This summer, I attended a funeral for the mother of a good friend of mine. It was a Catholic funeral, full of all the traditional rites, sounds, and readings that offer a huge dose of comfort and healing to the mourning. As I was kneeling during communion, I was acutely aware of God’s presence in the room. There was a holy stillness, a moment of peace that transcended the lack of noise and chaos. As we all knelt with silent mouths and prayers uttered from honest hearts, I found myself in the midst of the Kingdom of God – no doubt about it. Nothing looked different or sounded different or anything like that. But I could feel it on a soul-filled, spiritual level. And it was beautiful.
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-2, NIV
What if the kingdom of God isn’t just somewhere up “there”? What if what Jesus is really saying is that it’s also right here, right now? What if we’re already in it – already woven into His presence, day in and day out? What if we could stop worrying about missing God in everyday moments because we begin to see we’re already in His company? What if we began to see the human condition, as flawed and sinful as it can be, as a blessing instead of a curse?
The Beatitudes: the very beginning of the famous “Sermon on the Mount” found in the Gospel book of Matthew that many believe was His first public message of His earthly ministry. Eight short, but powerful, verses in which Jesus takes a few private moments with his beloved disciples in order to share His vision of the transformation of the human heart into something that looks a bit more like His.
Yes. Jesus sits on Heaven’s throne at God’s right hand. But He also made a home in your heart the moment you believed in Him. He sits at your table, rides in your car, laughs at your jokes, counts your tears and knows the number of times you toss and turn at night. He never leaves you alone and is most concerned about the condition of your spirit. He is relentless in pursuing you and walks with you through the good times and the bad. He wants you. He loves you. And He blesses you in ways you haven’t even considered yet.
THAT is what this Bible study series of ours is about. Understanding our blessed standing with God, regardless of life situations and circumstances. It’s about turning everything we thought we knew about the Beatitudes kind of on its ear and letting Him transform our hearts into a mirror image of His.
For ten weeks (beginning today!), we’ll be diving deep into Matthew 5:1-12 and learning to change our hearts from the inside in order to change what’s on the outside. In other words, the Beatitudes are concerned with our inner attitudes which, as we will see, enable us to reflect “Kingdom characteristics” in the way we live. Beginning next week, we will take one Beatitude and look at it from different angles in order to really understand it.
Each week, you’ll have the opportunity to follow along with those us of doing the physical studies (meaning those of us attending live and in person!) by clicking on the link above called “be blessed”. That link will contain everything you need to do the study with us! Homework can be accessed by clicking the corresponding week’s link and printing it up to complete. Three levels of homework are included in the pdf link, depending on your time and commitment level to the study! Do what blesses, not what burdens – that’s what we like to say! But whatever you do, do it with a willing heart and an honest desire to learn and grow in your relationship with God.
“God meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be.” Larry Crabb
One of the things I LOVE most is really good contemporary Christian music, and I like to make a soundtrack for each series we do here at stringing pearls! You can click on the “be blessed” tab above to see the whole song list. This week, I encourage you to watch this amazing video by Hillsong. The song is called “Touch the Sky” and totally reminds me of this idea that we are already walking in His kingdom! Enjoy – see you next week for our first Beatitude!!
Peace, love, and JOY!
Up Next Week: Matthew 5:3 – “blessed are the poor in spirit…”
all photos: property of Ella Connors, all rights reserved 2015