Hungry!

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:6

Matthew 5 6

As I sit here in a coffee shop the day before Thanksgiving I am currently starving. I made an apple pie this morning and this may be the reason the normal ‘breakfast, no lunch, straight into dinner’ game plan has not satisfied my hunger. This is very fitting for our beatitude of the day and tomorrow being Thanksgiving day. So here it is Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are the those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” Ok, so a moment of honesty, I love this one too. But let’s be real the beatitudes are like bacon and how can you not love bacon.  

I don’t know about you but Thanksgiving at my house has two hunger conditions. I’m either starving or completely stuffed from all the food that I just ate. I have a small family. Thanksgiving dinner is normally an ordeal to put together and I generally end up in the kitchen for a good part of the day. It’s actually pretty amazing how a person can be around so much food all day in the kitchen and still be starving. I feel like Thanksgiving is one of the few days where people actually look forward to the dinner they are preparing and try to make sure they are really hunger for it. The normal routine of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner even if we aren’t quite hungry doesn’t apply on thanksgiving. One thing that I can say after all that cooking and putting together a good meal, I am normally pretty satisfied. I am happy with the job that I did cooking and I‘m also happy because I had my fill of good food.

I think that the satisfaction that is promised in this beatitude is deeper than our after Thanksgiving dinner satisfaction. First, we should look at what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. I want to challenge the way you view righteousness. I don’t believe that righteousness is abstaining from the things that we need to abstain from and do the things we are supposed to be doing. Jesus wasn’t giving a checklist in the beatitudes but he was giving us attitudes and a way of life that we should adopt.

Jesus had a lot of confrontations with the Pharisees and in Matthew 23 he addresses the righteousness of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were righteous in that they checked the boxes but they lacked the true elements of righteousness like mercy, grace, godliness and love. When I view doing what is right I see it as loving people and God with discernment. The rules that God gives us are obviously important but the attitudes of our hearts he wants us to adopt are just as important  to righteousness. I think that we practice righteousness when we try to live by God’s rules and laws and practice mercy, grace and love.

I said earlier that the satisfaction promised here is deeper than our Thanksgiving dinner satisfaction. I think Isaiah 55.1-3 shows this. Here God is saying come, eat and be full. He is offering food and water to those who don’t have money. In verse 2 he is saying we labor for things that don’t satisfy like being ungodly or looking for fulfillment in things other than him. He then tells us to listen to him and delight in the rich food that he has given us. Verse 3 says “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” Verse 3 shows us that when we come to God, listen to him and obey his commandments that our souls will live. Besides serving God my goal in life is that my soul would live.

Godliness and living a Christ like life where not only am I sinless but I have adopted God’s heart for him and others is what I think this beatitude is saying we should be hungering and thirsting for. The result of this though is that we would be truly satisfied and have souls that truly live. So as we think about the physical hunger we have to consider what we should really be hungering for and when you are satisfied after that Thanksgiving meal think about the satisfaction that God has promised us when we live righteously.

Have a great Thanksgiving!!!

Daniel Wall

Counter Cultural

Matthew 5 5 NIV

For those of you who drive, have you ever been in the left hand lane on the highway and you have someone in front of you who is driving just slightly slower than you want to? For those of you who don’t drive yet you can imagine the classic slow walker in your school. It can get pretty infuriating the longer the ordeal goes on. Well, when you really look at what is going on here … it’s not that going that extra 5 mph for that 5 minutes is really going to save you that much time. Let’s be honest, most of us would be embarrassed to the fullest extent if our social media usage was published for all the public to see. None of us are missing that sixty seconds to a few minutes. The real thing going on here is a heart issue. That person in front of you is infringing on your freedom to do what you want to do. That is why those sorts of ordeals are so annoying and so infuriating. I for one really enjoy freedom and independence. I feel like I need to insert a ‘Merica here. 

Well today we are dealing with the opposite of this attitude. Matthew 5.5 tells us “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Sorry for setting up everyone but you should have seen this coming.

I think we all have heard that “Meekness isn’t weakness” by now. So, I’m not going to baby bird you guys things you have already heard. 

I am absolutely in love with this beatitude and the thought behind it. We all live in the boss babe and power-hungry world that teaches that you need to take what you deserve. You need to walk tall and make sure that no one fronts on you or pushes you around. This beatitude is possibly the most counter cultural of all the beatitudes and I freaking love it!!!

The thing that really gets me about this beatitude is the reward for meekness is the exact opposite of what you would receive in this world for displaying meekness. Right?! How far do you think that you would get in your high school or middle school or corporate job by being meek? It is so rare that a meek person wins in our society. Yet our King in this passage is telling us that we will be happy and we will inherit the earth when we are meek. The very attitude that will get us nothing in this world, in the age  to come will get us the whole earth. 

This idea is modeled for us in perfection by Jesus. Jesus came as a servant in complete subjection to his Father. He walked this earth humbly, not trying to impose upon others but instead he trusted in God’s faithfulness. The scene that really enforces this idea for me is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the way to his crucifixion.  He didn’t enter Jerusalem on a beautiful glamorous horse wearing royal robes with a crown on his head looking like a king. He entered Jerusalem seated on a donkey in normal clothes. This is the city that he will eventually rule over and he came into it humbly and submitted himself meekly to the will of the Father that sent him to the cross. The times where Jesus was the most aggressive were the times where his honor wasn’t damaged. Rather the times he was the most aggressive were the times he was fighting for God’s honor. (I.e. The flipping of tables in the temple and his interactions with the pharisees). 1 Peter 2.23 says “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” This verse perfectly exemplifies our savior lived meekly on this earth yet he was resurrected to be king over all the earth.

So let’s live meekly, serving those around us knowing that in the kingdom coming we will inherit. Knowing that we are trusting God to fight for what we deserve. 

Dan Wall

Seeing Beyond the Tears

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:4

Matthew 5 4 NIV.png

Today’s beatitude is like a living enigma in my mind and without a living God makes absolutely no sense. Matthew 5.4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” The word mourn can also mean sadness.  Let’s attempt to read in our definition of blessed from yesterday. Happy are those who mourn for they will be comforted. The idea that I am happy when I am mourning is a real problem in my head. I don’t know about yours.

Have you ever had a friend who was out to accomplish something great and they finally accomplish it? Through this whole process you are proud of them for suffering and enduring and getting to the other side. It is awesome to see your friends succeed. It’s great when you get to celebrate those events and successes with them.

Now when they are hurting and in the middle of this great struggle it is really hard. Sometimes in the middle of life you don’t see how it is going to work out well for you and all you know is that your soul hurts and you don’t see any reprieve. Yet when someone else is going through one of those times it is so easy to see the end for them. When someone else is trying to go through a hard time or is pushing through a hard time it is simple for us to say, “It will all be worth it” or, “You will get through this.”

The reason why it can be easy for us to say those things is we are seeing the end for our friends. Outside of that pain, suffering and sadness we are able to see clearly that it will all be alright or what they are going through will at least be worth it. Sadness, pain and suffering can distort our view and cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture and our hope.

To be completely honest… you will suffer in this life. If you live as a Christian you will probably suffer more. There will be plenty of mourning and sadness.  Sorry guys.

The thing I cling to and the thing that allows people to get through extraordinarily challenging things and accomplish great things is they cling to hope and draw near to God. I will say it again. They cling to HOPE and draw near to GOD.

I believe that God will comfort us in the here and now when we pray for it. Sometimes, however, I can pray and still feel empty and sad. So, what do we do then? How do you continue on?

2 Corinthians 4.17-18 says “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

We aren’t living for this world. We are living for a world that we cannot see yet. We suffer through things that we don’t fully understand. The implication of what we are living for is a kingdom that hasn’t yet come. There is no suffering in vain as long as you are walking with God through it. The reason our mourning and sadness makes us blessed is because it isn’t for nothing.  I know one day God will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no mourning and sadness and we will get to see God in all his glory face to face (Rev. 21.4).

I find my comfort in those things when this world has left me mourning. Don’t let the pain and suffering you are going through distract you from the great comfort you have hope in.

It will all be worth it.

Dan Wall

Poor in Spirit

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:3

Matthew 5 3 niv

Having just finished Revelation I thought it would be beneficial to revisit Jesus’ teaching for the next six days. There really is no better place to do this than the Sermon on the Mount. In my opinion this is the most important teaching that Jesus gave us. We will be expanding on six of these beatitudes over the course of the next week. Hopefully, a beatitude a day will keep the doctor away and make us spiritually healthy. And yes, my corniness knows no bounds.

So today let’s explore the first beatitude found in Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Let’s start with this first word “Blessed”. What does blessed actually mean? The debate over this topic is varied but I think we can generally assume it simply means happy. I don’t think it means momentary happiness. I believe what Jesus is aiming at here is long term, lasting happiness, the kind of happiness where you know all you are doing and being is worth it.

Now, for the command “poor in spirit”. For the longest time, like longer than a decade, this phrase left me confused. I have talked to all sorts of different pastors and people seeking an explanation but always walked away unsatisfied. I was left feeling like their definition was somehow incomplete. Finally, I heard it defined as spiritual brokenness and this finally made sense. But what does that really mean, right? This story may help.

When I was twenty years old my sister and I swapped vehicles because I was doing a lot of driving and had a truck with terrible gas mileage. My little sister wasn’t driving a lot and she wanted to drive my truck because well, it was really awesome. It was jacked up with a wicked exhaust system. Basically, it was every teenage boy/country girl’s dream truck. One super early Saturday morning my dad woke me up saying “There is something wrong with your truck” and hands me his cell phone with my sister on the line. He then left the room and probably went back to bed.

Much to my surprise on the other end was my now “frantic and scared for her life” sister. She explained to me how the truck had just stopped moving. Even though the engine was still running. Now this probably wouldn’t have been an issue if it was a normal situation but it wasn’t. The truck broke down during the middle of morning traffic on one of the few bridges that stretches for miles across the Hudson River with no shoulder or pull off at all. Even this would have been fine if it had been bumper to bumper traffic which is typical in New York City but it wasn’t. Traffic was moving well, really well actually and cars were flying past her at 60+ mph. She was stuck in the right hand lane of traffic literally praying to God that they would miss the truck.

In this moment she was experiencing the hopelessness of my truck’s brokenness with danger coming fast directly behind her. It is the same way with spiritual brokenness. Without God we are spiritually broken and helpless. The honest truth is that we are in danger and that without God and Christ our “trucks” are not moving on the middle of a highway, that if we were to stay there – it would end in our deaths.

We adopt this attitude of being “poor in spirit” when we realize how much we need God, his son’s sacrifice and how broken we are without him. We acknowledge God’s holiness and that we don’t deserve his grace or his love. We realize there was/is nothing we can do to earn any of what he has done for us. This isn’t condemnation for the sake of making ourselves feel ashamed or worthless rather it is acknowledgement of how much we need him and all that he has done for us. You can look at your sin and say “I suck” or you can look at your sin and say “I have a great, merciful God who loves me more than I understand.”

This is summarized well in the quote “Those who feel their spiritual need.” by Goodspeed.

So, let’s adopt this attitude of brokenness and helplessness before God because not only will we be happy but we will also have the kingdom of God as well.

 

Dan Wall

Let Your Light Shine Before Men

Matthew 5

matthew 5 16

Clemson University is less than 30 miles away from my house.  The people I go to church with are Clemson fans. The people I work with are Clemson graduates.  On any given day at school, half of my students could be wearing Clemson hoodies, shirts, or lanyards.  For the most part, the people of Upstate South Carolina bleed orange, accessorize in purple, and decorate with tiger print.  I know no matter where you live, there is a similar pride for a local college too, BUT your college wasn’t in the NCAA Football National Championship game (well, unless it’s Bama).

Now, it seems like I’m rubbing it in.  I’m not. My loyalties lie elsewhere, to the rival and unfortunate underdog, South Carolina; however, I do admire the fandom of many of the people I call my friends.  It did not surprise me on Monday night when I logged onto social media that orange was the color of the evening. I saw post after post after post about Clemson’s domination and victory in the National Championship game (sorry, Bama fans).  These people simply could not help themselves because there was something praiseworthy to talk about and they felt like they HAD to share. Although the rivalry and redundancy made me slightly disturbed, there was saving grace in many of these posts.  So many of my friends not only shared news about the victory, but also shared the words of wisdom and faith given by Dabo Swinney, the coach of Clemson, and the players from both sides, who used this moment as an opportunity to let Jesus Christ shine before men, sharing their faith with the cameras rolling.

In today’s reading, Matthew Chapter 5, there is an overwhelming amount of wisdom to take in as we begin the Sermon on the Mount which spans three chapters.  You could easily spend weeks studying the dissertation of Jesus in these chapters alone. To help give focus to this rich reading, so many of Jesus’ words today focus on changing the source of our actions, moving from a mindset that focuses on religious practice to a mind-changing Kingdom of God focus that infects our thoughts.  Harbored hate (5:22), disharmony with a brother or sister in Christ (5:24), looking lustfully (5:28), emphatic swearing (5:34), and even unwillful giving (5:40) become explicitly stated intentions of God’s Law. Jesus painstakingly picks at the heart because fulfillment of Law (5:17) is not in empty legalistic work, but in the motive that navigates these actions.  When the cameras of life are rolling, people will hear our words and see our actions, so intention and motive are not enough, BUT it is the Shining Light, the treasure hidden within the jars of clay, that will ultimately show the surpassing power, hope, and beauty that comes from God’s desire in our hearts (2 Cor 4:7). If we can simply love God and love others (Matt 22:36-40) every Law and moment becomes an opportunity to let our light shine, showcasing works of love and the plans of our Heavenly Father for all men to see.

Sometimes there’s trouble in this execution. It is a lot easier to share a video, applaud someone else’s effort for Christ, and feel like we have done our duty. That is simply not enough.  This is in NO WAY to slight Clemson fans. Or Bama fans. Or football fans. As a South Carolina fan, I am no fan’s judge, and as a sinner, I am no man’s judge. This is simply to mindfully consider the way we “share” our Christian faith in our time and culture.  How are we showing Jesus Christ in our lives to shine before mankind? Are we constantly placing our light on a lampstand where it fills and consumes our actions and the people around us? Or are we conveniently hiding our light under a basket until it becomes easier, safer, or more opportunistic to share? I applaud Dabo, and Trevor, and Tua for sharing their faith, and it inspires me to do the same, but there must be a light shining in OUR hearts that is driving OUR actions.  We are called to reach the dark corners of our place and time, where the voice of Jesus and Dabo do not reach (Acts 1:8) or where they are simply treated as white noise until the fulfillment of the Law is felt with all-consuming actions by us who carry the same message of hope.

matt 5 14

We must stop being complacent “sharers” of our faith.  It is time to get out your light and dust it off; to become deliberate and vulnerable with your faith, transforming your mind (Rom 12:1,2); to place it where any man, woman, or child who crosses your path will see your actions; and then watch the glory of God as it fills up your life and the lives of those around you.

-Aaron Winner