Monday, July 11, 2016


For the past two months, I've been teaching my 2nd-5th grade Sunday school class about the Beattitudes.  I've been using a curriculum, The Kids Travel Guide to the Beattitudes, that I haven't been that happy with, actually.  I had used a previous book in the same series and really liked that one.  But, this one...  it has felt like there's a lot of fluff.  So, I end up taking a few ideas from the book and writing my own lessons each week.

Yesterday, I only had a half hour in which I needed to prepare my lesson.  I'd been taking care of my family's needs all day and that was all there was.  I prayed and trusted that the Lord would help me put the pieces together.  One of the pieces came from an unexpected place...

A few months ago, I agreed to review a Christian Living book because all of the author's books have been encouraging to me.  The book is The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges.  A few months ago, this man passed away in the same weekend that another well known Christian author and preacher died.  The biographies of the other pastor were prolific.  It was easy to find details about his life.  But, when I tried to find out more about Jerry Bridges, I found very few details about his life.  This struck me as interesting at the time.

When his book came to my mind yesterday afternoon, I realized just why this was the case.  The Blessing of Humility is about the Beattitudes--which I hadn't realized!  I had felt for several weeks that I needed to pick up this book, but I kept pushing it off because I wasn't sure that I wanted to delve into this topic.  How would this book affect me?  I looked at the book as if it was bad tasting medicine that I knew would be good for me.  Of course, it turns out that it doesn't taste as bad as I thought it would and of course, God knew just what I needed.

I've just begun reading this book, but I have been very encouraged by it.  My eyes opened to a huge piece of the puzzle that my Sunday School curriculum hadn't shown me.

The Beattitudes are a sermon.  But, just like a conversation, all of the verses are connected together and build upon one another.  All of my life, I have always isolated each verse from one another.  Instead, this sermon is all about Salvation, forgiveness, and realizing the greatness of God!

From the ESV:  Matthew 5:1-5

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes

He said:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Poor means in need of something.  When we are poor in spirit, we realize that we need God's spirit.  When we realize this, we come to Him and accept the gift of salvation.  Those who mourn, mourn because they realize they are sinners and God comforts them in this with His forgiveness.  The Meek--are gentle and humble.  We find ourselves humble when we see the greatness of God and what He can do and what we cannot.  We cannot forgive our selves.  We cannot make it rain.  When we are saved, we are coheirs with Christ--we will receive the blessings of this life--seeing what God does for us and how He takes care of us.  

What I discovered in Bridges' book that I had been missing the past few weeks is how these verses are connected!  Each one builds on the next.  They are not separate verse, but rather parts of a whole.  

In contrast, I was a part of a Bible Study discussion Saturday morning about the book A Praying Life by Paul Miller.  I have  enjoyed this book and two verses brought out by the discussion guide has been very helpful to me.  The verses are Matthew 23:13-14  “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in."

What does that mean to shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces?  It is the opposite of humility.  The scribes and pharisees wore their good deeds on their sleeves.  Literally, the Jews wear a black box with portions of scripture on their foreheads and a second black box with a black strap on their left arm.  People are put off by the contradiction between preaching and "talking the talk" of a Christian if the fruit doesn't reflect love and kindness--the fruits of the spirit.

The verses preceding verses 13 and 14 (ESV)

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi[b] by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.[c] And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

When we as Christians parade our good deeds, we shut the door to the kingdom of heaven to others!  When we do acts of service for others, people can see our motives--whether we say them or not.  Years ago, I thought I could hide the anger in my heart from other people but I learned after God washed my heart clean that I hadn't really been able to hide it because a friend told me so.  She had seen it.  She'd also seen the change when God washed the anger from my heart.  And I felt it.  I had tried for years to fix my heart myself, but I couldn't.  Only God could.  

Juxtaposed next to the Beattitudes, the picture is clear of how God desires us to live.  

Ephesians 4:1 "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called"

In The Blessing of Humility, Bridges talks about when the lightbulb turned on his head during one Bible study over 60 years ago when a teacher told him that "The Bible is meant to be applied in your everyday life." (pg. 1)  
I know that my Sunday school students are the ones that were supposed to be learning about the Beattitudes, but I feel like I am finally learning what they mean and what Jesus was preaching.  
We are to seek God--understand that we need Him, see our sin with sadness, see how Great God is and "walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8)

No comments: