Thursday, March 31, 2011

Christianity and Happiness 101: Breaking Down the Beatitudes Pt. 3

I am prefacing this post by saying God wants His people to be happy. Yes, He wants to save your soul, and yes He wants you to serve Him. But there are rewards. And one of those is happiness.

Also, I am glad that I have something of a readership. I am still looking for other Christians who would be willing to contribute by writing. And if you are blessed by this, share it. If it makes you think, respond. Or both.

Matthew 5:5

"Blessed are the meek,

For they will inherit the earth."

If you are on this post, you should know the meaning of blessed from post #1.

But if you don't feel like catching up, it is an objective state of happiness which comes from the grace of God.

Anyway, meekness.

Pretty much every time I hear any pastor speak about meekness, they preface with something like this. "You probably have always heard the word 'meek' and thought it meant weak. But it is not that." Then they go on with what they have to say.

The best description of meekness I have heard is "power under control."

So is meekness weakness? Nope. It is acknowledging the power and strength you have, but not abusing it.

It is being strong yet gentle; powerful but submissive.

Like a horse allowing somebody to harness it and put a bit in its mouth.

So lets just go crazy here, and ask the question, What does meekness look like in practice.
Jesus said
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve."

So for me, being meek looks like doing the dishes at my house even when I have been gone for the weekend and I did not contribute to the mess. It looks like giving my lunch to the guy on the bus who said he was hungry. It looks like letting somebody I do not particularly like make a decision about a matter of preference, submitting even when I could have my way.

God has given us power. As His children, co-heirs with Christ, we are members of a royal family, but God is calling us not to mount on pristine steeds, crusading from a position of superiority, but to get down in the dirt, in the muck of the world and wash feet.

We need to find people who are hurt, broken, sick and in need. Then meet those needs physically and spiritually.

That is why I feel personally called to do ministry in poor urban areas. Because God has called us to be ambassadors. And as much as the suburban housewives and professionals need Jesus, the hungry and the poor accept that they need Him that much more.

Back to the scripture breakdown.

"For they will inherit the earth."

So they, the meek, will inherit.

What is inheritance?

It can be something we receive when an ancestor dies, but it can also mean to receive a legacy or to gain something as a right.

What is the earth?

It is a planet, on which humans live, that God created. It is your home and mine.

Earth is everything we know and love, it is our very reality while we live and breathe.

And God is offering us the deed.

It's like when your dad gives you a car. Except instead of a car, He is giving you the keys to the whole world. He does that because even though He has given you privilege, you have showed Him self-control and a servant's heart.

He says, "Hey you, I love you. I adopted you. And you have proven yourself trustworthy. So take the keys. The world is yours."

Its not so you can do anything you want for yourself.

It is so you will do everything you can for others.

When you do well with little, He gives you more.

And never forget, God is in total control, and His kingdom includes every inch of earth.

Which is why He can give us access.

How to be Happy

Step 1: Be humble, receive power and responsibility.

Step 2: Be broken, accept the gift of the Holy Spirit for comfort.

Step 3: Be submissive, gain access to the tools you need for service.

Questions to Ponder or Respond to.

In what ways can you be meek in your everyday life?

How has God given you your inheritance, i.e., the earth?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Christianity and Happiness 101: Breaking Down the Beatitudes Pt. 2

I am hoping that this will be encouraging, and that others will want to contribute and share with their friends. I encourage people to comment and share this as much as they are willing to. If anybody has anything to add or just a prayer request or anything.. do not hesitate.

I want to keep doing this for a long time, but it is hard to keep doing it without knowing that it is making some kind of impact.

If you or somebody you know wants to be happy, this may be a good tool for that.

This post I am going after Matthew 5:4

"Blessed are those who mourn,

For they will be comforted."

Ok, so for anybody who has not read the first post. You should because this is a process that builds on itself. Definition of blessed.That link is to the first post. Come back when you have caught up.

Side note: This blog is for anybody who wants to read it, but I am writing from the assumption that you know some stuff about the basics of Christianity. If you have questions about anything, I hope you ask me.

So, what does it mean "blessed are those who mourn"?

The first thing I think of when I think of mourning is death.

King David speaks about sorrow in Psalms 30

"weeping may remain for a night,

but rejoicing comes in the morning."

So mourning is expressing sorrow. It is an act of being broken and vulnerable.

It means not trying to internalize the emotions of sadness, of despair.

It means to grieve or deeply regret something.

We can all pretty much agree to that.

But.. what is it that "those who mourn" are supposed to be mourning?

I think, and this is interpretation not direct Scripture, that the thing which is being mourned is in direct reference to the verse that came before it. I think the Beatitudes are building blocks. As we understand and apply each one, we grow and then we add the next one.

So we are mourning the fact that we are nothing.

But then God comes into the picture.

"For they will be comforted."

We know who "they" are, but what is comfort?

Being comforted is being soothed. It is being helped. But it is something which has to be accepted. An offer of comfort can be made and rejected. We need to actively seek the comfort and accept it when God offers it to us.

How does God comfort us?

He gives us "peace that transcends understanding" and "daily mercies".

He gave us a love which he expressed in the sacrifice of His only Son.

He draws near to us and the more we seek Him, the more He lets us get to know who He is.

He speaks truth into our lives through our prayer life, through meditating on His words, through fellowship and words of encouragement.

So the problem is, why do we not always feel comforted?

Well firstly, we have to humble ourselves. Then we have to let God break us.

Because just like an artist has the right to reshape his work of art, God has every right to break us and remake us in an even more amazing way. And the comfort that He offers, just like the kingdom of heaven is both a promise for the future (there will be a day He wipes away all of our tears) and a promise for today. God says he sent the Holy Spirit to be a "Great Comforter".

But until we are vulnerable and transparent, until we allow all of ourselves to be exposed to His healing light, we can receive that peace, that comfort, that healing. So lets pray together for brokenness. That God would break our hearts and reshape us to be even more like Jesus.

How to be Happy

Step 1: Be humble, receive power and responsibility.

Step 2: Be broken, accept the gift of the Holy Spirit for comfort.

Christianity and Happiness 101: Breaking Down the Beatitudes Pt. 1

Jesus was radical. And as Christians we are called to the same radical lifestyle as Him. This is the beginning of what I hope may become a great collaboration of fellow believers.
I feel like God has put me in the Beatitudes for some reason. I want to break them down, and I am looking for other Christians who feel like writing about this, or some other topic. Because I think God likes it when His children want to understand Him better.

Everybody just wants to be happy.
This is Christ's step by step guide to being happy.
Matthew 5:3-11

“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 sons 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."

Let's just start by breaking down the word "blessed" before we even get into the verses.

I am a firm believer in defining terms as a means of communicating effectively.

Blessed is a way of saying happy. But it is important to not just leave it at that.

There are two distinct forms of happiness.

Number 1 is a subjective state of temporary emotion due to a situation or event and often very fleeting.

Number 2 is an objective state of permanent reality due only to God's grace.

Blessed is the second kind of happy, it will not go away. It is what a lot of people think of when they use the word joy, but I think that happy will do.

I am going to start with just one or two lines per post and see how that goes.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

What does poor mean?

It is a term of relativity.

Poverty, poorness is a word that compares one thing to another.

The most destitute homeless person in America is still rich compared to many people in third world countries.

I am poor compared to Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.

What is spirit?

Spirit is that which is not corporeal, but it is still very real.

It is that which is of divine substance. It is of God.

So to be "poor in spirit" is to realize we are nothing compared to God.

And if we are nothing without God, the only way to be anything is through God.

This realization leads to another word thrown around in Christianity a lot, humility.

The poor in spirit are those who purposefully position themselves as lesser than God, as well as lesser than others.

We need to start realizing that we are nothing without the grace of God. The same grace which is the basis of the true happiness that is called "blessed".

We are called to love God, and love each other.

To not think of ourselves as higher than we ought.

We are called to speak from a position of grace, not judgement.

"For theirs is the kingdom of God"

Who is they?

They are the followers of Christ who live in humility, serving each other.

"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." That is what Jesus said to his disciples about gaining position as Christians.

What is the kingdom of God?

A kingdom is the area in which the King has dominance.

Our God is our king, and he is a sovereign God. That means he has the right to do anything and everything His way for His own goals.

His kingdom knows know bounds, and that means there is nothing He does not have dominion over.

So if we are humble, recognizing that we are nothing without God, then he will give us access to his Kingdom. He will give us the royal rank.

If He is a king, His son must be a prince. And if we are His children, we are also part of the royal family and given the rights and responsibilities that come with that position.

God gives His followers His kingdom. He does that not because He has to, but because He wants to. And the responsibility of that power which He imparts on us is great. He calls us to take His gift and use it to make His name known, to be a light in a dark world.

He gives us everything, so let's take the time to acknowledge His greatness and not waste His gift by hiding it away.

How to be Happy

Step 1: Be humble, receive power and responsibility.