abraham was called by God out of Ur of the Chaldees to go where God would lead him, and to stop where God told him to stop. This would be the Land that God Promised to Abraham and his heirs. God’s Chosen people would inherit the Promised Land.

But the idea of gaining the world, or as much of it as we can, is as old as time itself; and as universal a goal as there is. The builders of the Tower of Babel were reaching to heaven, but they were really declaring themselves the owners of all they could see (Genesis 11). We gain by accumulation or through accomplishment or by expanding our borders. And when these things become the defining pursuits of a person, or of a people, they also become our defining character and push us toward greediness and arrogance.

This is the theme of Psalm 37, where ruthless ambition to gain more and more is contrasted against those who commit their ways to the Lord and trust in Him. Four times (verses 9, 11, 22, and 34) the Psalmist says that the earth will not be earned, but rather it will be inherited, and the ones that will gain the earth by inheritance? Psalm 37 says they will be the meek!

How does one “earn” the “Promised Land”? It cannot be won, it is given, by humble meekness.

 

Now, put this in the context of JesusSermon on the Mount and this list of Beatitudes.

 

The first Beatitude is about being “POOR in spirit”, acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy. We cannot deserve God’s favor. Our sin-bound humanity requires a Savior, one who can cancel/forgive our debt.

The second Beatitude is about “MOURNING” our sinful tendency, receiving God’s comfort of grace. The truth is that when we understand that we ARE poor in spirit; we are commanded to MOURN that poverty! And then we will MOURN the death of God’s only begotten Son, who dies on the cross to pay for our sin!

Then the third Beatitude continues this theme of gaining God’s mercy, not by our own prowess, but by HUMILITY!

In the American West, maybe in all of the Western World, being meek might be thought of as being week. But, is “mild-mannered” the same as being afraid to move on what is right? Don’t tell that to Clark Kent.

No. MEEKNESS is not the same as WEAKNESS.

In II Corinthians 10, Paul says that “Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, (quoting from Jeremiah 9:24) ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

 

Do you see how Jesus is reinforcing this same topic over and over?

The truth, He states, is that we are Poor in spirit, and when we understand that our spirit is empty of life all on its own, that’s when we are invited into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The truth, Jesus says, is that when we Mourn our spiritual reality, that’s when He comforts us with His perfect mercy.

The truth, Jesus declares, is that when we Mourn our spiritual Poverty, we will display Meekness, thus giving us the inheritance of His ultimate Promised Landnot the earthly Israel, but the Heavenly Kingdom!

 

And, just like the reward for the behavior, the Meekness that puts us in that spot of inheritance cannot be gained by simply trying harder to be humble!

Humility is the Fruit of the Spirit that as soon as you think you’ve got it, you’ve just lost it!  When I lived in Tacoma I was a part of a Pastor’s Prayer Group that met together once every month (Eric Peterson, the pastor out at Colbert was in this group). I clearly remember one time when one of the pastors told us about a former colleague of his, a Pastor Galen Doughty, whom he said was the most humble man he had ever met. And I sat in that room there and thought, “Well, you’ve met ME! What about ME?!” And as soon as I thought it, I realized that I couldn’t possibly by the humblest person he knew! (And then I met Galen, formerly of Manito Church here in Spokane, and he was right!)

We receive meekness as a GIFT from God.

 

One of the things we’ve learned about the word Jesus uses for “blessed”, Makarios, is that it always refers to one whose life is connected to God through faith (in Jesus Christ), and whose faith is filled with Holy Spirit abundance.

In this third Makarios, Jesus says that the meek INHERIT the Promised Land. The root of the word “in-her-it” is “heir”. This blessing involves being heirs of God’s grace. An heir is one who is in the bloodline, a child, a son or daughter.

 

Are you a child of God? John 1 tells us that the Word that was with God and that was, in fact, God, since the beginning of time, became flesh and lives among us. And anyone who receives Him and believes in him gains the authority to be called heirs of God, children of God.

Have you received Christ? Do you believe in His authority to grant you God’s forgiveness?

 

On this Trinity Sunday, as we acknowledge our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we also, in a minute, will be honoring our graduates and thanking those who have played roles as their teachers. But, grads and mentors, know you did not get here on your own. Without Christ we are nothing – but with Him we are princes and princesses in His Kingdom!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Jones, Ken; “Blessed Are the Meek”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 17-18.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

06/04/2017 – Matthew 5:1-4 – Happy to be Blessed: “Mourning–>Comfort”

Click HERE for the AUDIO of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:4

06/04/2017

Happy to Be Blessed: “Mourning–>Comfort”

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

At the funeral service for a woman who just passed away, the pallbearers carry the casket out, and they accidentally bump into a wall. They hear a faint moan. They open the casket and find that the woman is actually alive.

She lives for 10 more years and then dies. They have another funeral for her. At the end of this service, the pallbearers carry out the casket.

As they are walking, the husband cries out, “Please watch out for the wall this time!”

I know that’s not actually funny, but it tickled me…. There’s probably not anybody in this room who has not gone through a mourning process, an experience of grief. And sometimes it never completely disappears.

In our series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. Today we come to the second one: Blessed are those who mourn. I was driven to this passage by the varieties and ferocities of struggles I have witnessed, shared, and talked about over the last few months. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-4 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

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

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.   (NIV)

 

These blessings state a TRUTH that demands a RESPONSE. They present the beautiful structure of the character of Christ. I have introduced you to the idea of the “indicative-imperative” clause. The Beatitudes exemplify this kind of clause. Jesus indicates a truth and then commands a compliant response. First, they describe something of Jesus Himself; and then as His disciples, His followers, His Church (the Body of Christ), they describe something, in perhaps a more longed-for dream than an actual reality yet, of us. That’s the Truth.

Then they demand a Response to that stated Truth.

 

So, let’s decode this phrase so we might claim a better understanding of what it describes, and what it demands.

In Luke’s Gospel these Beatitudes are spoken against the backdrop of Isaiah 61, where the prophet anticipates a time when God’s Suffering Servant would bring COMFORT to God’s exiled people: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to … COMFORT those who MOURN.”

And then nearly 700 years later, Isaiah’s prophecy crystallizes into reality as Jesus unrolls a scroll in Nazareth, reads this passage, and claims to be its fulfillment.

The FIRST Beatitude is about being “POOR in SPIRIT”, acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy. Jesus then elaborates further with today’s beatitude – because it is IMPOSSIBLE to acknowledge our spiritual debt without MOURNING it! The truth is that when we understand that we ARE poor in spirit; we are commanded to MOURN that poverty!

Yes, I started this message with a story about mourning/grieving the loss of a loved one – and I use this Beatitude in lots of funeral services – and I do believe it applies there – but the context is clearly about our attitude about our sin nature.

When we confess our sin, we are not really confessing particular/specific sin activity (I mean, we might be, but it’s bigger than that). The Bible teaches that it is our sinful nature that we must confess and repent from. So, in this Beatitude, Jesus promises to comfort those who mourn sin! And, it seems, in 21st Century America, that could scarcely be more counterintuitive or countercultural!

Sin, in the world in which we live, is not grieved; it’s not disapproved of; it’s not even frowned upon! Sin is not merely tolerated; it’s expected, and celebrated! Our society does not mourn sin; it mourns those who mourn sin!

And that’s not just “out there”. It’s right here, too. That is part of our sinful nature! That’s why Jesus said this to good, religious people, nearly 2,000 years ago!

But, friends, sin is not trivial! Sin is treason! It is insurrection against the Throne of Heaven. A Bumper-Sticker theology says, “We have never committed a ‘small sin’, because we have never offended a ‘small God’.

And imagine what this means if we actually believe Matthew 5:4 is true: if Jesus really meets repentance with comfort (not with condemnation), then we no longer need to fear being exposed! We no longer need to fear what others think of us, or how others judge our character.

When we recognize that we are poor in spirit, and mourn our spiritual bankruptcy, our “total depravity” (as John Calvin called it), our tendency toward sin, we find ourselves belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven and in the Comfort of our Heavenly Father!

So, ultimately, our comfort is anchored in the reality that Jesus does not simply mourn our sin alongst usJesus conquers sin!

This Beatitude invites you and me into this moral vision where Jesus, the Son of God, dies in our place (blessed are those who mourn that death) so that we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven that is already ours through faith in Jesus Christ!

In a few minutes we gather around the Lord’s Table. As we do so, may God make our hearts tender to mourn our spirit-bankruptcy so that we can better marvel at His comforting grace.

On this Pentecost Sunday, the day we commemorate God’s outpouring of His Holy Spirit on all who know they are poor in spirit and mourn their sinful nature, let’s invite Him in, to rule and to reign, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

Resources:

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

Smethurst, Matt; “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 15-16.

05/28/2017 – Matthew 5:1-3 – Happy to be Blessed: “Poor in Spirit–>Kingdom of Heaven”

Click HERE for the AUDIO version.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:3

Happy to Be Blessed: “Poor in Spirit –> Kingdom of Heaven”

05/28/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

How many of you knew a guy in high school, or at work, or from down the street, who thought he could just do anything better than, maybe, anyone else? At least in his stories (please note that I am purposefully using masculine pronouns because it is almost always men/boys for whom this is true), he could throw the ball farther, shoot straighter, has read more, was more musical, was better at math, better with girls, better at making money, etc, etc, etc, better than every one else!

I just started watching Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing TV sit-com. His character portrays this characteristic to a T.

The problem with this self-perception is that, ultimately it cannot be correct – and nearly every episode of Last Man Standing proves this point. At some moment in everyone’s life, we discover that we are not the best and that we cannot be independent and completely self-reliant – we need others, we need each other, we need Someone Better.

We are beginning a series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. I was driven to this passage by the varieties and ferocities of struggles I have witnessed, shared, and talked about over the last few weeks. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

So, since I have been studying this passage more intently, I have become more aware of the numbers and ways people (including myself) use the “blessing” word, probably, wrongly. Sometimes this word for “Blessed”, Makarios, is translated as “Happy”. Either way, look at what Jesus called “blessed” or “happy”. The first is “poor in spirit”. Blessed? Really?

Listen with me to these opening words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-12 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   (NIV)

 

These blessings state a TRUTH that demands a RESPONSE. They present the beautiful structure of the character of Christ. Last week I introduced you to the idea of the “indicative-imperative” clause. The Beatitudes exemplify this kind of clause. Jesus indicates a truth and then commands a compliant response. First, they describe something of Jesus Himself; and then as His disciples, His followers, His Church (the Body of Christ), they describe something, in perhaps a more longed-for dream than an actual reality yet, of us.

 

So, let’s decipher this phrase so we might claim a better understanding of what it describes.

The Greek word Jesus uses for being “blessed”, Makarios, suggests our being SATISFIED and SECURE because of our faith in God through Jesus Christ and empowered by the HOLY SPIRIT.

The place we start, the entryway into these Beatitudes, begs the question about our satisfaction and security in Christ! How does one even find satisfaction and security?

Jesus indicates that we are POOR in SPIRIT, and then He tells us that our compliant response to that truth is simply to RECOGNIZE our spiritual poverty! The truth is that we ARE poor in spirit; the command is to BE poor in spirit!

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? (Btw, in Luke’s Gospel the author records this sermon slightly differently. There Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” [Luke 6:20]). What is it about “poverty” or “spiritual poverty” that makes us blessed?

Many of us think of “poverty” as having a lack of resourcesnot enough money or knowledge or skill to get by. But, even with that understanding, the crux of poverty, of being poor, is a lack of power or authority. Being short of cash to pay the doctor bill means we don’t go to the doctor; not knowing how to fix a flat or repair our laptop means we walk or resort to an encyclopedia; not having the ability to sing or play or work means going without….. But all that can be handled if we have power to change the circumstances.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, because:

  1. We cannot do it on our own! Our salvation is not dependent on our wealth, our accumulation of knowledge or degrees, our skills and abilities. No one here – or in any church sanctuary or standing behind any pulpit any where has a spirit so well in tune that we can “do it” on our own! And,
  2. We don’t have to be self-reliant, independent. Jesus says, in John’s Gospel, that God so loves the world that He gives His only begotten Son, so that any/all who believe in Him shall not perish but gain everlasting, unending, eternal life with Him in heaven (3:16)!

How does God resource those in “poverty”? Not simply by providing stuff, but by providing a means by which we might have authority. Again, in John’s Gospel, He says that all who receive Him and believe Him have the right, the authority, the power to be called children of God (1:12). Immediately after His resurrection, Jesus meets with some of His disciples and says to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”   And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (20:22-24) Talk about authority! Later, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I give you the keys of the Kingdom. Whatever you bind on earth, or loose on earth, will be bound or loosed in heaven.” (18:18)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven! God resources our spiritual poverty with authority as Children of God, sons and daughters of God Almighty!

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah recognizes his spiritual poverty, his lack of resources/authority to do anything on behalf of God without the power of God anointing him – and in Luke 4 we watch Jesus use Isaiah’s words to describe even His own condition – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” (Isa. 61:1; Lk 4:18)

This is what it means to “have” the “Kingdom of Heaven”: It’s not an “ownership” deal; it’s a relationship. We are no longer merely servants of God, we are children of God.

One of our former Presbytery Execs used to chide pastors for talking about the churches they serve as “their” churches; ie, “My church is having a Spaghetti Dinner on Father’s Day Eve…” And he would properly remind us that it is not “your” church, it is God’s Church.

And, while I get that point, and agree with him, in the same way, my alma mater is not MY alma mater – I do not own my high school or college or grad school – it is still “mine” in the sense that I belong to it. We are relationally connected.

That is just as true when speaking of our families: “my parents” does not mean that I own my parents, “my spouse” does not mean that Jennifer is my property, etc – but that we belong together. By relationship, she is mine and I am hers.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”  – means, because of our spiritual poverty, our death to self, we are filled with God, filled with Jesus Christ His only Son, filled with His Holy Spirit. Our bankrupt spirit is filled with Holy Spirit potential in a way that says we belong to the Kingdom of Heaven! We have authority, as children of God.

Our ultimate SATISFACTION is found in God’s heart, and our ultimate SECURITY is bound in God’s presence!

I wonder if one of the reasons I am enjoying Tim Allen in Last Man Standing is because of how clearly I see myself in his character. Am I the guy who thinks I can do it all on my own? Lord, let me hear Jesus’ words as spoken directly to me: “Blessed are you, Wheels, poor in spirit as you are, for the Kingdom of Heaven is yours, too.”

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

Resources:

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

Smith, D. Blair; “Blessed Are the poor in Spirit”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 14-15.