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Mercy - Matthew 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.- Matthew 5:7

                We live in a world of imbalance.  Material wealth is distributed unevenly, but people have non-material qualities in differing degrees, too.  Some are more intelligent or have more or less artistic skill or scientific aptitude or business acumen.  Yet some skills or abilities can be increased or developed beyond natural aptitude.  This is true, too, for our emotions, our capacity to feel, especially to feel for others.

But what makes people merciful?  What makes us care about others in need?  Some people may be born with more merciful hearts, and some may have been taught well.  But mercy is most powerful when it comes from the heart, and we are most inclined to feel mercy for others when we know that we ourselves depend on mercy each day.

As we consider the progression of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 we see that the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven because, only if we admit our sin and depravity can we receive God’s offer of salvation.  When a grasp of the gravity of our sin causes us to mourn, we are comforted by the assurance of forgiveness in Christ.  This makes us meek, for we can no longer enforce our will over someone else once we ourselves are humbled at the realization our standing before God.  And aware of what we do not have and what we are not, we hunger and thirst for what we would be; we long to be like God and so crave His righteousness.

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 12:41 -- john_hendryx

Must We Meet Any Conditions For God to Love Us?

The Bible teaches that God's love is unconditional for his children. In the view of some God will only love someone if they first do something for him - meet a condition. But the love of God in the Bible is that he first loved us, in spite of our disobedience. While we were still sinners Christ died for us. While we were dead in sin, Christ made us alive (Eph 2:5)

As an everyday example,some think the kind of love God has is like a parent whose toddler runs into the street. The parent stands at the curbside waiting and calling to the toddler to get out of the way of oncoming traffic but will do nothing more for the child if he does not first use his free will to obey the parent. What kind of love is that? Love is when a parent sees his child in trouble, and yes he calls out, but he also drops everything, runs out in the street at the risk of his/her life, scoops up the child and makes certain he is safe. That kind of love gets the job done. The child was disobedient but the parent did not care what the will of the child was at the time. He loved him too much to leave him to himself and the parent knows better then the child what is good for him. He "violated" the childs will BECAUSE he loved him. He would be dead otherwise.

Jesus taught that some don't believe because they are not his sheep, children of the devil. (John 8 & 10) But to those Christ came to save, he does not merely leave them to their own devices. He does not "help those who help themselves." No, he helps those who are unable to help themselves. God has conditions yes, but Christ meets the conditions for us. We love God because He first loved us. That is love..

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 09:53 -- john_hendryx

What Makes Us Hungry? - Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. - Matthew 5:6

We are not righteous by nature.  We are sinful, broken and rebellious.  We acknowledge that and admit that we have no goodness in us that should recommend us to the Lord.  We might even grieve over our sin, those behaviors and attitudes that displease and alienate us from God.  And if we are honest with ourselves, this humbles us and takes away from us any basis for pride or elevating ourselves over others; it makes us meek.

We have thus addressed the first three Beatitudes:

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.

But then we come to the fourth: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  This is the experience of the true Christian.  As we enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we realize what we lack, we mourn it and we are made meek.  But we don’t stop there.  As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we come to desire what He desires.  It is not enough for us to admit what we lack; we want it!  We see God’s righteousness, in His Word, in His son, and we praise Him for it.  What we once avoided we now see as beautiful and we yearn for it.  And that desire is so intense, and so fundamental that it is like our hunger for food and thirst for water.  It feels so essential to our new spiritual lives that we would waste away and die without it.

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 18:17 -- john_hendryx

Blessed are the Meek - Matthew 5:5

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. - Matthew 5:5

Our society does not value meekness. We honor the ambitious; we reward the “self-starters.” Meekness is considered by many to be synonymous with weakness. In business and in relationships, people are encouraged to be more bold. Those who are not are pitied. For how else are we to get what we want, and our culture is all about getting what we want.

But the Kingdom of Heaven has completely different priorities. As we have seen in the Beatitudes, the Kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit, those who are aware that their sin leaves them morally and spiritually bankrupt, and in no position to negotiate a deal for salvation with God. We must cast ourselves on Him and plead His mercy; and He does respond in mercy. As Jesus says in John 6:37, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

The second beatitude says “Blessed are those who mourn.” It is not that mourning is inherently beneficial, but grief over our sin is the only right response to having transgressed against a God Who has loved us so well. As we are initially forgiven and brought into the kingdom of heaven, our former way of life and the remaining effects of sin will cause us to mourn. But those who mourn will be comforted, as God continually gives grace and forgiveness.

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 09:06 -- john_hendryx

Those Who Mourn - Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. - Matthew 5:4

The first and possibly most famous part of the Sermon on the Mount consists of a series of eight statements, each of which begins with the phrase, “Blessed are the . . . .” In the Latin Vulgate, this portion is entitled “Beatitudenes,” which comes from the word for “happiness,” and is the origin of the common English name for this section, The Beatitudes.

A common misunderstanding about the Beatitudes comes from this title. The Beatitudes are not a recipe for how to be happy. Because of our highly individualized society, contemporary Western readers in particular read the Bible as a self-help book, but to read the Beatitudes that way would actually get them backwards. They do tell us how to attain happiness, but they describe a settled joy that is the result of membership in the Kingdom of Heaven. Citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven, though, originates with Christ and His call to us to follow Him. We cannot simply use Him as a means to our own self-fulfillment.

A second way the Beatitudes can be misunderstood is if they are read as isolated, unrelated statements. Each of the Beatitudes is, in fact, related to the others, and the order in which they appear is intentional and important.

The first Beatitude is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (v. 3).” As discussed earlier, “poor in spirit” does not mean we are discouraged by our lack of wealth, but refers to our spiritual poverty, the lack of anything innately good or righteous in us. When we realize our moral bankruptcy before God and that we have no means to bargain with Him so that we might enter His kingdom, we come to Him humble and broken and He receives us on the basis of Christ’s finished work at the cross, and not because of anything that we have done.

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 09:16 -- john_hendryx

A Kingdom for the Poor - Matthew 5:1-3

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:1-3

      When the time for Jesus to begin His earthly ministry, he was baptized by John.  John protested, “But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 4:14-15).”

      Jesus then went into the wilderness, where He fasted for 40 days, was tempted by the devil (4:1-11), and emerged victorious. 

     Having prepared Himself this way ceremonially and spiritually, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17).”  The Kingdom of Heaven was always central to Jesus’ preaching.

He next called His disciples (4:18-22) and taught them, too, about the Kingdom.  His first extended teaching in Matthew 5-7 is called the Sermon on the Mount.  It is not a plea for repentance to the undecided, but is instruction about what Kingdom living looks like to those who have been called by Jesus to be His disciples.  The crowds were present (v. 1), and Jesus is always speaking to those who will listen, but as He sat on the Mount to teach, His intended audience was the disciples He had just called.  His teaching still applies to the church today.  If we would follow Jesus, we need to be aware that we are submitting to the King of the Kingdom of Heaven.  And the Sermon on the Mount tells us what Kingdom living looks like.

Sat, 08/02/2014 - 17:02 -- john_hendryx

The Servant of Justice - Isaiah 42:1, 5-9

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
    nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
    and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
    I tell you of them.”

Isaiah 42:1, 5-9

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 02:32 -- john_hendryx

Reason to Rejoice - Psalm 118

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Without notice of the context, this quote from Psalm 118 has come to mean something like, “God is our Creator. God is good. Life is good. Enjoy it.” All of this is true, in a sense. But in its context it really means so much more.

Psalm 118 is another Messianic psalm, which means it refers to the life and ministry of Christ. Verse 22 is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 21 in reference to the Pharisees’ rejection of Him as the Christ. They rejected Him, but He is the foundation, the standard of all that is straight and true for His people. Jesus continues, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits (Matthew 21:43).” So rejecting Him forfeits our place in His kingdom, and we must bear fruit to confirm we are His.

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 11:42 -- john_hendryx

A Priest Forever - Psalm 119:4-7

4 The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord is at your right hand;
    he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
He will execute judgment among the nations,
    filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
    over the wide earth.
He will drink from the brook by the way;
    therefore he will lift up his head.

The biggest question for readers of this second half of Psalm 110 today may well be, “Who is Melchizedek?” As we saw in the earlier verses, this is a Messianic psalm, teaching us something about the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. It is the Messiah to come that the Lord appears to be addressing when He compares Him to Melchizedek, so the more we know about Melchizedek, the more we know about Jesus Christ.

Melchizedek first appears in Genesis. After a great battle with five kings, Abraham rescued his nephew, Lot, and many others who had been taken captive. Melchizedek, king of Salem (later, Jerusalem), and priest of God Most High, brought Abraham bread and wine and blessed him:

All we know about Melchizedek at this point is that his name means, “King of Righteousness,” and he is king of the city called, “Peace” (Hebrews 7). But how can he be the priest of God Most High centuries before God instructed Moses on Mt. Sinai about proper worship for God’s people? The writer to the book of Hebrews list additional mysteries about Melchizedek: “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life (Hebrews 7:3).”

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 10:44 -- john_hendryx

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