Monday, November 23, 2015

Matthew 5:1-12 Part Two

(I am posting this week's blog post earlier in the week this week, because I will be away from my computer for a few days this week, Lord willing.  Next week's post will hopefully be on December 3.  Be sure to read last week's post on the Beatitudes as well.)

The word "blessed" in the Bible means joyful.  Blessed or joyful are those who are serving the Lord and walking in His paths.  Blessed and joyful are those who are showing Christ-like attitudes in their characters.

Jesus says to us, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." (Matthew 5:7)  Joyful are those people who show kindness and concern for others.  God will show His mercy back to them. Merciful people are unselfish and try to help others in every possible way.  They are willing to forgive others.  Mercy is shown in kind deeds and in humble and patient attitudes.  Mercy is shown in concern for other people's physical and spiritual needs.  Merciful people are able to be merciful to others, because God has shown mercy to them.  God sent His own Son, Jesus, to redeem them from their sins.  Hence, they have a desire to show mercy to others.  In the measure they show mercy to others, God will show even more mercy to them!

Jesus says to us, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)  Joyful are those who are one hundred percent sold out for the Lord, "for they will see God."  They will see and understand God's glory and His love.  They will experience the joy of a deep fellowship with the Lord.  Those who are "pure in heart" seek to be holy, and they deeply desire to serve God alone in their lives.  They understand that the Lord has cleansed them from their sins by His grace, and they now want to live for Him.  They want to serve the Lord with their whole heart, soul, and mind. Those who desire to be "pure in heart" know they are dependent on the Holy Spirit's help.  They also seek to immerse themselves in God's Word and in prayer.  Such people truly "see God" and experience the joys of belonging to the Lord!

Jesus says to us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9) Joyful are those who are living holy and righteous lives and who are telling others about Jesus.  They will be called God's children in His forever kingdom!  Peacemakers have themselves made peace with God.  Their sins are forgiven, and the Holy Spirit helps them each day in their struggle against sin.  Peacemakers also seek to lead others to make peace with God. They do this with their words and with their humble Christ-like attitudes in their lives.  Finally, peacemakers seek to maintain peace with others; and they seek to help others make peace with their fellow human beings.  Peacemakers understand that Jesus is the only source of peace. They understand that Jesus died to give us peace.

Jesus says to us, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10)  Joyful are those people who are mistreated, ridiculed, criticized, rejected, or treated even worse; because they are living for God.  They can be joyful in even these circumstances, because such people are part of God's forever kingdom!  God says to those people who are willing to suffer for Him, "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven," (Matthew 5:12a)

Joyful are those people who seek to live for the Lord's glory and reflect His character in their lives. Joy is not found in worldly possessions of fame.  Joy is found only in a personal relationship with the Lord.  Joy is found in becoming more and more like Jesus in our attitudes and characters.  May this be our passion and desire!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Matthew 5:1-12

One of the most beautiful sermons that Jesus ever preached is called the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is recorded for us in Matthew chapters five through seven.  A particularly beautiful section of the Sermon on the Mount is called the Beatitudes.  The Beatitudes all begin with the word "blessed." Blessed means joyful.  The Beatitudes portray a picture of the attitudes which need to be in the heart and life of a believer.  These attitudes are also a source of joy which the world can not comprehend. The world thinks happiness comes from power, position, or material gain.  The Beatitudes point out that true joy comes only from the Lord and from serving Him.  The Beatitudes show us that true joy comes from showing Christ-like attitudes in our lives.  These are attitudes which are also pleasing to the Lord.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3) Joyful are those who know they are sinners and who know they need Jesus for their salvation and well-being.  Those who are poor in spirit do not imagine themselves to be spiritually self-sufficient. They know they deserve nothing except hell, and they know they are hopeless and helpless without the Lord.  Those who are poor in spirit have recognized their own insufficiency and have cast themselves on the the Lord and His all-sufficiency.  In Christ they have found everything they need for time and eternity.  Hence, they are spiritually rich and "theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)  Joyful are those people who are deeply sorry and sad about their sins.  Joyful are those who turn from their sins and run to the Lord for forgiveness.  To those people God will bring His forgiveness, comfort, and joy!

Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5) Joyful are those who see how holy and righteous and worthy God is in His character.  Hence, they are humble and meek before the the Lord.  Meek people are not proud.  They are humble, because they know God is holy. They also know they are sinful in themselves.  Meek people do not want their own selfish way, but they desire to follow God's will for their lives.  Meek people are willing to be taught and corrected by the Lord, so they can better live for God's glory.  Meek people are also gentle and patient in their relationships with others.  Meekness is not weakness.  Meekness is being strong with God's help and under His control.

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)  Joyful are they who continually and fervently desire God's way in their lives.  They fervently want and desire to become more and more like Jesus in their characters.  They have a deep desire in their hearts to serve Jesus in all they do.  Those who deeply desire righteousness in their lives "will be filled."  God will wash away their sins.  God will also help them to grow spiritually and to become more and more like Jesus every day.  Those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness" will find their joy in pleasing the Lord and not in other things.

Joyful are those who recognize their sins and mourn over their sins.  Such people when they run to the Lord in repentance for their sins will find His forgiveness, joy, and comfort.  Joyful are those who forget about themselves and are filled with an earnest desire to and please the Lord.  Such people will be filled with God's joy and peace.

(We will continue with our study of the Beatitudes in my next post.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Exodus 3

God had assigned Moses an important task.  That task was to lead God's Old Testament people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.  To be able to accomplish this Moses first needed to confront the great king or Pharaoh of Egypt.  That would be a huge undertaking for Moses, and Moses was afraid.  Moses began to make excuses for not being able to do the job which God had given him to do.  Have you or I ever found ourselves making excuses for not following the clear leading of the Lord in our lives? When God gives us a clear command or assignment we must obey.

The first question that Moses asked God when God gave him his new assignment was "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"(Exodus 3:11).  One can understand Moses' hesitancy to undertake this assignment which God had assigned him. Pharaoh was a cruel, heartless, and dangerous man.  The task of confronting the great Pharaoh of Egypt must have been a frightening thought.  Also the thought of leading the huge nation of Israel out of Egypt must have seemed like an overwhelmingly daunting task to Moses.  But Moses was asking the Lord the wrong question.  Moses should not have asked, "Who am I?" The real question should have been, "Who is God?"

Earlier in the chapter in Exodus three God had already demonstrated His holiness and power to Moses.  God had already told Moses, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." (Exodus 3:6a)  Moses should not have been focusing on his own inadequacies, but he should have been focusing on the holy power of the Lord to help him. Moses should have been focusing on the faithfulness of the great God who had been faithful to His people in the past and who promised to be with Him in the future.

When Moses said to God, "Who am I?" the Lord replied, "I will be with you." (Exodus 3:12a)   When the Lord calls us to a certain job, He promises us the ability to do the job.  The Lord also promises us His presence.  The presence of the Lord with us each step of the way throughout this life is a very sure reality!

But Moses continued to resist God's call.  Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,'the God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me 'What is His name?' Then what shall I tell them?" (Exodus 3:13).  Moses was really asking God, "What kind of God are you?"  God's answer to Moses was "I AM WHO I AM." (Exodus 3:14a)

"I AM WHO I AM" is and was the name for the Lord God.  This name demonstrated the Lord's character as a faithful and dependable God.  It was a name that revealed the Lord God's desire for His people's complete trust in Him to always be with them and strengthen them.  God is not just a God of glory and power.  He is a faithful God who completely gives Himself to His people.  The Lord is an unchangeable God in His faithfulness and sovereignty.  As He was with His people in the past, He will continue to be with them in the future.

Moses did become the leader of God's people.  Moses learned that his strength had nothing to do with himself.  Moses learned that his strength was wholly dependent on the Lord and His faithfulness.  He learned the secret of bringing His burdens to the Lord and leaving them there. Moses learned the secret of the Lord's equipping power for anything the Lord asked Him to do. Today God says to us also, "I will be with you." (Exodus 3:12a)  He will be with us wherever He asks us to go and in whatever He asks us to do.  Are we willing to follow the Lord's leading in obedience and trust?    

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Psalm 8

"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth."  Psalm 8:1 & 9
"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of Him, the son of man that You care for Him?"  Psalm 8:3-4

What a great and awesome God we serve!  David said in Psalm 8:1, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!"  We see God's glory and majesty in His provision of salvation for us. We also see God's glory in the awesomeness of His creation all around us.  We see God's glory in the vastness of outer space and in the perfect alignment of all the planets.  We see God's glory in the multitude of galaxies in the universe and in the multitude and glory of the stars.  When we think of the majesty and awesomeness of our God, we should burst out in song and praise to Him.  Psalm 8:2 says that God has "ordained praise" even "from the lips of children and infants."  God does this to "silence the foe and avenger."  Because of God's glory shown in His creation, the Lord evokes the praise of even little children.  Hence, Satan's powers are silenced!

The psalmist, David, goes on to say in Psalm 8:3-4, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of Him, the son of man that You care for Him?"  Meditate on the wonder of God's love  for us.  The great God of this awesome universe is "mindful" of us, His children!  We are but a speck in the vastness of of God's creation.  In spite of this, the Lord is "mindful"  of us!

Being mindful of us doesn't just entail the Lord being aware of our existence.  Rather, the Lord loves us with an eternal love and cares about all our needs.  He loves us so much, that He even knows us each individually by name!  John 10:3b says, "He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out." God, the Father, loves us more than anything else in all His creation; and He proved that love by coming to this earth in the person of His Son, Jesus.  He loved us so much  that He was willing to give His very Son as a sacrifice for our sins, so we might have eternal life!

What is even more astonishing is that the great God of the universe has crowned us, His children, with glory and honor and dominion over everything else in His creation!  We were created to rule over God's creation and to bring glory and honor to the Lord in the process.  Nothing else in all God's creation was created to consciously bring glory and praise to God.  Only humans were created in God's image.  Only humans were placed on this earth to  reflect the Lord in our character, attitudes, and actions.

Sin temporarily spoiled our ability to do this.  However, because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross for our sins and the Holy Spirit living in us, we can once again begin to live holy lives for the Lord's glory!  We alone of all God's creation have eternal souls which can and must be lived for the Lord's glory.  This is our purpose and reason for being on this earth.  "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."  (I Corinthians 10:31)