Mourning

Scriptures: Matthew 5:4Psalm 147:3Psalm 30:11-12, and Judges 19:25-30.
Saturday I turned on the television and learned of the massacre in El Paso. Later I read of the massacre in Dayton. They are compound fractures of a nation and a world where evil has again triumphed. As I watched coverage of the El Paso incident, the wretchedness of the human condition unfolded along with the consequences of that wretchedness. The faces of government representatives and service men and women showed their confusion pain and vulnerability. It scared me. I ached for a city where I once lived. I heard a clear call to prayer to all Christians to reach out, to speak up, to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. 

Psalm 147:3 reminds us that God heals the brokenhearted, that He binds up their wounds. Still these are such deep wounds. They are lethal and without comfort. Where do we turn in the face of such carnage? We are helpless and for a moment hopeless. 

Jesus tells us that the mourner will be comforted in Matthew 5:4. The Scriptures speak often of mourning. Psalm 30:11-12 says 
You have turned my mourning into dancing for me;
You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. 

I wonder what Scripture means by the mourner. Is it simply someone who grieves a terrible lose? Maybe Scripture speaks of the abandonment of God by a whole people. I think that both of those things can be applied to mourning.We are the mourners this week. We will be comforted. It is hard to believe with wounds so fresh, but I will put my trust in the Lord.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a local writing seminar. It is a labor of love from one of my friends. She sets out a beautiful three-day study. We read in preparation for the seminar. We read short stories and a novel, some poetry and some essays or short works on craft and style. 

This year we read Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut. That book has plenty to grieve about. Those of you who have read it will know that it is a parable within a larger autobiographical tale about the bombing of Dresden in WWII. It is a scalding book, which unfortunately speaks urgently of the nature of man and man’s sin. Vonnegut speaks of a people gone astray. It is not for delicate ears or even for a Sunday morning in the house of the Lord. I did not like the book much. It affronts me. 

But the carnage Saturday affronts me. Much of Scripture affronts me. The final chapter of Judges surely affronts most reader. We end in tears and confusion when we read of the concubines body’s final disposition.
But in the final verse we read God’s advice in an instance of appalling evil. Just imagine, the final verse says. Think about the incident. I hated learning of the massacres. I hated the news unfolding, thinking of lives snuffed out in an instant I hated thinking of the families forever wounded and in pieces. I didn’t want to think of the mind that could conjure such horror and then exact it. But God tells us not to gloss over sin. He tells us not to ignore pain and suffering and the consequences of that sin. We should consider abominations in the light of day, with the aide of Scripture and with prayer. But we cannot shy away from the sinful nature of man and the urgent need of the Gospel. 

The second thing this passage tells us is to act. We walk through this world as God’s children. We are not at liberty to forget our redemption. We are not at liberty to forget our sin. We should keep to prayer. We should endeavor to be in right relationship to God. We should examine ourselves and turn ourselves over to God.
The third thing Scripture says Judges 19:30 is, “speak up.” This is not the place to point self-righteous fingers, but to cry out against sin. To weep, to mourn at the fact of it at it’s destruction at its horror. We cannot shrink from the world as David notes in Psalm 55:6-8 when he finds himself wishing for a vacation from this worldly world.
David tells us later in Psalm 55 that God is the judge and arbiter. He reminds us that this is not our home. Our home is with our Maker, the King of Heaven and earth, the Everlasting, Unchanging Merciful God and our Lord Jesus Christ our Redeemer.
Thank you for reading. Blessings and comfort now and for the weeks to come.Bev

also posted at Just one Beggar

Poor in Spirit, Surrendered to God

Happy Flowers

Scriptures: Matthew 5:3, Psalm 32:3-5, 1 John 1

I talked in an earlier blog about the meaning of being poor in spirit. The first beatitude says blessed (or happy) is the man who is poor in spirit for his is the kingdom of Heaven. Being poor in spirit is letting go of our own wills and being poor in them in order to be filled with God’s will and with the Holy Spirit. It is surrender, putting God first.

Several years ago the Session of our church was examining a new group of youth seeking confirmation and membership in our church. During the examination a knowledgeable and serious Elder asked one applicant to describe Communion and what it meant. The young man was nervous and shy. He seldom spoke and took a minute to prepare his answer. Finally the young man leaned forward. He put his arms on his already long legs and let his hands hang over his knees. Without looking up, he said, “Well, you are what you eat.” Most of us began to giggle then chuckle and then belly laugh.

The young man’s allegory will break apart upon closer scrutiny, but it has been useful to me as a way of understanding the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. While the spirit is not a physical thing, the act of filling yourself, even consuming is intentional. For me the idea of you are what you eat simplifies my focus. I’m not wandering around wishing for the Holy Spirit, but I am, instead an active participant. I consume food, television, games, diversions and entertainment. I say and pray that I hunger and thirst for the Word and nurture myself with Scripture. But if there is something occupying my belly, so to speak, I cannot take in the Word. I don’t even hunger or thirst for the Word. Instead, I am full with diversions or distractions or sin.

The concept of a full belly gives me a notion of a full spirit, a spirit that won’t move over or submit or surrender, not someone poor in spirit. Diversion and distraction may take over. Sin of course, fills the belly and pushes out the Holy Spirit.

In a sense we must expel our will to make room for the Holy Spirit, so that He fills us. And when it comes right down to it we don’t do the expelling, God does.
One of the things we do before taking communion is confess our sins. It strikes me that one of the ways the Holy Spirit acts on us is to show us our sins that we may confess them. Our passage today from Psalm 32 speaks of groaning under sin; that God’s hand was heavy on David when he wrote the Psalm. When I am struggling and willful, I too groan. Every act seems tortured when I walk in my own will and ignore the Holy Spirit.

Walk in the Light

In the early days of the church, Christians were followers of the Way. Jesus tells us, He is the Way the Truth and the Life, in John 14 then tells us later in John 14 that He is sending the Holy Spirit that He can be with us always, not as one man but the Holy Spirit in all believers.

Our passage from 1 John tells of having fellowship with Jesus and God through Holy Spirit, the triune God. First John tells us that if we confess our sins, that God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us that we may walk in the light.

I pray that you are full in the Holy Spirit, and empty in your own spirit. I pray you are full in the Word and delight in the Way. I pray that you are happy and that your is the kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

Thank you for reading.

Posted also in Just One Beggar


Surrendered

Morning Rain

Scriptures, Matthew 5:3, Luke 6:20, Psalm 32:1-2

Recently I was in a the Bible study Discerning the Voice of God, by Priscilla Shirer. Speaking on listening to God, Shirer quotes Matthew 17:5. God says, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.” Immediately, I thought of this study. Not only does Jesus tell us how to listen to him, but God tells us to listen to Jesus. Shirer asks in this study if we can imagine a Savior who would would give His life so that we may know Him, so that we may be saved and so that we may have a relationship with Him and then this Savior wouldn’t speak to us though He loved us so?

It seemed far-fetched even to me. Of course our Savior would speak to us. We have the gift of His words throughout Scripture. We have the gift of the Sermon on the Mount.

Youth Service April 2019

When I read the Sermon on the Mount, I have have plenty of questions, things like I’m wholly insufficient to the task. How can I, sinful woman, effect any of these in order to be blessed. But Jesus tells us how. He tells us in the first beatitude. Blessed are the poor in spirit for their’s is the Kingdom of heaven.

Being an engineer, the first thing I do is break it down. How does the Kingdom of Heaven become mine? Oh, I see, it’s a trick. I must be poor in spirit. I turn to Luke 6: 20 and it says poor not poor in spirit. In Matthew 19 and Luke 18, Jesus tells the young ruler, a rich man, that to be perfect he must give away all that he owns and follow Jesus. Oh no, I’m in trouble. I’m not likely to lead the ascetic life. Already I am crushed. But surely God and Jesus don’t want me crushed before I even begin, and i know the passage after the rich young ruler turns from Jesus. Jesus assures us that all things are possible for those who believe.

Re-examining the first beatitude I wonder if Jesus telling us a way to understand Him, a way to receive this blessing. He is telling us to surrender our spirit to God. With God, all things are possible. All of these blessings in the beatitudes, they are available to those who surrender and let the holy spirit take over our human spirit. He is saying, do not worry, I will guide you. You are loved and nurtured in My Way, My Words and ultimately My Sacrifice. He tells us right off the bat, surrender to God. Surrender that troublesome spirit of self help. Consider yourself no longer full of your own will and way and even words so that God can move in and work in you, so that you can listen to Me.

Easter Sunrise 2019

This Easter Sunday, our local churches again met at the lake for sunrise services. We were too tired and too chilly to be much of our own self-help scions. We were there for, well, coffee if I must be honest, but more, we were there for Jesus. We were there to know that He had risen, that He is with us, that because of His work on the cross, we may now know Him through the Holy Spirit. We may listen to our Savior as God instructs. We get to have a two way relationship with the King of Kings. Seriously!

When I strip away my own will I pray God enters in by means of the Holy Spirit. I can pray, Thy will, not my will Father. I don’t always pray this. Often I pray something like: “It’d be really cool if this was okay with You and You would help me God.” For these willful prayers, God usually remains silent. That’s not to say He doesn’t answer, He just doesn’t answer the way I wanted. It’s kind of like my mom when I asked if I could go do something dangerous or harmful. Early in life, she would tell me, “You already know my answer.” Later she shook her head a pursed her lips. 

Our Psalm for today speaks of a spirit without deceit. How happy, how blessed is the man in whose spirit there is no treachery For me that would be an exchanged spirit, once mine, now God’s.

May the Kingdom of Heaven be yours. May your spirit yield so that God enters in. May you glorify God in all that you do. Amen

Thanks for reading.

Published also on Just One Beggar

What’s Love Got to do With It?

Posted by kellyanneonline.com

Scripture:

John 13:34-35    1 Corinthians 13   Jeremiah 31:3

From the popular song of the 60’s sang by the Beetles “Love is All You Need” to Tina Turners’ 80’s pop song “What’s Love Got to do with it?”, indeed, love is what makes the world go around.

But just what is love? And why is it so important? Why did Jesus command that we love one another as He loved? What does love have to do with it, anyway? Is it really all we need? Let’s jump in and explore!

Love, defined in the Greek/Hebrew, is agape love, or unconditional love. Defined as the love our heavenly Father has, it is His attitude toward His son, the human race, and how we, as believers, should behave toward one another. As believers, we are familiar with John 3:16: For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever shall believe in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. LOVE is God’s gift to us. LOVE sent Jesus to the cross. Agape is divine love. It is the heart of God. It is what God gives to us, so that we in turn, can give it to others. In order to have agape love, we must know Christ. We cannot give what we do not have.

Let’s look at John 13:34-35. We are to love one another as Jesus loves us. Let’s read it: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. My friends, to love is a mandate, not something we do only if we feel up to it, or if we think it’s deserved. Jesus says that everyone will know that we are His if we love one another. It’s a fruit of the spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23) and we are known by our fruit. (We’ll jump into the rest of the fruit later, in other studies.)

Can I be honest? My natural father wasn’t exactly Father of the Year. For years I viewed God with the same set of eyes I did him. Our earthly view of who a father is can and does distort our view of who God really is. In order to receive all the love God has for us, we have to readjust our view.

Read 1 Corinthians 13 . Yes. The entire thing. I’ll wait.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Friends, what you read is the blueprint for our love walk. It is the backbone of who we are as Christ followers. Is it easy? Nope. But then, nothing worthwhile ever is. Remember, grace is what saved us, but it was LOVE that sent Jesus to the Cross. It was because God so LOVED that we can enjoy eternity with Him.

I want to leave you with Jeremiah 31:3: The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Yes, beloved, He has loved us with an everlasting love. His love never fails. His love the one thing that we are sure of in an ever-changing world of uncertainty. I wanted to start my devotionals with love because I believe in the driving force that it has. It is God’s love that has brought all of us our salvation. But it doesn’t stop there. We now have to keep the flame going. We are the torch carriers. We are the ones to carry the Light in an ever-darkening world. Are you willing to show your light to keep the torch going?

Father, help us so that we are the carriers of Your light. Help us to show the love and the light You have so  others may see You in us. ~Amen.

Originally posted at kellyanneonline.com

Happy, Happy, Happy

Our Scriptures for today’s devotion are: Psalm 133, and Hebrews 13:1-6, and Matthew 5:1-2.

In this post, as we begin to study the beatitudes, let us take a close look at the words blessed and beatitude.

We call the first verses of the sermon on the mount, The Beatitudes, because they all begin with the word blessed. Beatitude is a noun and originates from Latin meaning perfect happiness. It is equivalent to beatific which means rapturous, joyful or ecstatic. I’m sure you’ve read about beatific smiles, but beatific has a second meaning in Christian theology. It means imparting holy bliss or sacred bliss, or, to say it another way, set-aside-for-God’s-purposes perfect happiness. One of the three meanings of the word blessed has the same meaning as the word beatitude.

Happy Sunny Day

What does perfect happiness look like? Turning to our Scripture today from Psalms 133, we read a picture of goodness and pleasantness. I always pause at the oil in Aaron’s beard. It doesn’t seem like perfect happiness. Is seems like a mess. But the psalmist writes about the wonder of being one of God’s people.. The psalmist is speaking of the pleasantness of walking daily with God. We know that this Scripture refers to anointing oil, a precious perfumed oil used to set apart, or to dedicate a person to the priesthood, or to consecrate to God. This is what Jesus begins with in His Sermon on the Mount. He is telling us how to dedicate our lives to God and in so doing He is telling us how to be happy and how to live together.

Psalm 133 also gives us a double portion of meaning. Not only does the Psalm speak of good and pleasant happiness, but it speaks of consecration. James Montgomery Boice in his book, The Sermon on the Mount, opens with the origin of the word blessed from old English. Boice says the word is used to mean three similar things. It is used to mean consecrated, like a prayer before meals we call a blessing It is used to mean praise, as in Psalm 103, and it is used to mean perfectly happy, as in The Beatitudes. Psalm 133 speaks of the happiness to be had by living in unity and likens it to the consecration of Aaron by oil.

The final line of the Psalm states, “for there the Lord has commanded the blessing life forevermore.” This brings the Psalm full circle. God has made it so. We are blessed forevermore. How are we to receive God’s everlasting blessing? We are to live in unity, not a unity that we as humans shape, but a unity of God and according to God.

Our passage in Hebrews 13 tells us more about how we may live together according to God’s design. It even says that by showing hospitality to strangers we may be showing hospitality to angels. I love thinking on this. Here God is telling us how to live together in unity. It’s not a political game, but an intentional act of kindness to strangers, even those you may disagree with. And for this kindness, Hebrews 13 tells us God will not leave us or forsake us. It is breathtaking in its scope. All of this for a simple act of kindness.

Big smiles

I close with some thoughts on happiness. I have often thought of happiness as less that joy. I have thought that to be happy you had to ignore the world around you in all of its horrid decay. Joy meant, not so much to ignore, but to seek after God and to try and rise above this world. A careful reader will see my arrogance. We rise only because of God and certainly not by trying to separate the physical world from the spiritual light of God. In studying the Sermon on the Mount, I began to see happiness in another light. A happy child is not indulgent, in fact, a truly happy child is concerned with wonder and delighted by some outward thing. I am struck by the humbleness of happiness. I am struck by its lack of pretension. Maybe it is not nearly so worldly as I had previously thought.

Thank you for reading. May you be kind to those you meet this day. May you find happiness this day. May you find God’s everlasting joy. Amen.

Locks and Keys

God’s Good Gifts

Today’s Scriptures : Psalm 103:1-5, Matthew 5:1-2

With today’s blog, I begin a study in the Beatitudes found in the fifth chapter of Matthew.

Jesus gives those who would follow Him the keys to the Kingdom, His Kingdom in the Beatitudes. He tells plainly how to be happy. Jesus calls His disciples and travels to a mount. It is not a fancy mountain with a perfect amphitheater. It is a hill where He can sit and still be heard. Contrast this with the teachers of the law at the time and even Jesus’ other teachings. They taught often from the synagogue. They had amphitheaters or orated from steps. They had chairs that looked like thrones and spoke only to males sometimes men and sometimes boys. But Jesus delivers His message of hope from the side of a rough hill. He delivers it to His disciples and those that could hear; men and women, young and old. The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes. It begins with hope and that hope is for all mankind.

Today we learn in schools and at home, on the streets and in the workplace. We learn how to survive, but not how to be alive. We learn how to manage our physical needs, but think noting of our spiritual hunger or even the pleasantness of a single day or moment. Not only is God dead to many, but happiness has been proven so illusive that it is inconsequential and often seen as a mark of naivete or just plain stupidity. If you are happy, something is wrong with you. How far we have strayed from a people set apart, God’s people. Those people who have died to self that they might live, truly live, for God. How far we have strayed from Jesus’ desire for us to be happy.

We are skeptical. From an early age we seldom cede authority to anyone to teach. Government leaders yell out their plans for a new utopia. It will be different, they say. They tell us it will be better, but then they turn to their own hands, where they find a thirst for power, or money, or political clout. This is not just true in politics but in every facet of our lives. From parents and caregivers, preachers and teachers, managers and bosses to peacekeepers and criminals all of us have imagined a better way at least a better way for us. We have imagined that we know how to proceed and that others don’t. We justify our desires for more better different as beneficial for the whole, however man-made, and I mean however – however stolen, however corrupt, however tricky, however murderous.

Our teachers in school are bound by interference from administrators and parents alike. When teachers do get to teach, they are seldom heard over the clamor of politics, protections and pedagoguery. Through it all, we no longer consider the church effective. It is no place for learning. To many in the world, it is no longer a teacher. It has been stripped of its authority because of its people. How I hate writing those words. God’s great home has become, in the eyes of man, a shell and a shill.

I don’t know if we could travel much further from Jesus’ desire for us, from His words on the mount. With God’s help and God’s will, we can close that distance. We can be a people set apart, a people that show the Way by walking in the Way, not the do as I say bunch, but the we follow Jesus and submit to God bunch.

We know from Mark 1:27 that Jesus spoke with authority. He spoke with the Authority of God. Our verse from Matthew 5:1-2 tells us that Jesus saw the crowds, went to a mountainside and sat down. It says that His disciples came to Him and He began to teach them. It doesn’t get much simpler. He has disciples, people that follow Him, that want to learn from Him. His lectern is thin air, a seat on the side of a mountain. Not only do His followers seek Him, but crowds seek Him. His teaching is that much sought after.

He saw the crowds and went up on a mountainside and sat down.

Who do we seek after? Who would we pack a stadium to see? Do we seek the unusual? Do we want to make a show of who we listen to? Do we post selfies of our latest learning adventures? Who do we yield authority to?

Psalm 103 verses 1-5 gives a stunning example of why we may have confidence in seeking God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit. This passage tells what God can and does do for us. David tells us to praise God for what God does. More on the word praise in the next post. Here God is shown to forgive our all of our sins, heal us in every way, redeem us from the very pit of hell, both on earth and in the afterlife and He crowns us, He crowns us. He crowns us with love and compassion and satisfies our desires with good things. He renews us so that we may soar like the eagle, that is to say, we are no longer weighted down with sin and corruption and wanton desires. What remarkable youth and freedom and overwhelming joy can be had through God. This is what Jesus is giving us the keys to in His Beatitudes. Jesus gives us the keys to freedom and renewal when he sits on the side of a hill and begins to teach. He gives us the keys to everlasting joy.

Please re-read Psalm 103;1-5. Think about being free from every burden. Think about being renewed. May your day be filled with renewal. May it be filled with mercy. May it be filled with God. Amen.

Thank you for reading Bev

Test Post

Scripture Readings

Matthew 5:31-4:2Isaiah 66John 17

Lesson Three from the book

The section from the book was titled, Learning to Trust. Keller speaks of Lass finally allowing the author to pull the angry wild rose thorns from between Lasses toes. The image of a dog lamed by thorns unable to do his master’s work, gave us pause. The fact of the thorns being angry called to mind our own hurts and fears and how God could pull those thorns from our feet. Without His help, we are lamed by them.

Keller noticed that he was as much a servant as his dog, then stated, “God’s gentle Spirit showed me in vivid reality the enormous condescension of Christ, who in love and self-humiliation tends human needs.”

Keller speaks of a lifetime lesson, that faith was his “personal, positive response to the Word of God, to the point where” he acted in quiet trust.

As Keller noticed Lass’s fidelity grow, he admitted his devotion to God fell short of his dog’s devotion to the author. He realized that “God can only trust those who truly trust Him. He gives Himself in wondrous plentitude to the person whose single-minded devotion, love, and loyalty is given to the Lord.”

In Isaiah 66:2, we found parallels to our lesson. God will bless those who have a humble and contrite heart. In Isaiah 66:3 we discussed those things that don’t please God. and that Lass was at first wary and didn’t answer and chose that in which his master didn’t delight. In 66:10-14 God will nurture and heal and develop a loving relationship for those that honor Him.

We spent some time on John 17 letting it sink in, a prayer for the people of God, for us. We are not of the world like Lass discovering who she really was, not meant to chase cars and pull at leashes. We are not of this world, but we must trust God to discern our calling.

We talked of how Jesus in John 17 is feeding the world shelf-stable food, food we can draw on for a life-time. We noted that Lass would only eat what her master fed her. We spoke of how confused we are when we try to feed off the world and then want God’s manna.

We turned finally to Matthew and found slim parallels. The dog is loyal unlike in Matthew, those who seek divorce.