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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Proper Perspective In Trouble
As discouraging as trials can be, no amount of complaining or self-pity can ever bring about a solution. How can we maintain a proper perspective when our problems weigh heavily on our shoulders? In his inspiring message, A Proper Perspective in Trouble, Dr. Stanley reminds us that trials and challenges are no time to buckle, but rather a time to shine for Christ.
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In Spirit, I am unlimited.
Where Spirit is present, there is freedom--and Spirit is within me. The spirit of God enables me to face any challenge with wisdom, serenity and resolve. In Spirit, I am unlimited.
Jesus assured his followers they were capable of living an unlimited life. Just as God's spirit enables the birds of the air to find food and shelter, Spirit supports me as I live and create a happy and meaningful life.
A consciousness of freedom delivers me from all self-imposed restrictions. I am free to grow and to change. My potential for success is unlimited and my opportunities to serve others and express love and joy are endless.
Aware of the spirit of God ever-present within me, I am free and unlimited.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.--2 Corinthians 3:17"
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I celebrate the journey of my life.
Life is a journey that continuously takes me from comfortable and familiar territory to the new and unexplored. At times in my life I may change jobs, build a family, move to a different home or city, travel around the world. Venturing into the unknown can feel frightening. I choose to embrace the adventure of exploring new possibilities. With every change and challenge, God is with me.
I may not be able to see around each bend--but I know I will be led to the right destination. I have the wisdom and understanding to navigate any speed bumps, detours or obstacles. I celebrate the wide-open grandeur of life as I travel with the Divine on my spectacular life journey.
When our days there were ended, we left and proceeded on our journey.--Acts 21:5"
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The Sermon On The Mount
by Arthur W. Pink
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). There has been considerable difference of opinion as to exactly what meekness consists of. When we wrote upon this verse some twelve years ago, we defined it ashumility, but it now appears to us that that is inadequate, for there is no single term which is capable of fully expressing all that is included in this virtue. A study of its usage in Scripture reveals, first, that it is linked with and cannot be separated from lowliness: "Learn of Me: for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29); "Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called; with all lowliness and meekness" (Eph. 4:1, 2). Second, it is associated with and cannot be divorced fromgentleness: "I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:1); "To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men" (Titus 3:2). Third, "receive with meekness the engrafted word" is opposed to "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (Jam. 1:20, 21). Fourth, the Divine promise is "the meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way" (Ps. 25:9), intimating that this grace consists of a pliant heart and will.
Additional help in determining for us the meaning and scope of the word "meek" is to be obtained from duly noting our present verse in the light of the two preceding ones. It is to be kept steadily in mind that in those Beatitudes our Lord is describing the orderly development of God's work of grace as it is experientially realized in the soul. First, there is a poverty of spirit: a sense of our insufficiency and nothingness, a realization of our unworthiness and unprofitableness. Next, there is a mourning over our lost condition, sorrowing for the awfulness of our sins against God. And now we have meekness as a by-product of self-emptying and self-humiliation; or, in other words, there is a broken will and a receptive heart before God. Meekness is not only the antithesis of pride, but of stubbornness, fierceness, vengefulness. It is the taming of the lion, the making of the wolf to lie down as a kid.
Thomas Scott rightly points out that "There is a naturalmeekness of spirit, springing from love of ease, defect in sensibility and firmness, and the predominancy of other passions, which should be carefully distinguished from evangelical meekness. It is timid and pliant, easily deterred from good, and persuaded to evil; it leads to criminality in one extreme, as impetuosity of spirit does in another; it is often found in ungodly men; and it sometimes forms the grand defect in the character of pious persons, as in the case of Eli, and of Jehoshaphat. Divine grace operates in rendering such men of an opposite temper more yielding and quiet. The meekness to which the blessing is annexed is not constitutional, butgracious: and men of the most vehement, impetuous, irascible, and implacable dispositions, by looking to Jesus through the grace of God, learn to curb their tempers, to cease from resentment, to avoid giving offence by injurious words and actions, to make concessions and forgive injuries."
Meekness is the opposite of self-will toward God, and of ill-willtoward men. "The meek are those who quietly submit themselves before God, to His Word, to His rod, who follow His directions and comply with His designs, and are gentle toward men" (Matthew Henry). As pointed out above, this is not constitutional, but gracious-a precious fruit of the Spirit's working. Godly sorrow softens the heart, so that it is made receptive to the entrance of the Word. Meekness consists in the spirit being made pliant, tractable, submissive, teachable. Speaking prophetically through Isaiah the Saviour said, "The Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek"(Isa. 16:1), for they have bowed to the authority of the Law. And again it is written, "For the Lord taketh pleasure in His people: He will beautify the meek with salvation" (Ps. 149:4).
A word or two on the fruits of meekness. First, Godwards.Where this grace is in the ascendant, the enmity of the carnal mind is subdued, and its possessor bears God's chastenings with quietness and patience. Illustrations thereof are seen in the cases of Aaron (Lev. 10:3), Eli (1 Sam.3:18), and David (Ps. 39:9). Supremely it was exemplified by Christ, who declared, "I am a worm, and no man" (Ps. 22:6), which had reference not only to His being humbled into the dust, but also to the fact that there was nothing in Him which resisted the judgments of God: "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11). He was "led [not dragged] as a lamb to the slaughter": when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He was buffeted, He threatened not. He was the very King of meekness.
Second, manwards. Inasmuch as meekness is that spirit which has been schooled to mildness by discipline and suffering, and brought into sweet resignation to the will of God, it causes the believer to bear patiently those insults and injuries which he receives at the hands of his fellows, and makes him ready to accept instruction or admonition from the least of the saints, moving him to think more highly of others than of himself. Meekness enables the Christian to endure provocations without being inflamed by them: he remains cool when others get heated. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness: considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). This means, not with a lordly and domineering attitude, not with a harsh and censorious temper, not with a love of finding fault and desire for inflicting the discipline of the church, but with gentleness, humility and patience.
But meekness must not be confounded with weakness. True meekness is ever manifested by yieldedness to God's will, yet it will not yield a principle of righteousness or compromise with evil. God-given meekness can also stand up for God-given rights: when God's glory is impeached, we must have a zeal which is as hot as fire. Moses was "very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3), yet when he saw the Israelites dancing before the golden calf, in zeal for Jehovah's honour, he broke the two tables of stone, and put to the sword those who had transgressed. Note how firmly and boldly the apostles stood their ground in Acts 16:35-37. Above all, remember how Christ Himself, in concern for His Father's glory, made a whip of cords and drove the desecrators out of the temple. Meekness restrains from private revenge, but it in nowise conflicts with the requirements of fidelity to God, His cause, and His people.
"For they shall inherit the earth" or "land," for both the Hebrew and Greek words possess this double meaning. This promise is taken from Psalm 37:11, and may be understood in a threefold way. First, spiritually, as the second half of that verse intimates: "The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." The spirit of meekness is what enables its possessor to get so much enjoyment out of his earthly portion, be it small or large. Delivered from a greedy and grasping disposition he is satisfied with such things as he has: "A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked" (Ps. 37:16). Contentment of mind is one of the fruits of meekness. The haughty and covetous do not "inherit the earth," though they may own many acres of it. The humble Christian is far happier in a cottage than the wicked in a palace: "Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith" (Prov. 15:16).
Second, literally. The meek inherit the earth in regard of right,being the members of Christ, who is Lord of all. Hence, writing to the saints, Paul said, "For all things are yours; whether. . .the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours" (1 Cor. 3:21, 22). Right or title to the earth is twofold: civil and spiritual. The former is that which holds good-according to their laws and customs-before men, and in regard thereof they are called lords of such lands they have a right unto in the courts. The latter is that which is approved beforeGod. Adam had this spiritual right to the earth before he fell, but by his sin he forfeited it both for himself and his posterity. But Christ has regained it for all the elect, hence the apostle said, "As having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Cor. 6:10). Third, mystically. Psalm 37:11, is an Old Testament promise with a New Testament meaning: the land of Canaan was a figure of heaven, of which meekness proves the possessor to be an heir, and for which it is an essential qualification. From what has been before us let us learn, first, the value of this spiritual grace and the need of praying for an increase of the same: "Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought His judgment: seek righteousness,seek meekness" (Zeph. 2:3). As a further inducement to this end, mark these precious promises: "The meek shall eat and be satisfied" (Ps. 21:26), "The Lord lifteth up the meek" (Ps. 147:6), "The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord" (Isa. 29:19). Second, see the folly of those who are so diligent in seeking earthly possessions without any regard to Christ. Since all right to the earth was lost by Adam and is only recovered by the Redeemer, until they have part in Him none can, with the comfort of a good conscience, either purchase or possess any mundane inheritance. Third, let the fact that the meek. through Christ, inherit the earth serve for a bridle against all inordinate care for the world: since we are members of Christ the supply of every need is certain, and an infinitely better portion is ours than the perishing things of time and sense.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). In the first three Beatitudes we are called upon to witness the heart exercises of those who have been awakened by the Spirit of God. First, there is a sense of need, a realization of their nothingness and emptiness. Second, there is a judging of self, a consciousness of their guilt and sorrowing over their lost condition. Third, there is an end of seeking to justify themselves before God, an abandonment of all pretences to personal merit, a taking of their place in the dust before God. And here, in the fourth, the eye of the soul is turned away from self to Another: there is a longing after that which they know they have not got and which they are conscious they urgently need. There has been much needless quibbling as to the precise import of the word "righteousness" in this verse, and it seems to us that most of the commentators have failed to grasp its fullness.
In many Old Testament passages "righteousness" is synonymous with "salvation," as will appear from the following. "Drop down ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it" (Isa. 45:8); "Hearken unto Me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness: I bring near Myrighteousness; it shall not be far off, and My salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion" (Isa. 46:12, 13); "Myrighteousness is near. My salvation is set forth, and Mine arms shall judge the people: the isles shall wait upon Me, and on Mine arms shall they trust" (Isa. 51:5): "Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment and do justice: for My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed" (Isa. 56:1); "He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10). Yet after all, this does not bring us much nearer in that "salvation" is one of the most comprehensive terms to be found in the Scriptures. Let us, then, seek to define its meaning a little more closely.
Taking it in its widest latitude, to "hunger and thirst after righteousness" means to yearn after God's favour, image, and felicity. "Righteousness" is a term denoting all spiritual blessings: "seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). More specifically, "righteousness" in our text has reference, first, to the righteousness of faith whereby a sinner is justified freely by Divine grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. As the result of his Surety's obedience being imputed to him, the believer stands legally righteous before God. As sinners who have constantly broken the Law in thought, word, and deed, we are utterly destitute of righteousness. "There is none righteous, no not one" (Rom. 3:10). But God has provided a perfect righteousness in Christ for all who believe: it is the best "robe" put upon each returning prodigal. The merits of Christ's perfect keeping of the Law is reckoned to the account of every sinner who shelters in Him.
Second, this "righteousness," for which the awakened sinner longs, is to be understood of inward and sanctifyingrighteousness, for as we so often point out, justification and sanctification are never to be severed. The one in whom the Spirit graciously works desires not only an imputedrighteousness, but an imparted one too; he not only longs for a restoration to God's favour, but to have God's image renewed in him. For this twofold "righteousness" the convicted "hunger and thirst," expressive of vehement desire, of which the soul is acutely conscious, for as in bodily hunger and thirst there are sharp pangs and an intense longing for their appeasement, so it is with the soul. First, the Spirit brings before the conscience the holy and inexorable requirements of God. Next, He convicts the soul of its destitution and guilt, so that he realizes his abject poverty and lost condition, seeing there is no hope in and from himself. And then He creates a deep hunger and thirst which causes him to lock unto and seek relief from Christ, "The Lord our righteousness."
Like the previous ones, this fourth Beatitude describes a dualexperience: an initial and a continuous, that which begins in the unconverted, but is perpetuated in the saved sinner. There is a repeated exercise of this grace, felt at varying intervals. The one who longed to be saved by Christ now yearns to be made like Him. Looked at in its widest aspect, this hungering and thirsting refers to that panting of the renewed heart after God (Ps. 42:1), that yearning for a closer walk with Him, that longing for more perfect conformity to the image of His Son. It tells of those aspirations of the new nature for Divine blessings which alone can strengthen, sustain and satisfy it. Our text presents such a paradox that it is evident that no carnal mind ever invented it. Can one who has been brought into vital union with Him who is the Bread of Life and in whom all fullness dwells be found still hungering and thirsting? Yes, such is the experience of the renewed heart. Mark carefully the tense of the verb: it is not "Blessed are they which have," but "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst." This has ever been the experience of God's saints (Ps. 82:4; Phil. 3:8, 14).
"They shall be filled." Like the first part of our text, this also has a double fulfillment: an initial, and a continuous. When God creates a hunger and thirst in the soul, it is that He may satisfy it. When the poor sinner is made to feel his need of Christ, it is that he may be drawn to and led to embrace Him. Like the prodigal who came to the Father as a penitent, the believing sinner now feeds on the One figured by the "fatted calf." He is made to exclaim, "Surely in the Lord have I righteousness." "They shall be filled" with the peace of God which passeth all understanding. "Filled" with that Divine blessing to which no sorrow is added. "Filled" with praise and thanksgiving unto Him who has wrought all our works in us. "Filled" with that which this poor world can neither give nor take away. "Filled" by the goodness and mercy of God, till their cup runneth over. And yet, all that is enjoyed now is but a little foretaste of what God has prepared for them that love Him: in the day to come we shall be "filled" with Divine holiness, for we shall be made "like Him" (1 John 3:2). Then shall we be done with sin for ever: then shall we "hunger no more, neither thirst any more" (Rev. 7:16).
As this fourth Beatitude has been such a storehouse of comfort to many a tried and troubled believer, let us point out the use which may be made of it by Satan-harassed believers. First, by those whose faith is little and weak. There are not a few in God's family who sincerely long to please Him in all things and to live in no sin against their conscience, and yet they find in themselves so much distrust and despair of God's mercy that they are conscious of much more doubting than faith, so that they are brought seriously to question their election and state before God. Here, then, is Divine consolation for them: if they genuinely hunger and thirst after righteousness, Christ Himself pronounces them blessed. Those who are displeased with their unbelief, who truly desire to be purged from distrust, who long and pray for increased faith and assurance-evidencing their sincerity by diligently using all proper means- are the subjects of God's approbation.
Second, by those whose sanctification is so imperfect. Many there be who are most anxious to please God and make conscience of all known sins, yet find in themselves so much darkness of mind, activity of rebellious corruption, forwardness in their affections. perverseness in their wills, yea, a constant proneness to all manner of sins; and, on the contrary, they can perceive so little of the fruits of sanctification, so little evidence of spiritual life, so few signs of Divine grace at work within, that they often seriously doubt if they have received any grace at all. This is a fearfully heavy burden, and greatly casts down the soul. But here is Divine consolation. Christ pronounces "blessed" not those who are full of righteousness, but those who "hunger and thirst" after it. Those who mourn over their depravity, who grieve over the plague of their hearts, who yearn for conformity to Christ-using the means constantly-are accepted of God in Christ.
Third, by the more extreme case of one who has grievously departed from God and long been a backslider, and now, conscious of his wickedness, is in despair. Satan will tell him that his case is hopeless, that he is an apostate, that hell is prepared for him and he must surely be damned; and the poor soul is ready to believe that such must really be the case. He is destitute of peace, all his evidences are eclipsed, he cannot perceive a ray of hope. Nevertheless, here is Divine comfort. If he truly mourns over his departure from God, hates himself for his backsliding, sorrows over his sins, truly desires to repent of them and longs to be reconciled to God and restored to communion with Him, then he too is among the blessed: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."
I put spiritual principles to work in my life.
My life is enriched through my practice of spiritual principles. As I deepen my understanding of myself, I become increasingly aware of my oneness with God. I commit to daily prayer and meditation. I view challenges as opportunities to practice the principles I know. I contemplate the personal meaning of Scripture and apply timeless truths to everyday situations.
Reading the words of Jesus, I am inspired anew: "If you continue in my word ... you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." As a student of Truth, I embrace and enhance my study by exploring the meaning of spiritual teachings and apply what I learn. I put principle to work in my life.
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend ... what is the breadth and length and height and depth.--Ephesians 3:18"
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|A New Form of Life |
by Dr.James A. Lee
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Is the life we live meaningful in the love of humanity? Can one image a life filled with both love and peace? Now is the time to look beyond the struggles of a horrible depression unto a world of harmony and completion. Jesus offers us a new life separate and apart of our present condition.
As I give thanks to God for all of creation, I am deeply concerned for all of the crime, suffering and hate in the world. The real question in my heart is where is the love? Is there hope for all those who are suffering from a world lost in sin and darkness? The Bible tells us that we can place our trust in God.
One of Jesus disciple asked Jesus to show us the father. Jesus said if you have seen me, you have seen the father. Jesus gave up His life on the cross for the sins of the world. God raised Him on the third day with all power, honor and glory. Our new life is with the Resurrected Christ. Creating a New Heaven and Earth, filled with love and perfect peace. Lord we give thanks for our new life in The Joy of Jesus, The Lord of all Salvation Today!
Today I hold in my heart the hope for peace and abundance for the entire world. My hopes for myself and others include protection, guidance, wholeness and peace. In times of crisis, hope is the seed that has the potential to bear fruit.
I center my hope in the power and presence of God within each person. I see the potential for good in every situation. God is at work and order, peace, health and abundance are manifesting all around us.
My hope for world leaders is for mindful awareness of the good in all people; my hope for those with influence is for generosity; and my hope for those in need is to find their faith in the Divine within, allowing them to experience joy, peace and fulfillment.
When I consider forgiving someone, my body may respond in various ways. I may feel a tightness in my chest from anger or resistance. Or I may sense a peaceful, inner knowing that I am ready to let my resentment go.
I choose today to be set free through the act of forgiveness. As I forgive, my body releases stress and strain. I open to receive God's peace and love as I release the burden of anger and hostility. Greater blessings await me, as I set aside condemning thoughts and attitudes. I am uplifted and my load is lightened.
I forgive myself and others, and love the people in my life unconditionally. I embrace a new way of thinking and living. Through forgiveness, I am set free!
Some experiences in our lives may seem difficult to handle. Our way appears dark, and we reach out for greater strength to sustain us. How wonderful it is to know that God's infinite love ever enfolds and upholds us to bring us true peace and serenity.
In challenging times, I affirm: God's light shines steadily within me. The light of God dispels all darkness and illumines my mind and heart. Nothing can separate me from the light and love of God. I am comforted in God's presence. I am uplifted, sustained and strengthened. I am fully supported and my needs are met. The love and light of God are my comfort always.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Read | Colossians 3:15-17
Have you ever noticed that some Bible verses seem easier to memorize than to put into practice? One that immediately comes to mind—especially during the Thanksgiving season—is “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). That word “everything” is challenging because there are situations when we do not feel particularly grateful. There are troubles we face that negatively affect every aspect of life, stealing joy and taking our focus off the Savior.
Over the years there have even been times when I’ve walked out onto the platform as the church service began and my heart was somewhere else. I was as prepared mentally and spiritually as I could be to preach the message—but emotionally, I was struggling with some devastating issue.
It was through those moments that I experienced something extraordinary. As the orchestra played and the congregation began to sing, my heart would respond to the words of those hymns. Psalm 22:3tells us that the Lord is enthroned in our praises, so we are wise to give Him thanks “in everything”—even the toughest circumstances. Doing so changed my focus from the adversity I was facing to God’s awesome character, provision, and love. Suddenly my troubles did not seem so overwhelming.
Scripture encourages us always to voice our gratitude to the Lord, no matter what we’re facing. Why? Because when we focus on God instead of the problem, we realize, He’s already given us victory. You may have to remind yourself repeatedly, but you will benefit greatly from the peace that awaits.
Divine Love blesses and multiplies all that I have, all that I give and all that I receive.
My heart is filled with thankfulness for the continuous flow of God's good. And while I earnestly give thanks for specific things, occurrences and people, I also maintain a grateful state of mind regardless of outer circumstances.
I appreciate the world in which I live, its wonder and its opportunity. I grow in understanding as I experience all that life holds. The Christ Presence within me is my resource for living each day fully and confidently. It is the original blessing and the underlying foundation for a grateful heart.
My prayer is one of simple thanksgiving. As the great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart once said, "If the only prayer you ever say is 'thank you,' that would suffice."
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!--2 Corinthians 9:15"
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I welcome all with a loving heart.
During Jesus' ministry, he ate and stayed with many people at their homes. I reflect on the qualities of a gracious host and wonder what it might have been like to welcome such a loving teacher into my home.
To a gracious host, a guest is never an imposition, because the heart is always open and welcoming. I receive my guests warmly with appreciation and interest. I freely share what is mine to give.
I value each person who is invited into my home. Every visit is an opportunity to connect with others, and I am grateful. My life is transformed by the love of the Christ activated in each gracious gesture.
"Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.--Luke 19:5-6"
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I let Spirit guide me.
Today I vow to try something new. I let Spirit take the reins of my life and show me the way to go. Centering myself in the spirit of God within me, I ask, "What is mine to do?" I listen to the wisdom that comes to my heart and mind. This is the still small voice of Spirit. I trust the wisdom I receive, take action and do what feels right and good.
At the end of the day, I reflect with gratitude on the insight I received. How were my actions different today? How does it feel to trust in Spirit's inner wisdom?
More and more, I let go of my need to control. I open myself to God and ask for more answers. I listen and take action. I let Spirit guide me in all I do.
Let the Lord your God show us where we should go and what we should do.--Jeremiah 42:3"
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Why Did Jesus Teach in Parables?
Compared to His earlier teaching during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus's turn to parables might seem odd. He'd used clear instruction to teach His followers how to live and about the Kingdom of God, and He'd exhibited the Kingdom in a tangible way through His miracles. But suddenly, when the crowds come to hear Him, He hops into a boat and speaks in parables, stories about sowing seeds and gathering wheat (Matthew 13).
When the disciples ask Him why, since they obviously noticed the change, His answer may seem even more astonishing: "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it has not been granted" (Matthew 13:11). In other words, the parables are meant to divide the crowd. While this may seem as if Jesus denied some people access, the difference He means is not in the message—but in the response.
The parables themselves present clear stories from everyday events that many in the crowd would recognize. Jesus did not code His teaching to prevent some people from understanding, since all equally would understand the imagery. All those gathered there certainly comprehended the aspects of the stories related to their everyday lives. Instead, His teaching divided the listeners into two groups based on their own responses.
His miracles had attracted many, and others had perhaps been astonished by His earlier teaching. But the parables themselves, just as in the story of the seed falling on various places (Matthew 13:3-9), revealed the true nature of their responses and their real decisions. Those committed to the Kingdom of God would seek and find further understanding. But those uncommitted—perhaps listening only because of the initial excitement—would reject the teaching as unintelligible.
Adapted from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (Book III, Chapter XXIII).
My family is a blessing to me.
My family is a unique, living organism that can be a place of great belonging. It may be happy and harmonious or it may be challenging. Whatever the current dynamic, I remain open and willing to love unconditionally.
The presence of God is at the heart of our household. If there is disharmony or strife, I bring my concerns to prayer. I acknowledge my role and call upon divine wisdom to guide me. I act in wise ways with love and understanding.
Even when I do not understand everyone's actions or attitudes, I can see my family members as children of God, expressions of God's love. When I take on this awareness, I feel our connection with one another expand.
I will be the God of all the families.--Jeremiah 31:1"
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My inspired ideas grow to fruition in divine order.
Each year as our planet travels around the sun, the changing seasons bring an orderly process of renewal and growth. A farmer doesn't plant seeds in the frozen winter ground, but rather, recognizes and works in harmony with the order of God's creation.
Likewise, there is an orderly process of creation in my life. In the silence, I open to inspiration and seeds of divine ideas are planted in me. I take inspired action, sowing my ideas and patiently awaiting their growth. In their season, my ideas spring into manifestation and I feel the joy of co-creation. Just as a farmer trusts in order when planting seeds, I hold to my faith and watch as my inspired ideas grow to fruition in divine order.
On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar.--Ezekiel 17:23"
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I contribute to a world where peace prevails.
Because I value peace, I release my attachment to how others should be or act. I have faith in Divine Love moving in and through me to guide my relationships. I am at peace within and I share that peace by loving those around me. As love ripples from me into the world, more people than I can possibly imagine are affected.
In 1971 John Lennon wrote "Imagine," a song that expressed his dream of world peace: Imagine all the people / Living life in peace ... You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one / I hope someday you'll join us / And the world will be as one.
I join in holding this vision of peace for the world, because I have experienced the peace of God within me.
Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.--Romans 14:19"
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The spirit of God goes before me, making safe and successful my way.
Closing my eyes and thinking of a loved one can bring a smile to my face and peace to my soul. The opposite is also true: When I worry, I may feel physical or emotional discomfort. Choosing to experience the joy of life, I keep my thoughts positive and uplifted. Whether driving down the road or standing in line, getting a physical exam or interviewing for a job, I keep my mind free of anxiety and fear. I affirm what is true: The spirit of God goes before me, making safe and successful my way.
My life-affirming attitude allows me to experience the good in each moment. I live in the present and accept it with gratitude. I have confidence knowing I am always in God's presence.
You will have confidence, because there is hope; you will be protected.--Job 11:18"
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The Sermon On The Mount
In these Beatitudes the Lord Jesus delineates the distinguishing characteristics and privileges of those who are "His disciples indeed," or the birthmarks by which the true subjects of His kingdom may be identified. This is only another way of saying that His design was to make known the character of those upon whom the Divine benediction rests, or that He here revealed who are the truly happy. Looking at these Beatitudes from another angle, we may regard them as furnishing a description of the nature of true happiness, and as propounding sundry rules by which it is attained. Very different indeed is Christ's teaching here from the thoughts and the theories which obtain in the carnal mind. Instead of attributing genuine felicity unto the possession of outward things, He affirmed that it consists in the possession and cultivation of spiritual graces. It was God incarnate pouring contempt on the wisdom of this world and showing how radically opposed are its concepts to the Truth.
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7). Grossly have these words been perverted by merit-mongers. Those who insist that the Bible teaches salvation by works appeal to this verse, among others, in support of their pernicious error. But nothing could be less to their purpose, for there is not a word in it which affords the slightest support to their fatal delusion. Our Lord was not here describing the foundation on which rests the sinner's hope of receiving mercy from God, but is tracing the spiritual features of His own people, among which mercifulness is a prominent one. His evident meaning was: mercy is an indispensable trait in that holy character which God has inseparably connected with the enjoyment of that happiness-both here and hereafter- which is the product of His own sovereign kindness.
The place occupied by this particular Beatitude in the series furnishes a sure key to its interpretation. The first four may be regarded as describing the initial exercises of heart in one who has been awakened by the Spirit, whereas the next four treat of the subsequent fruits. In the preceding verse the soul is seen hungering and thirsting after Christ, and then filled by Him, whereas here we are shown the first effect and evidence of this. Having received mercy from the Lord, the saved sinner now exercises mercy unto others. It is not that God requires us to be merciful in order to obtain His mercy-that would be to overthrow the whole scheme of grace-but having been made the recipient of His wondrous grace. I cannot now but act graciously toward others. That which is signs. fled by "they shall obtain mercy" will come before us in the sequel.
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." First, let us endeavour to define the nature of this mercy. This mercifulness upon which the Divine approbation rests is a holy compassion of soul, whereby one is moved to pity and go to the relief of another in misery. In saying that it is a compassion of soul, we mean that it causes its possessor to make the case of another his own, so that he is grieved by it, for when our heart is really touched by the state of another, we are stirred within. "It is an aversion to everything harsh, cruel, oppressive or injurious; a propensity to pity, alleviate or remove the miseries of mankind; an unwillingness to increase personal emolument or indulgence by rendering others uneasy; a willingness to forgo personal ease, interest or gratification to make others easy and happy" (Thomas Scott).
Mercifulness, then, is a gracious disposition toward our fellow creatures and fellow Christians. It is a spirit of kindness and benevolence which sympathizes with the sufferings of the afflicted, so that we weep with those that weep. It ennobles its possessor so that he tempers justice with mercy, and scorns the taking of revenge. But it is a holy disposition in contrast with that foolish sentimentality which flouts the requirements of justice, and which inclines many to sympathize with those in deserved misery. That is a false and unholy mercy which petitions the powers that be to cancel or modify a just and fully merited sentence which has been passed upon some flagrant offender. Therefore are we told, "And of some have compassion, making a difference" (Jude 22)-king Saul defied this principle when he spared Agag. It is also a holy compassion as opposed to that partiality which is generous to some and harsh to others.
This mercifulness has not its roots in anything in the natural man. True, there are some who make no profession of being Christians in whom we often find not a little kindliness of disposition, sympathy for the suffering, and a readiness to forgive those who have wronged them, yet is it merely instinctive, and though amiable there is nothing spiritual in it-instead of being subject to Divine authority it is often opposed to God's law. That which Christ here inculcated and commended is very different from and vastly superior to natural amiability: it is such compassion as God approves of, which is a fruit of His Holy Spirit and is commanded in His Word. It is the result of Christ living in us. Was He moved with compassion? Did He weep with the mourner? Was He patient with the dull-witted? Then if He indwells me, that same disposition, however imperfectly manifested, must be reproduced.
This mercy is something more than a feeling: it is an operative principle. It not only stirs the heart, but it moves the hand to render help unto those in need, for the one cannot be severed from the other. So far from it being a well shut up or a fountain sealed, this mercy is a copious source of acts of beneficence, from which issue streams of blessing. It does not exhaust itself in profitless words, but is accompanied by helpful deeds. "But whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1 John 3:17): this verse makes it clear that no work of mercy is shown to those in misery except that it proceeds from inward compassion. Thus we see what is the "mercy" which is here mentioned: it is that which exerts itself in doing good, being a fruit of the love of God shed abroad in the heart.
This mercy may, through walking after the flesh, for a time be checked and choked, but taking the general tenor of a Christian's character and the main trend in his life, it is seen to be an unmistakable trait of the new man. "The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again; but the righteous showeth mercy, and giveth" (Ps. 37:21). It was "mercy" in Abraham, after he had been wronged by his nephew, which caused him to go after and secure the deliverance of Lot. It was "mercy" on the part of Joseph, after his brethren had so grievously mistreated him, which moved him to freely forgive them. It was "mercy" in Moses, after Miriam had rebelled against him and the Lord had smitten her with leprosy, which moved him to cry, "Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee" (Num. 12:13). It was "mercy" in David which caused him to spare the life of his arch-enemy when the wicked Saul was in his hands. In solemn contrast, of Judas we read "he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man" (Ps. 109:16).
Were we sermonizing Matthew 5:7, our next division would bethe duties of mercy, which are answerable to the miseries of those we should relieve, as the form and degree of its manifestation is regulated by our own station and circumstances. This mercy regards not merely the bodies of men but also their souls, and here again it is sharply distinguished from that natural and instinctive kind which pities and ministers to the temporal needs of sufferers, but has no concern for their eternal prospects. The preacher needs to carefully heed this fifth Beatitude: so, too, the employer and the tradesman. But we must dismiss this branch of our subject by calling attention to "he that sheweth mercy with cheerfulness" (Rom. 12:8), which is what gives chief value to the service rendered. If God loves a cheerful giver, it is equally true that He takes notice of the spirit in which we respond to His precepts.
A word now on the reward: "for they shall obtain mercy," which, as the older theologians pointed out, is not the reward of condignity (wholly deserved), but of congruity. This gives not the least countenance to the horrible error of Rome, that by alms deeds we can make satisfaction to God for our sins. Our acts of mercy are not meritorious in the sight of God: had that been the case, Christ had said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain justice," for what is meritorious is due reward by right. Our text has nothing to do with salvation matters, but enunciates a principle pertaining to the governmental ways of God, by which we reap what we sow and have measured again to us according as we have meted out to others (Matthew 7:2). "He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour" (Prov. 21:21).
"For they shall obtain mercy." First, there is an inward benefit.The one who shows mercy to others gains thereby: "the merciful man doeth good to his own soul" (Prov. 11:17). There is a personal satisfaction in the exercise of pity and benevolence, which the fullest gratification of the selfish man is not to be compared with: "he that hath mercy on the poor,happy is he" (Prov. 14:21). Second, he reaps mercy at the hands of his fellows: the overruling providence of God causes him to be dealt with mercifully by others. Third, he receives mercy from God: "with the merciful Thou wilt show Thyself merciful" (Ps. 18:25)-contrast "he shall have judgment without mercy that hath showed no mercy" (Jam. 2:13). Mercy will be shown to the merciful in the Day to come (see 2 Tim. 1:16, 18; Jude 21). Then let us prayerfully heed the exhortations of Romans 12:10; Galatians 6:2; Colossians 3:12.
"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). This is another of the Beatitudes which has been grossly perverted by the enemies of the Lord: those who have, like their predecessors the Pharisees, posed as the champions of the Truth and boasted of a superior sanctity to that confessed by the true people of God. All through this Christian era there have been poor deluded souls who have claimed an entire purification of the old man, or have insisted that God has so completely renewed them that the carnal nature has been eradicated, and in consequence they not only commit no sins, but have no sinful desires or thoughts. But God tells us, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). Of course, such people appeal to the Scriptures in support of their vain delusion, applying to experience verses which describe the legal benefits of the Atonement, or by wresting such a one as that which is now before us.
That purity of heart does not mean sinlessness of life is clear from the inspired record of the history of all God's saints. Noah got drunk, Abraham equivocated, Moses disobeyed God, Job cursed the day of his birth, Elijah fled in terror from Jezebel, Peter denied Christ. Yes, perhaps someone will exclaim, but all these were before Christianity was established. True, but it has also been the same since then. Where shall we go to find a Christian of superior attainments to those of the apostle Paul? And what was his experience? Read Romans 7 and see. When he would do good, evil was present with him (v. 21); there was a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin (v. 23). He did, with the mind, serve the Law of God, nevertheless with the flesh he served the law of sin (v. 25). Ah, Christian reader, the truth is, one of the most conclusive evidences that we do possess a pure heart is to be conscious of and burdened with the impurity which still indwells us.
"Blessed are the pure in heart." Here again we see the Lord exposing the thoughts of the natural man, who errs greatly in his ideas of what constitutes real blessedness. Therein He refutes the Pharisees, who contented themselves with a species of external ceremonialism or mere outward holiness, failing to realize that God requires "truth in the inward parts" (Ps. 51:6). Very solemn and searching is this sixth Beatitude, for it equally condemns most of that which now passes current for genuine religion in Christendom. How many today rest satisfied with ahead religion, supposing that all is well if their creed be sound; and how many more have nothing better than a hand religion-busily engaged in what they term "Christian service." "But the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7), which includes the mind, conscience, affections and will.
How is purity of heart effected? for by nature the heart of fallen man is totally depraved and corrupt, deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). How can it be otherwise when each of us must make the humiliating confession, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5)? This purity of heart is by no means to be restricted to inward chastity or simplicity-being without guile and deceit-but has a far more comprehensive meaning and scope. The heart of the Christian is made pure by a fourfold operation of the Holy Spirit. First, by imparting a holy nature at the new birth. Second, by bestowing a saving faith which unites its possessor to a holy Christ. Third, by sprinkling him with the precious blood of Christ, which purges his conscience. Fourth, by a protracted process of sanctification so that we, through His aid, mortify the flesh and live unto God. In consequence thereof, the believer has a sincere desire and resolution not to sin against God in thought or word or deed, but to please Him in all things.
In what measure is the heart of the Christian now made pure? Only in part during this life, relatively and not absolutely. "The believer's understanding is in part purified from darkness, his judgment from error, his will from rebellion, his affections from enmity, avarice, pride, sensuality" (T. Scott). The work of Divine grace in the soul is begun here, but it is only completed hereafter (Phil. 1:6). We are not wholly perfected, having received only "the first fruits of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:23). Observe carefully the tense of the verb in Acts 15:9: it is not "purified their hearts by faith," but "purifying their hearts by faith"-a continuous experience. So again "He saved us by the washing of regeneration and (not "renewal" but) renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). Consequently it is written "in many things we all stumble" (Jam. 3:2, R. V.). Yet it is our bounden duty to use every legitimate means of purification: the daily denying of self, sincere confession of our sins, walking in the paths of righteousness.
What is this purity of heart? a question which requires a somewhat more definite answer than has been given above, where we have intimated that this sixth Beatitude contemplates both the new heart or nature received at regeneration and the transformation of character which is the effect of a Divine work of grace in the soul. Spiritual purity may be defined as undivided affections, sincerity and genuineness, godly simplicity. It is the opposite of subtlety and duplicity, for genuine piety lays aside not only hatred and malice, hut guile and hypocrisy. It is not sufficient to be pure in words and outward deportment: purity of desires, motives, intents, is what should, and in the main does, characterize the child of God. Here, then, is a most important test for each professing Christian to apply to himself: Have I been freed from the dominion of hypocrisy? Are my motives pure and intentions genuine? Are my affections set upon things above? Do I meet with the Lord's people to commune with Him or to be seen of men?
A "pure heart" is one which has a pure Object before it, being attracted by "the beauty of holiness." It is one in which the fear of the Lord has been implanted and the love of God shed abroad, and therefore it hates what He hates and loves what He loves. The purer the heart be, the more conscious it becomes of, and the more it grieves over, indwelling filth. A pure heart is one which makes conscience of foul thoughts, vile imaginations, and evil desires. It is one that mourns over pride and discontent, unbelief and coldness of affection, and weeps in secret over unholiness. Alas, how little is this inward purity esteemed today: the great majority of professors content themselves with a mere form of godliness, a shadow of the reality. The heaviest burden of a pure heart is the discovery that such an ocean of unclean waters still indwells him, constantly casting up mire and dirt, fouling all that he does.
Consider now the attendant blessing: the pure in heart "shallsee God." Once again we would remind our readers that the promises attached to these Beatitudes have both a present and a future fulfillment; notably is this the case with the one now before us. Corresponding to the fact that the Christian's purity of heart is only in part in this life, but perfected in the life to come, is the experience that "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Cor. 13:12). To "see God" is to be brought nigh to Him (for we cannot see an object which is a vast distance from us), to be introduced into intimate intercourse with Him, which is the consequence of having the thick cloud of our transgressions blotted out, for it was our iniquities which separated us from Him (Isa. 59:2). We need scarcely say that it is a spiritual sight and not a corporeal one, a heart knowledge of and communion with God.
The pure in heart possess spiritual discernment and with the eyes of their understanding they obtain clear views of the Divine character and perceive the excellency of His attributes. When the eye is single, the whole body is full of light. It is by faith God is beheld. To "see God" also has the force of enjoyHim, as in John 3:36, and for that a pure heart is indispensable. That which pollutes the heart and beclouds the vision of a Christian is unjudged evil, for when any sin is "allowed" communion with God is broken, and can only be restored by genuine repentance and unsparing confession. Since, then, the privilege of seeing God is dependent upon the maintenance of the heart purity, how essential it is that we give earnest heed to the exhortations of Isaiah 1:16; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 3:15. Oh to be able to say "I have set the Lord always before me" (Ps. 16:8).
"In the Truth, the faith of which purifies the heart, they 'see God.' for what is that Truth but a manifestation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ-an illustrious display of the combined radiance of Divine holiness and Divine benignity! . . . They who are pure in heart 'see God' in this way, even in the present world; and in the future state their knowledge of God will become far more extensive and their fellowship with Him far more intimate. To borrow the words of the Psalmist, we shall 'Behold His face in righteousness, and shall be satisfied when we awake in His likeness' (Ps. 17:15). Then, and not till then, will the full meaning of these words be understood, 'the pure in heart shall see God'" (J. Brown).