Archive for May, 2021

The Beatitudes Part 2: How Mourning Can Become a Blessing

Note: This post is part two in a series of eight posts on the Beatitudes.


Jesus Christ had the capacity of distilling an ocean of fact into a drop of truth.  He revolutionized the world’s ideals.  He inverted His society’s concepts.  He who was sharing these truths was the living embodiment of them.

Jesus Christ was a living incarnation of His teachings.  The Beatitudes are a pocket-sized biography of Christ.

The Greek word for mourning, pentheo, means a grief that consumes the whole person.  Christ is a spiritual seismograph, sensing the needs of His subjects.  He knew mourning was inescapable.  His intent is to give it meaning and purpose. God takes no pleasure in our pain.  He will take a part.

Mourning is sober judgment.  It prompts people to weigh values.  It reveals one’s true character. The blackest of velvet is used to display the rarest of diamonds.  This speaks of those who have not realized and acknowledged their spiritual poverty. Sorrow in life is inevitable. What we sorrow over is what matters. This sorrow, mourning, is over our former spiritual arrogance and reluctance to acknowledge our spiritual poverty.

Mourning is a corrective of a condition.  It is essential to recovery from an adverse condition. Godly sorrow results in repentance. To mourn is natural.  It is not optional.  Our response is optional.  Sorrow with a purging purpose is profitable.  It is mourning with a meaning.  It can bring godly repentance. That is why it is a blessing.

The word “comforted” comes from two parts: “com” meaning together with and “fort” meaning strength. Christ shares His strength and together with Him we become strong.

If mourning over sin brings us to this conclusion commissioned by Emperor Fredrick III by the faculty of Heidelberg University, the oldest university in Europe, to write a statement of faith in 1562

The Heidelberg Catechism:
“Question:  What is your only comfort in life and death?
Answer:  That I, with body and soul, both in life and death am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserved me that without the will of my Heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.”

Pause now and talk with the Lord about your own core of values.

The Beatitudes Part 1: Exalted Happiness

Note: This post is part one in a series of eight posts on the Beatitudes.


Jesus Christ in love has charted the way to happiness for you. On the scenic slopes overlooking The Sea of Galilee, He spoke eight utterances that form milestones on the road to happiness.  Obedience to them brings happiness.

The pursuit of happiness for many people ends in a freakish traffic jam.  Motors keep accelerating, but nobody can move.  This has caused many to forget their pursuit of happiness and wrap themselves in a cocoon of cynicism.

This in no way speaks of financial poverty being a virtue. It is poverty in spirit that is the intent. 

This kind of happiness differs in kind from ours by definition.  Our’s is dependent on happenstance, that is, conditions and circumstances.  The happiness of which Christ spoke is independent of circumstances. 

The Greek word “Ptocho,” translated poor, describes a beggar who lives off the alms of another.  He is speaking of the poor in spirit not the poor-spirited, not dejection, self-pity, those without backbone or “stuffin.”

As the physically poor are dependent on others so we who are poor in spirit have come to the realization that we are personally spiritually bankrupt and dependent.

The good news is preceded by the bad news. That is only when a person realizes they are lost, poor in spirit, and need the good news are they open to the gospel.

Not to admit poverty of spirit is self-deception. Abject poverty of spirit results in reliance on Christ for resources.

The poor in spirit consider themselves stewards not collectors.  They are to use what they receive to the glory of God not for their own greed.  Substance is theirs with which to serve not to save.  

To be poor in spirit involves: humility, submission, gratitude, contentment.

I pity the poor, for they think riches would answer all their needs.

I pity the rich, for they know riches won’t meet our needs.

I rejoice with those who know and experience the truth of which Christ spoke and who are truly poor in spirit but rich in the faith.

(A) Avoid comparisons.
(B) Realize your weaknesses.   
(C) Hedge against pride

The poor in spirit avoid the pitfall of pride.

“God resists the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.”  (James 4:6)

The poor in spirit realize themselves to be conductors of praise on its way to the supreme source, Christ.

There has never been a supremely happy egotist. The cavernous capacity of a narcissist for recognition is like a bottomless pit. The consuming lust for self-elevating flattery depletes one’s friends.

The result is blessedness.  Blessed translates the word “macaria.” The Island of Cyprus was once called Macaria because it was alleged to be able to produce and provide all that man could require or desire.

The poor (ptochos) are beggars of God who can make them blessed (macaria).  He can give to the poor in spirit all that they require and desire. That is true happiness.

Spiritual poverty is the beginning of spiritual nobility.

Three Basic Desires

ABC-TV had a documentary featuring John Stossel on “Happiness.” It involved extensive research. Their interviews of persons in Third World countries was interesting. When asked how happy they were, they most often answered indicating they had never thought about it. In America we think about it. It seems we have a constant monitor on our “happiness pulse.” We need to avoid going around asking ourselves, “Am I happy?”

One conclusion reached by that secular program was that persons who had a practical Christian faith tended to be happier than those who do not. The reason is they have a sense of commitment and purpose that adds to happiness. Such persons have a sense that their life is in control because of their faith in God.

That is part of what Christ was talking about when He said, “I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

With Him in control there is a sense of well being resulting in happiness. This stability results when we realize: “Our efficiency turns out to be our deficiency without His sufficiency.”

Psychologists say human beings have three basic desires: acceptance, approval, and appreciation.

Scripture teaches us we are created in the likeness of God. That means He has three basic desires: acceptance, approval, and appreciation. How do you score?

Faith can carry us when all else fails. Even under extenuating circumstances it prevails. Historical examples of this are our predecessors who were persecuted for their faith. Indicative of those tortured for their faith was Polycarp, leader of the church in Smyrna, at the end of the first century. His state appointed tormentor said to him: “Say, ‘Away with the atheist,’ (Jesus) swear by the godhead of Caesar, and blaspheme Christ.”

He replied, “Eighty-and-six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” 

His executioner asked him how his head was resisting. He replied, “It matters not how the head rests, what matters is how is the heart.”

He had his values right, do you?

Some seem to have this mind-set regarding work.

There are 365 days in a year:
A workday is only 1/3 of a day, eight hours, that is 122 days a year.
There are fifty-two Sundays a year; so that leaves 70 work days.
There are fifty-two Saturdays a year; so that leaves 18 work days.
You get two weeks, 14 days of vacation; so that leaves 4 work days.
The average worker takes 3 days sick leave; that leaves one work day a year.

Contrast that by approaching every task with a mind-set of doing it – – – as to the Lord.

Three Desirable Life Objectives

Early on a warm summer eve a young boy knelt on the edge of a dusty Mississippi road. Looking up at the moonlit sky, he prayed a simple, but significant prayer: “Dear God, please give me a self to live with, a work to live for, and a faith to live by.”

For over 75 years he has had the good fortune of living the answer to that prayer. Those are three meaningful components, but actually listed in the reverse order. Faith influences the other two.

Faith is confidence in God to help you perform His will in your life. When Moses tried to do the job himself, he failed. He couldn’t keep a dead Egyptian soldier buried. When he let God in on the action, he saw the entire Egyptian army buried.

Faith is the bridge across which we walk between anxiety, frustration, and fear on one side; to peace of mind, joy, and assurance on the other.

We all, even the greatest skeptic, live by faith. We have confidence the brakes on our car will work when we depress the pedal, and there is no way to prove it in advance. We have faith the food at the fast food place is okay, and there is no way we can test it in advance. We live by faith. It is the object of it, Jesus, that makes life worthwhile.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:7)

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17)

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The second part of that prayer related to a work for which to live. We often put emphasis on the day of rest in the creation narrative, and minimize the six days of work. Even the Creator labored six days before resting. There is dignity in work. When well done, it gives proper pride.

The third request was for a self with which to live. This is often a byproduct of a faith by which to live, and a work for which to live. When a person has a sense of pleasing God by the exercise of faith, and man by constructive work well done, there can be peace of mind. 

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (Romans 5:1-2)

I, that boy on the dusty road, attest to these truths.

The Profile of a Plodder

“Plodder” is a euphemism for one who perseveres. It is their will, often in the absence of skill, that emboldens and enables them to achieve. They are driven by an inflamed desire to break down barriers, overcome obstacles, and do the impossible.

Today is an ideal time to resolve to become a plodder. You won’t regret it.

Robert Louis Stevenson observed: “Worthwhile people don’t just happen, they aren’t just born. They are born with the ability to become worthwhile. It is your job to discover and develop the man or woman you ought to be.”

Plodders see the security in playing it safe.

They smell the sulfur from side-track snare pits.

They hear the hollow laughter of mockers who stopped short.

They feel the fear of potential failure.

They are touched by the agony of defeat —- and still they persevere. 

Moses is a classic example of an Old Testament plodder. He never would have led his people on their way to the Promised Land had he not been a plodder.

Paul is a classic example of a New Testament plodder. He never would have endured the Roman prisons and survived to write much of the New Testament.

William Carey is a matchless example of extra-biblical plodders. From his trade as a humble shoe maker he emerged as a scholar and linguist who started the modern missions movement. He lived by his motto:


He concluded: “I can plod …. To this I owe everything.”

Now, you can write your own plodder autobiography. Perhaps it could be entitled “How I Overcame Me.” This work is intended for those weary pilgrims who are contemplating giving up. This appeal: “don’t, plod on —- with me.”