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When reading of Jesus clearing out the temple, I’ve always been struck by his emotion and his actions. But while reading Mark’s account last week His words stood out, “My house will be called a house of prayer for the nations.” The nations. Now when I read that phrase it reminds me of ICB where we just served two and a half years. The nations were definitely represented there. I loved looking across the congregation on a Sunday morning and seeing beautiful tapestry of color. Sometimes I would do the welcome where we would have people stand and say their name and where they are from, “Maria from Peru. Welcome.” Often I would have a hard time hearing or pronouncing the names which were new to me so it would just be, “From Nigeria. Welcome.” or “From Norway. We are so glad you are here this morning.”
Yet as I read I remembered that the temple doesn’t just refer to the church as a whole, but to me. We are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. So my prayer is, “God, make me a house of prayer for the nations. If there are tables of greed and selfishness cluttering the temple of my heart, overturn them. Throw out what is not of you. Come in and cleanse me. So that I might have space and room to focus on my true purpose. I want to be a house of prayer for the nations. Sweeden and Malaysia, South Africa and Argentina, China and Nigeria. May the nations come to know you as Lord and Savior. Amen” And won’t it be amazing when we are in heaven to be a part of the welcome knowing our prayers had a part in bringing people home. “From Nigeria. Welcome. From Norway. We are so glad you are he
It’s called a Percheron and I rode one this summer on a trail ride with several of my family members. Not this particular one but one like it. Initially when I saw this large horse I took it as a compliment. I thought to myself “hey look, I got the biggest horse. They must think I am a stud.’ Until one of our trail guides said to me, ” Don’t worry he is a very gentle horse we often let the children ride it”. Oh, the burst my bubble. Just like he said this giant of a horse was very mild and meek.
Often when we hear the words of Jesus “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the kingdom of God” we think he is talking about some weak little person who everyone runs over. But I believe that is not what Jesus meant at all. The word for ‘meek’ here actually can be translated humble and it’s origin comes from an animal that has been broken or brought under control. A Percheron is a powerful horse often used to pull wagons yet gentle enough for a child (or me) to ride. Wow! What a true picture of meekness. It is strength under control. Let me share with you what meekness is or does.
Meekness rest in the promises of God.
Meekness trust in God’s plan.
Meekness seeks the good of others and God’s kingdom.
A great scripture on this is Psalms 37:1-11. In this scripture David encourages us to trust in the Lord and do good. He also encourages us not to get distracted from that when those who do evil seem to win or get ahead. Why? Because in the end the meek will inherit the earth Psalms 37:11. Meekness is entrusting our hearts and lives to God and submitting to His word and will despite the circumstances we might find ourselves in. This truly exhibits strength.
It takes strength to forgive and bless others when we have been mistreated.
It takes strength to stay in a difficult marriage in obedience to God.
It takes strength to serve in the church while being criticized.
It takes strength to do things right even when doing things the wrong way would move us ahead in this life quicker.
But listen again, ‘Blessed are the meek (mild, patient, long-suffering) for they will inherit the earth”. Matthew 5:5 (Amplified) Remember meekness is not weakness rather it is an attitude of an obedient humble heart before God waiting to see the promises of God fulfilled and those who are meek will inherit the earth.
Just thought I would share some of what I have been teaching on Wednesday nights here in Barcelona.
We have been working through the Beattitudes. Here is the first week’s sermon.
Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritual helpless. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.- Jesus Matthew 5:3
One evening I was sitting with my boss eating dinner. At that time I worked for a Christian Counseling agency in Texas and we had traveled to another part of the U.S. to promote his new organization he was starting. As we spoke I told him of how unsure I was of my relationship with God. I told him though I knew I had prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior it had been a while since I felt real joy and contentment in my relationship with God. His reply to me surprised me.
“Your problem is that you don’t know how bad you really are.”
That was not what I was expecting. I was expecting something like Brian you are actually a pretty good guy. You go to church, you help others, you tithe, you are actually not bad and besides that you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior but that is not what he said. He said, ‘Your problem is that you don’t know how bad you really are.” At that moment what my boss said to me did not seem like an encouraging word but as I thought about it, as God dealt with me I realized my boss had spoken a great truth to me. Blessed are you when you recognize how poor in spirit you really are instead of trying to earn or pay your way to God. You see, that is why I was struggling with my relationship to God because I was trying to make myself good enough. Yes, I had asked Jesus Christ to come in my heart and forgive my sins. Yes, I had been born again but somehow I had tried to start earning his love and forgiveness. No wonder I was frustrated. I was trying to do the impossible I wish I could say that I am free from that but I am not. I am still growing in the grace and love of God. I am thankful for my old boss who told me that. He helped me start on a journey of seeing that I was really spiritual helpless.
So What does it mean to be Poor in Spirit?
It means we are bankrupt spiritually. We have nothing we can give or bring to God to make us acceptable to Him.
As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless.No one does good,not a single one.” Romans 3:10-12
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6W
What do you feel when you see a beggar on the street? Pity, sadness, sympathy, or embarrassment? We are uncomfortable with poverty and need. It challenges us to see the needs around us but the question I have is do we deal with our own spiritual poverty? Do we recognize our need of God’s grace daily? Do we recognize that on our own we unable to bear any spiritual fruit apart from Jesus Christ?
Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:5
Paul the Apostle did. He authored much of the New Testament, started many churches, and was even beaten for his faith in Jesus Christ but listen to what he says:
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. Romans 7:18
Sobering stuff. Nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature. We are born with this sinful nature and can’t change it even though we try. We do good things like go to church, help others, and even give to the beggar on the street but do we face the reality of our sinful nature. Do we admit our hate for our neighbor? Do we admit our love for gossip? Do we recognize our stingy attitudes in giving time to our family? If we don’t admit to God the sinful desires of our hearts and instead simply try to cover them up with good deeds are we really being poor in spirit? It has been said, you can dress up a pig and put make-up them but they are still a pig! The truth is our sinful nature cannot be improved upon we must confess it to God and trust in Jesus Christ.
I am thankful for my friend who told me my real problem. The real problem is that I had forgotten how spiritual poor I was without Jesus and that all my efforts to be good could not give me assurance of being right with God. Now though I still often forget I ask God to help me see my spiritual poverty without Him and the amazing spiritual riches I have because of Him. (see I Peter 1:3-5)