An Unintended Break

Life happens. I am working three eight hour shifts a week at Walmart. I am typically working 7 am until 4 pm and that is fine with me. Sundays and Wednesday are still super busy with church things. I have things I want to write about but I have honestly avoided a lot of the things on the internet lately. In just the last week there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas and Tom Petty died. With all the things going on in my real world and the responsibilities I have at home, at church, and at work I just haven’t felt like sitting down and opening up.

October also begins what is usually a rough stretch for me emotionally so I’m already prepping myself for that. 2017 has not gone the way I had planned but we are nearing the end and I’m still standing. God is still good even though I picked up some new bumps and bruises. I started a low-carb diet not quite a month ago and I’ve lost twenty pounds so far. I’ve still got quite a few to go but I am determined.

I still plan to jump back into my walk through the Beatitudes. Please be patient. It will come. For now I am going to leave you all with my top ten Tom Petty songs. These are either from The Heartbreakers, his solo albums, or the Traveling Wilburys. Comment and tell me what you think of my list. Did I leave off anything?

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

  1. The Waiting
  2. I Won’t Back Down
  3. You Got Lucky
  4. End Of The Line
  5. Wildflowers
  6. Free Fallin’
  7. Breakdown
  8. Don’t Come Around Here No More
  9. American Girl
  10. Into The Great Wide Open
Advertisements

An Apology

I didn’t intend to disappear for several days but that is the nature of life. I have started working morning shifts at Walmart (7 am until 4 pm) so that has required some readjustments with sleep and office hours. I have also been busy with family, church, and other obligations that take up time. I am still reading, studying, and pondering what the Beatitudes mean to me and I still plan to go through them here. In fact, my goal is to start back up tomorrow. I just wanted to take a moment and assure you all that I haven’t vanished again. I simply got busy.

I have been listening to Dustin Kensrue’s incredible worship album (The Water And The Blood) on my drives to and from work. I will leave you with one of my favorite songs from it. This is an acoustic version that he put up on YouTube.

 

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

The Poor In Spirit

Matthew 5:3

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

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

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (NLT)

Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever]. (Amplified Bible)

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (The Message)

 

I didn’t include the NIV, NASB, or KJV because they read like the ESV almost word for word. I did include the NLT because it almost always tries to explain the meaning instead of simply translating. I admit, that is not always good but it does give a slightly different take. The Amplified Bible, which I’ve never really used, attempts to put all possible meanings in the text. I like the idea behind that but it makes for difficult reading at times. Eugene Peterson’s The Message is ALWAYS off kilter (for better or worse) but it’s a paraphrase and I don’t expect it to be as literal.

In my post yesterday I mentioned the progression that many people see here in The Beatitudes. I also stated that I tend to agree with that assessment. I want to briefly list the different “stages” of this progression before discussing the first one. For lack of a better phrase I’m calling this The Kingdom Path. I may or may not have read that somewhere else but I don’t recall at the moment.

 

Verse 3 – The Poor in Spirit

Verse 4 – Those Who Mourn

Verse 5 – The Humble

Verse 6 – Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Verse 7 – The Merciful

Verse 8 – The Pure in Heart

Verse 9 – The Peacemakers

Verse 10 – Those Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake

 

The starting point is recognizing your position before a holy God. Isaiah’s encounter in the throne room (Isaiah 6) comes to mind. After a confrontation with angelic beings Isaiah is absolutely shaken. He recognizes his sinfulness and declares that he is “ruined” because of it. One of the seraphim touches his lips with a hot coal and pronounces him forgiven. He is then given his charge to go and proclaim the word of God. After finding himself before God Almighty, Isaiah is about as poor in spirit as one can be.

Another passage that comes to mind is the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector found in Luke 18:9-14. In this particular story Jesus describes the difference between the attitudes and prayers of the two men. The Pharisee is devoted to observing every aspect of the Law and even though he isn’t capable of doing so (no one is), he considers himself righteous and better off than others. When standing to pray to God he only boasts about himself. The tax collector, on the other hand, doesn’t even dare enter the temple completely. He stands off in the shadows beating his chest in anguish and begging for mercy. Jesus says that he (the tax collector) is the one who leaves the temple justified.

It’s about attitude. It’s about recognizing that without Christ we are sinners, lost and alone with no hope. The great thing is that Jesus loves us even when we are in that state. Romans 5:8 tells us that while we were still sinners. Christ died for us. All we have to do is recognize that one simple fact. We have to understand that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. It doesn’t matter how many righteous deeds we do. Until we admit that we are nothing without Christ, he cannot change our hearts and minds.

The good news (Gospel) is that he is faithful even when we aren’t. When we take this first step we begin the path that leads to eternal life in the very presence of God Almighty. The “kingdom” Jesus is talking about isn’t an earthly one although we can become a part of it and benefit from it while we are still here. It is ultimately fulfilled when Christ returns but those of us who are part of the Church live the kingdom life every single day. It’s what we were created to do.

Where are you this morning? Have you recognized the truth that you are spiritually bankrupt before God? Do you believe that He will fix that and give you riches unimaginable? Perhaps you have known this for a long time but have gotten off track. You’ve taken your eyes of Christ and that old way of thinking is sneaking back up on. I know I’ve been in both places. One of the reasons I decided to do this study is to give myself a spiritual audit. I need to open up the ledger books and see if I’ve fallen back into that prideful, selfish mindset. I pray that you do as well.

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

Be Blessed: Some Background Stuff

The Beatitudes, as Matthew 5:3-13 is commonly called, are a series of statements Jesus makes at the start of what is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. This particular section of Matthew’s Gospel includes all of chapters 5 through 7. It is sandwiched between Jesus calling his first disciples and the account of several miraculous healings. Many suggest that the Beatitudes are an introduction to the teachings that follow. Jesus is describing what life is like in the kingdom of heaven versus life under the law. Much of what he says is steeped in the Old Testament. He never does away with the requirements of the Law (5:17-20) but actually expands how they are to be understood and lived out.

Several of the things Jesus says here would have been deemed shocking to the original audience given their view of the Law and the way in which the Pharisees guarded it with an iron fist. The Law, which was meant to show people how to live holy lives, had been transformed into an oppressive and manipulative system that the religious leaders took full advantage of. Here we Jesus show that living in the “spirit of the Law” is better than mindlessly and meticulously trying to follow. Actions are important but attitudes are just as (if not more) important.

Once again, Jesus isn’t creating a new religion or a new Law to follow but showing what God intended when He gave it in the first place. Many see a natural progression as you work through the eight (nine depending upon how you count verses 11 and 12) statements. I tend to agree but that is probably because the professors I have studied under made that distinction. In my own studies I confess that I automatically see the progression as I read. I liken it to the progression found in Psalm 1:1 (CSB).

How happy is the one who does not
walk in the advice of the wicked
or stand in the pathway with sinners
or sit in the company of mockers!

It is interesting to note that many English translations render this as “Blessed is the one” so it is a sort of Beatitude itself. When looking at Matthew 5:3-12 as a sort of “how to” guide (for lack of a better analogy) to be a part of the kingdom one realizes that is is outlining what it means to truly be a disciple of Jesus. It pretty much sets the stage for everything he’s going to say and do during his ministry on earth. I am looking forward to dissecting these one at a time and seeing what personal applications can be made.

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

Be Blessed

I am working on a series of “articles” on the Beatitudes. I don’t know how long they will be or how long it will take for me to complete them. To get myself in the right frame of mind I just want to quote that section from Matthew today. Hopefully I can do some background information tomorrow.

 

When he saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the humble,
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.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11 “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:1-12 (CSB)

 

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

Your Love, Oh Lord

An oracle within my heart
concerning the transgression of the wicked person:
Dread of God has no effect on him.
For with his flattering opinion of himself,
he does not discover and hate his iniquity.
The words from his mouth are malicious and deceptive;
he has stopped acting wisely and doing good.
Even on his bed he makes malicious plans.
He sets himself on a path that is not good,
and he does not reject evil.

Lord, your faithful love reaches to heaven,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your judgments like the deepest sea.
Lord, you preserve people and animals.
How priceless your faithful love is, God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They are filled from the abundance of your house.
You let them drink from your refreshing stream.
For the wellspring of life is with you.
By means of your light we see light.

10 Spread your faithful love over those who know you,
and your righteousness over the upright in heart.
11 Do not let the foot of the arrogant come near me
or the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 There! The evildoers have fallen.
They have been thrown down and cannot rise.

 

Psalm 36 (CSB)

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

Romans 12:21

I like to read from several different translations and paraphrases. My current choice is the CSB (I got it FREE) and I am seriously considering making it my primary translation. We’ll see. That being said, I want to share this particular verse from different versions. This one keeps coming back to me time and time again. All of Romans seems to keep popping up (chapter 12 especially) so maybe God is trying to get me to see something.

 

Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. (CSB)

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (NLT)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (ESV)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NASB)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NKJV)

Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. (The Message)

 

There are all the versions I typically look at. The Message is always going to be different due to the nature of the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases thing. I do think it is interesting that all of the “main” versions I use translate it as “overcome” but the CSB and NLT, the ones I have been using more and more, use the word “conquer” instead. I am not a Greek scholar (or even a serious student) so I can only consult language tools and see what they say. The word used here, νικάω (nikáō), can be translated “overcome”, “conquer”, or “subdue” so none of them are taking an odd approach. I do wonder how the committees decide which word to use. In context, “conquer” and “overcome” give the same basic idea but there is a subtle difference. I actually like the way Peterson paraphrases it. That’s kind of how I feel when I stumble. I like both words though. “Conquer” reminds me that this is a battle. In Romans 8 Paul writes that we’re more than conquerors. “Overcome” brings to mind (my mind anyway) the idea of growing tired or weak and giving in. I think both are valid ways to view it. Whichever you prefer, it is a warning to resist temptation and to fight back against our enemy. We have many battles to fight but let’s not forget that war is already won.

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

 

Romans 1:1-12

I shared this on Facebook earlier so I thought I would put it here as well. I haven’t posted in the last couple of days because I have been busy and I really haven’t had anything to say. I started reading Romans this morning because our Wednesday afternoon group wants to do that now that we’ve finished Acts. We’re not meeting next week because a bunch of them are going to a Ladies Tea at another church. That gives me an extra week to do some background stuff and really digest the first couple of chapters. I am quoting from the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) here. I am really enjoying it so far and am seriously considering using it as my primary version. I still plan to write up a longer “review” of it but don’t know exactly how to review a Bible. We’ll see how it turns out. Here is my Facebook post.

 

Do people rejoice when they hear about my/your faith? Do I/you take the time to pray and encourage others when we hear of their faith? Something to think about this morning.

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because the news of your faith is being reported in all the world. 9 God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in telling the good news about his Son—that I constantly mention you, 10 always asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I want very much to see you, so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, 12 that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Romans 1:8-12 (CSB)

 

I am really starting to pay attention to the opening portions of the NT letters. In the past I have been guilty of breezing through them in an attempt to get to the good stuff. I now realize that there is a lot of REALLY good stuff in the salutations and prayers that start the majority of them. This is a perfect example. Even the seven verses before this have some important things to see and they’re just Paul addressing the audience. Look what he says. It’s more than just “Dear Romans.”

 

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures— concerning his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh and was appointed to be the powerful Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead. Through him we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the Gentiles, including you who are also called by Jesus Christ.

To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:1-7 (CSB)

 

Paul is stating his credentials and letting them know that he is speaking on behalf of Jesus, the risen Christ, and is doing so to help strengthen their faith. That carries over into the section I quoted up top where he commends them for their faithfulness and he prays for them. Like I said, it’s good stuff that I have sometimes skipped over because I wanted to get into the teaching. Without putting things in the proper context (which is what the opening section does) one can miss the whole point. I know I sure have.

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

I Am…Holding On To You

 

Sometimes I just don’t have the words to adequately expressing what I’m feeling. This song does a pretty good job. I’m not going through any particular “storm” at the moment but I am always having to remind myself that God is there with me regardless of what is happening. Even when life seems to be going well we can get bogged down in the everyday “mundane” aspects and lose sight of the things that are important. I know I do. My prayer is to honestly live out the lyrics to this song regardless of whatever life is giving me at the time.

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

Today Is The Greatest

This post has nothing to do with the Smashing Pumpkins. It doesn’t have anything to do with music at all, although I may link a video at the end like I sometimes do. I chose the title because today has been great. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. Nothing monumental occurred. It has just been a great day. It was good worshiping over with the folks at Grover and then being here. I love both of these congregations and I genuinely love spending time with them. I enjoyed lunch with Chris, Becca, and Marcus. It was just McDonald’s but it was a great time. I especially enjoyed taking a nap with Robin. Once again, nothing really happened today but that doesn’t stop it from being a great day.

I am thankful today. Robin burned her hand after spilling grease on herself last night. She ended up in the Emergency Room but was home by the time I got off work. She has a couple of painful second degree burns on the top of her right hand and wrist but it could have been so much worse. There could have been a big fire or she could have spilled it all down her body. Worse yet, Marcus could have been standing there with her like he is prone to do. It was bad and she has some pain but as I said, it could have been really bad.

Tomorrow is 9/11 but I don’t know if I will write about it. Honestly, what else can be said? I have discussed my personal experience and feelings before. I’m not sure what I have to gain from rehashing it. I may sound crazy and I may be in the minority but my life didn’t change dramatically on, during, or after 9/11. Perhaps that is something I will address later but I don’t know if tomorrow would be the best time to do so.

That’s it. There really is nothing to report today. I am relaxing here in the office and trying to get some reading done. I have had to readjust some of my normal patterns due to Walmart. I’m up a bit later than I have gotten accustomed to but I’m still getting up at my normal time. That can make for long and tiring days. It also means that my afternoons and evening are no longer free for these things. It has taken some discipline on my part but I think I’m starting to get it together. We’ll see if I ever get used to it.

I do want to write about this free copy of the Christian Standard Bible that I got last week. I have been reading from it and actually preached both sermons from it today. I am really liking it so far but I want to do a more detailed review. After all, this technically is a “review copy” and they want feedback. I intend to respond to the publisher and let them know what I think. I still use the NIV, NLT, and ESV and doubt that I will ever stop using them for studies and things like that. I don’t know that I will switch over to the CSB. Perhaps I’m just exciting because it is new and they gave me a free one. We’ll see.

This video is weird but I really like the song. Enjoy.

May God our Father give you grace and peace.