The Be Quietudes

September 20, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Talking itself is not a sin. Christianity is a verbal religion, and the Gospel is communicated by words. “Faith cometh by hearing” (Romans 10:17). However, the Bible does emphasize that we should not talk sinfully.

The “Beatitudes” are found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Matthew 5:3-11

The beautides describe the conditions for expeiencing blessedness, and they prescribe what some of the blessings are. Those who are blessed, according to Jesus, experience God’s favor, and are marked by the types of attitudes and actions which are pleasing in God’s sight, and which bring contentment, peace, and happiness to one’s life.

For this lesson I have borrowed the name “beatitude” and applied it to the idea that there are times when it is more blessed to be quiet than to speak up: “The Bequietudes.”

1. Blessed are those who don’t gossip, for they will not make things worse.

Where no wood is, [there] the fire goeth out: so where [there is] no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

Proverbs 26:20

Gossip ends when nobody is willing to repeat it – the way a fire ends when there is no fuel left to burn.

2. Blessed are those who LISTEN, for they will gain understanding.

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.

Proverbs 20:12

And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:

Matthew 15:10

You can’t listen while you are talking. When people are talking all at once, it causes confusion. You learn more by listening than by talking. God gave you two ears and one mouth – take the hint, and try to listen at least twice as much as you speak.

3. Blessed are those who THINK, for they shall renew their minds.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:2

The Gospel is intended to engage your intellect as much as your emotions. Christianity is not mysticism. Serious thinking is hindered, not enhanced, by talking.

4. Blessed are those who READ, for they shall gain knowledge.

And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

Isaiah 29:12

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane [and] vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

II Timothy 2:15-16

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:11

It’s difficult to talk while you’re reading (unless you’re reading aloud!) Read the Bible. Read books about the Bible. Read other books, too, but be careful what you read. Don’t read things that do not edify.

5. Blessed are they who CONTEMPLATE, for they shall be prepared.

Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:31-33

Your mind is a temple. A temple is where man meets with God. Serious decisions are made during periods of silent contemplation, not audible conversation.

6. Blessed are they who MEDITATE, for they shall be glad in the Lord.

My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.

Pslam 104:34

Meditation is deep thinking; unlike contemplation, though, it is not always thinking about a pending decision. It is where you seriously and silently consider what you have learned about God in His word. Meditation is an acquired taste that tastes better the more seriously you take it.

7. Blessed are they who DON’T BUTT IN, for they shall not look foolish.

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

Proverbs 18:2

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it [is] folly and shame unto him.

Proverbs 18:13

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: [and] he that shutteth his lips [is esteemed] a man of understanding.

Proverbs 17:28

It is important to analyze a situation before getting involved. A person with a reputation for wisdom is more trustworthy than a person with a reputation for being a know-it-all or a busybody. People have less of a tendency to trust someone that is shooting his mouth off all the time.

7. Blessed are they whose words are few, for they shall give a better account.

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

Matthew 12:34-36

One of the best evidences of what is in your heart is what comes out of your mouth, but, just because you are thinking something, you don’t have to say it. There needs to be a probationary holding pen (filter) before the words formed in your mind are deemed fit to come out of your mouth.

ability to not speak

(photo courtesy of: https://www.challies.com/a-la-carte/a-la-carte-august-28-3/)

Faith that Won’t be Ignored

January 22, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Posted in Matthew | 3 Comments
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Was the Lord Jesus just being cruel or uncompassionate as he ignored the pleas of a Gentile woman on behalf of her daughter?

And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word…

Matthew 15:22-23

The Lord’s silence seemed to disturb the disciples, rather than deter the damsel in distress.

… And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

Matthew 15:23

To top it off, it looks, at first glance, as if Jesus called the woman a “dog,” which was a cruel name the Jewish leaders had for the Gentiles (whom they considered unclean). (Matthew 15:26)

However, Christ’s ways are always wiser than our ways, and closer inspection of the Scripture shows that Jesus was simply allowing the woman’s great faith to be revealed.

And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Matthew 15:27-28

When your earnest desire is to see Christ’s will done – even in your most desperate prayer requests – you will not be deterred by social status, ethnicity, gender, timing, the scorn of fellow believers, or anything else, in bringing your sincere petitions before the throne of glory, where the Savior sits at the right hand of the Father, ever making intercession for His followers (Romans 8:34).

Revealed Truth

December 30, 2015 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Matthew | 3 Comments
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And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.

Matthew 15:39

In the Book of Matthew, it may seem at times like the King is in retreat, but He is really just engaged in spiritual battle, staying in sync with His Father’s timeline. While He is battling, He is also doing two other things – things that we need to be doing while we are battling: (1) helping the hurting, healing and feeding the sick and the hungry; (2) teaching others. All Christians should be continually learning and teaching (Titus 2).

By the beginning of Matthew Chapter 16 the King had revealed secrets about His Kingdom, and now He was ready to reveal secrets about His plan.

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Matthew 16:16

Here, Peter had spoken the plain truth.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

Jesus was the Christ, and that fact was not not just a pronouncement. It is a foundation. He would build on this foundation. He would build a church. When He conquers the kingdom of hell, His Church will be victorious with Him.

This is the first mention of the Church – the ekklesia – the called-out assembly. It is also the first open discussion about His death.

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Matthew 16:21

Lord, I pray that the light of Your truth would help us to grow, and that the heat of persecution would not cause us to wither and shrivel, but to grow, also. Help us to be the kind of Christians You want us to be. Help us to be the kind of friends, neighbors, spouses, church members, workers you want us to be. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Persistent in Prayer

November 30, 2015 at 12:28 pm | Posted in Matthew | 3 Comments
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In Matthew Chapter 15 we see Christ beginning to minister to the gentiles.

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

Matthew 15:18

You may have heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” This expression may be even more accurate spiritually than physically. There is a sense in which what we become – spiritually speaking – depends upon what type of spiritual food we have been consuming, and how we’ve been feeding our hearts. Then, what comes out of our mouths shows what we really are, because it comes from the heart.

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

Matthew 15:19-21

Tyre and Sidon were gentile lands.

And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

Matthew 15:22

This woman was trying to show that she recognized Jesus’s divinity in the way that she addressed Him, even though she was not Jewish.

But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

Matthew 15:23

Jesus’s initial refusal to answer her was not an act of cruelty or a lack of compassion. He did this in order to give her faith an opportunity to grow. His disciples, though, were simply exasperated with her. “Give her what she wants so she’ll go away,” may have been their reasoning.

But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

Matthew 15:24-25

This woman had a desperate faith. She recognized Jesus as Lord over all – Jews and gentiles alike.

But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.

Matthew 15:26

This was possibly an ironic reference by Jesus to the practice that the Jewish people had of referring to gentiles as “dogs.” Jesus may have used the term for dog that denoted more affection – like a “pet dog” – to contrast the offensive way that Jewish people used the term.

And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.

Matthew 15:27

Here the woman demonstrated a mature faith: “I don’t want anything more than what Your will is for me.”

Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Matthew 15:28

This statement commending someone’s “great faith” is reminiscent of His statement to the centurion from Matthew Chapter 8. The gentiles, during the Old Testament period, were “afar off,” but Jesus looked ahead to the time after His Crucifixion and Resurrection, when those gentiles who believed would – along with believing Jews – be one in Christ Jesus.

For this woman, it must have seemed like everything was against her. She was crying out boldly in public when it was not socially acceptable for a woman to do so. She was a gentile, seeking help from the Jewish King and Lord, surrounded by Jewish followers. And, at first, it even seemed as if the King Himself was against her. However, she was persistent in asking. Let that be a lesson to you and me to be persistent in prayer, even at times when it may seem like everything is against us.

When Is It Good to be Proud? (Spoiler Alert: Never)

June 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 26 Comments
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I have written about this before, but – and this is hardly surprising – I apparently managed to influence exactly no one. In fact, I have either gotten more sensitive to the problem, or it has actually become an even worse epidemic.

“Here is a photo of my kids’ report cards, honor roll certificates, dance trophies, and character medals. I’m !!!!SO PROUD!!!! of them!”

“Junior got his driver’s license today. I’m one proud mama!”

“Sissy was baptized last Sunday at church! #BeyondProud!!!!”

“I don’t care what those liberals say, I’m PROUD of what this country stands for!”

“Tough loss for State U last night, but proud of those boys for giving it their all!”

“I’m proud to be a dad.”
“I’m proud to be an alumni.”
“I’m proud of my heritage.”
“I’m proud to be a Christian.” (duck, lightning warning!)
“I’m proud to call you my spouse.”
“I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee.”

Good grief! Where will it end? As Jerry Seinfeld might say, “What’s the deal with pride?”

seinfeld

Look, if you don’t believe the Bible, or if you’re pretending that you don’t believe in God (even though you and God both know that you really do), or if you’re not a Christian, then I understand. Being proud of all kinds of stuff is sort of your thing, and that’s to be expected. You’re not only proud, you’re obsessed with announcing your pride, and compelled to put it out there for eveyone to see. In fact, you are proud of being proud. You should read this, and then come back here.

And I know I’m not the Christian language police, but, if you’re a Christian, you should be concerned about things like truth and obedience and righteousness and specifically what the Bible says about our attitudes and expressions. Good news! I did the research for you. Here’s a list of all the Bible verses that mention pride. Here are the ones that use the word “proud.”

Did you see anything good? I didn’t. I saw stuff like pride leading to destruction, and pride exciting God’s wrath, and proud people grouped in with people classified as liars and murderers and evil-doers and the wicked. The word “abomination” was used at least once. Ouch.

Let me anticipate the argument, because I have heard this before. When Christians say, “I’m proud” or they talk about having “pride” in such and such, they don’t really mean the sinful kind of pride. They mean they’re happy for someone or happy about something. Sometimes they’re really lifting up another person’s accomplishments, or they just want someone to acknowledge their own hard work or sense of worth.

Okay, fair enough. I know people mean different things, but let’s examine this more closely. When you say, “I’m proud of my kids,” why exactly are you saying it? Are you saying it because you want people to see you taking the credit for what they’ve accomplished? That’s called bragging, and it’s certainly a form of sinful pride. Are you saying it because you want other people to be impressed with what your kids have done on their own? That’s taking credit and glory away from God, Who enabled, and sovereignly caused, your kids to have success at something. Why would you want to do that? That will bless neither you, your kids, nor the people who read or hear it.

If you say, “When I say I’m proud, I really mean I’m pleased with them. Or they’ve brought me joy. Or they’ve encouraged me by their hard work. Or I’m grateful and thankful for what they’ve accomplished. Or I want to give honor where honor is due.” There, you’ve solved your own problem! Say those things instead of saying you’re proud. Because here’s the deal with what we say:

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

Matthew 15:18-19

And if you say, “What we think and do is more important than what we say,” then consider:

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Matthew 12:35-37

The bottom line is, what’s coming out of my mouth is a really good indicator of what’s in my heart. So, I’m going to admit it: I have four wonderful daughters and I’m proud of them. But I’m sinfully proud, and I’m asking the Lord to deliver me and change my heart and to forgive me for my pride. It’s not a good thing for me to be proud, and I shouldn’t want to announce it and show it off.

Or, for example, when the Houston Astros, a team that has suffered three straight horrible seasons, finally get the season off to a great start, the way they have this year, I do want to retweet all the game updates that are hashtagged #HTownPride, but I’m not going to – (1) because it makes no sense for me to be proud of something which is not my own personal accomplishment; (2) it’s sinful to be proud, and; (3) even if I’m feeling sinfully proud, I don’t want to brag about my pride and compound the sin even more.

I’ve been told repeatedly that I must tell my children that I’m proud of them. The Lord knows I’m not a good father. Many if not most of the problems that my daughters have (and they certainly have their fair share) are my fault. They sometimes evoke a gasp when they tell people, “My parents told me they’re not proud of me and they never will be.” They say this because we have tried to stop using that terminology. We love our daughters very much. We are thankful for them. They bring us unbounded joy. We are pleased with them. They work hard, and they have been gifted by God in amazing ways. We praise Him for them. We want them to feel loved, secure, and encouraged. If they don’t know those things, then I must take the blame for not telling them often enough, or making my feelings evident enough in my actions and attitudes. But if you tell me, “You have to tell your kids you are proud of them,” I’ll say, “Show it to me in the Bible.” When you show me a Bible verse commanding me to be proud, and then to truthfully express that pride verbally, I’ll confess, repent, and ask God to help me obey His Word. Until then, though, I’m going to battle against my pride and encourage my family, friends, and loved ones to do the same. And if I manage it, God will get all the praise and glory for it, not me.

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