Friday, February 12, 2010

Blessed Be...

I have missed one week in posting my continuing commentary on the book of Matthew but here I am again...

Matthew 5:3-10

On the side of the mountain the people were waiting for some hint to a future change that would soon improve their current situation.  Right now they are eagerly anticipating any statement from Jesus just like reporters do when they wait outside the White House when the President is about to make a statement regarding a controversial political issue.  Jesus accurately understood what the people have been thinking.  They were expecting a military take-over.  They were imagining a reversal of fortunes: the Jews would rule and the Romans would be their subjects.  In their minds this is the blessing that was considered apropos.   It is obvious that they wanted physical change; they just can't spell it out.  They wanted change in their environment and this could have been by way of a political unrest. 

Jesus had a mission and a plan of action that is entirely different from what the people had anticipated.  Instead of changing the physical setting, He intended to start a change from within.  It was a peaceful change that would start from their inner core.  Jesus intended to renew the peoples hearts in order to cause a spiritual change.  That change is required to all who would be part of His kingdom.

In any science class where students are required to participate in lab activities, the instructor always makes sure that the students know what specific words mean.  Knowing the meaning of terms means that you will be able to follow instructions without causing unnecessary disaster and knowing when certain occurrences are expected or not.  Jesus being aware in the discrepancy between His and the peoples' expectations took the necessary right step.  He started his lesson by giving them an unnerving and radical picture of true blessedness.  Blessedness as He described is a paradox in the sense that it starts as the opposite of what the conventional mind would believe but in the end great rewards await those who persevere beyond the test. 

Who are the Blessed Ones?

1.  They are those who are defenseless
"Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, and those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness."

These are the defenseless people.  They are those who do not have ramparts or castle walls to protect them.  They are constantly vulnerable and losing to the enemy.  Jesus said, "Blessed they are."  The things that they were deprived of (defenses, estate, righteousness, comfort, and joy) will come to them in magnitude that is beyond their imagination.  "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven; they will be comforted; they will inherit the earth and they will be filled."

2.  They are those who are concerned for others
      "Blessed are those who are merciful...
           Blessed are the pure in heart...
              Blessed are the peacemakers..."

These are people who act on behalf of others.  They are those who make sacrifices so that others would enjoy life.  Search your heart, motives and activities.  Do they involve alleviating sufferings around you?  Do you cry for the widows and the orphans?  Do you help those who cannot pay you back?  Do you share your shelter with those who cannot invite you back to their homes?  Do you help even when no one pats your back for doing it?  Jesus points out that these are the people whom God is marking to inherit his kingdom.  May our actions be geared, therefore, towards reducing the pain and hunger and discomfort instead of soliciting praises from men or those we want to impress.

3.  They are those who suffer for God's name
Even from the very beginning, Jesus foreknew that following him would involved all sorts of persecutions and insults.   Yet, "Blessed are they..." he said once again.     "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Jesus' point was clear.  His consuming concern for the citizens of His kingdom is not limited to this world.   This life is but a boardwalk to the Garden of Blessedness.  Our life in this world pales out in comparison to the eternal life that He has come to offer us.  Do not get distracted by the vexations of this life focus on the great reward that lies ahead.  The flow of blessings begins as you take your first step towards your reward.

Related:  Before the Big Speech

Monday, February 8, 2010

One More Reminder

Not a lot of people have heard about him but in our family Steve Bell is a common name.  We listen to his album all the time.  Last night was a special night because we got to go see him in person at a concert in Capitol Christian Church.  It was interesting to hear him say the stories behind all the music that he plays.

Steve Bell is a guitarist and singer.  He is also a story teller with a Canadian accent.  The thing that caught my attention beyond his musical ability is his passion in "othering" which, in my own words, is the price that we give for the welfare of others. 

He used the example of Jesus washing the feet of His apostles.  The sacrifice of resource, prides, and comfort so that someone else's situation would improve. 

Sometimes, we get carried away by our own predicaments that we forget to open our eyes to others with compassion.  The gifts that God gives us were meant to be shared and we were meant to be the tunnels for those blessings to flow through.  We should not get in the way of the stream of goodness that comes from God.  There are many ways in which we all can be involved in "othering".  The following video reminds me of Our Brothers' Burden, which is a ministry that focuses on meeting the needs of widows and orphans in India.  The story about the way Our Brother's Burden started (Pastor Naha's coming to El Dorado Hills)shows that we don't need to look far away for an opportunity.  Sometimes it literally knocks at our doors.

The following video features "Deep Calls To Deep" - one of the songs that Steve Bell sang during the concert.  For me, this is one more reminder to make sure that I will extend my hands far enough to reach those who need help.  I hope it will do the same for you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Daily Ponderings: Exodus 15:22-25

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. ~ Exodus 15:22-25
Life is full of ups and downs.  Sometimes the intervals between these two are irregular that we are often shocked by surprises.  We like to enjoy our triumphant feelings over the beautiful events and we covet the luxury of being comfortably forewarned of any lurking change of events.

About fifteen years ago, when we purchased our first house, we were very happy and feeling on-top-of-the-world.  I could still imagine the smell of the new carpet in that house and the closet freshener that the previous owners left in one of the bedrooms.  There were twenty roses in bloom, plums were ripening.  We were in our house and we liked it a lot.  Then our first mortgage payment was due.  At this time Tim was working for a company that was at the verge of bankruptcy.  We barely qualified to buy the house because the pay stubs that we sumbmitted to the lending agency, to prove his ability to pay a huge debt, were the last ones he got from the company.  Tim was mistaken when he decided to stay longer in that company.

Our situation was then very scary.  The question I had was, "Why did God even allow us to be in debt when we were going to lose our means to pay?"  Suddenly the pleasure we had in owning the house turned into worries.   My father-in-law was very kind, he helped us pay our all our bills.  At this time Tim, loyal as he was to the old company, started his search for a new job.  It did not take him long to find one.  Not only that, God surprised us in that Tim was offered a huge signing bonus which was more than enough to pay for all the obligations we had incurred during the time that he was not getting paid.  He started a new enjoyable job and we started to fully enjoy our house...this time with more trust in God.   We've now moved to a different house but Tim still works for the same company up to this time.

God sometimes brings us to the stream of "bitter water" so that we could watch Him turn it into "sweet water."  He wants us to trust Him only with the concerns of this world.

My God, you have shown me many great miracles in this life.  Help me remember them all the time so that when life seems dry that I would have the peace to watch in anticipation for the next miracle that you show me.  Like the Israelites, my trust sometimes fades with circumstances.  Father, help me in my unbelief.