Honeycomb

Your lips drip sweetness like the honeycomb, my bride. Honey and milk are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
-Song of Solomon 4:11

Jesus sees his bride as the most loving force, of people, on the earth.  We have Christ and his words of life.  We have his love in our hearts to share with others, including people who hate us.

We speak well of people who are after us or have it in for us.  We say nice things about people who have us in their sights for ill will.  We have nothing but good things to say about them.

When people curse us, we love them with God's love.  It is like we make an internal turn and let God love them through us, rather than curse back.  That is fundamental to the Christian life.

Our words and what we say out loud and in prayers, are perhaps our greatest tool for goodness and our greatest weapon against darkness.  If our enemy can get us to speak bad words against other people, we have been defeated and taken out.

We are not be be surprised when we are insulted, cursed or maligned.  We should not be surprised if everyone does not like us, and when otherwise nice people do not like us.

In fact, the further you go with Jesus, the better chance that otherwise upstanding people will call you "crazy" or a heretic or evil.  This has been what has been happening to Christ-followers since day one.  

It is hurtful when other Christians curse us and sometimes it is even members of our own families.  But Jesus warned us that this would happen.

The bride of Christ is a prophetic people who speak prophetic words.  The words of God that we speak, are prophetic words of how God sees people.  These words are not flattery, but a foretelling of what a person can truly be, in God's eyes.

We speak loving words that say what God says people could be or were created or destined to be, if they will.  The bride of Christ is the mouth of God in the world today.  We preach the good news, the gospel of Christ everywhere we go and by the words we speak.

This has always been God's plan, to have a prophetic, preaching people; who speak for Him in the world, to give the world the opportunity or invitation to be saved.

With our lips, we speak, breathe, eat and kiss.  If your lips drip with honey, it means you have been in contact with honey, with the sweet honey.  We have sweet words because we have been in contact with the sweetness of Christ.

I am and we are like a honeycomb, because God has said we are, and made us to be this way, in Christ.  Sweet words come from the well of Christ within us.  Sweet lips have been touched by the sweetness of Christ.

The bride who is kissed by Christ has sanctified lips that are sweet to the bridegroom.  How we speak and what we speak is a reflection of the affection that God has for us.  The bride of Christ is a people who bless and speak well of others, with words that build up, encourage and comfort.

The bride of Christ is lovely.  The bride reflects the love of the bride groom.  He says that we have sweet lips, that are like honeycombs.

Jesus loves people.  Those who become his bride are lovely to him.  And those who are his, who are his bride, will love people too.

Our hearts are captured with the love of Christ.  We love people the way he does.  We speak blessings with our lips, to people.

Amen.

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Here is a song, called Honeycomb, by Jimmie Rodgers:


Blessed Are The Pure In Heart

The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God.
-Matthew 5:8

How we see is connected to our hearts.  I used to think that this verse meant or only meant that the more pure my heart was, that I stood a better chance of seeing God.  The song, "Open The Eyes of My Heart", by Paul Baloche, from 1998; exemplified this.

I wanted to see God.  My goal was the know God, like the title of the best selling J.I. Packer book.  I also thought that the second part is indeed, "to make Him known".

Knowing God and making Him known still sounds good and that was my motto for many years.  And that is how I saw purity of heart.

But what I have learned in this middle season of my life, is that God is about making me be like Jesus and experiencing the life of Christ all the time.

I have learned, been learning, that God cares more about how I live all the time.

God cares about how I treat people and how I see people.  We see people, have a thought and take an action.
Christ followers have given God their hearts.  Our hearts overrule our minds.  Our thoughts are governed by our hearts.

If our heart is not in the right place, our thoughts will be askew.

God wants us to look at people from mercy filled hearts that are standing with righteousness.

If we are on our way to seeing God, because of the clearness of the lens of our hearts, we are going to see people more and more, the way that God does.

Jesus is Lord and King, but he is also the servant.  In Christ, we are meek and lowly, always trusting God and at the service of others, while not at all striving, but resting in the Father (Matt. 11;29).

I am learning that God wants me to see people the way He does.  I am also learning to see God the way that Jesus does.  The life of Christ, the Christian life, is the life of seeing God and seeing people.

In each interaction with people.  As I witness others in their speaking and acting, and in how I react or respond; the question is, "Am I seeing them as God sees them, from a pure heart?"

A pure heart is a heart that loves God.  The outward life will match the inward life of a lover of God.

The person who loves God with all their heart, soul and strength (Deut. 6:5) will show it in not just what they say or do; but in how they live their life, seeing God.  This is what Hebrews 11:27 is saying:
By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible.
Seeing God has always been the highest goal.  It is a goal that is only fully realized in the afterlife.  Our whole lives are lived as ones who desire to see God.

Seeing God is an "already and not yet" concept.  In the now, God is changing, purifying our hearts, so that we can see how He sees, and then in the future, we will see Him clearly.

Right now, for the most part, we are seeing Him who is invisible.  And He is training us to see how He sees.  Jesus is also training us to see and do what the Father is doing (John 5:19).

Each of the beatitudes (fortunate states) build upon each other.  They are circular and organic, like art or music.  Purity of heart is the result of something.

People with pure hearts have already gone through something.  They already have other processes happening in their lives.

These five blessed states of good fortune (beatitudes) have already been going on, in the person's life, who has purity of heart:
  1. The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. 
  2. Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted. 
  3. The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth. 
  4. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled. 
  5. The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy.
Each verse sounds good alone and people might quote one of these on a card or for an encouragement.  But they were given in a certain order and in a context.  The sixth blessing or blessed state of purity of heart comes after the previous five.

A person who has a pure heart:
  • will fully see God one day 
  • sees as God sees 
  • sees God working in other people today
That person is in a transformational process.

The first three beatitudes are about our realization of our need for God.  We are powerless and we are not God.  We who have been through the doorway of the first three blessings have become convicted of our personal sin.  

We who have realized we are poor in spirit, mourn and have taken on a life of meekness, because of the humility he have from being humbled to know our weakness, have come into a place of hungering and thirsting for righteousness.

This is very different than someone who 'parachutes in' to Christianity and says that they hunger and thirst for righteousness.  That person is something different, from the one being described here.  

It is from the place of humility that the meek person thirsts and hungers for righteousness, that God fills.  That person, in turn, becomes a merciful person; who receives and gives, then gives and receives more mercy.

And that person becomes the person who sees God.

If you do not see as God sees, with mercy, then you may have forgotten or are forgetting how much you need God and have stopped living in humility, and may even have stopped hungering for God's righteousness and have become enamoured at you own.

Have you stopped being humble?  Have you stopped mourning?  Have you become so strong or knowledgable that you are no longer meek, gentle or kind?

That is the kind of person who can not see God.  They think and say that they see God and are telling us that, but they are seeing with distortion or with their own imaginations.  Because you can not have the good fortune of seeing God, while neglecting or forgetting your own bankrupted state of depravity or insubordination, outside of God's grace that comes only to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).

The people who have pure hearts are people who have been mourning about the impurity in their hearts.  Vision of God comes from acknowledging that I am blind.  Seeing people the way God sees people is the result of my grieving that I don't see them and I don't get them the way God does.

And this is not a formula, but a life.

When I realize that God loves me, I become secure enough to see God's love for others and see others through the love of God.  If I a not secure in God's love, if I do not know He loves me and if I am not living as one who is loved; then I am going to have real problems seeing other people through God's love.

In these profound sayings, the beatitudes or blessed states or good fortune; Jesus says how the life works and how it works is inside-out.

The pure heart comes from this place of humility and absolute surrender to God.  The work that is already going on in a person, results in purity of heart, which gives a person vision.

If you can not see what God is doing or if you can not see a person with God, then you have a heart problem.  When I am critical of someone, ungracious, not generous, impatient, or oppositional; I might not be seeing the person with God.

God is after changing our hearts.  We don't want to be people who do the right thing or say the right thing, but have not been transformed in our hearts.  

Sky Links, 2-24-17

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.
-Psalm 16:11

Here are excerpts from and links to a few of the most interesting and encouraging posts I have read lately:


The Travel Ban Controversy and The Church

Lael Arrington wrote about President Trump's executive order, "The Travel Ban", and the controversy or debate that it gave rise to in the church in the United States:
Recently I was asked to sign a Lutheran Ministry’s petition protesting President Trump’s executive order on refugees. Frankly I felt very conflicted, unsure of how to respond.
Rarely has a national conversation about social justice been so loaded with appeals to the Bible and a Christian worldview. And yet rarely have Christian leaders been so divided in their response. Even Christian ministries to refugees and foreigners. Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse, is defending the order and our need for national security, World Vision and World Relief are protesting it...


Your 20's Might Be The Most Important Decade For Your Formation


Paul Sohn wrote about 30 lessons in life that he learned before turning 30.  Here are seven of them:

9. Calling Is About Complete Surrender.
Calling is about responding the Caller. It’s not choosing your own destiny. It’s not about the American Dream. It’s about responding to summons. How well you respond determines how well you live a life worth living.
10. Vulnerability Breeds Authenticity And Trust.
I always had a façade of professionalism. I needed to appear “perfect” in the eyes of others. I was fearful I would be considered inferior if I showed my weaknesses. Instead, I realized over the years, my lack of vulnerability created more distance with others. It prevented building 1-mile deep relationships.
13. Go Slow To Go Fast.
My desire to go faster has done more damage than good. Especially when working with others, taking time to build deep and intentional relationships with others, in the beginning, will do wonders once the trust is built into the working relationship. My task-driven nature is something I am aware of and continually need to remind myself of the big picture.
20. Be Interested Before Being Interesting.
I realized people don’t care about how much you know until how much you care.

22. The Power Of Journaling.
I started journaling since I was 14. Though it started off as an assignment from my ESL program, I am grateful I continued this habit. As I look at my writings, I was able to relive my past experiences both good and bad. I hope to use this information to write my autobiography one day.
29. Listen, Listen, Listen.
I used to simply teach others what I knew. I never truly listened to my family, friends and colleagues. I realized how listening is the secret to great communication.
30. Life-Long Learning Matters.
Gandhi said it best, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” The key to unlocking life-long learning really starts with an insatiable curiosity.


Idealists In Recovery

Amy Leigh Bamberg wrote about idealists, Myers-Briggs 'NF's', and their challenging idealism that God wants to redeem:
For three years now I have lived without an official platform for ministry or position for leadership. During this sobriety God proves that rather than forcing me to abstain from expressing my temperament, he works to redeem it. He wants to purify my personality so that his personhood shines through it. He does this by ordering my faith in his eternal Truths above my emotions and experiences. In his graciousness, he never demeans the latter for the former.
With the redemption of my temperament, I join with other idealists to inspire, instruct, and organize classrooms, companies, or communities with confidence. I still encounter disappointment daily and must battle cravings for that cocktail. I fight the resurging lie that some pie-in-the-sky scenario of ministry, marriage, and zip code will alleviate the angst I feel in living in this fallen world...
Idealists Anonymous, Amy Leigh Bamberg. 



Interactive Meetings and Learning Environments For Growth and Connection

Josh Packard has written a number of posts on meetings and how we often do not meet in them:
If you're designing events and meetings that don't put people into connection with each other, then you're operating with a model that was built for a different era. It's a new world, and we need to engage people differently...
Live Studio Audience, by Josh Packard. 
This past summer I had the honor of speaking on the mainstage at Influence 2016, the annual summer conference for the National Speakers Association. It was a thrill to get to bring my message to this audience, and I had a great weekend talking with everyone about why people are leaving traditional institutions, how to bring them back with more opportunities for authentic participation and how to create interactive events.

One of the things that stuck out to me to most from this experience was that even professional speakers want conferences that are more participatory and interactive!..

Too many managers, event planners and speakers are either uneducated about the data surrounding what makes for effective learning communities. They stand and talk, not because they don’t care, but just because they don’t know any other way.

To counter this, here are three things that you need to do in the FIRST FIVE MINUTES of any presentation to maintain interest and engagement.
  1. Do something that requires your audience to engage with you. Maybe they answer a question by raising their hands. Maybe you do a quick interview from a floor mic. Maybe they ask you some questions to get started....


Learning From Failures 


Steve Sjogren wrote about (wisdom gained) from his biggest mistakes of 2016.  
Here are a few to mull over:
  • Not enough margin for failure
I tend to see “Margin” as the part of life that allows me to live in “Balance.” I no longer believe in the concept of balance. That word comes from physical matters such as walking. If you tape the walk of someone, then play it back in slow motion, you might surprise at just how “unbalanced” balance is. Just as one leg comes to the end of its forward stride, it looks like we are about to fall forward. Then at the last second, the other leg comes forward. Step after step this is repeated, as we move forward.
In short, my thinking has been akin to “Either goes for a win, or don’t try at all.” To fail in ministry can sometimes bring finances stresses.
If you are the pastor of a church of any size, and tick people off, for necessary reasons or not, chances are some will withdraw their financial support. We have to do what we have to do. Just make sure you must do it and make the call to change comes out of necessity, not your personal anger.
Most of the heroes of the faith in Scripture went through large trials. I’ve noticed that the majority of the biblical characters went through great trials. The trials weren’t so much a surprise as for where they came from – sometimes from God alone, but sometimes brought most of it on themselves.
Without their failures and some of the suffering of it, I’m not sure we’d have the famous “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews chapter 11.
  • Didn’t move into the future wilder and far riskier


If you are a leader, you may have been told in one way or another, that you’ve been too wild and dangerous. Some who look up to us want an absolute guarantee that they will not be a challenge with possible failure. If you model by testing others, you will make some feel uncomfortable. Without saying a thing leaders send a message that how they live is how their followers ought to live as well. Some critics in your world of influence may interpret “Failure” as real failure instead of seeing some of the spiritual parts that come with following God.
“Not wild enough?” you ask. “I thought great models of leadership were “Mature” and had few missteps.”
I don’t want to be a killjoy about your 2017, but if you insist on playing life safely, you won’t make much progress this year...

From Steve Sjogren, My Favorite Mistakes of 2016 



Emmanuel

Jody Neufeld wrote about how God is with us always, most definitely during the hard times:
Sometimes life is just hard. Some days are more than difficult with loved ones ill, children trying to navigate through tough questions and circumstances, and job security and health insurance a thing of the past.
If we are men and women of faith, we turn to our Bibles looking for God’s promises. We come to study groups and join others in worship, all searching for answers, encouragement and guidance from our Savior. We want to know that His promises are true. We want to know we are not alone and that God understands. We need more than the promises...
From Jody Neufeld, The Truth, The Whole Truth!


Wisdom From a Real Missionary

J. Guy Muse wrote a post on things God is teaching him:
Be faithful in the little things. God will accomplish much through my small acts of obedience.
Thoughts are sub-conscience prayers. Be aware of what I am praying.
What is not given is lost. What am I hanging on to that ought to be given away?
One negative comment packs more power in someone's life than a dozen positive remarks. I need to be careful how and what I communicate with others. If I am unable to build someone up, it is better to remain silent than use words that will tear someone down.
Confront problems, hurts, misunderstandings, and mistakes as soon as possible....
Things God is teaching me, by J. Guy Muse

African-American Evangelicals 

Roger Olson wrote about how African-American's are often not portrayed as Evangelicals, when, ironically, they are by-and-large, more Evangelical than the majority of American Christians:
Recently I discovered that many pollsters taking surveys of adult Americans and who ask questions about people’s religious identities automatically assume, as a matter of governing policy, that African-Americans cannot be “evangelicals.” Furthermore, this trickles down to them from the movers and shakers of American sociology of religion who, generally speaking, categorize American’s religious identities such that “evangelical” cannot include African-Americans.
(I discovered that in a major survey of American religious identities survey-takers asked people if they consider themselves “evangelical or born again.” But they only asked that of white people, not of African-Americans. My guess is that IF they asked that of most African-Americans they would hear a resounding “yes” to the question.)...


Discovering Meaning in Your Life

Barry Simpson wrote about living a meaningful life:
“Most of us lead far more meaningful lives than we know” wrote Rachel Naomi Remen in her great memoir, My Grandfather’s Blessings.
For most of us the meaning of our life is right under our nose. It’s been there all our lives; we fail to see it because we are focused on the distant horizon, the giant landscape, wondering when our day will finally arrive...
 Living a Meaningful Life, by Barry Simpson


Valiant: Courage With Determination

"Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”
-2 Samuel 2:7 (ESV)

There is a crossroads that we come to in our lives, when we have to choose to be courageous or not.  One way or another, we are given the discernment of what the right thing is to do.  But to do the right thing will require courage.

There is a word, that we do not use much, that describes this very thing.  And that word is 'Valiant'.  To be valiant is to show or possess courage, with a determination to do the right thing.

In the story that 2 Samuel 2:7 is a part of, to a group of men, David sends this word: "Let your hands be strong, and be valiant".  The surrounding context of the story tells us that for these men to turn their allegiance to David, it will be difficult and dangerous.  And that is why David says, "Be strong and be valiant".

To be valiant is to show or possess courage with determination.  Valiant to a word that is not in most of our vocabularies. To be valiant is to be brave and not cowardly.

Valiant people are the ones you want on your side.  And you call people that you are encouraging to stand with you to be valiant.

Valiant, valiance or valor are words that the writer of Samuel and the writer of Judges use to describe formidable warriors, who exercise the power of their personal strength.  Through Judges and Samuel there is war and there are warriors, and some people are described as valiant or men of valour: brave and courageous.

Valiance is also something you want in someone who is going to lead others.  For leadership, it is not enough to just possess godly wisdom and character.  A leader is a person who also has courage: "Having the courage of their convictions".  This same Hebrew word, 'ḥa-yil', translated 'valiant', in 2 Samuel, is translated, 'able', in Exodus 18:
But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They should judge the people at all times. Then they can bring you every important case but judge every minor case themselves. In this way you will lighten your load, and they will bear it with you. If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.” 
Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. So Moses chose able men from all Israel and made them leaders over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.
-Exodus 18:21-5 
Here we have an illustration of the delegation of authority or leadership.  The people that should be selected to lead will fear God, be truthful, not corrupted by bribes, and bravely courageous.  This is an Old Testament, rough draft of the qualifiers for an elder in the people of God.

Back to the story in 2 Samuel:  While it is clear to us that David was meant to be king and that God had rejected Saul, many people, 'on the ground' and 'at the time', did not get this.  The people had to come around or come to the realization, that David was meant to be their next king and was indeed 'God's chosen'.

It is ironic or perplexing for us today to read these stories and see people who are part of the twelve tribes, reject and oppose what we know to be God's plan or God's man.  These ideas go along with the saying today that, "God has no grandchildren", or Paul's words in Romans 9:6, "For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel."

In other words, we are not born into faith.  We must choose and decide what we believe and who or what we will follow.  My son and your son or daughter must decide for themselves if they will follow Jesus.

David, plainly said or told his messengers to say, to the men of Jabesh-gilead, that he had been anointed king over Judah, after Saul's death.   He blessed them and said thanks for what you did for Saul, that was kind, and he said that he planned to be kind to them as well.  In that context, David encourages them to be valiant, which means to show or possess courage with determination.

The context of this statement and David's words, are that there was danger and uncertainty about how things were going to shake out.  Saul's army or those who had fought for and were allied with the house of Saul and particularly against David, were still unsubmissive, insubordinate and at odds with David and what we, the readers today, see and read as God's plan.

David is doing diplomacy with the men of Jabesh-gilead.  He said, "God bless you and thank you for showing kindness to Saul.  I am now becoming king and I will show kindness to you.  Be strong and valiant."  They needed to be strong and valiant because they were in danger from the Philistines, and the Saul faction that was not behind David, would soon be knocking on their doors, asking or demanding their backing.

More of the story that helps us understand how difficult a situation that Jabesh-gilead was in, is the fact, told later, that it would be about seven years before other tribes would get behind David.  This snapshot, part of the larger story, takes place in a seven year, tumultuous window of time, where David is almost, but not yet fully, king of all Israel.

We know David is God's choice, but in the story, David and our eyes with David, looks for, seeks and invites people to join him as 'early adopters'.  And it is not simple or easy.  For seven more years, there would continue the last chapter of the civil war between the Saul loyalists and David.

What we learn is that David does not force himself on the rest of Israel, after Judah, but patiently waits for things to shake out.  David, who has already done a lot of waiting, has to wait some more.  David specifically waits on God to fully promote him.

In this context, David sent that message, contained in 2 Samuel 2, asking for support, and he encourages them to be courageous, and to do the right thing.

The word of wisdom in this story is applicable and relevant for us today.  To be shown or to realize what the right thing is to do, but not to do it, is cowardice.  But to have the courage of your convictions, and to do the right thing, in the face of opposition and unpopularity, is valiant.

To be valiant is to show or possess courage, with a determination to do the right thing.

We are called to be a valiant people.  And our war is not against flesh and blood.  We are a warrior people, doing battle against the devil's schemes.

Valiance is to have courage to do the right thing in the face of adversity and opposition.

Happy Days Are Here, Again

Happy days are here, again.  We are in a new season.  A road is opening up.

We are in a time of God's favor.  We do not have to wait any longer for the new time.  It is here.    

God is doing turnarounds in the lives of people.  What people have been waiting for, saying, "how long oh Lord?", is happening.  Authentic desires, requests and dreams that have seemed impossible are happening right now.

Optimism is overcoming pessimism.  Belief, trust and hope will drown out cynicism.  Mourning will give way to dancing.

Dreams are coming true.  There is an open invitation being given, for a happier life.

From 2 Corinthians and Isaiah 49:
Working together with Him, we also appeal to you, “Don’t receive God’s grace in vain.” For He says:

I heard you in an acceptable time,
and I helped you in the day of salvation.
Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.

This is what the Lord says:

I will answer you in a time of favor,
and I will help you in the day of salvation.
I will keep you, and I will appoint you
to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land,
to make them possess the desolate inheritances,
saying to the prisoners: Come out,
and to those who are in darkness: Show yourselves.
They will feed along the pathways,
and their pastures will be on all the barren heights.
They will not hunger or thirst,
the scorching heat or sun will not strike them;
for their compassionate One will guide them,
and lead them to springs of water.
I will make all My mountains into a road,
and My highways will be raised up.
See, these will come from far away,
from the north and from the west,
and from the land of Sinim.

Shout for joy, you heavens!
Earth, rejoice!
Mountains break into joyful shouts!
For the Lord has comforted His people,
and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.
-2 Corinthians 6:2, Isaiah 49:8-13
We are in a time of favor.  But some of us, and that may even be the vast majority of us, have not recognized this.  We are still shaking off the old season.

It does not work to act like it is winter when it is spring, nor summer when it is fall.  We are going to be like bear cubs, who were born during hibernation, who are awakening to a whole new life.

Some us are afraid of the new time, because we are so full of disappointment, from the old season, that we are afraid of being permanently passed over.

God is saying to us, "I have never forgotten you.  I have never stopped loving you.  I have been with you through all the suffering.  Your sorrow has been befor me all along.  Do not worry.  Continue to grow in trust."

Take a look at the next three verses, in Isaiah 49:
Zion says, “The Lord has abandoned me;
The Lord has forgotten me!”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or lack compassion for the child of her womb?
Even if these forget,
yet I will not forget you.
Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
your walls are continually before Me.
-Isaiah 49:14-16
We are realizing that God has been with us in unhappiness.  He never turned away.  This process or realization is like a catapult.

The more I know that God has been good to me, the more that I can enjoy Him and what He has for me in times going forward.  If I do not know that God has been with me in the desert, I will not know how to walk and receive and lay hold of the life God has for me in the land of promises fulfilled.

Happy days are here, again.  A time of favor is here, again.

Be consoled.  Your dreams are not cancelled.  Your prize or reward has always been God's love.

See your life in God's hands.  What will God do?

Mercy People

Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
-Matthew 5:7 (CEB, NLT)

Are you a merciful person?  I don't mean how you see yourself, but I mean what you do.  Merciful means compassionate and kind.

Have you thought about kindness?  God is kind to us and we are kind to others.  The Bible says that God's kindness is what gets people saved.

I became acquainted with 'the kindness guy', Steve Sjogren, a number of years ago.  Steve has a couple of books all about God's kindness.  I will never forget when my friend Mike and I knocked on doors of businesses, on Valentine's Day, and gave flowers to ladies, in Jesus name.

Years ago, I also learned about how God heals people because of his mercy and compassion.  In Matthew nine, there is a story of the two blind men, who call out to Jesus, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" (9:27)  And that is the mercy that Matthew has in mind, when he writes down, what Jesus spoke in his beatitudes.

And I also like how The Passion Translation gives this verse:
How satisfied you are when you demonstrate tender mercy!  For tender mercy will be demonstrated unto you.
To review what a 'beatitude' is:
The beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10, are a list of blessed facets of the followers of Jesus. But "blessed" is a word that we have to make sure we understand. Jesus is not talking about the person whom God blesses, but is describing a happy person, a fortunate person: "someone who is to be congratulated, someone who's place in life is an enviable one" (RT France, Matthew, p. 108, 1985).
The beatitudes are given in a particular order.  The happiness of a person who shows others mercy follows on the heels of that person's experience of craving righteousness and justice fulfilled by God.  It starts with a personal reckoning that I am hopeless and utterly impoverished without God.

Personal poverty and hopelessness is the soil from which the life of kingdom of heaven can grow in me.  It is a blessing and I am highly fortunate, if I become aware of this about my self.  The message to me, in personal poverty and hopelessness is, "You are now blessed, because the kingdom of heaven is yours."

The blessed person who sees themselves as poor and hopeless outside of God begins a life of mourning, that is paradoxically also a happy life.  We continually mourn, but we are continually made happy.  Christ's followers are happy mourners.

This life of walking with God and following Christ teaches us or trains us to be humble.  Our pride is shifted off of our selves and on to God.  Personal pride just does not work or grow out of an authentic walk with God and a life desiring to follow Christ.

When we follow Christ, our whole life shifts towards God being great, rather than our selves.  But this does not mean that we take on or walk in low self-esteem or being like a worm.  It means that I begin to esteem myself through God's eyes: "He loves me and God has an inheritance for me that I will offer back to God, The King."

Then, from the living space of humbly walking with God and receiving an inheritance to give back to the king, believers develop and cultivate a craving for the righteousness and justice of God.  This has nothing to do with and is diametrically opposed  to self-righteousness or works-righteousness.

The basis for the craving for righteous and justice from God, is a broken, hopeless heart, that grieves and mourns, and is humble.

That person becomes a demonstrator of mercy.  They live from mercy and practice mercy with those they meet.  The person who has been through the process that I described has seen the kindness of God and become a kind person.

God is kind.  When we experience God, we experience his kindness.  It is not a one time event, but a relationship.

Is God the kindest person you have ever met?

When we experience his kindness, we become kind people: mercy people.  We have been shown mercy and become demonstrators of mercy, in our lives.

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a story to illustrate that we ought to demonstrate mercy to others because mercy has been given so greatly to us.  Jesus illustrates how we ought to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven.  The hard word in the story is, that if we refuse to demonstrate mercy on others, then we forfeit the benefit of God's mercy in our own lives and become tortured in the prison of insanely trying to pay God for our own sins.

Mercy comes from the inside out.  Mercifulness is reciprocal in that we will not receive it if we do not demonstrate it.

Mercy or kindness, like humility, is a disposition that is a state of being, brought on through encountering God in Christ.  The attitude or the measure of our lives becomes mercifulness or kindness.  Jesus creates character in us first that will act right later.

Christianity is about Christ being in my life and living God's life.  It is not something I do, but is something I am being.  Having Christ is the first thing and how I act and live comes out of my being in Christ.

I do not take Christianity and master it or make it work for me.  Christianity is where I become controlled and animated, driven or compelled by Christ in me.  To be a Christian is not just to take up Christ's teachings and live them out, but to take my whole life and give it to Christ to live out.

Christianity that leaves this out, where the man or the woman seeks to follow Christ and his teachings, but never surrenders their whole lives, dying while living, taking up their crosses; is something other than Christian.

Being a mercy person is something you are.  How you treat others in the smallest settings is always the test of your Christlikeness.  To find yourself as having become and now being a mercy person is a blessed and highly fortunate place, says Jesus.

He says that when you are kind to others, you release kindness from others upon you.

What is mercy?  Mercy is different than love, peace, or grace.  Mercy sees misery and wants to relieve it.

Mercy wants to relieve suffering.  Mercy is when someone is suffering, in misery, and you desire to, you want to and you do something to help them.  Mercy is also when someone who has been your foe, who has opposed you, has been rendered powerless or is out of ammunition or sustenance, surrounded or cornered; and rather than destroy them, you have mercy on them.

In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus illustrates what a mercy person is like.  The shocking part of the story, is that a priest and a Levite each saw the man who had been robbed and beaten, half dead; and they each avoided him.  But the Samaritan man had mercy and stopped and took care of the suffering man. (Luke 10:25-37)

Jesus says that having mercy on people is what the Old Testament command to "love your neighbor" means.  Jesus said that the greatest command in the Law is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor.  And he said that the whole Law and the Prophets hang, depend or are based on these two. (Matt. 22:36)

We always have a merciful stance towards God.  We are in need of mercy and we go about receiving it.  At the same time, we have been transformed into mercy people who are kind.  Kindness is our calling card, what people notice and remember about us; what people experience when we come into contact with them.

Jesus people are mercy people.  Christ-followers are merciful.  To be a Christian is to be kind.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Notes, Bibliography:

Worm Theology, by Paul Coughlin
Me, Myself and I, by Archibald Hart
Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, D.M. Lloyd-Jones (1959), pp. 95-105
Conspiracy of Kindness: A Unique Approach to Sharing the Love of Jesus, by Steve Sjogren

Keep An Eye On Me

Protect me as the pupil of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings.
-Psalm 17:8

What is the Christian life about?  Is it about obedience, about being good?  The Christian life is about walking with God.

The psalms have poems that reflect the life of believers.  

God has his eye on me.  That is the life of the believer.  Walking with God is what the life is all about.

God is watching me and protecting me.  That is what the life of the believer is all about.  That is the fountain from which my life flows and the light from which my life emanates. 

Love for God is the basic thing, the center, the fountain from which the life flows.  God has his eye on me.  I am in God's gaze.  He is protecting me.

With those thoughts in mind, I live my life.  The Christian life is about walking with God.

Questions About Prophets and Apostles

In the church that was at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.” Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.

Being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they came down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
-Acts 13:1-4


And God has placed these in the church:

first apostles, second prophets,
third teachers, next miracles,
then gifts of healing, helping,
managing, various kinds of languages.
-1 Corinthians 12:28


A question about prophets:

A lady was complaining about prophets.  She said that the church she attends, has a lot of so called prophets.  She wonders about false prophecies and words about nice cars and jewelry.  The advice of many people, to her, is to run away from this church.  Some people said that the prosperity gospel churches or teachings are heretical and that prophetic ministry today should always be 'non-profit'.

When we have a problem with someone, it is best to go directly to them.  When you are bumped, you might say, "ouch", and then, "please stop bumping me", directly to the person that bumped you.  Assertiveness training is one of the top needs of Christians in churches today, and this is an illustration of that need.

When a situation comes about, of a person giving you a prophetic word, that you don't want; in other words, you do not want to hear it; you have the right to say "no".  And if this church is called something like, "God's People Church: Prophetic Ministry Center", they are already telling you what they like to do.  And the question is, "what are you doing there?"

Should prophets prophecy offerings or give a word saying that you should give them money?  Probably not.  But I do not have a specific verse for that.

Giving should always be free will, and never under any coercion.  And prophesying for you to give to me is out of line with the spirit of Christ, is what I would say.

Do all prophetic people, ministries, need to be 'non-profit' or '501c3's'?  No.

Should all prophetic or so-called prophetic words be true or accurate, and if they are not, is the person a false prophet?  No.  I believe that somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of prophetic words given today are inaccurate or false.

New Testament prophets are not the same as OT prophets.  NT prophecies are mainly encouragements and not predictions.  Many prophetically gifted people also flow in a gift called 'word of knowledge'.  And there is yet another similar but different gift called 'word of wisdom'.

Some prophets have all three or just the one.  And the gifting of prophecy, mentioned in 1 Corinthians, is different than the gift of prophet mentioned in Romans 12.  And the office of prophet in Ephesians 4 is also different than the former two.

Some prophets can teach and some can not.  Some teachers are not pastors.  And some pastors are prophetic but can not teach.  Many evangelists can not teach, but some are healers.

A Romans 12 prophet may or may not give personal prophecies and an Ephesians 4 prophet's ministry is to equip or train all Christians to be prophetic people.

How can I say that about 90% of prophecies are false, but still believe that prophetic ministry is real and is for today?  Because the NT says to:

  1. Desire to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1)
  2. Not to despise prophecies (1 Thess. 5:20)
How can churches manage this issue of false prophecies without quenching the Holy Spirit's work through people?  Train people that have the gift or desire to prophesy, to not ever say, "Thus says the Lord", but instead to be very humble and say things like:

  • "I don't know if I am getting this right but..."
  • "See if this word I think I have for you fits..."
  • "I don't know what this means, but I see (or hear)..."
Know that God may give pure and true revelation, but we get the interpretation or the application wrong.  There are three components to a prophecy:

  • Revelation (real or not real)
  • Interpretation (what this mean?)
  • Application (what should I do?)
Some of that 90% of false prophecies are real revelations with faulty interpretations or applications.


A question about God restoring apostolic authority and killing people:

You can look around and find people who say that God is restoring apostles to the church today.  One of the many questions that might come up about this has to do with the story of Peter's dealings with the couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who lied and died in Acts 5.

I recently heard Greg Boyd talk about this (link).  In a nutshell, this is what I heard Greg say, and I agree with him:

  • It was the devil that gave cause to their sin
  • Elijah did call down fire and killed the messengers in 1 Kings 1
    • He had the authority to do it
    • But God did not approve
  • When James and John wanted to call down fire, Jesus disapproved
    • "You know not what spirit you are of" (Luke 9:54)
  • Satan was the one who inspired the sin of Ananias & Sapphira
    • Satan is the father of lies
    • Satan is about killing and destroying
  • Did Peter kill the couple?
    • Maybe: please listen to what Greg says
  • Was killing disobedient ones what Jesus taught Peter?
    • No
  • If Peter used his authority to kill the couple, was it ok?
    • No
    • Peter may have been like Elijah 
      • Or like James and John (Lk. 9:54)
I started with Acts 13, where it mentions teachers and prophets (not apostles) who the Holy Spirit moves through, to commission or send two guys on a missionary journey.  It is interesting to note that sending is something the church does collectively to teams and couples or duos.

It is also interesting to note that people don't make you an apostle, but God does.  Acts 13 and 14 might illustrate that we call you apostolic after you have done apostolic ministry.  Paul may have been called from his mother's womb to be an apostle of Jesus, but he and Barnabas were not recognized as such until after they really did the stuff.

 In the next chapter (14:14), Barnabas and Paul are called apostles, and also Paul becomes Paul, instead of Saul.  What is interesting is that at the beginning of  their missionary journey, in Acts 13, they have a nasty encounter with a sorcerer, wherein Paul makes a declaration of physical blindness over the guy and he does go blind.

How is this ok or different than the Ananias and Sapphira story in Acts 5?  This story (Acts 13) is a story of a power encounter with a person who has become an agent of the Devil and is blocking the proclamation of the gospel.  In Acts 5, it is a church discipline matter of lying.

Bottom line:  I take the position that Acts 5 is descriptive, but not prescriptive.  Jesus gives us counsel on if we should kill people who reject the gospel: No.

If God killed Ananias and Sapphira, then that is God's decision and I don't think we can applaud, because scripture says not to (Prov. 24:17), and I would not even say that A & S were Peter's enemy.

But I don't think the text says God killed them, nor that Peter killed them.  It is a mistake to think that Acts 5 teaches that apostles are God's agents to kill people in or around the church.  This is a terrible and mistaken teaching.

The devil was there in their lives and inspired their sins.  And the devil always brings killing and destruction.  Sinners must take responsibility, while not blaming the devil; but the devil does inspire or tempt people to sin.

But the power encounter in Acts 13 is different.  Satan is also behind it.  But this is a clearly non-believer, who is blocking the reception of the gospel message.  

The big note is that God decides to do this to him, and Barnabas and Paul are God's instruments.  That seems to be how Luke presents the story.  Paul gave the hard word to the sorcerer, while filled with the Holy Spirit.

In the first case, Satan tempted the couple to sin and they did.  Somehow, in their case, death came, linked to their sins.

In the second case of the sorcerer, the man was an instrument of deception and lies and was used by the devil to block the preaching and reception of the gospel.  God, the Holy Spirit, decided to do something about him and his deeds, and used Paul, in what we call a power encounter.  And the reason for this was to bring glory to God, by having the gospel preached, and many people became followers of Christ.

The Brilliant Dance of Your Life

The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters.
-Romans 8:19 (CEB)

I believe that our life, as believers, is meant to be a brilliant dance.  It is a dance of the soul and our partner, who dances with us in brilliance, is the Spirit of God.

We sparkle and we shine.  We whirl and are vivacious.  Those watching us often will say, "How did they do that?"

The brilliant dance is when you do something remarkable.  You are a person who comes out of obscurity and brings leadership to a situation.  You are a person who knows what is to be done and says it out loud.

That is the brilliance of you and the dance of your life.  It is a dance of your soul and your partner is God.

The whirling and twirling of you life: "How did they do that?", onlookers will say; is because of the dynamism of God inside your life.

You seemed to come out of nowhere.  They will say, "Where did you go to school", or, "Where did you learn to do that?"; when you shine.

You shine, you sparkle and you do and say brilliant things; because of God.

Every single one of God's children are meant to be brilliant.  Each one.  God's plan has never been for only a few believers to be brilliant and for the rest of us to passively look on.

Every single believer is a jewel.  Each of us are precious to God and to each other.  We all sparkle and shine.  Every single one of us is destined for brilliance.

Every child of God is engaged to God in the brilliant dance of our souls.  Each one of us is destined for something spectacular.  Sounds too good to be true, because it is God's brilliant idea.

Each one of us are God's brilliant idea.  There is not one child of God that is not destined to be brilliant: to shine, to sparkle and to have a light that gives glory to God.

If you did not know this or if you gave up or if you are somehow or some way out of commission, get ready to be recommissioned by the Spirit of God.  Get ready to be called out to the dance floor that is your life and your soul with the real living God, the Spirit of God who is the helper, the counselor and the comforter.

Get ready for God to make you shine, sparkle and be brilliant.  Get ready to hear onlookers in your life notice you and have their mouths open and all gasp as they see what God does with you.

New Day Old Way

Why have You forgotten us forever,
abandoned us for our entire lives?
Lord, restore us to Yourself, so we may return;
renew our days as in former times,
unless You have completely rejected us
and are intensely angry with us.

The instruction of the Lord is perfect,
renewing one’s life;
the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy,
making the inexperienced wise.
-Lamentations 5:20-22, Psalm 19:7

The new day of today, of this season, is not all happy.  Many believers want a good new day, but feel like it is a bad new day.  Many believers believe or live like God has forgotten us.

Since I was a kid, and it was going on before I was born; many Christians have been very negative about what is going on in the world, and made their focus that the end was near.  That message is still here and probably still popular, although (I hope) less so.

Most all of us could be less negative towards everything and adopt the Biblical way of negativity called lament.  Lament sees the reality of things: no rose-colored glasses and no denial.  But lament also sees God, even if lament's eyes are very clouded with tears.

Lamentations is a whole book dedicated to lament.  In Lamentations 5:21, Jeremiah asks God to give his people a new day.  And the context of the whole chapter and the whole book, is that things are bad, very bad.

Things are bad today too.  We need to have a new day of restoration to God.  We need renewal, as a people.

The other thought or thing I want to share, is in the second quoted scripture above.  No matter what you are going through or facing, God's Word is perfect for you.  What God says, in the Bible:
  • Renews you
  • Is trustworthy
  • Gives you wisdom for living
What the Bible says defines our lives and refines our lives.

I have a stack of books to read, but I would much prefer reading the Bible.  When I have struggles or emotional pain, I want to think about what the Bible tells me.  

I think about the Bible, about what the Bible says, as I live out my life.  A challenging situation comes up and it goes up against the Word that I have in me.  This happens every day and all of the time.

Most of us are struggling with something or a number of things or situations.  I would say to us that most definitely, the answer to our troubles is in the Word.  Yes, God is our answer and God is our savior, redeemer, healer, deliverer and protector.

But there is a word for us in the word.  Many good words.  In fact, there are so many that I  can not count them.

But, sometimes, the word you need in the word is hard to find.  And we might pray and not hear anything or feel abandoned.

Circle back to lament.  Do not judge God.  Be very angry, but do not sin.

Lay on your bed or couch and be silent.  Learn the weapon of rest.  Most all of us, at least every Christian I know, over 90%; could use more rest.

Rest is not laziness, being a couch potato or selfish.  Rest is about renewal in God.  

Dare to go on a retreat, for 1 hour, 1 day or 1 week.  Try a sabbatical, if you have never had one.  "What's that?", I can hear people say.



To sum up, and these are some things I want to say, that I maybe did not make clear:
  • We are not in denial about how bad things are, in this new day
  • We lament, which is an honest cry to God and to others about the rotten state of affairs
  • But we know God is good and merciful, so we cry out for renewal of our days
  • Find your word in God's word
  • Get wisdom and life through the Bible
  • Become a person of the book
  • When you face challenges in life, let the Word in you go up against it
  • Let God's Word define you
  • Don't think you have to read the word to be accepted
  • Cultivate love for the person who inspired the Word
  • Have your verses that you think about and then add more
  • Find your own style and rhythm of reading, listening and thinking about the Word
  • Be honest with God 
  • Let God teach you
  • See the good and the bad and God in the midst of it 


It is a New Day

A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful.
He will give light to those who live in the dark and in death's shadow.
-Luke 1:78 (God's Word translation)

I have noticed that it's a new day.  I don't know if you have noticed, but I thought I would mention it.  Something new is happening or ready to happen.

Change has been in the air for some time.  The atmosphere has been changing and a new time is here.

Many things have not changed, but it is still a new day.  I still have many of the same problems.  But it is a new day, so the way I am facing those problems is a bit different.

Not only is it a new day, a new time and a new season; but I am becoming aware that I have changed or been changed.  And as I look around, at the people in my life, it seems they have been changed too.

In the new day, I believe I can expect new things.  And I do, but I don't know what they will be.  I have learned that God's gifts are often different and better than what I would imagine.


The Craving For Righteousness and Justice Fulfilled by God

Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
-Matthew 5:7 (CEB, NLT)

Righteousness and justice are what the world needs today.  Agreed?  Righteousness and justice are the need we see in the world today.  

And we hunger and thirst to see things made right and to be bringers of justice.  This is what drives some of us and becomes our mission.  But this is not the mission nor the message of Jesus.

Didn't Jesus come to save the world, to fix it?  

And isn't Jesus the answer for all the injustices?  

Isn't the heart cry of the Christ follower for things to be made right?

Pause.

Jesus' first audience for this word, were people who had been slaves as a people.  

Jesus' first audience for this word, were people who were living under a brutal occupation by a violent, unjust government.  

Jesus' first audience were very likely people who wanted to see justice and things made right in the world.

The injustice and unrighteousness in the world was real then and it is real now.  God sees it.  But Jesus' word here is a personal word to each person, who would consider following him.

We misunderstand Jesus, if we hear him say that he gets it, that we have injustice and unrighteousness in our society and he is going to fix it.  

We misunderstand Jesus if we hear him sending us as messengers of justice and community organizers of righteousness.  

We misunderstand Jesus if we are driven in our lives for justice and righteousness in our society.

Jesus did not come to bring social justice.  

Jesus did not come to bring justice and make things right in our societies then and now.  

He came to reconcile us to God and to reveal God to us and to bring God's kingdom of which God is the king of and we become subjects to.

That is why he came and that is his message.  His message is to repent of all of your sins and to make him Lord and give up your life for him.  His message is to know God's love and then begin loving others.

Those who are his followers are naturally going to crave righteousness and hunger and thirst after justice.  

But it is not because we see Jesus message and mission as bringing social justice to the world.  

We crave righteousness and thirst and hunger for justice, because we are pursuing God to the extreme.

This word about those who crave righteousness and hunger and thirst for justice is the fourth blessed state for the follower who has begun to experience the first three beatitudes.  These have a synergy that is started by encountering God in his son.  These involve the experience of personal poverty, bankruptcy and emptiness that turns towards Jesus for a changed life:
“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
“Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
Jesus is not saying, "I get it, now here's the plan to change society".

He instead says that it is all about laying down your whole life to God.

"God is king and God loves you", is Jesus message.

When I come through that door, I am going to have to change how I live.  And that is what Jesus is teaching us about.  Jesus' followers are hopeless, they grieve and they are made humble through that experience or process, which goes on through their whole lives.  And these humbled ones crave righteousness in their lives.

We have it backwards, if we think that now that we understand God, through Christ, we are going to bring justice to the world.  That is proud, self-righteousness.

This desire for justice, that Jesus is talking about, comes in the context of relationship with God that is intensely personal.  It is not about social or societal justice.

Jesus words are about intimacy with God.  The bedrock of his whole message is the Father's love for each one of us.  None of the rest of it works, if we do not experience the affection of Father.

When you have a foretaste, you get a taste for something.  And that is how it is with Christ.  And his righteousness, that we crave, comes through humility: it is not at all proud or self-righteous.

Christ's followers never look down on others in a self-righteous fashion, because we are continually embracing the humility that Jesus weaves into our lives as we follow him.  That is what bearing your cross is about.

When we set aside or set down our personal crosses and try to live, try to function and talk to others, there is a good chance that we will come across and pretty much be self-righteous people who are bad representatives of our Lord.  We'll be giving lip service to Jesus being Lord, but acting like we are bosses.

The righteousness that Jesus followers desire comes from hearts that are completely without hope in themselves and continually grieve their own hopelessness.  The craving for justice is through personal encounter with Christ, Jesus as Lord, and we know that true justice is only through him.

The hunger, the thirst and the craving is not to see righteousness and justice come about on earth through earthly means.  But it is to see heaven on earth.  This is like that hunger or craving that David was talking about in Psalm 42:
Just like a deer that craves streams of water,
my whole being craves you, God.
My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.
When will I come and see God’s face?
The hunger for righteousness and justice is the also like the hunger Isaiah wrote of in chapter 55:
All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!
Why spend money for what isn’t food,
and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is good;
enjoy the richest of feasts.
God is not trying to get us involved in social justice.  God wants to bring heaven to earth, though the lives of the saints. This is the birthright of followers of Christ.

Are we asking God to bring the kingdom or are we trying to bring our version of it?

The righteousness that Jesus is speaking of, that his followers will crave, is the desire to trust in God more and to be obedient to him more fully.  This is the goal of the life of a follower of Jesus Christ.  That is what Jesus is saying.

What Jesus is saying is that his disciples will hunger and thirst, even crave to live before God, in lives that are unmarred by sinfulness.  The child of God lives a life fully vindicated in Father's love.

Have you ever heard and wondered about the Negro Spirituals, written by slaves that expressed sorrow and joy?

The believer lives in a paradox of an unjust world, under a loving God who is king.  We can and do cry out, "how long?", and remain living in His love.

He makes a way through and we get confused sometimes because we are so eagerly looking for a way out.

God's answer to the thirst, hunger and craving for things to be made right is intensely personal.

God's answer is not just a deeper and wider heart; but also for real deliverance and real change in the physical world.

The kingdom of God coming affects our insides and our world around us.  It is not just one or the other.

The Psalms are filled with songs that say, "I cried to the Lord in my distress, and he delivered me."

The Psalms tell stories of rags to riches and restored fortunes.

But there is also that in-between time, when deliverance, healing, justice and righteousness are "not yet".

One way to look at the whole kingdom of God is that is is "already and not yet".  Everybody that is not healed yet, is not whole yet, is not delivered yet or has not come into their destiny yet; is in the "not yet" of the kingdom.  Being a child of God and a citizen of the kingdom means that we always have the hope that there no longer be a "not yet", at some point.  Nevertheless, we live and breathe in the, "already and the not yet", season in many arenas.

But God is always good and we can always trust God.  Psalm 107 tells this story of people who were hungry and thirsty for God's justice and righteousness.  Here are the first nine verses:
“Give thanks to the Lord because he is good,
because his faithful love lasts forever!”
That’s what those who are redeemed by the Lord say,
the ones God redeemed from the power of their enemies,
the ones God gathered from various countries,
from east and west, north and south.

Some of the redeemed had wandered into the desert, into the wasteland.
They couldn’t find their way to a city or town.
They were hungry and thirsty;
their lives were slipping away.
So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,
and God delivered them from their desperate circumstances.
God led them straight to human habitation.
Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love
and his wondrous works for all people,
because God satisfied the one who was parched with thirst,
and he filled up the hungry with good things!
The rest of Psalm 107 tells amazing stories of people and God.  This hunger and thirst were real.  God's deliverance was real.

What people need is God's deliverance.

Today, we need the great God of man and woman, not the great man or woman of God.  We need and people need God's intervention.  We are dead and need to be made alive.

There is no program and method that we have that will bring about what people need.  Our brokenness is beyond repair and hopeless.  God's intervention is our only hope.

And God has already come in Christ to a dying world.  And God is here in this world, ready and willing and filled with desire to save us.  Turning again to God for answers is the only way and the only hope.

And the good news is that some people are already doing this and they are abounding with fruitfulness, because they have 'put all their eggs in the one basket'.  The invitation to join with the ones already sold out for Jesus stands to all.  He promises fruitfulness to us, as we put all our our hope and trust in him.
"Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness,
because they will be fed until they are full."

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Bibliography:

Common English Bible (2011)
Matthew: Our Loving King, B. Simmons (2014), p. 24
Matthew, R.T. France (1985), p. 110
Matthew, D.A. Hagner, (1993), p. 93
Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, D.M. Lloyd-Jones (1959), p. 73