Reflections on “The Poor in Spirit”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

The sermon on the Mount describes
what human life and human community
looks like when they come under
the gracious rule of King Jesus…

Still today the indispensable condition
of receiving the kingdom of God
is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty…

Thus, to be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty,
indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God…
Right at the beginning of his sermon,
Jesus contradicts all human judgments
and all nationalistic expectations of the kingdom of God.
The kingdom is given to the poor, not the rich;
the feeble, not the mighty;
to little children humble enough to accept it,
not to soldiers who boast
that they can obtain it by their own prowess.
– John Stott

We are beggars. This is true! – Martin Luther

The kingdom of God can only be received by empty hands.
Jesus warns against two things:
Worldly self-sufficiency which leads you
to trust yourself and your own resources
so that you don’t need God;
and religious self-sufficiency
where you trust your religious attitude and moral life
and don’t need Jesus.
– Michael Crosby

He only who is reduced to nothing in himself,
and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.
– John Calvin

Blessed are the spiritual zeros – the spiritually bankrupt,
deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars,
those without a wisp of religion –
when the kingdom of heaven comes upon them.
– Dallas Willard

Psalms of Ascent – What do they teach us about our Lord?

The Lord gladly answers us when we call out to Him in our distress (Psalm 120)

The Lord exercises His watchcare over us when we face physical and spiritual dangers (Psalm 121).

The Lord is worthy of our thankful praise for He extends peace to us (Psalm 122).

The enthroned God of heaven delights to show mercy to us (Psalm 123).

The providential Lord draws near to His suffering people to deliver us (Psalm 124).

Our trustworthy Lord surrounds his people and offers us true security (Psalm 125).

The Lord who weeps promises future joys for tearful sowers (Psalm 126).

Our Lord is the divine architect and builder of our lives, families, and church. Therefore, he sets us free from the blasphemous anxiety of trying to do his work for him (Psalm 127).

Our blessed Lord comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found: in our work, our families, our church, and our community (Psalm 128).

Our suffering Lord enters into the affliction of His people and is afflicted Himself in order to ultimately end all affliction (Psalm 129).

Our gracious Lord delights to forgive sin and redeem us (Psalm 130).

Our high and holy Lord sets his people free from the spiritual cancer of pride (Psalm 131).

Our Lord has chosen the new Zion as your dwelling place, the Church as your place of rest. and have kindled in it a lamp that will burn brightly forever before Jesus Christ, our anointed ing.

Our Lord delights when his people reflect his nature and dwell together in unity (Psalm 133).

Our Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, looks down with delight when His family gathers for worship and graciously pours out His blessing (Psalm 134).

 

Hungry Hearts

Like Bruce Springsteen said, all of us have hungry hearts.

We have a hunger to experience the transcendent.
We have a hunger to love and be loved.
We have a hunger for purpose and meaning in life.

Left to ourselves, we generally look to satisfy our hungry hearts
with the treasures and pleasures of this world.
In his Confessions, Augustine explains where this approach ends:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

In a world where people are crushed by pessimism and despair,
Jesus promises us life . . .abundant, spiritual, and eternal.
Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and scientist asserts:
“It is good to be weary and frustrated
with the fruitless search for the good (life),
so that one can reach out one’s arms instead to the Redeemer.”

Worship involves us reaching out to our Redeemer.
Joseph Hart sets forth this joyful privilege:
“Come ye needy, come, and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance, every grace that brings you nigh.
Without money, without money, come to Jesus Christ and buy.”

Reflections on Spiritual Drifting

‘We must pay the greatest attention to what we have heard,
so that we do not drift away (Hebrews 2:1).’
Drifting is the besetting sin of our day.
And as the metaphor suggests, it is not so much intentional as from unconcern. Christians neglect their anchor — Christ — and begin to quietly drift away.
— Kent Hughes

If you examined a hundred people
who had lost their faith in Christianity,
I wonder how many of them would have been reasoned out of it
by honest argument?
Do not most people simply drift away?
— C. S. Lewis

When our anchor begins to lift from our soul’s grasp
of the greatness and supremacy of Jesus Christ,
we become susceptible to subtle tows.
— Alexander Maclaren

Advice to a little girl: If you continue to love Jesus,
nothing much can go wrong with you and I hope you always do so.
— C. S. Lewis

I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene …
No man can read the gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus.
His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.
— Albert Einstein

The Psalter Lesson for Reformation Sunday – A Responsive Reading

Our Psalter Lesson highlights God’s protection of us, God’s presence with us, and God’s power for us that instills the courage to face and conquer fear.
Let us read responsively Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Martin Luther & The Courage to Face Your Fears

images

Martin Luther leading family worship.

On Sunday, October 29th, we will celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. We remember on this day that Martin Luther began a process that resulted in the recovery of the biblical gospel. Many congregations will recall the efforts of Martin Luther and will sing his famous hymn based on Psalm 46 entitled “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

When Luther needed encouragement, comfort and strength to face the many afflictions and trials that came upon him, he would frequently go to Psalm 46 for courage.

He himself explains why he would regularly sing Psalm 46 during times of trouble:

“We sing this psalm to the praise of God,
because He is with us
and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends
His church and His Word
against all fanatical spirits,
against the gates of hell,
against the implacable hatred of the devil,
and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and sin.”

 

Martin Luther’s Reflection on Music

Martin Luther - the father of song

God’s Fair and Glorious Gift

“Music is a fair and glorious gift of God.
I would not for the world forego my humble share of music.
Singers are never sorrowful, but are merry,
and smile through their troubles in song.
Music makes people kinder, gentler,
more staid and reasonable.
I am strongly persuaded that after theology

there is no art than can be placed on a level with music;
for besides theology,
music is the only art
capable of affording peace and joy of the heart…
the devil flees before the sound of music
almost as much as before the Word of God.”

– Martin Luther