Redefining #Blessed

img_3208

Our society is always changing.

And perhaps this is best represented in our weird tendency to redefine things. Particularly nowadays. It seems everywhere we turn, a previously unquestioned concept is experiencing a huge social reconstruction. I’m looking at you, marriage. Not forgetting the 63 genders you can now choose from. Here’s the problem:

We all want a say on how life should be defined.

We do it in more subtle ways too. For example, the hashtag #blessed has been used 77,000,000 times (on Instagram alone). And for many (not all) it appears to be a way of boasting whilst remaining humble. Win a sporting event. Pass that hard university topic with flying colours. Get a promotion at work. Be surrounded with friends and family. Live in a huge house. Such events seem to qualify our ability to say that we are blessed.

And so our culture has formed something of a silent creed. An unspoken but very loud anthem, drummed into the hearts of many. That to be blessed is to be subject of favourable circumstance. This is the lie we have smuggled into our internal dictionary.

And there’s a reason I say this is a lie.

To be blessed has become totally synonymous with gain in this life. But Jesus came to tell us those who lose their lives for his sake are blessed.

As always, my opinion means squat.

My greatest hope is to draw attention to the works and words of Christ. And as I understand it, Jesus seriously challenged our definition of what it is to be blessed. And he didn’t do this privately. He challenged it publicly. 

To a crowd of eager and expectant people, Jesus said some shocking stuff. Jesus defined the truly blessed people in life as being poor, hungry and thirsty, and persecuted to the point of death (Matthew 5:2-12). The crowds were not expecting that. Because it sounds like the complete opposite of being blessed. So we have to ask ourselves:

What did he mean by it?

_________________________________________________________________

BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT 

The world says those who are rich and esteemed are blessed, Jesus says blessed are the poor and humble before him.

This one is so counter-cultural.

Because most of us spend our lives trying to be rich. Whether you realise it or not. We strive to be rich in money. Many of us aim for richness in achievements. Most of us long to be rich in our friendships. Rich in reputation. Rich in purpose. Rich in happiness. And so for the most part, we look to life’s many riches as our primary source of joy.

Well, Jesus uses the very first words of his sermon to tackle this issue.

Jesus has little time for those who use stuff as their primary pursuit of joy. He makes it crystal clear – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:2). Incredible! Jesus is extending to us the richest richness possible. He is literally ushering us into the Kingdom of Heaven. And get a load of this:

The only requirement to God’s kingdom is empty hands.

Those who fall at the feet of Jesus totally broken. Those who fall at the feet of Jesus bankrupt. Those who fall at the feet of Jesus bereft of all pride and life’s riches, in passionate abandon of he who can satisfy every longing. It is to that calibre of people, Jesus promises to bless with everything.

Namely, himself.

BLESSED ARE THE HUNGRY AND THIRSTY

The world says those who have everything in abundance are blessed, Jesus says blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

We have so much stuff.

Food isn’t even an issue for us,  because every type of food we need is at the supermarket down the road. To hunger and thirst in the first world is pretty much a non-issue. But we aren’t let off the hook to easily. Because Jesus isn’t just talking about food and water here.

You see, when you hunger and thirst after something, it controls you. It dictates your movements. It becomes the very thrust of your life. In fact, you know you hunger and thirst for something when you cannot go one day without feeling the pain of its absence.

Because in the end, desiring the things of this world never truly satisfies.

Death puts a dramatic end to all pursuits of happiness. So the words of Jesus ring all the more louder: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus is saying we need to develop an appetite that won’t be satisfied by this world. Jesus wants the stomach of our soul to rumble.

Jesus wants our lives to be so changed, so controlled, and so dictated by a hunger and thirst for more of God. To the point where our reflex-reaction is to show people undeserved mercy, and to spill over with blood-bought purity and peacemaking. And it is to that calibre of people, Jesus promises to bless with eternal satisfaction.

Namely, more of himself.

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED

The world says those who are secure are blessed, Jesus says blessed are those who risk everything for his sake.

If the others haven’t blown you away, this one will.

Jesus says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Craziness! Nobody in their right mind considers being killed a blessing. Our image of the good life doesn’t usually include death. In fact, hundreds of surveys all come back with the same result – our greatest fear is death.

Yet, God welcomes us to be fearless in death.

How could Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after standing against the Nazi party and sentenced to the gallows, say with his last words “this is the end – and for me, the beginning of life.” How did Obadiah Holmes, arrested and whipped 30 times for holding a church service, turn around to his executioner and say “you have struck me as with roses.”

What made John Cardmaker, sentenced to death for his faith, walk up to the stake on which he was to be burned and kiss it. How did Kayla Mueller – after getting captured, tortured, sexually abused and killed (by ISIS) for defending the lives of children – say in her last letter “by God and by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall.”

Holding tight the words of Jesus, these people experienced death as gain.

This is what sets Christians apart from the world. We are blessed because through Jesus, the power of death is no more. Nothing can shake this. Not persecution, poverty, danger or death itself (Rom 8:35). And so we shout “Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) Because death doesn’t steal our joy.

It only advances it.

_________________________________________________________________

THE MARCHING ORDERS

Our ability to say we are blessed should be primarily predicated on what God is to us. Not what God gives to us.

So go on. Use the blessed hashtag.

But Christian, make sure the world hears you loud and clear. We march to a different drum. We preach a different creed. It goes like this: Jesus is the root of my ability to say I am blessed. And so we count all else as loss except for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).

Jesus said it in the most explicit way possible. He wants us to desire heaven infinitely more than we desire earth. More than all of life’s riches. Higher than any vain satisfaction in this life. Greater than personal security. Worthy of our whole lives. 

So let the world hear it. Our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in the resurrection of Jesus. And so we live to advocate serious joy in Christ at all costs. We might face poverty, famine, or even death. But Jesus remains the strength of our hearts and our portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).

Life uncertain. Hope secure. Blessed always.

____________________________________________________________________________________________ 

 

Advertisements

The Next Decade

IMG_4617

Tomorrow is my birthday.

August 8th. 1997. At 10:10 am. 20 years ago tomorrow, I started my journey in this out-of-womb world called planet earth. And my parents began their journey with the boy who is still by far and away their favourite child to date (alongside my brother and sister).

On the way to the hospital, Dad (driving) and Mum (just hours away from giving birth) drove past a church. The church had a sign out the front. It said this: A baby is God’s way of saying life goes on. I love this. This is the awesome miracle of us. Life goes on because God is good. All life is made possible because God wills it. God breathes it. God gives it. 

I turn 20 years old in less than 24 hours. And here’s the thing: I do not intend on wasting the rest of my life. I am convinced that the unwasted life has one all-satisfying goal. To make much of Christ. This is how I intend on living. So here it is. My journal entry.

My prayer for the next 10 years.

Continue reading

Jesus: No Ordinary Teacher (Part 1)

img_4327

Teaching.

We would all be dead without it. Consider this. Somewhere along the line, you were taught everything you know and do today.

We all go through a process of learning the bare essentials. The toilet training stage. Learning how to eat and drink. Walk and talk. Then as we walk through life, we begin to understand more complex lessons. Skills like how to read and write. How to tie your shoes. How to cook. How to apologise. How to interact with one another.

Some are still learning those lessons. But truth is, we all are. Anyone who claims to know everything is delusional. The fact that we are in the 21st century, part of society as we know it today, is thanks to our ongoing learning over hundreds of years.

You see, life is a great teacher.

Teaching is part of the fabric of life, and we are students to it

And Jesus claimed to be a great teacher (John 13:13).

Now, Jesus didn’t claim teacher status to get a job down the road. This wasn’t his little spoken resume. No, this Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (Matthew 16:15). The way to the truth and fullness of life (John 14:6). In light of this, we see something clearly.

When Jesus accepts claims to be a teacher, he claims to have incredible authority. Not just a teacher of maths or science. This is a teacher of life itself. Essential for the forward movement of the world. Essential for the continuation of society. Essential for life

And importantly, every teacher has students.

In claiming to be a teacher, Jesus invites us to come and learn. To be his students. Therefore, it is essential we assess his credentials. It is essential we understand what sort of a teacher he is. Hence this new 3-part blog series. So get your red pens out.

Because it’s time to give Jesus a grade.

Continue reading

King Jesus

see

Christmas is upon us.

Unfortunately, this news is greeted with mixed emotions in the 21st century. Not least because a modern day Christmas is crazy stuff. It is full throttle. Pedal to the metal. Flying on all cylinders sorta stuff.

And naturally, our priorities are angled towards other things. Amongst the stuff, we tend to drop God down our list of priorities.

In fact, a prevailing view in society today is that Christ has lost relevance. This is a vague objection often blindly asserted in public places. It is this mammoth misconception founded on the belief that because times have changed, we don’t need God anymore.

Hate to be blunt, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

At Christmas we celebrate God putting us at the top of his priority list.

Christmas isn’t our busy lives stepping into God, but God stepping into our busy lives. Identifying with us. Sharing in our sufferings. Showing the deep love he has for us.

And if that doesn’t totally blow you out of the water, nothing will.

Christmas isn’t some watered down, lame fairytale we tell children before bed. We are celebrating the very presence of God here. God’s presence gives the world relevance. You’re unlikely to believe this if you don’t spend time seeking it.

And I’m going to show you why.

_________________________________________________________________

At the birth of any baby, the first people invited to see the little dude or dudette are significant. VIP backstage pass sorta thing. It is usually reserved for close friends and family members.

We learn a lot about Jesus by the first people invited into His presence. God’s VIP list consisted of a poor couple, some lonely and inadequate outcasts, and three men sent by a corrupt king. A bit random to say the least. Not exactly hard hitting stuff.

Why were these people the first invited into the presence of God?

MARY AND JOSEPH

God called a poor couple from an average town, to share in the riches and deepest joys of his eternally worthy Kingdom.

The first people invited to the birth of Jesus was his parents. Go figure.

In the lead up to the first Christmas, the parents of Jesus would have been extremely excited and anxious. No other mother has a claim to fame quite like bearing the Son of God. And the build-up to this birth is still totally unrivalled.

Because this wasn’t your classic 9 month pregnancy. The arrival of some angels went a long way to confirming this wasn’t your average baby. Mary and Joseph would have been very aware of prophecies made about this baby centuries in advance.

The world had been expecting this champion for hundreds of years. 

So this was a huge calling. I can’t overstate the level of crazy this job description requires. But what is even crazier is that there was nothing particularly special about Mary and Joseph. They were just a poor couple from a dodgy town.

And yet, God promised Mary and Joseph that by accepting Jesus in humility and with joy, they would be used in an extremely powerful way for the Kingdom of God.

And they stepped out in faith.

THE SHEPHERDS

God called shepherds on the fringes of society, to a Good Shepherd who brings all people back to the centrepiece of civilisation

Back in the day, shepherds were pretty low on the social ladder.

In fact they probably didn’t even feature on the ladder. These guys often lived on their own, literally removed from society, as safety of the flock was at risk through the night.

So it is no surprise this is where history first records them. Tending to sheep and staying in the fields (Luke 2:8). A pretty boring arvo, until a host of angels show up announcing the birth of the Saviour of the world. Went from 0 to 100 real quick.  

And the shepherds were initially terrified. I mean, put yourself in their shoes. I’d be shaking like a leaf. But after processing the news, the shepherds dropped their work and hurried into town to see this King.

Here’s the cool part. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). The shepherds didn’t bring anything. They just came as they were. Wearing stinky and torn clothes, unshaven and unqualified, no social standing whatsoever. 

And yet, God promised the shepherds that by accepting the call with nothing to offer, everything would be offered to them in return. That from the fringes of society, they would be brought back to the centrepiece of civilisation.

And they stepped out in response to his call.

THE WISE MEN

God called wise men from a corrupt earthly king, to an eternal King who rules with justice and fairness.

History records these wise men as being royal astrologers.

There guys were an image of the smartest minds of the day. And not just your average astrologers, the royal astrologers. A good reference on your resume to say the least.

These men are best known for their pursuit of a star. Namely, Jesus. And it’s pretty crazy stuff. These men followed a star, a ball of gas millions of kilometres away in the universe, which according to their intellect was stooping over Jesus (Matthew 2:2).

All of creation bowing down to this Jesus. Not your average baby. Heck, not many can claim to using the universe as a sort of traffic light. Directing everyone to himself.

Equally important to note is that the wise men were from eastern lands (Matt 2:1). This is significant stuff. Because to this point in history, God’s people were almost exclusively citizens of Israel. And yet these wise men weren’t even from Israel.

They probably didn’t even know the language. But you see, God reached out to these men in a language they understood. He used their knowledge on the universe, the very line of their work, and brought them to Jesus.

He met them where they were. God promised the wise men that by seeking Jesus, they would see King Jesus.

And they stepped out in pursuit of that promise.

_________________________________________________________________

WRAPPING IT UP

Each of these VIP guests to Jesus proved one thing.

It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, smart or uneducated. Lonely or busy. Qualified or inadequate. From the king’s palace, a dodgy town, or not from any town at all.

God requires our response, not our resume.

The presence of Christ is revealed to those who step out in response to his call. This is the distinguishing feature of those called into the presence of Christ. Obedience rooted in faith. A response to the news of Christ, and the promise of serious hope and joy in him.

Who could pass that up?

We are all called into the very presence of God.

Practical application time.

To those who have accepted God’s call. Take a look at Mary and Joseph. Who despite being filled with absolute awe, still welcomed in the outcasts and the seekers. This season, look for ways to show the presence of Christ to those who need it.

To those too busy or smart for God. Take a look at the wise men. The royal astrologers, who despite having the mysteries of the universe to discover, still found time to seek the true King. This season, seek what Jesus really has to offer.

To those feeling removed from God and others. Take a look at the shepherds. The social outcasts, the lonely and weathered citizens of society, who were personally welcomed into God’s presence. This season, know that you are loved and welcomed by Jesus.

This is the awesome truth of Christmas. This is the awesome truth of Christianity. We are all called by the living God. Only one question remains:

How will you respond to Jesus?

Jesus for President (Part 2)

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-11-29-55-am

I’m officially sick of politics.

But there’s seriously no competition in the race for best PM and government when Jesus is in the picture. And in the end, our vote doesn’t determine his rule and reign. This baby is happening.

The ball is in your court to decide whether you want to be part of His government. In Part 1 we discussed three reasons why Jesus is (by far) the best leader the world has and will ever see. So without further ado, here’s three more reasons in this – Part 2:

_________________________________________________________________

  • He provides the solution to the biggest problem facing humanity

Forget the economy. Forget jobs. Forget global warming. Forget social status.

The single biggest issue facing the world today is death. Nobody escapes it. Everyone plays to its tune. And so we dance our way around in life, looking for ways to prolong what is destined for the grave.

We avoid unhealthy habits. We keep our body and bank account healthy. We seek good times and happiness. We work, accumulate, consume, die. All for what?

It’s all pretty hopeless. And so surely any good leader cares enough to at least address the biggest issue we will ever face. And believe it or not, Jesus does.

But even more than that. What’s amazing is that Jesus had life at the centre of his teachings. He consistently and intentionally promises a cure. A way to the truth and fullness of life.

Namely, himself.

Jesus Humility

So don’t you ever tell me Jesus is not relevant because he lived 2000 odd years ago. But if you do, please explain how death doesn’t affect the world anymore.

This Jesus is extremely relevant.

Because Jesus didn’t just address the issue of death by illustrating what a painful death looks like. Jesus didn’t just acknowledge mankind’s biggest problem and then leave it hanging. He solved our greatest problem by leaving himself hanging. 

His death wasn’t the end of the story. And that sets this leader apart from all others.

  • He fulfils all his promises.

Isn’t this something we lack in politics nowadays.

Politicians are increasingly being characterised by their inability to follow through on promises. Heck, there are even websites tracking the number of broken promises for each government. We expect the leaders of our nation to break definite promises.

Read that again. Let it sink in.

Jesus on the other hand has a perfect track record with promises. Completely contrary to the world’s leaders, when God makes a promise we expect it to happen. And it does.

That a nation would come from the line of Abraham? Tick (Genesis 17:2). That a nation stuck in slavery would be brought out of Egypt? Yep (Exodus 14-15). That a leader from the line of David would rule forever? You bet your bottom dollar (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 1:69).

And not just that. Ridiculous prophecies (God inspired predictions) were made 400-700 years B.C. to foreshadow this coming leader from the line of David.

And the chances of someone fulfilling all of them is astronomical. 

The compelling nature of prophecies fulfilled by the person of Jesus, cannot be explained by way of pure chance.

Some smart people got together and did some cool maths stuff.

They found that the chances of winning the lottery are 1 in 259,000,000. So pretty crazy. But they found the chances of someone fulfilling just 8 (of the suggested 48) prophecies are way more ridiculous: 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

But that isn’t all folks. The research team also estimated the chance of one man fulfilling all 48 prophecies: 1 in 10 to the power of 157. That’s a 1 followed by 157 zeroes.

That’s a lot of zeroes.

Jesus fulfilled all promises and prophecies. Forget Leicester City, The Chicago Cubs and the Western Bulldogs. Jesus literally embodies the biggest upset and logic defying performance of all time. A pretty darn big fluke. 

Unless you believe in a God who fulfils all his promises. Then it just makes sense. 

  • His rule and reign will never end

This is where we bring it all together.

Kingdom literally translated is King’s Dominion – just shortened. So because Jesus smashed sin and death to pieces, his dominion extends beyond death.

And this is perhaps one of the greatest promises made by God.

That through Jesus, we have access to God (Hebrews 10:20). He has made a way to life (John 14:6). And anyone who believes and places trust in our awesome candidate is welcome into His kingdom (John 3:16).

You’d be crazy to turn that offer down.

img_3475

I love this quote.

I pray with this in mind most mornings. It is significant to me for a number of reasons. You see, from the hand of God everything was created. He crafted and chiseled out the universe and everything in it from nothing.

So this reminds me that God is totally in control of all things. And sometimes, when all is out of hand, that’s when I see his fingerprints the most.

But more than that. God’s hands signify our citizenship. 

Because Jesus lives, his kingdom endures

Jesus handed us the hammer. And with the nail, we smashed the whole world’s sin and junk into the hand of God. And three days later, Jesus proved he had power over it.

The crazy irony. That the nails we drove in with intentions to stay the hand of God, would become the lasting blows of justice.

Talk about grace.

Jesus, by nature and profession a carpenter, gave amateurs the hammer to deliver the blows of a new covenant (Matt 26:28). To make something new of his body, the church.

And so we can approach God with full confidence (Hebrews 4:16). Knowing that our deepest scars of sin have been dealt with.

The hands of God cannot be held down. And neither can his Kingdom.

_________________________________________________________________

THE FINAL PITCH

king-jesus_620

Look at all the bullet points again. Let’s recap the leader and government outlined.

A prime minister that rules with authority, justice and fairness. And yet, a leader that is down to earth and humble in every way. Fully understanding of the struggles and deepest sufferings of his people.

The biggest problem humanity faces he addresses and solves. All promises he makes are fulfilled. He ushers in a kingdom full of his people that humbly serve and care for one another. Everyone in his kingdom is included and important. And it starts from the top.

Now ask yourself: is this the sort of leadership and government I want out of office?

Jesus offers real hope, and real change for real life issues

That’s the sort of leader I want to follow. That’s the sort of people I want to be part of.

And if we believe Jesus is the top candidate, we naturally become his ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). God uses us to tell the world how awesome his government is.

We are called to contain, proclaim and live by the values of this kingdom (Hebrews 10:23). To let the activity of the King be evident in our lives (Phillipians 2:13). To give the world just a snippet of what is (and is) to come.

All the forces of hell will try to overthrow it. The world will experience great turmoil and tremendous upheaval. Heck, we might even face an election with shocking candidates.

But through it all, we are not shaken (Psalm 16:8). We have intense confidence in our leader who put the forces of death to shame. God’s kingdom will never end. All people are welcome.

And that is reason to celebrate.

Jesus for President (Part 1)

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-11-29-55-am

I’m officially sick of politics.

Lies. Deception. Failure to follow through on definite promises. The same old slogans. Selling hope but delivering the opposite. Outdated leaders that don’t understand the people. ‘The better of two evils’ is often how we describe the candidates.

And us Aussies don’t like any of our leaders. We’ve had something ridiculous like 6 prime minsters in the last 7 years (a new record mind you). We just can’t make our minds up. Nobody truly leads with authority. Nobody really makes us want to follow them. The real issues aren’t being properly addressed.

Can I hear an amen?

We just want a fair shake of the sauce bottle. But there’s certainly an aspect where we have to just put up with it. Attempting to overthrow all of the world’s governments is not a good idea. I repeat: not a good idea.

We should consider our government and authority with respect, praying they rule justly. Yet, their rule is just temporary. No government is lasting, secure or faultless.

“The kingdom of heaven is near” – Jesus (Mark 1:15)

Except this one.

Here we have Jesus putting in his ballot paper. Publicly declaring to everyone his full confidence in this kingdom. The line has been drawn.

And even more than that, Jesus promises nothing in this world can rival this kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10-11). Not some cheap knock-off or temporary rule of a government with an average leader.

This is the real deal.

Now, we place a lot of different thoughts onto the word kingdom. Medieval stuff like castles, knights, and drawbridges with shark infested waters. But kingdom in its simplest form is just a shortened form of King’s Dominion. 

The activity and reign of the King.

So when Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is near, it can actually be taken literally. Jesus was physically with the people. Therefore, the kingdom was literally near. So if we want to find out what this kingdom is all about, we should look to the activity of the king. We should look to the works and words of Jesus.

Let’s find out how worthy a candidate this Jesus is.

Continue reading

3rd world citizens

IMG_2609

We all care about the poor.

The desperately hungry. Without a home and living on the streets. The people bashed and robbed. Socially ostracised. Those drinking muddy, unpurified water. Nothing at all in their possession except the clothes on their backs. Sick to death.

We all pity such people. We feel sorry for how they live. So we donate money, clothes, water towards their villages. Set up organisations. Raise awareness. All in an attempt to help people in need.

But none of us envy their lifestyles. A safe assumption I hope.

The life of someone in poverty isn’t exactly the peak of the human experience. You would have to be out of your mind to desire this life.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Jesus

And then Jesus goes and says that. What the heck.

These were his first words in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). If you know anything about speeches and essays, introductions are used to set the scene and grab attention. Jesus must have been very aware of these factors. His first sentence alone is shocking. 

Picture it with me. The disciples are waiting as Jesus prepares to talk. Religious dudes gather expectantly for inside knowledge on how to perform miracles, or how to get into God’s good books. Intrigued locals join the crowd to hear from this amazing teacher. Everyone is hanging on his first words.

And then for some crazy reason, Jesus starts by promising poor people the kingdom of heaven. Talk would’ve run riot in the town. If newspapers were a thing, they would’ve gone bezerk. Social media would’ve been in absolute overdrive.

The prerequisite to citizenship in heaven is to be poor in spirit. God’s kingdom is promised to poor people.

Crazy stuff.  

malcs

Malcolm Turnbull came under fire recently.

The Australian PM was spotted giving $5 to a poor man on the streets of Melbourne. On the surface, it seemed like a nice gesture. However, news outlets and social media went nuts when they discovered Mr.Turnbull was clutching a stack of notes in his left hand. People were quick to label him greedy and selfish.

The hypocrisy in much of the criticisms of Mr.Turnbull are very real. I’d suggest 99% of those voicing hate against Mr.Turnbull for this act should take a hard look at themselves.

But the fact remains. There is disappointment that with so much money in his possession, Malcolm could only manage $5. That the leader of our people, seeing the poorest in his society, gave that which wouldn’t cost him much.

Whether or not you are critical of Mr.Turnbull is irrelevant. My point is this. Jesus sees the poorest in his society and promises the absolute maximum in return. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Dead set ridiculous. Jesus promises everything to people who have nothing. To put this into perspective, it would be like Mr.Turnbull giving $100 million to the homeless man. We are on that sort of scale of crazy.

But to get the reward, we are called to be poor in spirit. Is Jesus telling us to be desperately hungry? Vulnerable and on the streets? Are we being told be sick and thirsty and homeless and posses nothing – all for the sake of heaven?

That’s ludicrous. That’s insane.

_________________________________________________________________

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE POOR IN SPIRIT?

‘Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.’ – 2 Corinthians 8:9

In understanding what poor in spirit means, it makes sense to look at how Jesus treated poor people. Unsurprisingly, one of the most defining features of Jesus was the way he sought the lost (Luke 19:10).

Jesus welcomed in the outcasts. Gave lasting food to the poor and helpless. Jesus invited people despised by the world over for dinner. Those with leprosy and blindness he came into contact with. He healed them. He talked with them (Matthew 11:5).

He came into their world when nobody else would.

Jesus, the very definition of sinless and perfect, consistently and intentionally came into contact with disgraceful sinners (Matthew 9:10). But Jesus didn’t just come into contact with poor people. He identified with them.

Jesus came from a small village, born to a poor couple in a lowly animal stable. He wasn’t too high and mighty for work – heck, he laboured for years as a carpenter. The very Son of God lived and breathed amongst poor people. He understood everyday struggles. He didn’t remove himself from pain – quite the opposite.

Surely this tells us something about how God intended to reach the world.

“Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home” – Jesus

Jesus said this to a paralysed man.

So you can see how crazy this statement is. Jesus literally told someone who physically can’t walk to do exactly that. Walk.

Try telling someone in a wheelchair to just get up and walk next time you’re in public. See how that works out for you. You might just experience the miracle of a backhand to the face.

Yet immediately after Jesus said this, a man who had never used his legs before stood up and walked (Mark 2:1-12). Let’s just appreciate how cool that is for a second. Just ridiculous.

But that’s not the only ridiculous thing about this situation.

Back in the day, sickness was considered a punishment for disobedience. It was a common belief that God inflicted sickness upon people as result of sin. Such people living in sickness were often despised and not allowed to live in community with anyone, not even their own family (Numbers 5:2).

Sin had to be expelled from the community so the people could stay clean.

Yet for some reason this Jesus dude felt like it was okay to welcome in a sick, poor and sinful person. So sin had now polluted the community. Great. Thanks a lot Jesus.

But in a mad plot twist, Jesus defies all laws of physics and medical expertise and just heals the man of his sickness. The people were in utter disbelief. It would’ve been like watching someone discover the cure to cancer. This was significant.

Why did Jesus heal this poor, sick and sinful man?

Through this situation, Jesus was sticking up his hand as the solution to the crippling disease of sin. This Jesus was sticking his hand up as God himself. No other explanation would suffice. Who else could be so perfect as to heal someone of imperfection?

No longer would people have to be expelled from the community. Sin that once left humanity paralysed had now met its cure.

Jesus.

Isn’t Christianity just a crutch for those who can’t make it themselves?

A common criticism of Christianity. Funny thing is, we actually agree with it.

John Piper (in a sermon) highlights an interesting thing about this criticism and labelling of our ‘crutch’ as being problematic. He suggested that nobody looks at an injured person with a crutch, and identifies the crutch as being problematic.

The crutch is the solution, isn’t it? 

Here’s where the problem lies. If Christianity is a crutch, then it is only good for cripples. And many people don’t consider themselves cripples. And so it is therefore offensive to an individual’s self- sufficiency to be labelled as needing help.

This is why Jesus is so counter cultural.

Jesus came to provide himself as the crutch for all. The solution to our deepest sickness.

Humanity was paralysed in sin. But through Jesus death on the cross, our greatest sickness is dealt with. As a result we can boldly approach God. Full confidence in the saving power of our crutch, which allows us to walk in the ways of our Father.

And this completely contrasts our way of thinking.

If we want a job, we work hard and present ourselves well. If we want to be better at sport, we train harder. If we want to get better grades, we study harder. If we want to get anywhere in life, it takes our own effort.

Then Jesus comes along and flips it. To be poor in spirit is to realise the state of our sickness without Jesus. To be poor in spirit is understanding that before God, we have nothing to give. All the work Jesus has already done.

It is finished. 

_________________________________________________________________

PULL UP A SEAT

My Dad wrote a letter when I was born. In this letter he explains the reasons behind choosing my name – and qualities he hoped I would cling to.

Dad used the biblical Jonathan as an example of holding high the qualities of loyalty and friendship in my life. Jonathan was a very loyal man, who had a strong friendship with David. However, Dad suggests (in his letter) it is what comes of their friendship that is equally significant.

Eventually Jonathan died. To honour the deep friendship David once shared with his friend, he found a lone descendant from Jonathan’s line, a cripple called Mephibosheth. To this lowly, dishonoured man he gave the right to eat at the king’s table from that day on (2 Samuel 9).

Because of David and Jonathan’s strong relationship, a man lowly and crippled was given access to eat at the King’s table.

‘God has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence…’ – Colossians 1:22

Jesus has a perfect relationship with God.

And by extension, Jesus death and resurrection brings us into the presence of the King. Into the very presence of God. God invites us to eat at his table because of the deep relationship shared with Jesus Christ.

Lowly, hungry, flawed and crippled in sin – yet God chooses us to eat with him. Through Jesus work on the cross, we can claim our seat at the table.

“Tell a broken, crippled and dying world that they may come and eat at the King’s table.”

Pull up a seat.