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"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord." - Luke 1:45 NASB

Mary was pregnant. She was not yet married. The baby was not the product of her relationship with her betrothed.

That’s the world’s take.

Elizabeth, who now knew first hand what God could do, saw it differently.

"You are blessed, my dear cousin."

Blessed!

We have, out of the mouth of Elizabeth and 9th Beatitude.

Blessed are you when you believe that God will do what He said He would.

Earlier in Luke 1, the angel told Mary,

"For nothing will be impossible with God." - Luke 1:37 NASB

Mary believed.

Mary received this massive blessing.

Note-The blessing probably didn’t feel like such a blessing at times. But we step back now and see what a huge privilege it was for her to carry and care for God’s own Son.

Can you believe that God will do what He said He would?

Your Blessed in believing, and you will be blessed, carrying whatever seeming burden comes with the blessing because God is in it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Come back soon.

Ben

And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NASB)

Mighty God

In this prophecy we have come to the most controversial note. Anyone who looks at the life of Jesus, even from a natural standpoint, and is not predisposed to hate Him would probably be OK with every name on this list with one exception.

There is enough empirical evidence that He did miracles – wouldn’t historians of the time have debunked all the talk of Messiah if no one ever saw or experienced His powerful touch?

Anyone who reads the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule or the Prodigal Son would agree that He was a great Counselor.

I suppose Father is a bit tricky since He never married or had earthly children, but the way he Fathered the multitudes with His words, healings, feedings, etc – no big problem here.

Clearly a man of peace – never raised His voice in His own defense as He was unjustly accused, tried and executed.

But Mighty God? Has Isaiah gone too far? Is this over the top?

Many Christians would point to His calming of the sea as to where His God robes were in full view, or perhaps when He was walking on the water, or multiplying the loaves and fishes.

But according to Jesus himself, this was not an exposé of Jesus as God, but rather the man, Jesus, full of the Spirit of God, who descended upon Him in the River. (He told us He only did what He saw the Father do, and that the works that He did, we could do the same way – eyes on Jesus)

I do believe there were 5 guys who got to see this “Mighty God” aspect of Jesus when He walked the earth. – Peter, James, John, Moses, and Elijah.

It was only on the mount of transfiguration that Jesus slipped back into the Mighty God Robe that He set aside just before stepping into that Manger.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5-11 NASB)

[Sorry – I can’t break that bit up – my word processor was offended when I tried to only put the highlights in.]

Jesus emptied Himself, and took on the form of a servant.

But know this: HE IS MIGHTY GOD!

He has picked up that wonderful robe, and is seated on the throne of heaven, rising now and then to greet His loved ones into their eternal home.

Hey - I know the robe is not a perfect image, but it helps me understand the difference between Jesus wanting us to walk like He walked. We are tempted to say, I can't do it because He was God and I am not. Yes, He was, and IS God, but chose to walk as a man filled with the Spirit of God, as a demonstration of the "normal Christian life." He never stopped being God, but that does not excuse you from walking like Jesus.

That’s my Jesus!

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping in today.

See you tomorrow.

Ben

Let’s start with what the gospel is not.

  • The gospel is not the Beatitudes.
  • The gospel is not Great Commission.
  • The gospel is not the Golden Rule.
  • The gospel is not the story of the Prodigal Son.
  • It’s not even a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all good news, and they are important, life changing elements of our faith.

They are not, however, the gospel.

Last week we looked at how the gospel is delivered and the impact it has on those who receive it.

Today we are simply going to break it down.

Paul says this:

For I delivered to you as of first importance … ~ 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

Notice first that the gospel Paul is getting ready to share is of first importance. This letter to the Church in Corinth has addressed many issues from divisions to how to run a meeting.

But now, Paul comes to the most important thing.

It’s not just the most important thing in this letter. It is the most important thing, period.

So here goes – get ready – the most important thing –

what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

Three facts. Three simple statements. Three non-negotiable.

Christ died for our sins
He was buried
He was raised on the third day

There it is. That’s the gospel.

I have heard folks tell me, that they can't memorize scripture so they don’t feel they could ever preach the gospel. But look at this.

I would be hard pressed to believe that anyone reading these words could not remember those 3 facts.

Hey – if it’s still too much boil it down to 4 words

Christ (I like the name Jesus, but Christ has it’s own implications about being anointed and the sent, chosen one)  -- let me start over

Christ died buried raised

These 4 words change everything – EVERYTHING!

I promise I will dig a little deeper tomorrow, but really – how much deeper does it get than this:

Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead.

GOOD NEWS!

Oh - But there is more to this - so please come back tomorrow!

Ben NelsonSee you then

Ben

Words in Red Gospel of Matthew (4)
Words in Red Gospel of Matthew (4) (Photo credit: Lex Photographic)

It's hard to believe i have actually come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount. It has been a year now. I started blogging on June 9th 2012, and started with the Beatitudes. I did take a few detours along the way, but I have been living in this wonderful sermon for a full year now.

Before I move on, someone once pointed out to me a verse in Matthew 4 just preceding this wonderful sermon, where Matthew lays out his plan.

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. ~ Matthew 4:23

My friend pointed out to me that this verse acts as an outline to the next five chapters.

For three chapters we will see His teaching ministry in full swing. I believe that Jesus taught the sermon on the mount in one time and in one place, but I also think it was more or less His 'manifesto' so to speak. It sums up much of what He will teach over the course of His ministry.

The following two chapters, 8 and 9, focus on HIs ministry around Galilee healing, delivering, and just saving in general. There are some thrilling and profound miracles we see in these next two chapters.

Matthew uses this pattern of teaching and healing ministry as his outline, but we will find that Jesus used it as his main M.O. Not always but often he would teach and then heal. The teaching ministry makes a place for the healing ministry.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. ~ Romans 10:17

In fact, my favorite pattern for ministry is Worship, which draws the presence of God (a greater manifestation of the presence of God - I get that the Spirit is always with the believer) ministry in the word, and then interactive hands on ministry with those with specific needs. I am totally OK if you want to mix it up a bit though.

BenThanks for coming by.

See you soon.

Ben

The Sower - Van Gogh

Today I want to walk through the 2nd soil in the parable. I think you'll find a surprise in the Word today. For the rocky soil, we are going to read both the parable portion and the explanation. Again I have interwoven the scriptures (see notes below.) The differences are minimal but interesting.

Rocky Soil

And others (seed) fell upon the rocky places (ground, soil), where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But (as soon as it grew up) when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root (it had no moisture), they withered away.

And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; (they believe for a while) yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, (and in time of temptation)  immediately he falls away. Matthew 13:5-6,20-22, Mark 4:5-6,16-17, Luke 8:6,13

You get this, I am sure, from the natural perspective. There is nowhere for the roots to go, so though the plant springs up quickly, it withers and dies when the sun comes daily, and it has no where to go for moisture.

Most of us love a sunny day. When the sun is bright and beating down on me, especially this time of year, when you step outside and feel the warmth of the sun, even in the dead of winter, it is a wonderful sensation.

Jesus seems to have another idea about sunshine.

What constitutes the sunshine in Jesus' story? Affliction, persecution, and temptation! (Kind of put a twist on those old songs, “You Are My Sunshine” and “You Are the Sunshine Of My Life”)

Sunset in the Poconos
Sunset in the Poconos

So let’s just think about this for a couple minutes.

Sunshine is completely necessary for growth. It is in fact a very good thing. Therefore affliction, persecution, and temptation are also good things, necessary for our growth. Without them you will never flourish as a believer.

But if you do not have a root system that can supply water to bring the nourishment to meet the sunlight, you might just burst into flames. [Tweet This]

Jesus said it this way

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 NASB)

But if I am going to burst into flames, it does not sound like a blessing.

It is only a blessing when you are in a Beatitude state of mind with:

  • A poor spirit
  • Mourning over your sin
  • Meek, and submitted to the will of God
  • Hungry to see righteousness prevail
  • Quick to show mercy
  • Pure in heart
  • Helping others to find peace with God

These are the ones who will find joy, maybe not giddy happiness, but unshakable joy, in the face of affliction, persecution, and temptation.

BenThanks for coming by today.

Tomorrow we will look at a thorny subject.

See you then

Ben

For more on the Beatitudes check out my series walking through them here.

* The 3 passages have been interwoven using colors to show which passage each word originates from. I have not added anything, just pulled from the NASB in each case. Red text is from Matthew, green from Mark and blue from Luke.

In Luke 6 Jesus preaches a sermon very similar to the sermon on the mount. It may be the same sermon from a different man’s point of view, or it may be that Jesus preached this content a number of times.
In any case there is something very interesting about Luke’s account. As with much of Luke’s gospel there is an edge to Jesus' words that is not always present in some of the other accounts.
When Jesus gives the Beatitudes in Luke, He first pronounces blessing, and then the turns them around. Here he says “Woe to you…”
So today, I am going to take the liberty of turning Matthew’s beatitudes around. I know this is not scripture, but it makes an impact on me when I think about these things.
Woe unto those who are the rich in spirit, for they have no part in the kingdom of heaven.
Woe unto those who do not mourn over sin, for they shall receive torment.
Woe unto those who will not submit to the will of God, for they shall inherit eternal destruction.
Woe unto those who hunger and thirst for wickedness, for they shall never be satisfied.
Woe unto those who are unmerciful, for they shall receive no mercy.
Woe unto those with impure in hearts, for they shall never see God.
Woe unto those who are troublemakers, for they shall be called sons of the devil.
Woe unto those who have persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for they will never see the kingdom of heaven.
And as Jesus himself gave this last one “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)
BenI hope this impacts you as much as it impacts me. Do you think this goes too far? I don't, but let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading.
Ben

Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:12)

As we come to the end of this beginning (the Beatitudes) we see clearly the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells us that the proper reaction to persecution, insults, and harm done to us in His name is rejoicing!
I feel like – OK Lord, it is one thing for me to expect it, and be prepared for it, but rejoice? WOW – HOW!
As I mull this, I think how did Jesus demonstrate this? Hebrews 12:2 (I know, I know, I have used this one in my blog before – your thinking this guy only knows like 8 verses – probably so)

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2 NASB)

It says He endured the cross with His eye on the prize, and that is what He tells us to do. Rejoice because of the “Great Reward.” Let’s think about this a bit.
Somehow Christians have in their collective heads (ok – that may be a broad brush stroke - forgive me please) that spiritual pursuits cannot be reward driven. Like somehow if we are doing something with a reward in view, it is unspiritual at best, or at worst sin and selfishness. Not so!
Think about this for a minute. Why were the disciples always arguing about who would be the greatest? Was it just testosterone driven machismo? Or could it be that Jesus often taught about how to be great. He would says stuff like “He who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven…” or “…your reward in heaven is great.” It may seem paradoxical, but Jesus actually encourages us to strive for greatness, as He defines greatness. That definition is for another post.
Have you read what David said, before he decided to go after that Philistine Champion Goliath. He asked, “What do I get if take this bozo down? No more taxes and a beautiful wife! I’m in!” (my paraphrase)
So why is it OK – wait – let me fix that – why is it imperative for a Christian to pursue reward? Think of the snapshots we get of heaven. What is going on? People, saints, God’s children, assemble before His throne, and those who have received rewards have the privilege of presenting those rewards to the Lord. The more you have received from Him, the more you can give back.
So what will you have to present to the Lord? If you sit back and fall through your life, you will have nothing to present to your King. We pursue spiritual reward so that we have a tangible way to honor our King when we stand before Him. This is the stuff that will make it through the fire. This is the stuff that you can take with you!
Excellence in your walk before the Lord will net you persecution, but with that is great reward.
Thank you for visiting today. I appreciate you taking your time to read my ponderings.
Ben

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.(Matt 5:9 – NASB)

The word “Peacemaker” interests me in that it only appears one time in all of the Greek New Testament. It is made up of (you guessed it) 2 root words. There are those who say it means to be a peace lover, or pacific or peaceful person, but the majority fall to the side of a more active idea. This peacemaker is not an appeaser, not one who avoids conflict. Rather one who makes peace is one who actively does what is necessary to end conflict. I really like the definition for the “maker” part of the word. Check out this excerpt from the BlueLetterBible.org:
I love this because it is such a call to action. We cannot sit passively by and hope for peace. Peace is produced – it is made –it is the product of peacemaking activity! Let me say that one more time: Peace is the product of peacemaking activity! [Tweet This]
Again, as we covered in Friday's post, “What Peace?” we are talking about the peace that passes understanding from reconciliation with the Father. When you enter into this peace you immediately have an active roll in helping others find the way to this peace. If you are a Christian, if you call Jesus Lord, and live with the expectation of a place prepared for you beyond the grave, you are called to be a peacemaker.
Peacemaking starts with praying for those with whom we have some influence. God will make clear paths for you to step into, in order to help others find peace in their life, and more importantly peace with the Father.
Start today – Ask the Lord for the who and the how, and you will be amazed at the opportunities you see. Tell me about them! I can’t wait to hear what God has done with your submitted life!
Thanks for reading.
Ben

photo credit: Swami Stream via photopin cc

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

(Matt 5:9 – NASB)
Today I would like to focus on this idea of peace. What peace is Jesus referring to? Is it simply tranquility, or the cessation of hostility? Is it some sort of détente like we had with the former USSR when they could no longer afford to maintain a cold war?
Consider what the father of John the Baptist said upon the birth of this man of God.
“Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79 NKJV)
And again in the next chapter in regard to Jesus Himself: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14)
The peace we are talking about here is the peace that Jesus offers, the ending of hostilities between God and man. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that the mind set on the flesh is actively hostile toward God. This war ends not when God ignores our sin, but when we surrender our lives to him.
With the coming of the Prince of Peace, Jesus, we can finally put down the weapons of our warfare against God: our hate, our rebellion, our self-righteousness, and we can take up the cause of Christ. We can become peacemakers – those who work to bring this same peace to others.
Once you know the peace that Jesus offers, you will never be content to sit by and let those around you wage useless war against the Lord of Hosts.
If you don’t know this peace for yourself, you can find it today. Call upon the name of Jesus. These beatitudes we have been looking at paint a great picture of the way to enter a relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Talk to Jesus about it. (He can hear you wherever you are)
  • Admit your own poverty of spirit, and that you need God.
  • Confess and forsake all your sin. Tell Him about every sin you can remember doing, and ask Him for forgiveness.
  • Meekly submit your will – your desires, your plans – to Him.
  • Pursue righteousness and integrity in everything you do, again with His help.
  • Offer mercy and forgiveness to those who owe you or have hurt you.
  • Ask Jesus to purify your heart, and press into more and more purity, by meditating on His word. You are made clean through the God's Word, The Bible.
  • Then you will become a peacemaker too, and you experince His peace, you will want to draw others to His side as well.
Ben NelsonThanks for reading. If you have talked to Jesus about these things, tell me about it. You can message me on face book, or comment here, or tell a Christian you know. Get plugged into a church, and begin to live in His word the Bible. We live by the daily bread of His voice.
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

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