Message of the Beatitudes – Five – Merciful

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

Life is a struggle.  We fear.  Life hurts.  Now we’ve been judged by others.  When life throws us into a pit, and we can’t find a way to climb out, who has shown us mercy and offered us a hand to get out?  Sometimes we only catch a glimpse of judgment on the faces of those who see us suffering – as if they’ve never worn anyone else’s shoes and have never been down-trodden.

But perhaps judgmental reactions are what they received while down in their own pit, and it’s the only reaction they understand.  Perhaps their behavior is due to their unbroken spirits in the Lord. They do not acknowledge that God has shown them mercy, and that they have more power to show mercy once they experience it themselves.  But to experience mercy, we all must acknowledge that we owe God a great debt and that we are unable to repay it and that God has offered to forgive us, undeservedly.  Mercy is a form of grace, which is undeserved favor.  Mercy is undeserved compassion and forgiveness.

So let’s back up for one moment.  What is mercy?  Mercy is an active empathy extended to relieve someone in misery, pain and/or distress, regardless of who it is.  This includes our enemies.    We should be on the lookout for those in distress and not pass by on the other side of the road.  We should have a heart of pity and our deepest desire should be to help no matter who the sufferer is.

Jesus lived a life of mercy.  He spent His time surrounded by those less fortunate; he suffered with the suffering, the addicted, the homeless and the prostitutes.  With whom do we surround ourselves?  What judgmental attitudes block our ability to extend mercy?  God’s desire is to be seen through us.  The Holy Spirit desires to penetrate that which hinders us from being God’s light to a suffering world.  

Have we become an indifferent people?  Are we now a people who lack concern for others?  If we have suffered, we should be the first to show compassion and mercy upon those that are suffering.  For we know that God pulled us up out of our pits when God showed mercy on us.  We should never condemn others.  Yet if someone stumbles, we are not to accept their sin as good, but we are to lend a helping hand and offer them God’s forgiveness.  Even Jesus said to the adulterous woman, who was condemned by the Pharisee’s, “Where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  When she indicated that nobody had, Jesus then mercifully said, “Then neither do I condemn you.  Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

Suffering is not always for no reason.  Suffering allows us to become better Christians – having compassion for those who are suffering perhaps something we’ve suffered ourselves.  What have we suffered and how can we use that experience to help a fellow brother/sister through the trials or sins in which they find themselves?

For one of the greatest blessings of receiving mercy is to be merciful ourselves.

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Reborn to be Free

I would like to take a moment to introduce you to Maggie Mae.  Maggie is our 16 month old Great Dane, and she is a brilliant dog.  She is always surprising us with her cleverness.  We got Maggie when she was 7 weeks old.  Earl took four hours deciding, while watching all the puppies in the litter before finally picking Maggie.  It was her natural curiosity that tickled Earl.  Now, Earl and Maggie are inseparable.  She loves and adores him and will protect him from me at all costs, including hugs and kisses….oh the dog’s life I live.

One day when I was getting ready to start work in my home office, I found Earl and Maggie watching the old 1966 movie “Born Free”.  Maggie does not watch TV normally, but on this particular morning she was so engrossed in the film, it was comical.  It was the end of the movie, where the lioness, Elsa, had been training for weeks to learn to hunt and kill for herself, so she could be set free in the wild and be able to survive on her own. 

Now Maggie has her big dog stuffed toys: a moose, a cow, a turkey and her squirrel.  Each day Maggie is let outside to spend the day in the great wild of our backyard.  As I passed the kitchen window, I happened to see Maggie running past with a squirrel in her mouth.  My thought was “How did she get her toy squirrel outside?” and so I went to go and get it when I noticed her toy squirrel on the living room floor.  My jaw dropped.  I went racing for the window only to see Maggie outside frolicking with a real squirrel, dead in her jaws.  I cannot figure out how Maggie, this huge 140 pound Great Dane managed to kill a squirrel.  Then, I believe as a gift for Earl, she left it on the back porch. 

But in remembering her total immersion in the Born Free movie, I saw her acts as analogous to those of Christians.  When we totally engross ourselves in God’s Word, and we allow Him to teach us His ways, we will actually take what we’ve learned and apply them to our everyday lives.

We are set free to serve God in the capacity to which He appoints us.  Just like Elsa, she went into her natural habitat and after learning how she was to hunt, she applied herself.  When we are set free in Christ, we break the chains of slavery to this captured world of evil and we are given new life.  In Galatians 5:1 “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.”  We are to walk away from our dependency on what the world has to offer and immerse ourselves in the world that God has to offer us.

We were born to be free in Christ.  It is only through being born again that we taste and live that freedom.  1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.  It is through this hope that we are assured of a new life both here on earth and later in an eternal life with Christ.  For in John 3:3 “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Where Maggie saw Elsa and learned how to hunt to survive, we should see The Lamb and learn how to love, to have compassion, to give to those in need, to worship and glorify God and to live an abundant life in Him.  For once we learn His way of life we are born again, to be free.

“If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

Message of the Beatitudes – Three – Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

  I am not meek, but I am working towards it. 

Most people would not admit to working on becoming a meek person.  We are usually offended when referred to as having too meek a personality or character.  Why?  From all that our culture values, to be meek is to be mild-mannered, spineless, weak, submissive, subservient, passive and even in-effective.  Meek people get trampled. 

Maybe we do not understand what being meek is really all about from Jesus’ perspective. 

Being meek is the middle ground between excessive anger and being completely dispassionate and passive.  Anger is not a sin, nor is it necessarily bad.  The bible says that we are to be angry, but sin not.  Anger can be a great motivator.  It can help us to get charged about God’s righteousness and justice.

Everyone gets angry. But anger is often a selfish response to the world and other people.  If we were left up to our own devices and decisions, everything would be going our way.  So what is it that make us angry?  We may feel anger when we lose control – when things don’t go as we planned and we begin to feel powerless to change them.  We can feel anger when other people’s decision’s adversely affect our lives without our consent.

Jesus was meek.  But Jesus also became angry.  But his anger was a righteous anger for the down-trodden and the oppressed.  His heart burned when people called by His name ignored “the least of these, my brethren.”  He promises judgment for those who truly hurt children and cause them to stumble.  His soul reacted when He saw his Father’s temple being used for profit instead of the worship of God.  James 1:19-20 “This you know, my beloved brethren.  But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Note that when Jesus became angry, His anger was focused on those that caused suffering to others and on the disrespect shown towards God and His worship.  Jesus’ anger was never about Himself.

The meek are not easily provoked to anger; they patiently bear and put up with injuries and affronts;  they carry themselves courteously and affably to all; they have the best thoughts towards others; they do not envy the gifts and graces of other people, and they are willing to be instructed and admonished.  Meekness is patience during the midst of injuries.  Meekness produces peace.  It is proof of true greatness of soul.  It comes from a heart too great to be mowed down by insults.  It even prays for those who tear down.  He that is constantly ruffled, and raises a storm of passion when wronged, is at the mercy of every mortal that chooses to disturb him.

The meek are those who quietly submit to God; who can bear insult; are silent, or return a soft answer; who, in their patience, keep possession of their own souls.  To be meek is one who controls his strength and uses it appropriately.

You cannot achieve meekness without first achieving humbleness.  We submit ourselves to God and know that we can do all things through Him.  We humble ourselves into servant-hood…to love, to have compassion, to serve those around us, even those who are against us.  To be meek is to be wise….

So, what keeps us from being meek?  Ego.  

Besides the meek inheriting the earth, the bible refers to other blessings for those who are meek.  “The meek shall be satisfied.” “The meek He will guide and teach.” “The meek will become wise.” “The meek will be filled with fresh joy.”

So, what’s not to like about being meek?

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