Monday, December 01, 2008

8 Ways to be Blessed

Thursday, October 4, 2007 the Mapleton PRESS

It's been years since I taught at a Lutheran high school in L.A. I enjoy teaching in a public school too, but I really missed getting to talk directly with kids about their faith. A few weeks ago, I got the chance again. I began teaching the high school Bible Study, Sunday mornings at our church.

I really wanted kids to hear what Jesus actually taught and believed. This brought me to Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes (the blessings) from His sermon on the Mount. I won't re-print them here, because I'd like to encourage you to look them up.

One of the things that we learned (that frankly, had never dawned on me before) is that in this passage, Jesus isn't DESCRIBING what He thought were good people, He was PREscribing how He'd like His followers to be. Also, just like with the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20), God offers a promise (a blessing or "beatitude") that will come to anyone who lives out each of these 8 qualities. EX: If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you'll be filled.

I thought it was important to look a little closer at "Blessed are the Peacemakers." Let's be clear, Jesus is talking in more broad terms than that. He's not saying "blessed are the antiwar protesters."

To really understand it, it may be worth your time to take a look at 2 Corinthians 5:16-20. Basically, being a peacemaker, is being a bridge-builder, someone who reconciles rather than becoming defensive, entrenched or self-serving. A peacemaker is someone who helps heal and build relationships as opposed to holding grudges, burning bridges or hiding out on their own private island. Ultimately, a peacemaker is someone who helps others come to be at peace with God.

Jesus is the ultimate peacemakers since through His sacrifice, we who are born at war with God in our natures can become part of His family.

Try rating yourself on a scale of 1-4 (4 being the highest) on each of the 8 qualities prescribed in the Beatitudes:
* Poor in Spirit/ recognize your need for God
* Mourn/ admit your guilt, take responsibility
* Meek/ Don't always have to get your way or be in control
* Spiritual hunger/ Want to know God better, He is #1 in your life
* Merciful/ Empathetic, compassionate, concerned for others
* Pure in heart/ Open, honest, known for integrity
* Peacemaker/ Work out differences without having to get even, constructive
* Persecution/ Willing to stand alone for what is right, can take criticism without being defensive or feeling self-pity.

You can even turn Matthew 5 :3-12 into a payer,

Dear Lord,

Teach us to be poor in spirit, to always remember that we are nothing without Your grace and mercy- Thank You that because of Jesus, we can now be called Your children (1 John 3:1).

Help us to recognize that our choices and actions all have consequences, Lord. Make us responsible for our mistakes and our sins, and help us to see how our lives effect the lives of others.

Lord, help us to put the needs of others before ourselves and our own selfish desires.
Give us a hunger and thirst to know You, Your Word and Your will better, God.

Teach us to have empathy for others and to have compassion on others, and help us to learn from our pain and our struggles, so that we can bring comfort to others.

Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10)

Use me as a peace maker, as a bridge builder and a fence mender, help me to forgive those who trespass against me just as you have forgiven me. Make me Your ambassador, Lord.

Give us the courage to not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in and help me to not be ashamed of the Gospel, but instead, to let our light shine in this dark world, even if it means being made fun of or being unpopular.


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