Monday, January 27, 2014

True Happiness

Matthew 5:1-11 NIV

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

From "Once-a-Day Walk with Jesus", YouVersion Daily Devotional:

Blessed ... in the Eyes of God

"What is happiness? Ask 20 different people to answer that question, and you’ll probably get 20 different answers.

But for the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, the path to true happiness is the path of blessedness described by Jesus in Matthew 5:1–11.

As Matthew Henry points out, until you know what true happiness is, you will never discover God’s path to find it.

Walk With Matthew Henry
“Happiness is the thing people pretend to pursue. But most form a wrong notion of it and miss the way.

“The general opinion is: Blessed are those who are rich and honorable in the world, who spend their days in mirth and their years in pleasure.

“Jesus comes to correct this fundamental error and give us quite another notion of blessedness.

“However paradoxical his teaching may appear to those in the world, to those who are saved it is a rule of eternal truth and certainty by which we must shortly be judged.

“If this, therefore, be the beginning of Christ’s doctrine, the Christian’s duty must be to take his measure of happiness from those maxims, and to direct his life accordingly.”

Walk Closer to God
Would you consider yourself truly happy if your life were characterized by meekness ... mercy ... poverty in spirit ... persecution?

You would if you had God’s perspective on happiness.

Given the chance, the world will offer you a bogus substitute—a happiness dependent on money, prestige or circumstances.
Christ says true happiness consists of none of these.

But you must decide. Which notion of blessedness will you build your life on today? How do you complete the sentence “Happiness is ...”? "

For me, true happiness is the realization that there really is no way to obtain happiness without the desperate realization that it can only come through fulfillment in Christ. When I am reaching for this I am joyful in Jesus no matter my life circumstance. As a human, it is so easy to slip off this path and start reaching for other things. Thank God that He left us His Word and Spirit to continually redirect us.

Rethinking Church

This is almost a radical way of thinking for Christians of today, but it really resembles the early church that is described at the end of Acts 2. What is your response to this video?

The Parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee

This is my new favorite Bible story. I've read it many times and even while calling on Jesus to be my savior, I still floated on thinking "I'm so glad I'm not like the Pharisee" How foolish. 
One day, God set this story in front of me and it was like a beam straight out of Heaven finally shedding light on my sin. How could I not see that I was still the pharisee? While I was secretly "judging judges", I was stumbling through life with a "plank in my eye".(Matthew 7:3)
“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
How do you remove the eye plank obstacle? I don't think you can. I think God must do it for you. When somehow, the Holy Spirit grabs you and illuminates the depths of your soul, and you become like the tax collector and you can't even lift your eyes to Heaven, that's when you will really feel the weight of grace.

Inability to Forgive

Life circumstances have kept my family from attending church for several weeks. One or more of us has been sick almost since Christmas. Before the break, the church we have been attending was doing a sermon series on Sin Magnets. Members of the church voted and the pastor preached on what we considered to be our top five "sin magnets", or the top 5 temptations in our lives that lead us to sin.

Number 3 on that list was:  The Inability to Forgive  If you have the time I encourage you to watch this sermon. I was not at church this day, but I really felt the Holy Spirit saying "this is for you", so I sat down and watched it.

The first part of the sermon was the "why" of forgiveness. We know that we are called to because God forgave us. It really started to convict me at about 19 minutes when he got to the "how".

Steps to Forgiveness

1. Accept God's forgiveness for yourself

2. Forgive in the heart first

3. Then, make the first move

4. Forgetting is part of forgiving

5. Pray

I have held on to bitterness many times in my life. I think my problem is that I often forget step 2. I go straight to the action because I want to look like the better person. That is the honest truth.
Now, if I am not letting God into my heart, how can I expect him to bless my actions?
When Pastor Welsh talked about that, it really hit home for me. I started thinking about how my Heavenly Father has forgiven me. What if He was on His Heavenly throne thinking the same kind of bitter thoughts toward me like I have been doing toward others that I have claimed to forgive? I would be absolutely devastated.
That is the thing about grace. It comes straight from the heart. If I want it, I have to be able to give it out, too. Pastor Welsh said "...saying the words 'I forgive you' is not the same as forgiving." This is so much easier said than done. That is where step 5 comes in. Pastor Welsh said that " can't stay angry at someone that you honestly pray for every day. The Holy Spirit won't allow that...prayer not only changes our circumstances, prayer changes us..."
I wanted to write this down to write it on my heart. And, if anyone is out there, that like me, wants to forgive, but just doesn't know how to, I hope this helps you as it did me.