Thursday, October 20, 2016

SETTLING FOR PSEUDO BLESSING

The Beatitudes are the words of Jesus pronouncing God’s blessing on the most challenging things we face. The word he used for ‘blessed’ is the Greek word makarios conveying the meaning of self-contained happiness or bliss.



The Greeks called the Island of Cyprus "the happy isle." They believed that because of its geographical location, perfect climate, and fertile soil that anyone who lived on Cyprus had it made in the shade. And the term they associated with the island was makarios. They believed everything you needed to be happy was right there on Cyprus.[1]

To experience the blessed life that Jesus gives, we are not dependent on finding the perfect island resort life. And yet, there are many Jesus’ followers who still seek and settle for a pseudo-blessed life instead of entering into the tough life that produces lasting joy.

Jesus encountered a successful young man whom was looking for ways to improve his religious life. He wanted everything that he heard Jesus offering and had all the right behaviours expected of a fervent Jewish man. Jesus asked him if he was doing all that the Law required. He actually was. But Jesus could see that all of his appearance of being successful and rich was masking an unconquered heart.


Luke 18:
22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
24 And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”


The pseudo-blessed life is the dying American Dream (and somewhat Canadian for that matter). Be a good citizen, make something of yourself in the world and salute the Cross of Christ, or at least the god of your own understanding. But, that is not real. All of these good things are valuable, but do not add up to the real treasure found in God’s Kingdom.

The follower of Jesus does not salute the Cross; instead they bow before it. They recognize the price that was paid to buy us back. The disciple of Jesus is not flattered or enticed by temporary success and wealth. We see the vanity and fading glory and will sell it all if it can be replaced with the Eternal. 

This may be too much for some to accept. Jesus’ disciples were taken aback by the suggestion that the rich, young ruler should let go of his success to follow Jesus.


Luke 18:
26 And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?”
27 But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”
28 Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed you.”
29 So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”


Where is your treasure? Have you traded up for something lasting?


Monday, October 17, 2016

THE GREAT HAPPINESS OF A TOUGH EXPERIENCE


L’chaim! This is a traditional Jewish toast or blessing when a couple gets engaged. They lift a glass and utter ‘L’chaim’ which means ‘to life’.



It is a social custom repeated in many cultures whereby the desire is stated that those involved would experience the blessing of God. Blessings are pronounced over the birth of children, new partnerships, etc.

To invite or proclaim a blessing over someone is an invitation for our world to be aligned with Heaven’s intentions.

Dr. Ephraim Radner says, ‘Blessing is primarily the act of God in creating life, sustaining it, and extending or propagating it.  By contrast, the notion of “cursing” (qalal) seems to imply “thinning out” reality, making it light and superfluous, and finally lifeless.[1]

When we were children praying at bedtime, we were taught to pray like this: “God bless mommy and daddy, grandpa and grandma and all my brothers and sisters.”

But what exactly did we mean? Our childish understanding may have been that we wanted them all to be happy and safe. But, what is a more mature understanding of being blessed?

In the Beatitudes[2], Jesus ties the idea of blessing to the least desirable experiences of our life. The toughest things may make your life thicker and more robust. That which was intended to diminish you becomes a platform for your spiritual formation.
>> 
He says you are blessed (coming to life, experiencing growth) if you are:

  • ·      Being humiliated
  • ·      Mourning
  • ·      Gentle and submissive
  • ·      Longing for things to be made right
  • ·      In situations that you can show mercy to someone
  • ·      Unpolluted in your heart
  • ·      Finding ways to make peace in conflict situations
  • ·      Getting in trouble for following Jesus


Is this how you pictured success? Did you think that living life to the fullest included so much suffering and challenge?

If we are to follow the example of Jesus, we realize that we are paying a price for a much greater treasure than a life of ease would give us. For every difficulty you go through, there is a way that God wants to prepare you for a life that is fuller and more abundant.

God wants to give you a fat soul. There are an awful lot of people with skinny, undernourished, frail souls. A blessed soul is fat and healthy.

When Jesus said he came to give abundant life, we need to understand that he is speaking about making us more alive, not less. That includes having more emotional range, not less. We are being groomed for the maturity of a peace-filled life.

If you go through these hard times surrendering to God, the blessing on your life will include:

  • ·      Citizenship and partnership with God’s domain ‘Heaven’
  • ·      Having comfort given to you instead of having to get it by yourself
  • ·      Inheriting the planet. You will be given opportunity to do something good with the world and the people in it
  • ·      The fulfilment that comes from things being put right in you
  • ·      God and others extending great mercy and understanding toward you even when you have really blown it
  • ·      Having an intimate experience of God
  • ·      Being known as someone who exemplifies what a child of God is like
  • ·     The assurance that these troubles are not permanent and you are moving forward into an eternal future with God



Friday, October 14, 2016

THINKING LIKE A PAWNBROKER


We may be inclined at times to think like a pawnbroker—how can we get the best deal for a valuable treasure? Who hasn’t fantasized for a moment about becoming wealthy?




Several of Jesus’ parable stories feature people who have the responsibility of handling treasure; either their own or managing it for someone else. In each story there is always the question of price and responsibility. What is required to gain the advantage? Here are a couple examples of treasure stories from Jesus.


Matthew 13:
44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.


In the first instance, there is the fortunate and unexpected discovery. The worker comes upon the treasure quite by accident in the course of his duties.

Under rabbinic law if a workman came on a treasure in a field and lifted it out, it would belong to his master, the field's owner; but here the man is careful not to lift the treasure out till he has bought the field. The focus of the parable, therefore, is on the value of the treasure, which is worth every sacrifice.[1]

In the second case, a businessman discovers something so valuable he liquidates all assets to acquire the priceless treasure. Both stories speak to the motive of profit. There is something greater than what you have and it is worth paying a great price in order to acquire it.

To discover the true riches of a life with God, we need to be willing to think less about our current assets and more about what God has promised. This is the essence of God’s blessing—trading plastic toys for diamonds. Letting go of the lesser to grasp the greater.

While our first instinct in these stories is to assume we are the businessmen, it might also be read as Jesus being the one who paid the great price to have us. We are the priceless treasure that he paid the greatest price for.

Unlike a pawnbroker, Jesus paid the highest price. He did not look for a bargain but paid full value.






[1] Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Matthew 13:44

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

OUR FASCINATION WITH PAWN SHOWS


Have you been to a pawnshop lately? Windsor has several of them including Economy Exchange where Mark Bradac is the proprietor. 



You may remember him from the two seasons of ‘Pawnathon Canada’, a reality TV show in which customers brought in items to see how much money they can sell it for. He’s one of Windsor’s local legends.

This is Mark’s second time enjoying celebrity status. He was a guitarist in Windsor’s successful band Teaze from 1975-81. He is a likeable guy who does well in front of an audience.

But, let’s get back to pawnshops. All of the TV pawn shows are fascinating on a couple accounts. First, you discover the valuable treasures that people sometimes have and are willing to sacrifice for a price. Secondly, you see the reality of running a business where the pawnbroker wants to be fair, but still needs to make a buck and will buy treasure at the lowest price he or she can.

The shows appeal to our curiosity about treasure and the tension of getting less for it than it may be worth.

There’s another side to pawnshops that the TV shows don’t focus on very much. Their primary function is providing collateral cash loans to people by agreeing to have the shop hold their merchandise at a high interest rate. When the customer comes back and pays the loan in full, they receive their item back. This is a quick fix for people who need to borrow cash without going to the bank for a loan. The average loan amount nationally is $150.[1]

When you are unable to pay back the loan, the item becomes property of the pawnshop that then sells it in their store. Defaulting on the loan does not affect a person’s credit rating, because the item of collateral becomes the payment.



Saturday, October 8, 2016

THE BELIEVER



In the art of approval seeking, there are some common patterns of human behaviour. There may be more models, but let us look at four classic responders in their need to be affirmed.



Affirmation Seeker #4 Believer 


If there is a blessing and affirmation for you from God, will you believe that affirmation above all other messages about who you are?

Joseph is a good example of someone who believed what God and his father Jacob said about his destiny. While some will look at the immature Joseph and say he was overconfident, the truth is he believed the affirmations fully. He took to heart the potential and leadership that was spoken over his life from a young age.

Joseph learned through disapproval and persecution to develop a good metric for understanding hardship. He remained true to the deepest affirmations of God in his life and was open to correction.

A believer in the blessing develops good radar to avoid and minimize the effect of toxic relationships.

A believer in the blessing aligns his or her self in every circumstance to live in a way that multiplies goodness and accepts hardship as part of the path they are on.

The believer can always afford to be truthful, forgiving and functional in the chaos of what others do to harm them. They are driven to the right thing in every situation.

From Who You Are To Who You Are Meant To Be


If we are to believe in the promises of God and function in God’s blessing over us, we will need to be much more inquisitive and trusting. We must rely on One greater than ourselves to bring definition and alignment with God’s desires for a new humanity; a people restored to the original programming.

Jesus invited followers to approach God in a different way than they were used to.


Luke 11:
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”





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