Psalm 9:1-4 “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause, sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.”
David wrote these words to be sung somberly and mournfully. To the tune of “The Death of a Son.” It could have been written in response to the death of his first son by Bathsheba was dead and he had fallen into despair. These words were sung in response to heavy grief. Things were not going well. Times were tough. There was discord in his Kingdom. It was not to be a light and airy piece about shouting from the roof tops the praise to God. Life while comfortable, was full of disappointment and unrealized expectations. To borrow a line from a 60’s TV show, “Gloom, despair, excessive misery, if it were not for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” 2020 and 2021 have not been the best for us all. Masks, shots, and social distancing seems to have taken the zest from life.
Yet today, I will not be overcome by the dirge of the world and simply “give thanks with all my heart, for all that God has done. I will sing the praises of God. I will keep on keeping on; always looking forward and not back.
Matthew 7:13,14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
The sermon is about over. Jesus is concluding. It is a place of determination. We have a choice. Each one of us on the grassy hillside listening and make application of the words of the Rabbi, must decide. Jesus sums it all up with a choice between two gates. A wide gate leading to destruction or a narrow gate that leads to life. And what strikes me the gate we choose is dependent upon the path we take in our present. We are all walkers. We are all on a journey toward a gate. There are only two gates at the end of our paths. The difficulty of the path determines the number of people taking it. It is best to take the road less traveled by. Only one of the two gates are worth the journey. God’s choice for us is to take the gate that is small. Narrow or wide is the ultimate choice.
Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Much like the Oliver Twist we state sheepishly to God, “please sir, I need some more.” We come, we petition, we stand in line with the expectations of another scoop of gruel. The portion allotted to me must get better. I look toward tomorrow in hope the scoop will be bigger. As I start my day with a cup of coffee in my cave like study, a portion is supplied, each with some pleasure, and some trouble. Not always in the same proportion. At issue on the side hill is along with the want of more, comes a specific want. “Tomorrow I want more of the good stuff and much less of the not so good.”
Today is also be supplied with the grace and mercy for today. Enough of God’s provision to overcome the not so good. And not enough to carry over for tomorrow. For today, it is enough, I don’t need some more.
Matthew 6:28-30 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
The world has become bi-polar. Everything is poured into one of two buckets. Everything seems to be either good or bad. There is no middle ground which allows judgement. One bucket is much larger than the other. The smaller of the two is filled with the good, pure, lovely, heartwarming, and beautiful. But these wondrous things barely cover the bottom of the bucket. The sides of the bucket are rarely wet. The problem is that it is easy to give into negativity. It is hard to see the good in world. The hilltop lecture is telling me to be more cognizant of the beauty of life. God loves beauty. He created beauty. I may not as well dressed as Solomon or seen as beauty in your eyes. Yet, God delights in the adornment he supplies. I am a new creature born in beauty before God. It is filling my good bucket today. God supplies me with everything I need to do what God has for me today.
Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake, Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”
Not everyone believes the same way I do. If they did there would be no need for me. There are those who disagree so strongly they cast arrows of disdain and rejection in my direction. There have been times when I had to patiently bear disgrace, persecution, malice, defamation, mockery, privation and ignorance. I write into oblivion in the slow meanderings of my own river of life and I am content. I am blessed. I am at peace. I am well assured of the ultimate end of my personal flowing. If there is no other reason to have joy and gladness it is this: there is a reward in Heaven for me.
Take time and listen to the blessings and reasons for life. I feel the same breeze that Jesus felt on the edge of a mountain. A breeze that cools the brow. Yet, Jesus knew there would be a time when that cool breeze of refreshment would become a storm. A storm filled with revulsion, slander, lies and a cross. But first he had to tell us it is OK. I sit at his feet and listen; it is enough for now. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven.”
Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the light of the world…”
The world that we know is in turmoil. I am in a black room with no window or door. I try to bring figure it out. I have tried philosophy to understand why I am in this room. I have tried psychology to determine my thinking process of living in a dark place. I have tried education to learn enough to know all the characteristics of the blackness. Medicine has no hope to lighten my room it only lengthens my lives in this blackness. Drugs to enlighten our surroundings create shadows, but they do not last. Politics do not seem to help; they have no program of support for the dark. I can depend upon myself with a humanistic outlook and say “to thine oneself be true”, but it is still black. I can feel for the sides of the room and slid down the wall and give up. Agnosticism in a dark room says there is nothing more. A realist would say, “what is, is.” The only answer to the world’s bewilderment of total blackness is Jesus. Any other answer is simply darkness.
Romans 5:1-2 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God”
I can’t let this one slide by. Here is the proof in the pudding, the real test of my faith, the revelation of my belief system. It slaps me in the face: If I have been justified, I will have peace with God. It is a sweet, overpowering, incomprehensible, calming, cleansing breath type of peace. A peace where the struggle is over. It is a peace of experience, peace of knowing that I am in the family of God. The war is over. All the conflict between God and me is ended; I am at peace with him.If you do not have a sense of peace, it is impossible to restore it by working on your feelings or sitting in a dark room, or self-focus. Peace with God is about acceptance of God’s gift. Go over the facts again, remind yourself of what God has declared. When your faith is restored, then you can handle these doubts and fears. Then you can have peace.
Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessedness: a joy filled response to God’s intercession of grace and mercy to the ultimate fate of man. The introduction to a message given on a side hill by a unique and often misunderstood Rabbi, starts with the word Blessed. He goes on in his introduction to give nine characteristics of a believer. The one that keeps hitting me in the face is number seven: blessed are the peacemakers. There are only two types of people; those who see others as different from themselves and those who are peacemakers. Who is a peacemaker? A peacemaker is someone who views all as a fellow traveler.
Who is NOT a peacemaker? It is one who sees our culture only through exclusion. A cultural mindset of division, separation, sides, criticality, and enmity. An anti-peacemaker draws lines between people based on crazy criteria. Those who would divide only see others either as being better and privileged, or less and a victim.
Peacemakers are the ones who live with all humanity in peace. It is a mindset of inclusion and not division. It is harmony because of the similarity and not the disparity. Peacemakers are those who would see the need for all to have peace. Blessed are those who advocate peace for all.
John 14:26-27 “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Praise God! My sins are forgiven. I have declared to be at peace with God. God is at peace with me. Today I will experience the peace that is simply incomprehensible. I trust in a God that loves, cares, draws, forgives, restores, destroys fear, and limits trouble within my heat.
I live with peace within myself, I live in peace with one another, I live at peace with God.
We close August with a sweet peace only God can provide.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Jesus, The Prince of Peace, at the end of his disciplining of his disciples. He knew there were terrible times ahead. He knew that He could not keep them by his protecting, loving, caring, gentile, patient arm. He had to go. And if he had to go, Jesus would impart something to them and to me: Peace.
I am a believer in Jesus. I put my full confidence in a loving God. I am thankful in every circumstance because of a gift presented to me in love. I have an inner calm that dominates my soul. Only a believer will ever experience this inner peace. Despite all the cares, woes, and raging tempests around me, I have peace. No one outside of Christ will ever be able to fathom this peace. To most, it will remain a mystery. They will look and marvel at the peace that passes understanding. I pray that those who don’t have it, will come and partake of it.