Supreme Blessedness

Jesus Christ is easily the most important figure in the history of mankind. No matter how one may regard Him, he will eventually have to concede this point. Jesus’ life and death and the teachings attributed to Him have influenced the course of human history more than any other man who has ever lived—more than Alexander, any of the Caesars, Charlemagne, Mohammed, Napoleon, Washington, Marx, Freud or Ghandi. More people’s lives are influenced by His doctrines; more books are written concerning Him; more speeches (sermons) are made about Him than all other historical figures combined.

Jesus was the world’s greatest Prophet and Teacher. He was God, yet He took on Himself the nature of mankind. He has been the religious inspiration for the whole of North and South America as well as Europe for almost two thousand years. His religion, Christianity, has dominated and molded the destinies of virtually the entire world culturally, socially, politically, academically, technologically, economically and militarily.

Therefore, we can hardly undertake a more important task than to inquire into what Jesus really stood for. What did He teach? This task goes far beyond the scope of this series, which will delve only into His most basic teachings, as found in the Sermon on the Mount, regarding the nature of those who will be in His Kingdom. Even these basic characteristics present what some have called an impossible standard to attain; there is no doubt they are extremely high. Though they may be impossible for a carnal man to reach, with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27). He can enable us to meet and live these admirable attributes.

Cathey Lynn

Seeking Power

Revelation 2:26

(26) And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

Consider how much the lust for power is a major motivating force in this world. It can be seen operating in families, in workplaces, in churches, and in commerce—and possibly, it is most visible in politics. We can see in all of these instances that people are doing what they can to obtain power, often by any means available, fair or foul. They are just following the influence

1 John 5:19) of the one who first lusted for power: “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:13-14).

While the world is struggling to get power, God promises to give it to us as a byproduct of enduring to the end. In this life, the only power we have to strive for is power over ourselves. In the next, God will provide the rest.

Those who seek power in this world miss the fact that our life is but for a moment. Even if they do receive the power they seek, it lasts only for an instant in comparison. Consider how long our power will last if we endure to the end: “The LORD knows the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be forever” (Psalm 37:18

The Heavenly Life

Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better (Ecclesiastes 7:3).

When sorrow comes under the power of Divine grace, it works out a manifold ministry in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. Gay, trifling people are always shallow, and never suspect the little meannesses in their nature. Sorrow is God’s plowshare that turns up and subsoils the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If we had never fallen, or were in a glorified state, then the strong torrents of Divine joy would be the normal force to open up all our souls’ capacities; but in a fallen world, sorrow, with despair taken out of it, is the chosen power to reveal ourselves to ourselves. Hence it is sorrow that makes us think deeply, long, and soberly.

Sorrow makes us go slower and more considerately, and introspect our motives and dispositions. It is sorrow that opens up within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it is sorrow that makes us willing to launch our capacities on a boundless sea of service for God and our fellows.

God never uses anybody to a large degree, until after He breaks that one all to pieces. Joseph had more sorrow than all the other sons of Jacob, and it led him out into a ministry of bread for all nations. For this reason, the Holy Spirit said of him, “Joseph is a fruitful bough…by a well, whose branches run over the wall” (Gen. 49:22). It takes sorrow to widen the soul.

~The Heavenly Life

Reuben

What should we learn from the tribe of Reuben?”

Answer: Each of the twelve sons of Israel received a blessing from his father, Jacob, just before Jacob’s death. The twelve sons were the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the blessing contained prophetic information about the future of each tribe. In the case of the tribe of Reuben, Jacob prophesied, “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it” (Genesis 49:3–4). In addition to referring to the future of the tribe of Reuben, the prophecy contains within it several lessons for all of us.

Reuben, the firstborn of the twelve sons, was to Jacob his “might, the first sign of my strength” (Genesis 49:3), indicating that to him were all the rights and prerogatives of a firstborn son. At first, he excelled in honor and power, as is fitting the firstborn son, but Jacob declares that Reuben “will no longer excel” (verse 4) due to his sin of incest with Bilhah, his father’s concubine wife (Genesis 35:22). Although that sin was committed forty years prior, there was left an indelible spot on Reuben’s character and that of his posterity. By committing this uncleanness with his father’s wife, there would be reproach upon his tribe and the family, to whom he ought to have been an example and a blessing. He forfeited the prerogatives of the birthright, and his dying father demoted him, although he did not disown or disinherit him. He would still have all the privileges of a son, but not of the firstborn.

Jacob’s sad prophecy for Reuben certainly came true. No judge, prophet, ruler, or prince came from that tribe, nor any person of renown except Dathan and Abiram, who were noted for their rebellion against Moses. Reuben’s tribe chose a settlement on the other side Jordan, a further indication of the loss of godly influence on his brothers to which his birthright entitled him. Although Reuben was the firstborn, the kingdom was given to Judah and the priesthood to Levi, leaving Reuben’s tribe to be small and non-influential.

Further, Reuben was “unstable as water” (some versions translate it “turbulent as water”), and in this phrase we find several lessons for all Christians. For one thing, Reuben’s virtue was unstable; he did not have control of himself and his own appetites. The charge of instability could refer to his being sometimes very regular and orderly, while at other times wild and undisciplined. As Christians, we are to be in control of our flesh and its appetites and desires at all times. Most importantly, we are to be steadfast in our faith and not “tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

We also learn from Reuben that those who dabble in sin must not expect to save their reputation or maintain a positive influence upon others. Although we know our sins were nailed to the cross and we are forever forgiven for past sins, we still have to suffer the consequences of those sins, which include remorse and a loss of reputation and influence. Reuben’s sin left an indelible mark upon him and his family. As Christians, we must understand that dishonor is a wound that will not be healed without a scar.

He Lives

Luther was once found at a moment of peril and fear, when he had need to grasp unseen strength, sitting in an abstracted mood tracing on the table with his finger the words, “Vivit! vivit!” (“He lives! He lives!”). It is our hope for ourselves, and for His truth, and for mankind. Men come and go; leaders, teachers, thinkers speak and work for a season, and then fall silent and impotent. He abides. They die, but He lives. They are lights kindled, and, therefore, sooner or later quenched; but He is the true light from which they draw all their brightness, and He shines for evermore

~Alexander Maclaren

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A Wider Window

A Wider Window

WITHIN THE CENTER of my ring / I found myself, and that was everything,” the poem says. Whatever my twenty-year-old self was, it was the pivot on which the circle of my life revolved. I do not think that I was a more selfish person than most. Through such unhappiness as I had known myself, I had a feeling for the unhappiness of others, and at least to those I liked I had it in me to be a good friend. But I was, as I have said, centered on myself. The tree, the cloud, the sun I knew there was a wider world beyond myself and my small circle: the world that Saint Francis praised God for, the world that had marked with such sadness and pity and weariness the face of Jesus in Da Vinci’s study. And I knew that somewhere out there, or deep beneath, there might well be God for all I knew. But all of that seemed very remote, mysterious and unreal compared with the immediate and absorbing reality of myself. And though I think I knew even then that finding that self and being that self and protecting and nurturing and enjoying that self was not the “everything” I called it in the poem, by and large it was everything that, to me, really mattered. That, in any event, was the surface I floated on and in many ways float on still as to one degree or another we all of us both do and must lest otherwise we get lost or drown in the depths. But to lose track of those depths to the extent that I was inclined to—to lose track of the deep needs beyond our own needs and those of our closest friends; to lose track of the deep mystery beyond or at the heart of the mystery of our separate selves—is to lose track also of what our journey is a journey toward and of the sacredness and high adventure of our journey. Nor, if we have our eyes, ears, hearts open at all, does life allow us to lose track of the depths for long

Frederick Buechner

Contentment Through Pain

If God has given His Son to die for us, let us beware of doubting His kindness and love in any painful providence of our daily life. Let us never suppose that He can give us anything that is not really for our good.
Let us remember the words of Paul, “He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all—how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.” (Rom. 8:32.)

Let us see in every sorrow and trouble of our earthly pilgrimage, the hand of Him who gave Christ to die for our sins. That hand can never smite us except in love. He who gave us His only begotten Son, will never withhold anything from us that is really for our good. Let us lean back on this thought and be content. Let us say to ourselves in the darkest hour of trial, “This also is ordered by Him who gave Christ to die for my sins. It cannot be wrong. It is done in love. It must be well.”
~ J.C. Ryle

Impossible Love Made Possible

May 22, 2018

Galatians 5:22-23

When a lawyer asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest, He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:37, 39). What an overwhelming assignment!

In our own strength, none of us can live up to this obligation, but the Lord has provided a way for Christians to do the impossible. The indwelling Holy Spirit works to produce His fruit in us, and first on the list is love (Gal. 5:22). In fact, the other eight qualities are really just descriptions of its expression.

Whenever we demonstrate kindness, patience, or gentleness, we see the Lord’s love at work through us, especially when the other person has been unkind and doesn’t deserve such pleasant treatment. This fruit is not produced by trying harder to muster good will toward someone who is irritating or hard to get along with. Instead, think of the process more like sap running through a branch on a grape-vine. The branch doesn’t make grapes; the sap does. In the same way, the Spirit flows through us, producing God’s love in us, so that we can pass it on to Him and others.

Agape love is the reason we are able to care for someone who mistreats us–it’s God’s doing, not ours. Even the adoration we offer the Lord is not something that we can produce in our own heart apart from His assistance. Though the command to love is enormous,God’s grace makes it possible.

Cathey Lynn

Fruit of The Spirit

Galatians 5:22

(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 
   

Since love is a fruit, a product, of God’s Holy Spirit, could its companion, joy, be produced in us differently? Like love, joy is not the product of the natural mind but the product of the supernatural Holy Spirit of God. If it is not a product of the natural mind, then pursuing it apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit will produce only very limited and pale imitations of what God experiences by nature and greatly desires to be in us.

David writes, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). It is interesting to compare our joy with God’s continual joy and simultaneously think of what destroys joy for us. As long as we are human, joy diminishes and eventually ends. We realize this even as we experience it. I have owned several new automobiles. Each time I took a new one home, I received it with joy as if I had a new toy. But in each case I eventually acquired the same attitude toward the new car as I formerly had toward the old one. The joy was gone, and the car was again nothing more than a tool to convey me from one place to another.

No matter how secure the sources of our joy seem, we know joy does not last long. We may die; a mate or a friend who brings us joy may die; good health ceases; comforts vanish; social tragedies and natural disasters destroy loved things, properties depreciate and wear out; and our senses become dull so that we cannot see, hear, taste, feel, or smell as we once did (II Samuel 19:31-35).

The God who created everything is aware of all the human tragedies that have unfolded before His eyes over the past 6,000 years, and He still finds cause to be joyful. Our great God does not find joy in the tragedies themselves. His Word records times when He expressed regret, sorrow, or anger over the conduct of mankind, and yet He still experiences a vibrant, lasting joy. This seems to imply that His joy generally wells from different sources than mankind’s. It is this joy we need to seek.

Cathey Lynn