Boundaries and Our Family

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Genesis 2:24-25

A busy–and wealthy–grandfather phoned his grandson to cancel an appointment to go to the movies. The grandson did not seem interested in his grandfather’s reasons for his cancellation. Instead, the grandson kept interrupting his grandfather’s apology by asking him to make the sound of a frog. Finally, the grandfather asked his grandson why it was so important that he make the sound of a frog. “Because,” the little boy explained, “I just heard Dad tell Mom that we can’t afford to go to Disneyland until you croak.”

We do not develop habits of genuine love automatically. We learn by watching effective role models – most specifically by observing how our parents express love for each other day in and day out. A house is built of logs and stone, of piles and posts and piers; A home is built of loving deeds that stand a thousand years.

Encouragement in a family is like a peanut butter sandwich–the more you spread, the better the sandwich sticks together.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Marriage is a vow that one man and one woman make to each other. A vow is a solemn promise or pledge that binds a person to perform a specified act or to behave in a certain manner. All vows are made to God. Vowing was voluntary. But after a vow was made, it had to be performed. Vows, therefore, were to be made only after careful consideration.

Once the vows have been made to each other, boundaries have been established. By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher. –Socrates In marriage fidelity becomes a boundary. One remains faithful to the person they have committed themselves too. Adultery takes place when one crosses that boundary. Sometimes it really is just about sex. But most affairs are conducted primarily on the telephone rather than in bed. Affairs aren’t as intensely sexual as you’d think. It’s not like in the movies.” The essence of an affair is in “establishing a secret intimacy with someone” — a secret that necessarily, must be defended with dishonesty. Infidelity, isn’t about “whom you lie with. It’s whom you lie to.” To think of infidelity mainly in terms of sex is actually the first step toward rationalizing it. “You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27) In marriage there is a spiritual boundary. Believers are forbidden to marry non-believers. An eight year old boy asked his girlfriend to marry him. She turned him down, saying that in her family only relatives married. She explained, “If you and me were relatives we could get married, but we’re not. In my family my daddy married my mother. My grandpa married my grandma, and all my uncles married my aunts. So you see, we can’t get married, cause we’re not relatives. The believer is forbidden to divorce the non-believer that wants to remain married. Husbands are to be the spiritual head of the home, but frankly I find more wives being the spiritual head then I do the husbands.

1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. The boundary of mutual benefit. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. They become a priority to each other. (1 Cor 7:3) The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.

A happy family is but an earlier heaven.

Apostolic Calling

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A young minister was being interviewed by a church board for the position of pastor. One old hard-working Irishman, who was on the board, looked at the young man sternly and asked, “Young man, did God send you here?” He replied, “Well, I don’t know if God sent me here. I am here trying to find the will of God and find out if you would like me for your next pastor.” The board member replied, “Young man, did God send you here?” The young minister was somewhat at a loss for words and came back again, “Well, I just stopped by to talk with the board . . .” The board member interrupted again and said, “Young man, did God send you here?” Finally he skewed up his courage and said, “Well, I guess God didn’t send me here. I just stopped by to see about whether we could get together.” The old board member leaned back in his seat and said, “That’s good. The last four said that God had sent them and we had nothing but trouble with all four of them!”

Do you ever feel that the minister steps up to the pulpit on Sunday morning not as well prepared as he/she should be? I am reminded of the pastor who thought, when he had difficulty preparing a particular sermon, ‘Perhaps the Holy Spirit will tell me what to say on Sunday morning.’ This thought returned to him several times during the week, and when at last he stood silently before his congregation, he turned to the Holy Spirit for guidance, and a celestial voice said to him, ‘Tell the people you are unprepared!”‘

APOSTLE is Greek for apostolos, meaning a “delegate.” One sent with a special message or commission. The Church called those it sent on special errands apostles. Those who carried the news of the gospel were called apostles. The Jews, it is said, called the collector of the half shekel, which every Israelite paid annually to the Temple, an apostle. Those who carried about encyclical letters from their rulers were also called apostles. Paul used the word in this sense when he declared himself “an apostle, not sent from men, nor through the agency of man” (Gal 1:1), plainly indicating that his commission was directly from Christ.

The official name of the twelve disciples chosen by our Lord to be with Him during His ministry and to whom He entrusted the organization of His church were called apostles. Shortly after their ordination “He gave to them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness”; “and sent them out in pairs” to preach. As regards the apostolic office, it seems to have been preeminently that of founding the churches and upholding them by supernatural power specially bestowed for that purpose.

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:1-4)

It is at this point that we discover the difference between an Elder and a Diaconate. The Elder becomes the spiritual leader of the Church. …will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. It was the Elder who later became the bishop setting up a hierarchy in the Church. The Diaconate became an administrator of ministry. The widows who were being overlooked, needed to wait on tables.

Clearly the early Church had an informal ministry, a ministry of laity. Those chosen for leadership were ordinary folk. Qualifications were not based on training or their ability to do the job. Qualifications were based on character – the Church trusted the Christian character of the one being called.

Certainly, the Church has developed a professional clergy to do the preaching, the funerals, the weddings, and the administration of the church. Paul writes, How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:14-15)

The clergy cannot do it by themselves, we need the help of the laity. In the Old Testament we often find the Israelites “murmuring.” What a wonderful expression. In the church we often find people murmuring, too. The only thing some people are willing to give is advice. In 1884 in Princess Ida, W. S. Gilbert wrote a verse that must surely be the feeling of some Christians:
Oh don’t the days seem lank and long, When all goes right and nothing goes wrong and isn’t life extremely flat with nothing whatever to grumble at.
Leadership is accepting people where they are, then taking them upward?

If you have knowledge of Jesus, let others light their candles at it. “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

A Survival Guide For Those Left Behind!

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In the village of Blockley in Gloucestershire, England, Joanna Southcott, won national attention due to her belief that she would bear the second Messiah, to be named Shiloh. Through the centuries many have harbored such delusions. The Shakers believed that as God came once in the male, Jesus, God would later to earth in the female, Mother Ann Lee. But Jesus is unique. There was only one Messiah prophesied. Only one Messiah came and lived a sinless life. Only one Messiah died a sacrificial death. Only one Messiah rose from the dead. Only one Messiah is coming again. There is no one like the Lord Jesus, and there never will be.

The very name Jesus, at Christmas time reminds us what it is all about. Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor.

There is coming a time (yet no one knows the day or hour) when God will call all believers to Heaven. We call that moment the Rapture. Revelation tells us one of God’s angels will swing a sickle and gather the believers unto God. Paul writes, We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. One moment we are here and the next moment we are gone!

The New Testament writers speak of Christ’s returning “soon” or “quickly,” with the apparent expectation that he might return in the writers’ own lifetime. The meaning of returning “soon” is that it would happen “at any moment.” It is like my phone- answering machine. The message informs the caller that I am away from my desk but will return “soon.” I use the same message whether I expect to be gone two minutes or two weeks for the very simple reason that I want to encourage the person without revealing exactly how long I will be gone! James Sullivan points out that when it comes to the return of our Lord, “God did not put me on His Time & Place Committee; he put me on His Preparation Committee.”

What about the ones left behind? Think about it. All at once something has happened! Some of your friends who were here this morning are gone. All of the children have disappeared. Everyone is talking about this large number of people that are missing. There is a fear that grips your heart and soul. You are confused and wonder what you should do. Could it possibly be the rapture that you have heard about but never believed?

There is now a voice whispering in your ear that it is too late to have any hope. The little Ball City Baptist Church near the tiny town of Luck, North Carolina, has been closed for years. Young people moved way from the community. The older members died out one by one. But if you passed the church today you would not know that it was no longer operating. The grass is mowed, the windows are washed, the bushes are trimmed. If you looked in a window you would see artificial flowers on the pulpit, a clean floor and everything ready in case the church is ever needed again. It is all done by one 74 year old woman. Her husband was the last deacon of the church. When it closed he decided to keep it up in case it was ever needed again. Since his death his widow has carried on. Barring an unexpected growth in population the church is not likely to re-open. In a way, we do all our Christian work in the same spirit, making sure the church is always ready — and making sure we are always ready — for that day in the future when Jesus comes. But what about the one that isn’t ready?

The best way to prepare for the coming of Christ is never to forget the presence of Christ. There is still hope! But, there are two very important things that you must do and do quickly. If you fail to do these two things, you will be lost for sure. Salvation is an act of faith and at this moment you must act.

First, you must do exactly what every believer who is now missing had to do and that is confess Jesus Christ as Lord of your life. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” God has always offered us His love. That love has been unconditional. But we must accept that love or it is of no value. Whether we accept that love under “normal” conditions or out of fear, the importance is found in accepting that love.

Second, our acceptance of God comes with obedience to God’s will. At the end of time there will be a world leader who will offer us a “mark” which will allow us to buy and sell with great ease. In order to get the mark, we have to sell our souls to the devil. The Christian will refuse the “mark” and will be cut off from commerce. You will give up the “mark” and probably be persecuted and have to flee for your life. You may even lose your life, but you will have gained your soul.

The love and grace of God is far greater than what we can even begin to imagine. The Lord told us not only to wait for him but to watch for him, and he has pronounced a special blessing on those who watch. The difference between waiting and watching is illustrated in a story told of a Scotch fishing village. After days at sea, the skipper of a fishing boat was bringing his craft back home. As the boat neared the shore, the men gazed eagerly toward the dock, where a group of their loved ones were waiting. The skipper, looking through his glass, identified some of the women, saying, “I see Bill’s Mary, and there is Tom’s Margaret, and David’s Anne.” One man was very anxious because his wife was not there. He left the boat with a heavy heart and pressed his steps up the hill, where he saw a light in his cottage. As he opened the door, his wife ran to meet him, saying, “I have been waiting for you!” He replied with a proper rebuke, “Yes, but the other men’s wives were watching for them.”

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Home For Christmas

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Isaiah 52:7-10

Did you ever consider how hassle-free it is to be dead? You wouldn’t have to get up in the morning and shower or brush your teeth, or fight to get that last hair in place. Your suit would be neatly pressed for you and you wouldn’t have to worry about getting it stained or wrinkled by sticky fingered children who are climbing up in your lap after dinner. Everything would be nice and neat and orderly and . . . DEAD! Some homes are like that. You know the kind; there you are afraid to sit on the furniture. Churches can get like that too, nice and neat and dead! Personally, I prefer the controlled chaos of the alive Church. One that is often in disarray because of the life that is happening in it.

Where tattered cocoons lay here and there as evidence of a tremendous struggle, but where a butterfly emerges. I prefer a church home where lots of neighbors and their kids gather in an atmosphere of comfort saying you are welcome here in the name of the Savior who lives and understands life. Lastly, I prefer the Church where the excitement of each new day is to watch in wonder how God takes an impossible problem and resolves it to his glory and my growth. Yeah, I’ve considered the dead church, but it’s DEAD compared to LIFE!

Ever notice how the world comes alive at Christmas time? Victor Hugo once said, “A house is built of logs and stone, but a home is built of loving deeds and will stand a thousand years.” At Christmas one can almost feel the love in the air. It is the one time of the year that even those who are “tightwads” will open their purses and share.

Inter faith ministries has for many years been encouraging people to volunteer to work with people with AIDS in our community. For years I have always found a reason why I could not help. Just not enough time.
– It would be better for a lay person than a minister (we get preachy).
– But there was something inside that kept telling me that I was avoiding the
real issues.
– I don’t want to be around that environment.
– I don’t want to be around death and dying, I have done my time.
– It is preciously because you have walked the path that they need you.
– Death must be prepared for.
– People must be loved.
– God, we are talking AIDS here, and I don’t care whether it came from lifestyle
or drug use, I don’t want to be around it.
– You don’t want to minister to the lepers?
– The ones no one want to be around.
– The ones who’s familes are rejecting them.
– The ones that can’t get insurance or hold a job.
– You know, “the least of these.”

My first meeting with the young man (5 years difference) who had AIDS who I was to minister to was tense at first. It is never easy to learn about new people, especially ones with such great needs. I tried to be as incognito as possible, not telling him I was a minister. After about an hour of conversation he said, “You must be a minister.” “You strike me as a choir boy.” “In one hour you have been only kind and haven’t said a curse word yet.” But you know, my prejudices were there. At one point he told me he smoked. I caught myself saying, “Do you want to die of lung cancer?”

When the visit was over I got in my car and I had a Christian CD in the player.
It was Easter music. It had been a good visit but I was tired, emotionally drained, hurting for him because of his load and his loneliness. Somehow in that car with that music, I was home with God. I could have easily been that young man and made all of the wrong choices in life. But it was my relationship with God that had made the difference.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,”Your God reigns!”

Learning To Pray: Personal Prayer

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John 17:1-5

Herb Miller wrote in Connecting with God: When a nightclub opened on Main Street, the only church in that small town organized an all-night prayer meeting. The members asked God to burn down the club. Within a few minutes, lightning struck the club, and it burned to the ground. The owner sued the church, which denied responsibility. After hearing both sides, the judge said, “It seems that wherever the guilt may lie, the nightclub owner believes in prayer, while the church doesn’t.”

The Bible teaches us that there are four types of prayer. 1) Personal prayer
2) Intercessory prayer 3) Community prayer 4) And travailing prayer.

The 17th chapter of John is a key point in the life of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper in the Upper Room has concluded. Jesus is in the garden and He knows what is about to happen. The Roman soldiers are on their way to arrest Him. The disciples that have gone with Him to the garden are tired and keep falling asleep. Jesus does something very important and very real, He prays.

The first five verses of chapter 17 are very personal words between Jesus and His father. We see the intimacy of a father and son relationship. We see the openness of one talking to God.

Prayer is nothing more than an open and honest conversation with God. Prayer is the only thing that “conquers” God. But Christ has willed that prayer never be used for evil. All the power He has conferred on prayer is for the cause of good. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. So prayer only knows how… to transform the weak, to restore the sick, to free the demon-possessed, to open prison doors and to untie the bonds that bind the innocent.

Furthermore, it washes away faults and repels temptations. It extinguishes persecutions. It consoles the low in spirit and cheers those in good spirits.
It escorts travelers, calms waves, and makes robbers stand aghast. It feeds the poor and governs the rich.

Personal prayer is worship! A lot of people look for a church where “they can get something” out of it. I have to come away “feeling good.” Soren Kierkegaard asked the question, “Who is supposed to get the benefit of worship?” He said that we view church as an audience and want to be entertained. The preacher, the readers, the choir, the soloist are all actors. “No,” Kierkegaard writes, “God is the audience and all of us are there to perform.” That is worship.

We come home and we say, “That special music sounded wonderful this morning.” Rather than, “I met God on His mountain today.” Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. That is the difference between entertainment and worship. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him

Our greatest handicap in prayer is that we view prayer as one-way when the reality is that prayer is a two-way street of communication. A Christian lady once dreamed that she died and went to heaven. As an angel was showing her around, she saw a stack of boxes in the corner of a room–and they had her name on them. She asked the angel what they were–and he told her to take a look in them. They were filled with many of the things she had prayed for during her lifetime, but hadn’t received. Seeing her perplexity, the angel explained: “When any of God’s children make requests of Him, preparations are made to give the answer. But we angels are told that if the petitioner is not waiting on the answer–if they give up too soon–we are to return with it and store it here.”

We often knock on the door like a mischievous boy knocks on a door and then runs away! Jesus said “Keep knocking.” He never promised to answer runaway knocks. We need to pray and wait, pray and wait. Have we learned to wait in patience and persistence, faithfully trusting God to answer in His time? I don’t mean just the everyday kind of waiting we all have to do: standing in line at the grocery checkout counter, being put on hold when we phone for information, facing another delay in an already backlogged day. What I’m talking about is the soul-searching, heartbreaking, my-future-hangs-in-the-balance kind of waiting that few of us escape during our lifetime. You see this kind of waiting on the face of the aging wife who wonders if maybe this time the doctor will give her good news about the baby they so desperately long for. You see this kind of waiting in the eyes of a father who searches the streets for his runaway daughter, hoping to find a clue to her whereabouts. You see this kind of waiting in the slumped shoulders of the man who’s spent months looking for a job that pays enough to support his family. Waiting hurts. It frustrates. It can drive people to do crazy things.

Take Abraham. Here was a true man of God who believed God’s promises.
By faith, he left his comfortable home and became a desert wanderer. He waited for years for God to give him a son. But he got tired of waiting. The result was a liaison with Hagar, the birth of Ishmael, and centuries of fighting between Ishmael’s descendants and the descendants of the rightful heir, Isaac.
Not waiting causes us problems. So why won’t we wait for God’s perfect timing? Because waiting doesn’t come naturally. Moreover, the nature of waiting is misunderstood. Waiting is not passive. Scripture says waiting should be active. To understand what this means, let’s look at the lives of saints who truly waited for the Lord.

Hannah is one example. How she longed to be able to have and hold her own baby! But she couldn’t. To make matters worse, she suffered the ridicule of her husband’s other wife who had borne him several children. Yet, throughout all this, Hannah continued in fellowship with God. She didn’t pretend that a baby didn’t matter and she never stopped petitioning the Lord. Her faith did not diminish, despite the delay. Finally, she received the promise through the birth of Samuel.

Another example is the prophetess Anna. She had been widowed soon after her marriage, and had spent most of her life in the temple, worshiping Jehovah, fasting, praying – and waiting, waiting for the promised Messiah.
How easy it would have been for her to despair wanting to see the one who would redeem Israel. Yet Luke tells us that, even at age 84, Anna was waiting for the Lord. And when Jesus was presented at the temple, Anna was there, giving thanks to God.

Nowhere in Scripture are we promised instant answers to our prayers or immediate gratification of our desires. Rather, God expects us to be patient, to wait, and to accept by faith those things that are as yet unseen. …but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Picture yourself unencumbered by fear, failure, and frustration. Waiting doesn’t have to be a downer. Waiting God’s way, through prayer, fasting, serving, studying, trusting Him, and preparing to receive His promises, can be liberating.

The Beatitudes: Peacemaking

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Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Teachers will appreciate this little story that I found. Then Jesus took his disciples up on the mountain, and when they had gathered around him he taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn . . . Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven . . . Then, Simon Peter said, “Are we supposed to know this?” And Andrew said “Do we have to write this down?” And James said, “Will we have a test on this?” And Philip said, “I don’t have any paper.” And Bartholomew said, “Do we have to turn this in?” And John said, “The other disciples didn’t have to learn this.” And Matthew said, “May I go to the rest room?” And Judas said, “What does this have to do with real life?” Then, one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus’ lesson plans and inquired of Jesus, “What is your terminal objective? Have you completed a task analysis? What about a diagnostic survey?” And Jesus wept.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. A peacemaker is one who strives to prevent contention, strife, and war. A peacemaker is one who uses their influence to reconcile opposing parties, and to prevent hostilities in families and neighborhoods. A peacemaker understands the importance of the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

At no time are we more like God than when we are an instrument of reconciliation. The Devil is the father of friction, discord and strife. The peacemaker is the enemy of the devil. “The beginning of strife,” says Solomon, “is like the letting out of water.” “An ounce of prevention,” says the English proverb, “is worth a pound of cure.”

One of the greatest peacemakers in scripture was Barnabas. Barnabas was gentle, companionable, a nice man. He was pastoral where Paul was militant.
Where Paul would carry a sword, in readiness for an adversary, Barnabas had oil and wine, in readiness for any traveler whom he might find robbed and beaten on the road. He was a peacemaker, and he was great in the ministry of reconciliation.

Barnabas was a native of Cyprus and a Levite by extraction. He was a wealthy man for he possessing land, that he generously disposed of it for the benefit of the Christian community and laid the money at the apostles’ feet . When Paul made his first appearance in Jerusalem, it is Barnabas who brought him to the apostles and attested to his sincerity . Following their First Missionary Journey they returned to Antioch, where they found the peace of the church disturbed by a certain sect from Judea, who insisted upon the Gentile converts being circumcised. Barnabas, with others, were sent to Jerusalem to consult with the apostles.

When preparing for a Second Missionary Journey, a dispute arose between Paul and Barnabas on account of John Mark. Barnabas was determined to take Mark with them. Barnabas is a peacemaker!

In that respect, Barnabas with like Jesus, for Jesus was a peacemaker. He was called the “Prince of Peace.” By His teachings, He taught us “to turn the other cheek.” In the Garden when the servant’s ear is cut off, Jesus restores the ear and tell everyone to put away their swords. But He also reminded us that His peace “passes all human understand.”

We need peacemakers! We need peacemakers in our world to bring an end to war. War is not the answer and never really provides a solution. Peacemakers help us to find compromise. They force us to find acceptance of others.

James, head of the Church in Jerusalem, writes from a hurting congregation.
Hurting because they are being persecuted by everyone. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

The Beatitudes: Spiritually Poor

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Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Some have observed that there may only be eight Beatitudes. Some would even argue that there are really only seven distinct features of character in the Beatitudes. It has been noticed by several critics, who by the sevenfold character thus set forth have rightly observed that a complete character is meant to be depicted in the Beatitudes. Seven means “complete” and by the sevenfold blessedness attached to it, a perfect blessedness is intended.

“Blessed” this word occur at least fifty-five times in the New Testament, it is important to understand its history, which is interesting because it is one of those numerous words which exhibit the influence of Christian association and usage in enlarging and dignifying their meaning. Its root is supposed to be a word meaning “great.” Its earlier meaning appears to be limited to outward prosperity; so that it is used at times as synonymous with rich. Nevertheless, even in its pagan use, the word was not altogether without a moral background. The word “blessed” is exactly represented in the story of Zechariah. In the story of Elizabeth we see the story of Zechariah. When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” Here, the word has moved to mean more than great, it includes “happy” a “great happiness.”

It is opposed to pride, and vanity, and ambition. Such are happy! Other teachers had taught that happiness was to be found in honor, or riches, or splendor, or sensual pleasure.

Likewise the word “poor” is important to understand. The word expressing poverty is found in the New Testament 34 times. Luke (21:2-3), calls attention to the widow who bestowed her two mites on the poor. She now has nothing to live on! Luke also does a strange thing with the Beatitudes, Luke doesn’t say “poor in spirit” only “poor.” Nevertheless, there is a distinction, one who “earns a scanty pittance,” “to crouch or cringe,” and therefore conveys the idea of utter destitution, Such as one who lives by alms. Hence, it is applied to Lazarus and rendered “beggar.” The gospel by Jesus was preached to the poor. Those who were begging for more of God’s spirit.

This concept of “poor” was not difficult to understand. Riches produce pride, anxiety, and dangers, and not the least is the danger of losing heaven by them.
To be poor in spirit is to have a humble opinion of ourselves; to be sensible that we are sinners, and have no righteousness of our own; to be willing to be saved only by the rich grace and mercy of God; to be willing to be where God places us, to be willing to be in his hands, and to feel that we deserve no favor from him. The explanation of this lies in the fact that it is generally “the poor of this world” who are “rich in faith” and while it is often “the ungodly” who “prosper in the world”.

Thus this passage becomes very graphic, denoting the utter spiritual destitution, of the believer in the kingdom of God which cannot be relieved by one’s own efforts. But only by the free mercy of God. The man who knows his sins is greater than one who raises a dead man by his prayer.

“The kingdom of heaven” here means the reign of God in the heart and life of God’s people. Once more, as “the kingdom of heaven,” which is the first and the last thing here promised, has two stages: 1) A present and a future, 2)An initial and a consummate stage. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The poor in spirit not only shall have the kingdom, they already have the kingdom.

So the poor in spirit are enriched with the fullness of Christ, which is the kingdom in substance. When He shall say to them from His great white throne, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you….” A closed hand cannot receive. “To the angel of the church in Laodicea writes: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm– neither hot nor cold– I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.