Did Jesus Just Rattle off Some Good Attitudes to be in?

beatitudesIn His famous Beatitudes from His Sermon on the Mount,
did Jesus just come up with some good attitudes
off the top of his head
to satisfy the crowd?

The fact that he drew attention by sitting down—the position rabbis assumed when about to give authoritative teaching—and that Matthew would write “He opened His mouth,” the phrase used in the Old Testament when representatives of God made proclamations on behalf of God, would suggest that

Jesus carefully chose which attitudes. And in what order

Lists in the Bible turn out to be important in item and order. Consider how important the fruits of the Spirit are, and who wouldn’t expect LOVE to lead the list since “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  Self-control serves as capstone to the list because none of the fruits are possible without self-control given by the Holy Spirit.  Other interesting deductions can be drawn from the fruit selection and placement.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16) so Paul’s list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit were inspired by God. Jesus is the Word of God—written and living. He inspired all the words of the Bible, and in time a Bible student discovers how even words that are often skipped beget vital information on certain subjects.

four-horsemenWhen Jesus was asked in Matthew 24 about what would be the signs of the end and His coming, his first four items identify the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!   He didn’t just ad lib a few end-time events to placate a challenging press conference!

And imagine that, Jesus was able to inspire John to match horsemen to His Olivet Prophecy!

The Barna Group finds in surveys of millennials (18 to 29 years old) that so many of them dismiss the Bible as fairy tales and myths.   What ignorance is the most charitable comment to make. The Bible is so intricately woven together in themes and passages to be astoundingly breath-taking!

So why did Jesus give the specific Beatitudes He did and in the order they’re in?

From the Pauline formula the obvious guess for the first Beatitude would logically be “Blessed are the loving.” And to follow would undoubtedly be “Blessed are the joyful” or “Blessed are the faithful.” True, but the promised reward would be “for they shall be wrong!”

What the Beatitudes Match up with

kingdom comeThe Beatitudes are the foundational principles of the Kingdom of God.  Lo and behold, they match up with a foundational revelation of God’s plan of salvation about how to become part of the Family of God in the Kingdom of God.

Details at 10!  Hope that doesn’t make you mourn.  But you can be comforted if you read the next post.

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Robert Curry

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Some Special “Blessings” to be Thankful for

thanksgivingWe’re familiar with the famous
Thanksgiving Proclamations
of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
They didn’t talk turkey or football.
They exhorted the nation to thank their God.

Actually our Thanksgiving today got its real start on Sept. 25, 1789.
“The inaugural session of the first Congress was about to recess
when Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey rose to introduce a resolution.
He asked the House to create a joint committee with the Senate
to ‘wait upon the President of the United States,
to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States
a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging,
with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God’”
(“1789 Thanksgiving—U.S. as a Nation,” Wall St. Journal, Melanie Kirkpatrick)

Grateful for the favors of God?  Thanksgiving is a perfect time to come to understand the Beatitudes more fully.

“The Beatitudes are beautiful attitudes we should be in. Do they promise being “blessed” or being “happy”?

Translators disagree whether the Latin word BEATUS means “blessed” or “happy.”  So next time you use Latin, worry about that.

The Hebrew word ESHER is translated “blessed” 60% of the time and “happy” 40% of the time in about 35 cases.   Next time you use Hebrew, worry about that!

The Greek word MAKARIOS comes from the name given to the Isle of Cypress because it was such a happy place.  Next time you use Greek, worry about that!

But the next time you speak English, no worries, realize that the Beatitudes promise you to be “blessed”—meaning favored—because when you’re in these beautiful attitudes,

You can have a relationship with God

As Psa. 106:3 puts it, one of the 30-some Psalms and Proverbs that Jesus was remezing back to when He made deliberate use of the popular “blessed are” format:   “Blessed are those who keep justice, And he who does righteousness at all times! Remember me, O Lord, with the favor You have toward your people.”

vines“Basically,” explains Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, ESHER “connotes the state of ‘prosperity’ or ‘happiness’ that comes when a superior bestows his favor (blessing) on one. In most passages, the one bestowing favor is God Himself …

“The state that the blessed one enjoys does not always appear to be ‘happy’ … the rendering of ‘happiness’ does not always convey its emphasis to modern readers.”

So while we can hardly be happy while mourning, we can be blessed—favored by God! He’s concerned about us. The outcome will be good.

The Beatitudes begin the first of five discourses presented by Matthew, which are not necessarily in chronological order like Luke. In Luke 6, the Sermon on the Plain which contains four Beatitudes, comes right after Jesus called His 12 Apostles.

So having announced the kingdom of God as “at hand,”

The King now declares to His disciples:

   Christianity 101—the basic foundational principles of His coming Kingdom of God
   The beautiful attitudes, attributes and characteristics those “blessed of God” need.
These are unattainable by self-effort, but we can be in these beautiful attitudes
through the Father and Jesus Christ living in us.
♥   The incredibly high standards reflecting the character of His Kingdom
    “The happiness of those who are fit for the kingdom”—Unger’s Bible Dictionary
   
The beautiful attitudes of the perfect disciple of Christ
    In sum, the beautiful attitudes we need to be in!

On this Day of Thanksgiving 2016, how thankful we should be to have opportunity to be blessed and favored by God and promised such rewards!

kingdom come“Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).

Remember, it’s Thanksgiving not Thanksfeeling.

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Robert Curry

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Beatitudes? Oh, That Old Stuff?

beatitudesEverybody’s heard of the Beatitudes.
But who’s actually paying any attention to them?
Living them?

Maybe somebody who’d like
the “blessings” Jesus promises!

If you’d like to be blessed by people, the easiest way is to let out a hearty sneeze.  But if you’d  like to be blessed by God, you would probably think of the Beatitudes.

If you look for the word “Beatitudes” in your English Bible, you will be kept busy.  Because you won’t find it!  And it’s not a word we use in our day to day affairs.

Yet everybody’s heard of the Beatitudes.   And maybe read them once.   Long ago?

“Yeah, that … What’s that got to do with my daily struggles?  Who wants to be poor in anything?  Weak?  Hungry and thirsty?  I read books that have “power” and “rich” and “success”  in the titles!”

Maybe that’s why

Matthew (chapter 5) and Luke (chapter 6) precede their Beatitudes with detailed material establishing Jesus Christ’s credentials.  Just in case we don’t get it that we ought to pay rapt attention to anything Jesus Christ wants to tell His creation!  Surely He has the right to tell us what our priorities should be.

Jesus was of the promised lineage, announced by angels, prophesied to come, proclaimed by the Father, and He defeated Satan.    And, did I say God in the flesh!

Need more credentials?  Matthew and Luke show how Jesus was the promised Second Moses (Deut. 18:15).   He escaped death as an infant, entered Egypt, was tempted in the wilderness, fasted 40 days and nights, ascended a mountain, revealed law from a mount, is the Great Lawgiver, and to top all of that off, He’s the “I Am” who was before Moses.

To the people  of His day, these were all a

“Remez”—a hint

old-testamentto make them connect back with what most of them knew by memory from the Law, Prophets and Writings.

To make it all a more obvious clue, Jesus used the “blessed” format found in 30-some Psalms and Proverbs.  For example, His use of “Blessed” will hearken them back the first verse of the first psalm of the first book of the Writings.

Homework:  Do your own personal study of the Psalms and Proverbs about being “blessed.”  You’ll be glad you did—if you act on them!

For the people on the mount gathered around Jesus, they wanted to be “a man after God’s own  heart” and like the wisest man in the world.  Of course Jesus Christ supersedes David and Solomon in this life and in the Kingdom to come.

sermon-on-the-mountSo was all this remezing enough to ensure their full attention?  In Matt. 5:1 Jesus seated Himself.  Just because He was tired?  Wanted to be comfortable for His sermon to come on the mount?

No, rabbis always gave their authoritative teaching sitting down.  That’s why when Jesus stood up in the synagogue reading  from the book of Isaiah, and then he pointedly sat  down, “the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him” (Luke 4:20).  Other scriptures showing this are Matt. 13:1, 11:29, 23:1, 24:3 and 26:55 and Mark 9:35.

Modern examples relating to this symbolism would be  a professor being “the chair of the department.”

If all this didn’t have the people primed for the importance of what was about to be said, Matt. 5:2 points out that “He opened His mouth.”  We modern cynics would say “Well, how else are the words going to come out!”

But this was another remez back to the Old Testament where this expression signified profound proclamations made for God (Psa. 51:15, 78:2, Prov. 31:9 and Ezk. 29:21).

So by now Jesus’ audience was primed!  In this case,

The rabbi who speaks for God is God!

So for those assembled before Jesus, there should have been mounting anticipation about what they were about to hear.  If the rabbi who is another King David and King Solomon and a second Moses is about to say something, you’d better know what He’s about to say is worthy of your full attention.

Do we?

Are we ready to pray for understanding—and then study the Beatitudes in detail along with comparing other scriptures on the same subjects?

Maybe we should also call them Beactions–because actions will follow these attitudes.  The merciful must show mercy.   Are we living these attitudes and actions?

If so, take another good long look at

The blessings

the rabbi who is God promises you!

The Family of God will be in these beautiful attitudes forever!

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Robert Curry

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Only 37% of Practicing Christians Say They Read Their Bible

Bible cloudyThe other 63%?
Sounds like people learning to play piano
who don’t use a piano!
Are we kidding ourselves?

Recently Samuel Harrell, director of Project Ignition at the American Bible Society, discussed the disappointing results of a six-year assessment by the Barna Group.

Just 18% of the American population 18 years and older said they read the Bible. More shocking, only 37% of “practicing Christians” do.

“We have been having the honor of walking for a number of years with Barna Group and studying the state of the Bible in America. I know that you and I are feeling the change in the winds and the trends that are affecting us,” said Harrell.

Only 14% of men say they read the Bible; 22% of women.  What will the cause-and-effect result be for our families, nation and world?

As for millennials, Harrell said only 12% say they read the Bible. The rest indicate “that not only do they not believe the Bible, but they categorize the Bible as just another book or fairytale. But they also voice opposition to the Bible and consider it a dangerous book.”

Harrell said millennials are more likely to read the Bible when they see its impact on the lives of others.

For older adults, 26% said they read the Bible.  Apparently the gray-haired are not setting the example and showing the impact that their children want to see.

The one encouragement from the study is that 62% of Americans said they want to read the Bible more!

Good! Because Jesus said we would be sanctified “by Your truth, Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Jesus knew His Bible—Old Testament scrolls—and used His knowledge of it to turn away the temptations of Satan: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4).

If we are tempted to not study the Bible, we will not be ready to fend off the Tempter.

Timothy wrote that

“All Scripture

is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). So therefore we should “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

toolboxIn a Christian’s toolbox, Bible study is one of the four indispensible tools.

I sincerely hope you are not only reading your Bible but also studying it and letting it change your life.

You’ll be helping yourself, and maybe an astute millennial will notice.

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Robert Curry

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Is All the Lying Over?

liar-liarIn a popular movie called “Liar Liar”
Fletcher Reede’s son Max is so disappointed
by his Dad breaking promise after promise
that he makes a wish that his
Dad cannot tell a lie for 24 hours.
The wish comes true!

lies-lies-liesFletcher justifies his painfully irresponsible behavior,
“Well, all adults lie. They have to lie to be adults.”

In the movie it’s especially funny because Fletcher is a lawyer! Most people believe using the terms lawyer and liar is being redundant!

“Liar Liar II” will probably be about a politician. If the presidential candidates weren’t allowed to accuse each other of lying, how long would the three debates have been? If you even considered heeding their pleas to come see their fact checks on their websites, would you really be expecting facts?

Now that the election is past, is all the lying over?  All fingers uncrossed?   Noses shrunk back to normal?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wisely observed: “The old playbook says lie, deceive, obfuscate, make it to the next election. Leadership today in America has to be about doing the big things and being courageous.”

In an AP article April 18, 2016, “What’s Lying Beneath the Surface?—We all lie, scientists say, but politicians even more so,” Seth Borenstein claims, “We all stretch the truth.”

He says “Children learn to lie at an average of about three years old.” One study concluded that at age two, only 30% lie; by age three, 50%; by age five or six, 90%. The author of the study said he worries about the 10% who don’t lie!

What?!  “We don’t like people who tell us the truth all the time”—Robert Feldman of the University of Massachusetts.  So Feldman believes society rewards white lies.

In “The Hows and Whys of Lies” psychology researcher Bella DePaulo at the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote that on average, students lied in every third conversation of 10 minutes or more and adults once every five conversations.

As bad as that sounds, Maurice Schweitzer from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Donald Trump’s alma mater, upped the anti:  “I would say we’re lying constantly. Constantly.”

If so, the truth is we need to change because

God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2)

This makes Him and anybody who wants to become like Him and be in His Family different from Fletcher Reede. Though the lawyer couldn’t lie for 24 hours, he really wanted to!

“Liar Liar” implies that nobody can really expect anyone to go 24 hours without lying. But God demands eternity!

Rev. 22:15 warns: Outside are those “whoever loves and practices a lie.” Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), won’t be there. Jesus Christ will expel him most likely on the first Day of Atonement of His new Kingdom on earth. And for those who persist in following the deceiver’s lead, eventually their sin will find them out—out of the Kingdom!

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said this about the Wikileaks State Department cables: “The problem is not that the purloined cables exposed U.S. hypocrisy or double-dealing … that’s the essence of diplomacy. That’s what we do; that’s what everyone does. Hence the famous aphorism that a diplomat is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country.”

What about us, Ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20)

A righteous man not only doesn’t lie—in white, green, or any other color—he hates lying (Prov. 13:5).

lettermans-top-10Proverbs 6 gives God’s list of seven abominations, and it’s telling that two are about lying!   Someday David Letterman will no doubt change to a Top Seven List!

What about us right now?  More than we would be careful before a worldly judge, not only in what we say but also in our actions, how much more so before the Righteous Judge and His perfect standard.

May we speak and live the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.

Let’s do the big things and be courageous. Let’s be the 10% who worry others.

your-storyWe want nothing less than a relationship with Him Who Cannot Lie. He wants to actually live in us and form Jesus Christ, the living and written Word of Truth (John 17:17), in us.  No lie!

May all the lying be over for you.

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Robert Curry

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Listen Up, New Leader

Last night as I watched Donald Trump’s stunning victory tallying up,
shell-shocked political commentators called it
the greatest upset ever of historical proportions.

So now think 2016 not 1948 and
to the T-R-U-M, add on not A-N but P!
This time at 3 a.m. Trump was on a bigger stage than tweeting!

Probably the only one not shocked by last night’s election was the one who says He made it happen.  “The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Dan. 4:25).  “He removes kings and raises up kings” (Dan. 2:21).  “For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Rom. 13:1).

God’s challenge for His new President:

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice” (Prov. 29:2)

electionsThis is key rather than just wearing purple to symbolize blending red and blue.

“So what’s righteousness?” hopefully a new leader will want to know.

It’s interesting that a commentator after Hillary Clinton’s concession speech this morning lamented that for her supporters it all boiled down to wanting right versus wrong.  Trouble is for our deeply divided country, Trump’s supporters would agree!

If only a new leader lets  God define righteousness:  “For all Your commandments are righteousness” (Psa. 119:172).  If America really wants His blessing, as we keep intoning, God says why don’t we listen.

David, a righteous leader, gave his experienced advice:  “He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2 Sam. 23:3).

Hopefully a new leader will ask like Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived:  “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.  For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:9).   God loved it that Solomon as a new leader was little in his own eyes (verse 7).

In the case of Israel’s first king, though the people clamored for Saul partly because he was head and shoulders taller than others (1 Sam. 9:2), this disobedient leader got God’s prophet Samuel’s dandruff up:  “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel?  And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel?” (1 Sam. 15:17).  Humility trumps physical attributes good or flaky.

prayingMay the new President-Elect heed the Bible’s advice.  We should pray so for our country and new leader as 1 Timothy 2:2 directs.

But listen up

Each one of us who want to become leaders in Jesus Christ’s coming Kingdom on earth, which is not of this world (John 18:36).  We are responsible to listen to God’s advice.  And each of us must elect to do it.

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Robert Curry

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