CENTERED

Ye are the light of the world.
Matthew 5:14

I have some really great memories of my early Christian years. Excitement about sharing our faith in Christ was in the air. It wasn’t just the professional ministers that preached Christ, it was the pleasure of all Christians. In my first semester of Bible School (I started two weeks after my conversion) I was given several powerful tools to win Christ. First, our Bible College published a number of very good gospel tracts. We were taught to carry them everywhere with us and distributing them was a way of life. We were also taught how to share the basic plan of salvation using Bible verses. Those scriptures are still part of my arsenal. Presenting Christ as the only way of salvation became our passion and shaped all of our lives. We all were full time Bible students and had full time jobs to support ourselves, yet sharing our faith was the unquestioned part of our daily lives. We never considered that preaching Christ was just for the professionals. Here are some thoughts from Watchman Née evangelism as a way of life.
“Some ask, should they preach, or should they seek employment in a profession or trade? Are there two roads in front of a child of God? Where in Scripture do we find such alternatives: to preach or find work? Is it a choice we are called upon to make? God’s people are a lamp for witness. Is there then a Christian who is not to witness? It cannot be that a few preach, while in some mysterious sense all are the lamp. No, there is a living witness for God on earth, and for that I live. This is the one road for us all, and there is no other. None can be the Lord’s and not testify to him. All must preach Christ; that is the big thing. It is a secondary question whether all the time is to be given to it or some spent in breadwinning. For everything turns on where our center is. God cannot use one who adds preaching to business; He can use one who adds business to preaching. It simply depends which side the addition is on! God, not our business, is to be the center of our lives.”
To some, Nee’s statements might seem radical. To those who are radically saved it sounds like the normal Christian life. Lord, pour out a passion for the lost on us again!

NOT FOR GIRAFFES

Matt. 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Matt. 5:5 Blessed are the humble,

for they will inherit the earth.
The kingdom of God is quite different from the kingdoms of this world. Actually, the character of a kingdom starts at the top with the king, that’s why the kingdom of God is so different. Jesus is our king but quite a different kind of king, We catch a glimpse of this at His interaction with Pilate. “Are you a king?” Pilate asked. He sure didn’t look like a king, His followers ran away, He had been beaten beyond recognition. He had no palace, no army, no great wealth; how could He possibly be a king? Jesus answered the question in a most unusual way, “My kingdom is not of this world”. What was He saying? What could He mean? He was clearly saying He was a King but a very different kind of a king. Like Paul said, “the kingdom of God is not meat or drink (not physical) but it is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.

Revival brings us face to face with this upside down kingdom, its not what everyone expected. Here is a glimpse of the kingdom at Azusa from an eye witness Frank Bartleman.

“No subjects or sermons were announced ahead of time, and no special speakers for such an hour. No one knew what might be coming, what God would do. All was spontaneous, ordered of the Spirit. We wanted to hear from God through whoever he might speak. We had no “respect of persons.” The rich and educated were the same as the poor and ignorant, and found a much harder death to die. We only recognized God. All were equal. No flesh might glory in His presence. He could not use the self-opinionated. Those were Holy Ghost meetings led of the Lord. It had to start in poor surroundings to keep out the selfish, human element. All came down in humility together at His feet. They all looked alike and had all things in common in that sense at least. The rafters were low, the tall must come down. By the time they got to “Azusa,” they were humbled, ready for the blessing. The fodder was thus placed for the lambs, not for giraffes. All could reach it.”
That really says it all, the fodder is for the lambs, not the giraffes. Jesus was like a lamb led to the slaughter, lets follow in His steps of meekness and humility.

Pure Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.Matt.5:8
Have you ever really thought about this promise? No, really! Just think about it for a moment. This is a promise to be able to see God. I think of it like this, this enables me to see God in every part of my life; in the small things, the really big things, and even in those most difficult moments. To see God consistently in my life makes all the difference in the world. It takes away the fear and the second guessing, it allows me to enjoy life and know that He has my back all the time. But this brings us to the next question, how do I get a pure heart? Actually the pure heart is a gift that we receive by faith. The Lord promises to take away our “stoney heart” and to replace it with a heart of flesh, a new heart. This is the new birth or what Jesus called being born again. But here comes the tricky part, we have to walk in this new life consistently to experience these benefits. When we walk by faith in this newness of life, that’s when we see God. Luther spoke about this verse in a practical way, pureness of heart in the real world. Check this out.
“Some dreamers claim that in order to have a pure heart, people have to hide in a corner, enter a monastery or convent, or seek the solitude of the desert. They claim people shouldn’t think worldly thoughts or spend any time on secular matters. Instead, all their thoughts should be about heaven. These dreamers deceive both themselves and others with their mistaken notions. They lead people astray and do a lot of damage. Scripture talks about having pure thoughts and a pure heart in a way that is consistent with being a spouse, loving and caring for your family, and doing everything a parent does. In fact, God insists that we fulfill these responsibilities. Whatever God commands can’t be impure. In fact, it’s this very purity that allows us to see God.

Even dirty and unpleasant work, such as shoveling manure or washing diapers, is pure and holy work if it comes from a pure heart.”
I really relate to this. After all, I worked my way through Bible School with one of those manure shoveling jobs (literally). That is where I learned how to practice this verse, keeping my heart pure and seeing God in the everyday events of my life.

GREAT CONTRADICTION

Matt. 5:4 ¶ “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The teachings of Jesus were filled with apparent contradictions, at least they were contradictions in the eyes of the worldly man. Take today’s verse from the Amplified Bible for example.
“Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!”
How could anyone be extremely happy and mourning at the same time? What could Jesus really be talking about? He is describing true repentance. Yep, one of those words we avoid and rarely even hear at church. Let me say it again, ‘REPENTANCE’. From the Lord’s perspective, repentance is what happens when we see the ugliness of our personal sin and the consequences that our sin brings. Consequences are also one of those topics we don’t like to hear about. We like to hear that grace evaporates the consequences of our sins. Not always true. If you killed someone they are still dead. You can receive forgiveness but consequences remain. That is where the mourning part comes in. We mourn because our sins have offended God, maybe hurt other people, and have brought problems into our own lives.

Well what about the happiness and blessed part? That is the joy that comes in connection with the mourning. We see His forgiveness and His plan for restoration and recovery of what we have lost through our sinful behavior. Christ removes our sins and implements His purpose and plans in our lives through His plan of redemption.

Paul the Apostle is the greatest example of this truth. He was actually the prototype of conversion. Remember how it started, he was breathing out threats and murder against the Christian community. He was living and breathing in an atmosphere of hate. He was responsible for the death of some of the first Christian martyrs. Then it happened, the Damascus Road experience. Paul was forgiven and changed at the same time. The martyrs were still dead but Paul was forgiven, the plan of redemption was now kicking in. Paul mourned over his sinfulness and the price others had paid for his sins. Now Paul was rejoicing because of the mercy of God, his mourning had led to true blessedness. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.

BLESSED

Matt. 5:3 ¶ “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
What a way to start a sermon. Jesus was all about the shock value of His ministry, His words were anything but safe or what would be called today, culturally relevant. He would go right up against the grain. He came right out and said it, the way to be blessed or extremely happy, was not in the pursuit of this present age, it would be found in the pursuit of the kingdom of heaven. Right off the bat, that is a hard sell. Many people aren’t remotely interested in heaven, it’s comfort and pleasure in the here and now that they are after. Man’s wisdom would try to sneak up on people with some cultural cliche or a promise of popularity. Not Jesus, He spoke of meekness, poverty of spirit, repentance (mourning), and even persecution as being linked to happiness, or as He said it; blessedness. The way to be blessed is found by the pure in heart, they are the ones that will see God. Here are some thoughts from Barclay on this word ‘blessed’.
“That is most important, for it means that the beatitudes are not pious hopes of what shall be; they are not glowing, but nebulous prophecies of some future bliss; they are congratulations on what is. The blessedness which belongs to the Christian is not a blessedness which is postponed to some future world of glory; it is a blessedness which exists here and now. It is not something into which the Christian will enter; it is something into which he has entered. True, it will find its fulness and its consummation in the presence of God; but for all that it is a present reality to be enjoyed here and now. The beatitudes in effect say, “O the bliss of being a Christian! O the joy of following Christ! O the sheer happiness of knowing Jesus Christ as Master, Savior and Lord!” The very form of the beatitudes is the statement of the joyous thrill and the radiant gladness of the Christian life. In face of the beatitudes a gloom-encompassed Christianity is unthinkable.”
So that very thing that we are all after but not willing to admit is happiness or joy. Jesus starts His very first sermon with that word that we are after, He called it ‘BLESSED’. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

BLESSED HUNGER

Matt. 5:6 ¶ “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Jesus was a master with His use of words. It was said that no one ever spoke like He did. The sermon on the mount is one of His masterpieces. No one can ever top or even approach the great teachings of Jesus. It takes a lifetime to begin to comprehend the very beginning of His teachings. Today’s verse is one of the most profound statements ever uttered. It will take our lifetime to try to comprehend the depths of this apparent simple verse. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Are you satisfied with your life? Are you happy or as Jesus said, blessed (makarios) with your life? Jesus said that we could be and we would find this happiness in the strangest of all places; we find it in the pursuit of the righteousness of God. This pursuit was the very thrust of the lifelong quest of Martin Luther. He hungered for that elusive righteousness of God. He found it not in himself but in a gift that he received. It was the gift of salvation received only by faith. Here is how this verse is explained in The Fire Bible.
“The foundational requirement for all godly living is to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. Such hunger is seen in Moses, the psalm writer and the great missionary, Paul. The spiritual condition of Christians all throughout their lives will depend on their hunger and thirst for (a) the presence of God, (b) the Word of God, (c) the interaction and friendship of Christ, (d) the companionship, guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit, (e) righteousness, (f) God’s power and (g) the return of the Christ.”
Luther actually said at one point in his career as a monk that he hated the righteousness of God. It seemed so damning and impossible to attain to. No matter how hard he tried he could never “feel” like he had become righteous. He says that he beat upon Paul’s writings about the righteousness of God until the day that he “got it”. He finally understood that righteousness or perfection could never be accomplished by a man’s endeavors. There was only one perfect being. Perfection or righteousness could never be the results of our efforts, it had to be received as a gift by faith. That was it, simple but incredibly profound. This was the revelation that converted a monk and birthed the Protestant Reformation.

THE FOURTH OF JULY

Matt. 5:14 ¶ “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 
Matt. 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The Fourth of July, Independence Day, what kind of visions does it stir up in you? Family gatherings, hot dogs, picnics, fireworks or does it take you farther back back almost 250 years to the birth of our nation?Things have changed a lot in those 250 years, they have changed a lot in my life time. Those changes confirm that we have lost our sense of national purpose and destiny, we have forgotten who we are and why we are. When I go back to those earliest days at the birth of our nation I am always shocked at the role Christianity played in the founding of this great nation. I want to share some quotes from some of those men that will bring you back to the beginning, back to the days when we became “One Nation under God”.
– George Washington, Prayer –
“Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart by Thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of Thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in Thy fear, and dying in Thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy son, Jesus Christ.”

– Samuel Adams –
“We have this day [Fourth of July] restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His Kingdom come.”

– United States Congress 1782 –
“The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.”

– John Adams –
“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

– John Adams
“[The Fourth of July] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”

So I say; Lord, do it again. Let the winds of spiritual awakening settle on the land of the free and the home of the brave once again. God, bless America one more time. Remind us of who we were so we can again return to the people our world needs us to be.