Sunday, September 28, 2008

The "Be-Attitudes" Part 2


As we look through the “blesseds,” we’re going to see a progression. Last time we saw that we first had to acknowledge that in spirit we are paupers before we would ever begin to look to God to pour out His riches of grace and mercy upon us.

When we do recognize our spiritual poverty, we see that we are poor because our sins have separated us from God. We have sinned against our Creator and have caused pain to come to Him and to those whom we love. We see a deep, dark chasm of sin all around us and on the other side is Jesus, nailed to a cross with those very sins. Every stabbing pain he feels is the sting of our own depraved acts. Lies we told, hatred we held toward another, bitterness we’ve harbored in our hearts, and other thoughts and words and deeds that we dare not speak – those are the trespasses which held Him there. And we fall down at His feet in utter grief. Our souls come undone before Him because we know that without Him we are destined to exist in the lost and lonely place across the chasm.

The Lord has mourned our sins since the cross. No, since the thought of the cross, which was forever ago. And He has waited through all time until that longed-for, precious moment when our spiritual eyes begin to come into focus, and we, too, begin to mourn over the sins we have committed and the pain we have caused.

“Blessed are they that mourn! For they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4

This word for comforted in the Greek means, “to call near, that is, invite, invoke, beseech, call for.

When we are in this state of grief, the Lord promises to call out to us. He invites us to come to Him, across the dark chasm to join Him at the foot of the cross where you will grieve together. It is a place of death to be sure, but only in death can new life come.

* * *

Do we still mourn when we have sinned? Even once we have been saved and we know our sins have been forgiven, we can never forget that we are still imperfect creatures who sin, and that sin should still bring us to our knees in grief. And even moreso, knowing full well the high price that was paid for our sins on Calvary. And God still calls out to us to draw near to Him and to confess our sins to Him.

How many times have I fallen right back into that pit of despair, having sinned against my Lord? But time after time He calls out to me and I raise my hand up to Him and let Him draw me back out again.

The mistake that so many Christians make is failing to let God draw them back up and out of their pit of sin. We may weep over our sin, we may grieve over it, but how long do we choose to stay in the pit rather than leave the sin behind? How much time have we wasted in the pit when we could be living our lives in the light, free to run with joy and victory?

When God calls out to us, I hope we answer quickly and decisively. I hope we are anxious to leave the pit behind and walk and talk with Jesus again.

“Jehovah is near to the broken-hearted; and saves those who are of a contrite spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

Monday, September 22, 2008

The "Be-Attitudes" Part 1

Poor in Spirit

“And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain. And when He had sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying,

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit! For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.’”
(Matt. 5:1-3)


Jesus begins his infamous Sermon on the Mount by telling us nine times how we can be blessed. I don’t know about you, but I want to be blessed. I want my life on this earth (and even moreso my life after this life) to be one that is fully enriched with God’s blessings. In the Greek language, this word blessed translates as fortunate or happy.

Happy are the poor in spirit. Literally that means happy are those whose spirit begs.

Begs for what?

Remember the day you gave your life to Jesus? Remember the emptiness you felt the day before you made that decision?

You were as a beggar on the street - blind, dumb, lame, naked and destitute. You had nowhere else to turn. And then a rich Man came and offered you everything - your sight, your speech, strength, royal robes and a place in His kingdom.

Did you tell Him, “No, I’ll keep on begging, thank you very much”? The sad thing is, many do.

But perhaps you were one who saw, maybe for the first time, just how very poor you were without Him. And your spirit begged for a new life. And so you let Him lift you up out of your spiritual poverty and now you have the promise of a life in heaven with the King.

Happy are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Without acknowledging your poverty, you would not have eternal riches.

Happy also are those who continue to acknowledge their spiritual poverty apart from a walking, talking, working, breathing, loving, daily relationship with the King. Without Him, our spirits will return to a state of lacking, though we are King’s kids.

But with Him, we will know joy unceasing; peace in the midst of warring; glory in our suffering; grace and mercy where before there was only bitterness; and love that rises up in victory from the ashes of pain to triumph over all its enemies and live on forever.


(If you are one who has yet to give your life to Jesus Christ, but your spirit begs for that new life in Him where your sins are forgiven and eternity with Him is promised to you, please read Jesus, the Christ in the sidebar. And if you pray that prayer to receive Him as your Lord and Savior, let me know!)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sink or Swim

So we have this little Evergreen Pear Tree in our front yard, which is neither evergreen nor does it produce pears. We've had it since shortly after we moved into our house nine years ago. Fully mature it will only be about twenty feet tall, so the growth has been excruciatingly slow, but, as you can see, it’s hanging in there.

In my desert town where we rarely see a good rain, we have been surprisingly hit with a couple of wild storms in the last week or so. The strength of the wind was said to be so high that it was considered hurricane strength. The storm the other night blew through so hard that as I peeked out the front window I saw our city garbage can topple over (thank goodness it was empty) and watch the wind and rain carry it down the street.

I also watched as our humble, little tree was stretched beyond what I thought it could bear. Its slender trunk bent against the harsh wind, but in the morning it was still intact, upright and proud.

Later that morning I drove to the grocery store and saw all around the surrounding areas trees that were much larger than ours that had either broken off right at the trunk or had been uprooted altogether. And I wondered at how our little tree had been able to survive. And I think the answers can give us some insight as to how we can weather the storms of life, too, rather than becoming casualties of them.

The first thing I noticed was that most of the trees that had been uprooted had shallow root systems. What we could see above ground was beautiful, but the roots had not grown deep and the storm had been able to fell them easily.

Likewise, to look only at the surface of our lives to determine our spiritual health could be deceiving. The health is in the roots. Are the roots of your relationship with Christ only superficial or do they run deep and strong?

Trees’ roots grow deep when two things have occurred:

1. When there has been sufficient deep watering.

For us that means the watering of our souls through spending meaningful time studying God’s word and in intimate prayer time so that God can purify our hearts with His truth.

“..just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25a-27)

2. When storms have tossed a tree and caused the roots to dig in deeper for survival.

You know what that means. The storms of life have a purpose. And in order for our faith to be strengthened we will have to go through them. Our hope can only be in Christ alone and trials have a way of weeding out any false hope we have erroneously placed in anything or anyone else.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

When James says that we will be “perfect,” it means mature or complete.

If my little tree had succumbed to the storm, it would not have been able to grow to maturity. But it has experienced smaller storms and so it was prepared with the strength it needed to weather this bigger storm. So we are strengthened by each subsequent trial and the strength of our faith grows and prepares us for the next.

The second thing I noticed that allowed my tree to survive was that the direction of the wind was coming from the opposite side of the house and because the house is bigger than the tree, it was able to buffer the tree against the wind.

I don’t know about you, but I have this terrible tendency when hard times come to want to hide, even from God. But when we take shelter in the Lord when trials and tribulations are raining down on us, He is able to be our Protector, our Shield and our Shelter in the storms. He provides us with comfort, wisdom, love and His peace that surpasses all understanding.

“And he said, ‘Jehovah is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer. The God who is my Rock, in Him will I trust. He is my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my High Tower, and my Refuge, my Savior. You save me from violence.’” 2 Samuel 22:2-3

There is no sign that trials will let up anytime in the future. And I suspect that the closer that we get to the Lord’s return, the harder and faster those trials will come. And the enemy of God would love nothing more than to weaken our faith and cause us to become of little or no use to the Lord. So snuggle up to the Lord. Hide beneath the shadow of His wings and He will carry you. Dig into His word so that the roots of your faith will burrow deeply and nothing will be able uproot you.

If we will focus our eyes on Jesus instead of the storms, not only will we not succumb to them, but we will walk on the waves of the storms with Him in victory.