The Beatitudes: Blessed Assurance

Matthew 5:2-12 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

In his Sermon on the Mount, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus revealed eight blessings to the crowd that had gathered to see him.  John the Baptist had been arrested and Jesus had begun his earthly ministry preaching and teaching throughout all of Galilee, calling his disciples, healing the sick, exorcising demons, and calling people to repentance.

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What are Beatitudes? Gregory of Nyssa, a mystic residing in Cappadocia in Asia Minor around 380 AD described the Beatitudes like this:

“Beatitude is a possession of all things held to be good,
from which nothing is absent that a good desire may want.
Perhaps the meaning of beatitude may become clearer to us
if it is compared with its opposite.
Now the opposite of beatitude is misery.
Misery means being afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings.”

In contrast to the Law handed down to Moses by God on Mount Sinai, the Beatitudes celebrate humility, charity, and love. The Law directs us with “Thou shalt not”. The Beatitudes guide us toward finding peace amidst a lifetime of turmoil and trouble. In the opening refrain of his sermon, Jesus reassured the crowd with lessons of comfort and hope during a time that the nation of Israel suffered under the occupation of Rome.

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The Law points us to God. The Beatitudes usher us into His presence.

Yes, life is difficult. Life was hard during the time of the First Advent. It remains challenging as we await Christ’s return. Jesus’ message today, as it did then, heartens us on our spiritual journey, reminding us that He is the anchor of our hope through whom we can love and do good, living life abundantly while waiting on His return.

Go be a blessing…

“Blessed Assurance” -Elevation Worship (Live)

 

 

photos courtesy of Pixabay.

Words Tangled Up in God

For me, faith, writing, and recovery are intrinsically connected. These three very different things are intertwined, tangled threads of a beautiful tapestry.

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I wrote my first stories as a young boy. Growing up an only child left me ample time to employ my imagination. Through the years, my writing benefited from excellent teachers and mentors, many of whom I did not realize were influencing my creative prose at the time. In those years, Marshall High had a stable of phenomenal teachers. Most of us, me especially, did not recognize how good they were at teaching us.

Attending Marshall High School, my writing profited from the solid teaching of Mrs. Douglas and Mrs. Muchmore. Although dramatically different in their style and approach, both were adept instructors molding my skills even before I fully recognized writing as my calling. A dear family friend recently remarked that she could see Mrs. Douglas’ DNA on the way I write, particularly in the manner that I craft sentences and in the very deliberate, intentional organization of my story. Mrs. Muchmore served as one of my earliest encouragers, lauding the words I put on paper.

My Great American Novel should already be complete by now. But, it isn’t. Life threw me some unanticipated curve balls. That really irks me because I pride myself on my ability to anticipate. However, life takes detours in between here and now. All is not lost, albeit that it is different. Over the years I have managed to write a batch of stories, poems and even a couple of plays. My publishing success has been limited. I chalk that up to being my own fault.

The past three years, as a member of our local writers group, the Writers Guild of Texas, and through creating content for this blog, I have been able to rekindle my craft. It has not be easy. At times, it has been really rough. Telling a story isn’t simply a matter of putting a bunch of words on paper. Writing is a craft. Writing is a calling.

Like me, my writing has changed. I’m not the same writer that I was a quarter century ago. I’m not the same person. What I cared about writing about then isn’t what I care to write about now. But I still have stories to tell. Getting to know Jesus has affected my writing. For me, writing has very much become a form of worship. It has even become a means of ministry.

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Similar to my journey of faith and recovery, my writing remains a work in progress. Words can change the world. I believe that God uses the stories we tell for the good of His kingdom. At least, I believe He can. I don’t write in a vacuum. God has a plan for my writing. Sometimes, I am fortunate that He lets me in on it. But as is true with ministry most of the time, I simply need to be obedient and remain faithful in this creative calling.

Recovery impacts my storytelling too. The stories I care about clean and sober are not the same that appealed to me when I wrote drunk and high. Thankfully, sobriety has permanently altered my perspective. For me, I write with a greater purpose.

Faith, writing, and recovery. These 3 things remain intricately linked.

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Photos courtesy of Pixabay.

Live Life in the Present

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Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:34(ESV)
I did a sermon centered on this verse a few weeks ago. I was reminded of it again today when visiting with a friend who is facing some serious unexpected health challenges. You and I aren’t promised tomorrow. So often we get caught up fretting about the past or worrying about the future and we miss out on experiencing God’s goodness in the present. Each day brings with it cares of its own. Anticipating only doubles our troubles.
Life is best lived to the fullest one day at time. Yesterday is gone. It’s done. You can’t redo it, so don’t re-live it. Tomorrow promises to bring enough trouble of its own. Cherish today. It’s the best day you have.
…and “no”, I’m not always good at doing this myself. But I hope it encourages you nonetheless.