The Promise Of Comfort

If it were up to us, the verse would say: "Those who have it all together are blessed." After all, God helps those who help themselves, right?!? Everyone has fallen short, but most of us act like nothing's wrong.

Years ago, a woman told me that she would not be joining our church, because we had too many perfect people. I told her how I wished I could stop time on a Sunday morning and bring her up to the platform so that I could point out the imperfections. Over there is a family that's being held together by a thread. Up here is a family that won't speak to that family back there because of something that happened years ago. That man's wife cheated on him. That child hates her father. Those two children have never seen their father. And I could have gone on and on. In other words, we didn't have a perfect person in the bunch!

Jesus said, "Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted." We become mournful when we recognize our spiritual bankruptcy. In other words, when our pride is stripped away, and we stand (or kneel) before God with absolutely nothing to offer but ourselves, then we find approval (blessed) and are comforted. Wow! His comfort meets our spiritual sorrow.

Leon Morris wrote: "Now they mourn; but now is not always. God's ultimate triumph, and with it the comforting of those who have grieved over evil, is sure."

John, the Revelator, wrote: "For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

If God helps those who help themselves—if God blesses the perfect—then I am perfectly toast. Thankfully, it's not up to us!

Happy or Sad?

 Rachel Dratch as Debbie Downer (SNL)

Rachel Dratch as Debbie Downer (SNL)

Which is better: to be happy or to be sad? I know, silly question. What kind of nut would prefer to being sad to being happy? A while back, Rachel Dratch, on Saturday Night Live, brought us "Debbie Downer" - the character who would bring bad news or bad feelings to an otherwise happy occasion. The first skit she appeared in was with Lyndsay Lohan, Jimmy Fallon, and other "family members" having breakfast at Disney. While they ordered breakfast, she talked of Mad Cow disease. They talked about seeing Tigger, she talked about Roy of Sigfried and Roy being attacked by a tiger. While they watched fireworks, she went on about feline AIDS. Her theme song says it all:

You're enjoying your day, everything's going your way / Then, along comes Debbie Downer! / Always there to tell you about a new disease / A car accident or killer bees. / You'll beg her to spare you, "Debbie, please." / But you can't stop Debbie Downer!

Debbie Downer was so funny because we've all been around party poopers. But back to the question, which is better? Is it better to be sad or to be happy? Actually, there was a man who said it was much better to be sad than to be happy. No, not the Debbie Downer kind of sad. A much different kind of sad. A deeper kind of sad.

That man taught us that when sin entered the world, it severed our relationship with God, bringing about our spiritual death and the spiritual death of those around us. But the worst part of this separation is that more often than not, we're not even sad about our sin.

After recognizing our spiritual bankruptcy, it is only natural to feel contrition over our sin. Those who are distraught over the havoc caused by sin will have the salve of Christ's death and righteousness applied to their consciences. According to that man, Jesus, these-and these alone-will be comforted.

He said, "Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted."

I hope you find comfort today.

When Poor Is Good

Living in America, being "poor" is rarely a good thing. In school, our grades range from Excellent to Good to Poor. Poor is not good. From a young age we are taught there are no limits to our accomplishments. The "American Dream" is illustrated early and often with examples of people who have started with nothing (or not much) and have achieved success. And, the more material possessions we accumulate, the happier we'll be. Poor is not good.

In the counter-culture of the beatitudes, poor is good. Jesus said those who are poor in spirit will be blessed (Matthew 5:3). No, He wasn't talking about material possessions or passing grades. He was talking about coming to the realization that we have nothing to offer God. Because we are fallen creatures, we are spiritually bankrupt.

John Nolland says, "The poor in spirit will be those who sense the burden of their present (impoverished) state, and see it in terms of the absence of God; who patiently bear that state, but long for God to act on their behalf and decisively claim them again as His people."

Our problem is that we are middle-class in spirit! We certainly don't like being poor in spirit, but we know enough to avoid being totally full of ourselves. So we imagine that we are doing pretty well - not too great, but certainly self-sufficient. We are middle-class in spirit, and yet we find that Jesus offers nothing to the middle-class in spirit.

Like the rich in spirit, the middle-class in spirit see no need for God to intervene in their lives. God is certainly a helpful reality, but He's more like the GPS in our car than the Lord of our lives. We want Him around when things are tough, but otherwise, we think we can handle things ourselves. The middle-class in spirit are not blessed; only the poor. And it's only the poor in spirit that find entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

When we realize we are completely dependent upon the rich mercy of our great God, then we find approval (the meaning of "blessed") from God. And at that moment, we realize being poor is good.

New Beginnings

Greg Lackey and band at Lakeside.

We started our new schedule this week. Two services at two different times. For the last twelve months, we've had two services at the same time. Decided to go ahead and separate them so we could give better focus. It went well. I took a pic of the band with my phone. It's not good, but you get the point!

We started our new series this week. Over the next several weeks we'll be looking at the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. Two things about the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 that strike me. First, they are a picture of what a follower of Christ should look like. We don't pick and choose which ones we want (or don't want) to emulate. They are not a checklist for the task oriented. The follower of Christ will be poor in spirit, will mourn, will be gentle, will hunger and thirst for righteousness, will be merciful, will be pure in heart, will be a peacemaker, and will be persecuted.

Second, the Beatitudes are a picture of approval. The word for "blessed" is makarios. It is unfortunate that so many translators prefer "happy" instead of "blessed." Scripture shows a duality of man blessing God and God blessing man. When man blesses God, he is praising (or eulogizing) God. When God blesses man, he is approving man. And so, when man finds himself approved, he will then be happy. In other words, Jesus is making an objective judgment about these people. Stott says, "He is declaring not what they may feel like (happy), but what God thinks of them and what on that account they are: they are blessed." Wow!

Isn't it great to know that we can find approval from God?!