Happy are the Unhappy
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
We are most familiar with the term mourning, meaning to grieve over some kind of profound loss. Our community is no stranger to this deeply personal and intense grieving. Someone once told me that deep sorrow is always accompanied by great joy. In my times of sorrow, I need that reminder. My prayer is for the joy of the Lord to accompany all those who mourn today. In the Christ-following life, we are told we will face many trials, sorrows, and situations of immense pain. We are also told that His strength will be sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and his love and mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). In short, through Jesus, we will not just survive loss, but overcome it. We have a God who knows the depths of sorrow, and who is asking us to surrender all ours to Him.
In Matthew 5:4, Jesus is addressing an even deeper mourning. This second “Blessed” statement builds upon the one in verse three. When we see our spiritual poverty, we see the truth about ourselves and recognize our sinfulness. Recognizing our sin leads us into mourning and a desire for forgiveness and healing. Matthew Henry says “Godly sorrow leads to repentance.” Jesus is teaching that a repentant heart leads us deeper into the Christ-following life.
Whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one, or convicted about your sinful tendencies, the truth is you have a God who comforts all sorrows. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” Take time today and list out your grief, the sins that you need to confess, and then hand that list over to God.
The Bride of Christ
“The bride, a princess, looks glorious in her golden gown. In her beautiful robes, she is led to the king, accompanied by her bridesmaids. What a joyful and enthusiastic procession as they enter the king’s palace!” Psalm 45:13-15
Many young girls dream about a beautiful wedding that includes a gorgeous white dress with a handsome man standing at the end of a long aisle in an auditorium filled with beloved family and friends. I’ll never forget the day I chose my wedding dress and the reaction of my family and mother-in-law to be. Their faces were full of joy and I felt like the princess I had dreamed of!
Some wonder what the Old Testament has to do with the New Testament. As you read Psalm 45 it appears to be about an earthly king until you reach verse 6 and realize it is a beautiful foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings. “Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. You love justice and hate evil.” Although this Psalm was written to the king for his wedding, it is a prophecy about the return of Jesus and His bride, the church. This spiritual wedding dress is a picture of God’s sanctifying works in our lives.
In Revelation 19:7, 8, the apostle John writes about the day of judgment for the wicked and the wedding of the Lord and his bride, the church. This church includes all of the faithful believers from all time.
Whatever trials you are going through right now, remember that someday there will be no more pain. Jesus will reign for eternity! And, someday, He will return for his beautiful bride, the church, to be with Him forever and He will make all things new!
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness. Why let the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Our God is in the heavens, and he does as he wishes.”
Psalm 115 is really well known among Christian circles. If you’ve been in the church for very long, you’ve probably come across these lyrics a time or two. As famous as they are, and as familiar as we are with them, they communicate a pretty challenging message.
This psalm says, “to your name goes ALL the glory.” How often can you say this about your own life? How many times do you make your life about you? How often are you focused on yourself? How might your life change if you really tried to live in a way that gave God all the glory?
One thing seems pretty clear in scripture; God is about God. He’s about glorifying himself and his own name. And he’s created us to live in this way, as well. God, our creator, knows that the best way of life for us (his creation) is to live lives pointed to him as much as possible. You will never be happy living for yourself. The fame and recognition of your limited successes are always going to run dry and leave you feeling lonely.
I pray that you will make your day today ALL about God’s glory; with your relationships, and with your time, and with your hearts, etc. Not to us, Lord. But to YOUR name, be all the glory. Amen.
Strength in Weakness
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15 ESV
The world defines personal strength as standing up for yourself, working hard, stretching toward and achieving your goals, speaking up, and believing in yourself. Independent people are seen as strong people. God’s Word gives a different view of strength. Rest, quietness, and trust – these words all reflect a state of dependence.
We are strong when we depend on God. Strength comes when we acknowledge our weakness and our need for God. When we are burdened by our sin, we repent and turn to Him for forgiveness. When we work so hard to earn His favor, we stop and remember that we only need to receive His grace. In solitude, we hear Him speak and we learn to pray. When we are let down by our self-sufficiency, we trust Him for our needs. When we are willing to take ourselves out of the number one position in our lives, then He can take first place and lead.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
What are the areas of your life where you need to depend more on God? God is not asking you to be strong, but to depend on Him. In our weakness, He will be our strength. Return, rest, listen, and trust in Him.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Galatians 5.13-14
When I’m reading letters like Galatians, I wonder what a faithful, 80-year-old Jew in the 1st century would have thought about the gospel. Was it good news that the 613 Old Testament laws that they had followed for 80-years were no longer the means by which God identified His covenant people? Would they have shaken their fists at God and said, “Why didn’t you change the rules sooner and save me from memorizing the Torah, going through bar/bat mitzvah, and never enjoying the deliciousness of pork?!”
The call to freedom sounds great to 21st century ears. Our freedom enables us to fully surrender ourselves to the needs of others in love. In Christ, all 613 laws of the Old Promise are brought together in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The worldview of 1st century Jews gives me hope. Jesus was the final piece to an elaborate Old Testament puzzle. All the hopes and dreams that the Jews had envisioned were realized in this one Man. I like to think of Jesus as the completion, the fulfillment, of the Old Promise. Once He was in place, all of the Old Testament story became clear. It is with that complete picture that Paul and the churches (like Galatia) began exploring the New Promise.
How familiar are you with the Old Testament and the transition into the New Testament? When you’re reading your Bible, do you find yourself in the same verses, chapters, books, etc. or do you have a broad reading plan, a diverse interest in God’s story, an on-going growth in understanding the Big Picture?
Try reading Galatians like an 80-year-old, 1st century Jew and you may hear the gospel message with some new tones.
“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13 (NLT)
I grew up in a military family so when people ask me where I am from, I don’t have a straightforward answer. We moved around the US several times in my childhood, and with each move I felt both nervous and excited for what was to come. Each new place was foreign in some ways and the one constant was our family. Because of these experiences, I have always identified some with Abraham and Sarah’s story as they traveled to the land God had for them. They were foreigners in a new place and their one constant was God.
Hebrews 11 captures the faith of many who have walked with God before us, including Abraham and Sarah. They all believed that God had a bigger perspective than what they could and would see fulfilled in the course of their life here on earth. And they agreed that this world is not our permanent home. They had an eternal focus based on God’s promises that caused them to live differently than others around them.
And I wonder about us. Do we believe we are foreigners on the earth? Do we live like this world is temporary or do we have an eternal perspective as we live life? How would living with eternity in mind change what you choose this week?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
Jesus is sitting on a mountainside by the Sea of Galilee teaching his followers. They are expecting to hear the game plan for how Jesus will establish his kingdom and their role in helping him do it. They are waiting for the fastball, and in typical Jesus fashion, he throws the curve.
To be poor in spirit does not indicate a socio-economic status that applies to some of us and not others. Jesus is referring to a spiritual poverty that applies to all of us. We have nothing that can be used as collateral to save us or to gain any ground in God’s economy. It must be God’s hand that fully saves and changes us. On some level that doesn’t fly with most of us. We want to have some skin in the game, something we can point to that says we played a role in helping him out. And so we play a poverty game of sorts. This game deludes us into thinking we can do it. But all around, and in us, we see the results of this game; loneliness, addictions, identity issues, broken relationships, bondage, bad choices, performance based living, etc. Why is it so hard for us to admit our spiritual poverty?
As he did with his disciples, Jesus is challenging our hearts. If we don’t recognize our total need for Christ, we won’t fully recognize Him. The Christ following life is marked by a process of surrendering. What parts of your life do you need to surrender or re-surrender to Him?