Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Blessed in all Circumstances 2/01/2011
KJV Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Jesus had called some of his disciples at this time, and as they watched Him preaching, teaching and healing many, they must have been a captive audience as they followed Him up the mountain wondering what was coming next. He had called upon them to follow Him so that He could make them fishers of men, so that they were doing in a literal sense and so likely they were all ears when He opened His mouth and began to speak. May we also have ears to hear what He says unto us today.

As Jesus sat on the mountain and began to preach the Greatest Sermon every preached, we cannot help but wonder if He went up on the mountain in order to make a connection unto the listeners with Moses, who was big in the eyes of those who were listening to this One whom they had seen preaching, teaching and healing. For Moses had gone up on Mt. Sinai years before in order to receive the Law from God by the angels, (Acts 7:54) but under far different circumstances and atmosphere than they experienced here. At that time there had been smoke, fire and great noise. Here there was peace and tranquility on the mountain top. Moses himself had pointed to this time, when he prophesied of the Prophet who would come:

KJV Deuteronomy 18:18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

Jesus uses the word blessed nine times in our text, therefore it is mighty important that we understand what the word means. It does not mean happy in the sense that we understand in today's world.. Happiness today is based upon one's outward circumstances and is usually what we call subjective. As circumstances change, so do our feelings and disposition. Jesus is talking about a far deeper and greater matter here, for He is speaking of a "state of being" as opposed to living in human reaction to outward circumstances.

It is easier to understand what Jesus is driving at if we reverse the sentences somewhat. For example, let us take the first two Beattitudes (as this portion of the sermon on the mount is sometimes called). "Those who have the kingdom of heaven are poor in spirit, therefore they are blessed." "Those will be comforted who mourn, and in that they are blessed," and so forth.

We notice that the first four "Blesseds" refer to our relationship with God, even as the first three Commandments do likewise, and as the first three petitions in the Lord's Prayer do. The rest of the "Blesseds" refer to our relationship to other people even as the rest of the Commandments and the Petitions do.

The Scripture is consistent in the revelation of the grace of God towards mankind: First the vertical relationship must be established (between God and us) and maintained and then, and only then, the horizontal relationships follow. (between people)

As Jesus speaks of being poor in spirit, we recognize that to come to God we come with a broken and contrite heart, which is followed by sorrow over our sin for which we receive comfort of the Gospel. We who live after the death and resurrection of Jesus are able to understand these passages in light of the finished work of Jesus, but those who were there that day most likely did not as of yet see what we are able to see, for they were yet on the front side of His mediatorial work of the cross. They knew of the promises of the Messiah only.

Meekness which is mildness of disposition and gentleness of spirit becomes our clothing as Christians and when this is evident in one's life it is an indicator that Christ is dwelling in that person.
Being poor in spirit, having a mournful heart and being of a meek and gentle spirit means that we are in a state of blessedness. But not only that, a hunger and thirst for righteousness is created by God Himself. It is not something we create or manufacture ourselves, but it follows the grace of the first three "blessings" that were spoken of by Jesus. As a result of this God given hunger and thirst, we are blessed because He will fill those needs completely and even to joy. We strongly desire to have fellowship with God, with His Son and, therefore with one another, even as John speaks of it in his first Epistle:

KJV 1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
KJV 1 John 1:4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

The next "Blesseds" refer to our relationship with people, for as we have received mercy, we are merciful, as we are pure in heart, we see God, and as we are peace makers, we shall be called the children of God.

As we live in the "Blessedness" of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, we will yet continue in this "Blessedness" as we show mercy, as we have pure motives and as we share with people that peace is only possible through the cross of Jesus Christ. Our state of "Blessedness" does not change with the persecution that comes as a result being a peacemaker, for ours is the kingdom of heaven. But we must always remember that our suffering must be for the sake of Christ, and not some other purpose. Peter who was there listening that day brought it out clearly in his writing a number of years later when he wrote:

1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

And finally, the only response that Jesus calls us to. We again take note that all the "Blesseds" are a state of being, as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word within our hearts.

KJV Matthew 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

We are to rejoice, for the reason that He declares: We have a home in heaven. This is directly in response to our "state of being," in that we are blessed of all people. The people of God who have sought to reveal His heart through the ages were persecuted, those who are faithfully preaching the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in today's world are being persecuted, and those who will in the future be faithful to the Lord will be persecuted. It cannot be any other way. But yet, in all the ages, those who understood what is meant to be "Blessed" had come to understand and experience the saving grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Therefore, even in persecution, the "Blessedness" remains, for it is not a subjective experience, but it is a "state of being."

Now that Jesus has taught His disciples concerning what it means to be "Blessed," He begins to teach them about their relationship to the world and of how we are to bring the light and salt to them. We often wonder how much we should be involved outside of the church, how much do we involve ourselves in effecting public policy, is there a danger in being too involved and so on. Initially it appears that in our next meditation these types of questions could be confronted and addressed. Til then, may the Lord bless you in your meditations in His Word.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 01 Feb 2011 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. 1/27/11

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.
22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him. Matthew 4:17-22

After Jesus spoke to Peter of his future (Peter's) in the ministry as recorded in John's gospel, we return to Matthew's account which further highlights the beginning of our Lord's ministry. He began His ministry with the same call for repentance that His forerunner John had brought forth: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He called on them to change their minds and leave their life of self focus and self orientation, in the recognition that the One who had been prophesied for many years had now arrived into the world to set things rightside up. For they had certainly been upside down since the fall. He did not come to set things aright according to the ways of man and his selfish and sinful ways, but according to the grace of God who from the beginning had been pointing to as well as awaiting this time in the history of the world. "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

Now God could pour out His grace upon His creation, but in doing so on the cross He must pour out His wrath against sin upon His very own Son so that the blood atonement would be satisified through the death of the innocent One. As Jesus announced to those in Capernaum that the kingdom was at hand, we do not know as to how those first hearers comprehended that which was heard by them. But they had seen and heard enough that when the four were called by Him to follow Him, they left their earthly occupations and in the latter case, their father, in order to follow Him. In the last part of our text we read that Jesus went about all of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all that he came to, who came to Him and who were brought to Him. He was revealing the grace of God toward the world by healing people in visible ways, healings that could not be denied by those who were with Him.

As He continued, great crowds followed Him from a widespread area. And then Jesus went up into the Mountain and when He was set there, He opened His mouth and began to teach His disciples. It is unclear as to whether the multitudes were in earshot, but let us imagine that we were there on that mountain that day and were able to hear the gracious words which came out of His mouth. In our next week's devotion, we will consider the words that we heard on that mountain as well as examine the sense and the meaning of those words. Til then, let us pray for open ears, open minds and open hearts.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 27 Jan 2011 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Blessed in all Circumstances 2/01/2011
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Carol Fischer and her family as they grieve the loss of Bob