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About Ben

Ben is an author, speaker, teacher, blogger, storyteller, IT geek, and student of the Bible. His heart is to see men and women reconciled to the Father and walking in all He has created for them.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God(Matt 5:8)
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:” Heb 12:14

“Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart,” Ps 24:3

We are called to have a pure heart, and to be holy. I am not sure if these two are interchangeable, however based on the scriptures above each has as its reward an audience with the King of Glory!
The paradox here is that in order to approach God we must be holy which means set apart. And God is so holy and so set apart as to seem unapproachable. It has long fascinated me that God actually created angelic beings whose entire purpose is to hover before the throne of God for all eternity crying “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Both Isaiah and John the beloved tell us of these creatures that act as an eternal warning beacon. In the same way, when God decided to interrupt Moses' afternoon by showing up in a bush, the first order of business was to alert Moses that he was on holy ground.
At first blush this seems like it is intended to keep us away, but the fact is, in all 3 cases God’s intent was to draw each of these men closer. As they prepared themselves, got a glimpse of God unmatched holiness, they were drawn into His irresistible presence. 
Approach the Lord! He calls us to His throne. He beckons the sons of man to come before Him. As we draw near, change will be required. The very journey toward His throne will work the heart purity required for entrance. As we approach, He will ensure that we don’t arrive in an impure state, and He will supply what is needed to allow us into His wonderful presence. He did it for Isaiah (check out Isaiah 6); He will do it for us.
Was there a time that God revealed a greater measure of His holiness to you? Tell me about it.
Thanks for visiting!
Ben



This is an article I wrote a couple years ago, but it fits in with what I have been blogging on lately. 

I am thinking about how important relationship is to the Lord. We as "born again" Christians are quick to say that Christianity is a relationship not a religion. This could not be more right! God is all about relationship. Jesus sums up God's whole law with two relationship sayings "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" and "love your neighbor as you love yourself." (Luke 10:27)

I know some Christians who feel like as long as they are doing OK with God, their relationship to other Christians is not so important. They can be at outright war with other brothers and sisters in Christ, not speaking to one another for years, and still consider themselves to be in a good spiritual place with the Lord.
Jesus said some things that militate against this idea. Consider this:
Mark 11:25-26  "And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Matthew 5:23-24 "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you; Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
These two scriptures take away any excuses we may have. In Mark Jesus said if you have anything against anyone, forgive them, or you can consider your forgiven status forfeit. Ok I can live with this because it is about me. If I have a problem with someone I get it, I need to make it right.
But what about this gem from the Sermon on the Mount? Now it is my problem if someone has something against me. WOW, it sounds like God is really serious about us getting our relationships right. In both of these cases Jesus has us in the posture of approaching God, with prayers and sacrifices, and Jesus would rather we stop the service, and fix the relationships. He did not say, Jot down a note to call so and so when you get home, but he said leave your gift, go be reconciled, and then do your business with God.
John said it this way: 1John 4:20-21 "If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loves God love his brother also."
It is time to do this relationship thing right. [Tweet This]
BenThanks for reading!
Ben



Peace wall, Belfast - photo credit - http://www.flickr.com/photos/a11sus/460787247/

How do I get what is in my heart into words? I have been pondering a question that I have heard posed by many for decades, believers and skeptics alike, and somewhere inside of me, the Lord is turning the tables on a huge lie that has derailed many a faith-walk. The question in question: Where was God? 

When I was hurting, where was God?
When I was abused, where was God?
When all my friends left me, where was God?
When my heart was breaking, where was God?

Have you ever thought any of these things? You are not alone! Are you one of the many who read the “Footprints” poem and think ‘Yeah, Right?’ Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love that, but I am not sure that everyone who has walked through the worst of circumstances felt ‘carried’ through those times when there was only one set of footprints. Sometimes you just feel alone!
I am not sure that my words here will be any better. But there are a few red letters that come to mind as I ponder those ‘one set of footstep moments.’ There are a couple things that Jesus said that I want you to consider next time you are wondering where God was in your darkest moment.

Imagine Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, going around doing amazing things, looking a lot like Jesus. He stands up to preach, and just when he is about to give an altar call, the first rock hits him. One after another, the men he was trying to persuade are hurling fist size stones in his direction. Where is Jesus? (Acts 7)
Imagine James, out there preaching on the street corner with one of his best friends and old fishing buddy Peter. They get arrested, thrown in prison, and Herod has a great idea. Let me make an example of this guy. Where was Jesus? (Acts 12:1-2)
The answer lies in what Jesus said to Paul on the road to Damascus and what He said to the multitudes in Matthew 25. Jesus asked Paul (whose Hebrew name was Saul) “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) Jesus takes the abuse we suffer very seriously. In fact as He said in Matthew 25 “whatever you did (or did not do) for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt 25:40 & 45) Paul thought he was killing people who hated God, and Jesus reveals Himself and lets Paul know he was actually persecuting the Lord Himself.
I think we read, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:20) and think that He will always come between me and trouble when His point is actually that He is suffering right there with you. He promised us trouble in this life. He tells us in John 16:2 people will think they're doing God a favor when the kill you.
So understand this, when you were betrayed or abused, He was betrayed and abused with you. He may not have been carrying you like the poem said – He may have been left bleeding and dying on the Jericho road with you as He watched the good folks walk by BOTH of you. [Tweet This]
My hope is that these red letters will dispel a lie that is keeping you stuck. If it helps, let me know. If it doesn’t, you can tell me that too. I certainly don’t want to make things worse.
BenThanks for taking a few minutes to ponder this with me.
Ben

Four times in Matthews telling of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us we can expect to be treated in direct relationship to the way we treat others.

The first shows up in the beatitudes. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." (Matthew 5:7 NASB)
The next is in the Lord’s prayer
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:12-15 NASB)
In the next chapter Jesus tells us: “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 NASB)
Finally Jesus tells us to live our lives by one simple rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NIV)
Oh and by the way, just for the record, in Luke's gospel it happens that this same principle is true with your time, talent and treasure. "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." Luke 6:38 NASB
What would happen if you actually treated your wife, sister, brother, husband, boss, neighbor, pastor, enemy… the way you want to be treated? What if when someone hurts you, you gave them the same amount of mercy you give yourself when you mess up? Did you get that question? If you are like me, when you screw up you cut yourself a lot of slack. You rationalize a thousand mitigations  and totally excuse yourself. But when others hurt you, will you even listen to their apology?
Many times we find ourselves with no mercy, no forgiveness, and full of judgment especially toward  those closest to us. Those who have paid the highest price of relational time with us get the least consideration and mercy.
God’s kingdom is upside-down, isn't it?
The lengths to which God expects us to go to protect relationships amazes me. But on the other hand God crucified His only son to restore His relationship with us! If I am ever to look like Jesus, I am going to have to put a much higher value on relationship.
What could you do today to improve a relationship that is not where you want it to be? [Tweet This] Ask the Lord for some ideas, if you don’t already know where to start. Even if it is only a baby step toward reconciliation, it will be worth it. Take a deep breath and go for it.
 
Thanks for reading!
Ben

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7 NASB)
Oh how we need to hear this! After taking a big step up this stairway to heaven and stirring up a hunger and thirst for righteousness, what do you know, my spirit gets all, well, judgmental! I am a wreck. The more I see Jesus, the more I am amazed. Here is the one who never – ever – no never darkened a commandment with the slightest nod, but does he get all stirred up about sinners and their sin? Nope! He has lunch with harlots, and protects the virtue of adulteresses. He goes out to dinner with the drunkards, and hangs out with the worst vermin of all, tax collectors.

We have to get this. Have you ever used the line – I love the sinner but hate their sin? Are you aware that there is no chapter and verse for that? I have heard this used as an excuse for hate on more occasions that you can image.

If I am brutally honest with myself I wonder if I would have been the Pharisee in Jesus’ day. Is He talking to me when He says: “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:13)

Have you read in 2 Corinthians 5:19 where Paul tells us: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” Do you read this the way I have for decades, “God is not counting Christian’s sins against them?” That’s not what it says. If it did we are all without hope. God is not counting anyone’s sins against them today! Today is the day of mercy and the day that grace is available! A quick comment about the difference; Mercy is the fact that God is not counting your sin against you. This is currently true for all men. You will have to give account in the last day, but today, there is nothing keeping you from approaching God. Grace on the other hand is the free offer of righteousness that is extended to everyman. It must be accepted or received.

So here is the deal, and it’s pretty straight up here. If you expect to receive mercy on any level, give it in the same measure you are expecting it. In this moment of grace, don’t impose condemnation where God is not doing it. [Tweet This] In the mean time we must keep up our pursuit of integrity, our submission to God’s voice, our honesty with God about our failings, and our humble spirit. WOW these beatitudes are not just kid stuff, are they!

Hey – thanks for reading this. Tell me what you think. Is this sloppy grace? What am I missing here? Together we can press into the mind of Christ.
Ben

 

 “for they shall be completely satisfied.(Matthew 5:6 AMP)

I love that the Amplified Bible has it this way “completely satisfied.” Not just, satisfied, not just, they will get what they are hungering after and thirsting for, but they will be completely satisfied. The world preaches that satisfaction comes from evil hungers and desires, but Jesus says, if you hunger for righteousness, you will be satisfied in every area of your life. It is funny how hard we try to hold onto some of our old stuff, habits, sins etc. Many a man has stayed away from God for a time, because they did not want to give up some secret sin, and knew that God would never allow it. But the truth is that God invented pleasure, and really knows how to make it work.
David says this in Psalm 16:11, “Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.” Heaven is a place of complete pleasure, like you have never experienced. God completely gets you, and knows exactly how to satisfy your desires.
During a study of the Song of Solomon we looked at 7 longings of the human heart as identified by Mike Bickle and Deborah Hiebert. You can get his book on the subject here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Seven-Longings-Human-Heart/dp/0977673847These longings are not sin and are not to be repented of. They are not even part of our sin nature. These are all God designed longings and appetites that each of us must manage and discover God's intended fulfillment. Bickle details these 7 longings, which he says every human has.
A longing to be fascinated
A longing to possess and feel beautiful
A longing to be great and successful
A longing to know intimacy without shame
A longing for assurance of being enjoyed
A longing to be wholehearted and passionate
A longing to make deep and lasting impact
These longings are often satisfied in unholy ways causing guilt and separation from God and from one another. These unholy actions need to be dealt with specifically in repentance. (2 Cor 7:10-11 holds the process of repentance in detail – see blog post June 13th: Repentance - the path to Comfort )
However, because there are so many ways to fulfill these longings that are not glorifying to God, it is easy for us to despise the very longings themselves. Rather than managing them, and directing them with godly wisdom and the Word of God try to get free from them or to suppress them. A longing to be great can be look upon as pride, and we could try to suppress that drive for greatness that God has put in our soul. Instead we should look to the Lord for instruction. When the disciples were arguing over which was the greatest, Jesus did not rebuke them, but rather pointed them in the right direction (humility - classic upside-down strategy for greatness.)
See if this question for God works for you: Father, am I feeling guilt for passions You gave me?
Thanks for reading!
Ben

 

for they shall be completely satisfied. (Matthew 5:6 AMP)

Wait – Wait – Wait This can’t be right. Do you believe this? Is it true? Or is Jesus telling us a little white lie to try to motivate us to be good. Does true satisfaction really come from the pursuit of righteousness?

All our lives we are told that the best way to enjoy life is to live on the edge, to walk the fine line between good and bad. This is nothing new either. Generation after generation, it takes different forms, but we live surrounded by the message that a little compromise and a touch of naughty will bring a little joy into our lives.

The American culture teaches us that when someone is stressed, or grumpy, they just need a little sex and they will relax a bit. When someone has a hard day they need a drink to take the edge off. If you have to meet a budget, a little lying or cheating will go a long way to solving your problems. Satisfaction is just a compromise away.
It’s a lie! And it has worked for thousands of years. In fact the serpent used this same lie to trick Eve in the garden. God is keeping the best away from you. He wants you to go through life missing out on all the fun, and always frustrated.

This same serpent is the thief that Jesus tells us has come to “steal and kill and destroy.” His lies have separated us from satisfaction and in fact have left us unsatisfied and distracted from the source of true happiness. How could we be so foolish as to believe this liar! Jesus promised us “abundant life,” not average, boring, prudish or disappointing life.

Here is the thing. As I sit here writing this, God is bringing to my mind stuff that needs to be done with more integrity in my life. He is asking me if I believe Him, or if I am going to keep on living a compromised, unsatisfied life.
Now you decide, is Jesus telling us the truth? Is it true that complete satisfaction comes from pursuing righteousness? Or is this religious speak intended to manipulate the masses into obedience. Is there actually blessing, happiness and joy in living your life for God? If what Jesus says is true, aren't we effectively robbing God of that which He purchased when we live in compromise? 
Can you quiet yourself and listen for the voice of God as you read this. If you don’t have time right now, plan some time to mull, to consider. If you are like me, right now you are saying, oh, sister so-and-so could use this, or brother what’s-his-name could sure use some integrity. Yep, I thought about brother what’s-his-name, I admit it. But you need God’s voice in your life today, and so do I. Get quiet and ask Him this: Am I stealing myself back from You by my lack of integrity? (ouch) [Tweet This]

Hey, thanks for reading today. Please let me know if this is making a difference in your life.

Ben

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousnessMatt 5:6

The next step in God’s 8 step program is to pursue righteousness with the same intensity as a hungry man pursues food, or as one who is parched goes after water. Hear this. It does not promise this blessed life to someone who tries to be good, who pulls themselves up by their boot straps, who just grits their teeth and does what is right.
Rather this one who is hungry to do the right thing. To the hungry, there is no priority higher than food. We all get hungry sometimes. I walked in the house the other day after a long day at the office, and I was starving. I had not had a bite to eat since – oh – it had to be like 2 hours!!!!! Can you imagine my hunger? 2 whole hours without food! I was starving. And when I found out diner was not on the table, well you can just imagine the ruckus that ensued. Hmmm, not really. But I bet you have been there. This is not that hunger. One who is hungry has a determination and seriousness about him in his quest for food. Hunger cannot be ignored.
What if we actually pursued righteousness, sought after it like hidden treasure. What if we searched for opportunities to increase righteousness as though it was good for us, as if it was to our advantage – oh and just for the record it is to our advantage. I am not talking bout some strange self-righteousness that makes us feel superior. No way!. But how about taking your honesty to a new level, or how about the way you do your job, or your homework, or your chores, or duties – all of it. The mark of a Christian in the work place should be unimpeachable integrity. I promise if you will quiet your spirit for a while and mull this over the Lord will show you places to find more opportunities to do right. Don’t you see, as we take our righteousness to the next level, we will be taking our joy to the next level as well.
This passion for righteousness nets us a life joy. The Word tells us this about the life of Jesus that He “…loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Heb 1:9) Jesus understood that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) And no man ever walked in the Spirit to a greater level than Jesus did. Righteousness works itself out in peace and joy. The worst turmoil in a life is when you walk away from righteousness. Trying to cover your sin, or walk the edge between good and bad is death to all joy and peace. When you are seeking after righteousness, there is no shame, no guilt, and no fear, just peace and joy.
Jesus is our righteousness. (1 Corinthians 1:30) So basically, to hunger after righteousness is to hunger for more of Jesus in your life. As we embrace Jesus, His ways, His priorities in our lives, we will walk in this peace and joy. We must put on Christ, and search for His presence in our lives as though our lives depended on it. You will never regret it!


Let's ask the Father this question: Where have you hidden opportunities for integrity in my life? [Tweet ThisLet me know what you hear (if you feel you can share.)
Don’t miss the promise for this one! Come back tomorrow.
Thanks for reading! Tell me where you have found opportunities for increased righteousness.
Ben

Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:3 & 10

I know I am getting out of order here. I was just lying in bed – it is about 10 minutes to 12 on Friday night, and I was mulling.
Now let me be clear. I have studied through and taught through the Beatitudes probably more than any other passage in the Bible. It is my favorite by far. I have notes dating back a decade from preparations for this little piece of scripture.
But tonight – closing in on the middle of the night – I am trying to get to sleep, and the phrase “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” is rolling around in my head. This phrase that is calling me to my laptop to put down my thoughts does not even belong in my mind right now. I mean we are right smack in the middle of the beatitudes, and this phrase bookends the passage. I suppose I could wait and release this in a week or so when I get to the end of the passage. But I feel a sense of urgency in my spirit like I need this to go out now.
Here goes:
What if "Their's is the kingdom of heaven,"rather than meaning they gain entrance into the kingdom, as in, the poor in spirit get saved, what if what it means is the poor in spirit and the peacemakers for that matter, get the kingdom of God? What if those who are broken before God are not just given a ticket for St. Peter to punch, but they actually possess the entire kingdom. What if we are not just someday going on a long trip to visit a great place, but we actually have ownership (and not some sad 52nd part like a time share, but we are on the deed) of the kingdom of God.
Isn’t that what Paul was talking about when he said we are joint heirs with Christ? (Rom 8:17) Doesn’t that line up with us being seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus? (Eph 2:6) Isn’t the very fact that the Holy Spirit is in our lives the “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” (Eph 1:14) Or how about this outrageous bit from Daniel:  "But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it for ever--yes, for ever and ever." (Dan 7:18)
So I have a question for you, Lord. How should this look in my life? What does it mean for me to be in possession of a kingdom? [Tweet ThisAnd not just any kingdom, but a heavenly kingdom!
I dare you to ask God that question. Share what you hear with me and let’s compare notes!
BenThank you for taking time to read this. It actually means a bunch to me.

Ben

 

God’s Upside-down Kingdom - Step 3 

“…for they shall inherit the earth.Matt 5:5
Some Christians are of the opinion that the earth really does not matter. That God is going to destroy it and start over somewhere down the line, and so who wants to inherit something that is going to be “rolled up as a scroll,” and tossed away? What kind of promise is this?
Bad Form! That whole attitude is bad from start to finish. As if somehow God gave us a disposable earth that we should just use up? Not a great attitude. Lets consider a couple things from the word.
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Psalm 24:1, 1 Cor 10:26 & 28)
“…the whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 6:3
It would appear that the Father places a priority on the earth, and if our Father thinks it is valuable, that needs to factor into our thinking. In fact, we should let God’s values inform all our values, don’t you think?
So what does it mean to inherit the earth? If we think back to our two meek men, Moses and Jesus, there are we see men with a special relationship to creation. Moses (in response to instructions from God) holds out a rod and splits the Red Sea in two and the entire nation of Israel walks through on dry ground! Interesting. In fact each of the ten plagues that torment Egypt come from the throne of God, but through the hands of this meek man.
Jesus, our other example of a man submitted to the will of the Father also lives without the normal earthly limitations. He walks on water, calms raging storms, and feeds multitudes with a boy’s lunch! Again, I understand that these things were done by our Father, and according to Jesus, He did not do these things of His own power or authority, but by the “finger of God.”
I am wondering about my life now. If I submit to the will and voice of our Father in my life, what can I expect? I’ll tell you one thing; it should not be church as usual! I am thinking that as I bow my knee to the Lordship of Jesus in my life, and listen intently for His voice for my direction, I will begin to see the works that He (Jesus) did (see John 14:12) in my life, and even greater works. That may explain what Paul was talking about when he said; “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” Romans 8:19
I implore you to seek the face of the Lord and listen for His voice in your life. Begin to meditate on His Word day and night, and align your life to His word. This is what it means to be meek, and the promise is off the charts!
BenThanks again for reading. Let me know what you think.
Ben
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