Painting by Charlie Mackesy

Today: Psalms 4; Matthew 4:23-25, 5:1-20; Genesis 9:18-29, 10, 11:1-9

“Lord… you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”

~ St. Augustine

Psalms 4
“How long will you love delusions and seek false Gods?” Psalms 4:2

For the first 30 years of my life, I looked for fulfillment everywhere except in Jesus — relationships, education, jobs, money, drugs. And I looked hard, ’cause that’s the way I roll… nothing halfway for me. I dove into each delusion with gusto, stampeding through each new dark avenue until I reached the end… the furthest depth in the black pit I could descend. And none of those things were the answer. I was still lost, alone, unfulfilled. And now I was addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs, divorced, suicidally depressed. I dropped out of college after a decade of study and earning various degrees and found myself cleaning dog crap out of cages in an animal hospital because that’s the only job I could find in a strange city where I had no friends or family. This was the last rung at the bottom of the tomb I dug for myself. The only way to go any lower was death. And so I tried to go there too with a handful of sleeping pills.

But God had a different plan. As I lay dying on my living room floor, four angels appeared urging me to “Wake up! Call for help!” Dialing 911 is the last thing I remember before plunging into unconsciousness. I was brought back from the dead in the ER.

Finally, FINALLY I had reached the bitter end of myself. And Jesus met me there. He sent angels to save me. He followed me into the depths of hell and carried me back home. I am the prodigal daughter and he is my forgiving father.

Today I am completely healed, no more drugs or depression. I have within me the deepest joy and gratitude that saturates my every moment. I was dead but now I am alive. I am Mary Magdalene. I am the woman at the well. I am the prostitute brought to Jesus by the Pharisees. He did not condemn me. He has given me living water. He has cast out my demons, and filled me with his beautiful life so that I may go and sin no more.

This Jesus is the answer I was looking for all my life. He is the love, the peace, the joy, the happiness, the drug I was seeking. And he is free to everyone of us. I shout it from the rooftops because I want other people to experience this amazing treasure I have found. I cannot keep silent. If I tried to contain this wonderful gift within me, my heart would burst. And so I shout it. Jesus is my healing, my joy, my answer, my love, my freedom.

Most people don’t want to hear about Jesus. Mine is an unpopular message. But will you listen to someone who really has tried everything, even death? Will you listen to someone who has been miraculously healed?

"The Prodigal Daughter" by Charlie Mackesy

Matthew 4

“People brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and HE HEALED THEM ALL.” Matthew 4:24

No one is too far gone for Jesus’ healing. Today he offers spiritual healing. But physical healings were always only temporary. Spiritual healing is forever. His healing is available to EVERYONE who comes to him.

"Jesus Healing the Blind Man" by Brian Jekel
"Jesus Healing the Blind Man" by Eduourd Leon Edy-Legrand

Matthew 5 – The Beatitudes (Beautiful Attitudes!)

I learned growing up in Southern Baptist church that in the Beatitudes, Jesus taught us about how we SHOULD BE. Most of the Beatitudes can work this way. Of course we should be gentle, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and hunger and thirst for righteousness.

But three of them don’t fit the formula — those three pesky ones about being poor in spirit, mourning, and persecuted. I never could understand why Jesus would teach that we SHOULD be poor in spirit, mourn, seek persecution. That never made sense to me.

But then I realized that Jesus was actually saying something very different. Suddenly it made perfect sense. We live in a cursed world where there will always be troubles and hardship. We will always have poor hurting people among us. But the good news, the actual point of Jesus’ teaching, is that even those hurting people who are poor in spirit, mourning, and persecuted, are blessed because they will be comforted. They will indeed inherit the kingdom of God.

We probably won’t have to TRY to be poor in spirit or to mourn. Most of us will find ourselves there, at least occasionally, anyway. But when we find ourselves in those lowly positions, we can take heart because the blessed kingdom of heaven is a free gift available to ALL of us.

This is how ALL of the Beatitudes can be interpreted. People who have any of the character traits in the list are often at the bottom of the pecking order of society. They are the gentle, peacemaking souls who are bullied in school, shoved down in life by the self-seeking aggressors who claw their way to the top. Jesus tells those outcasts, the bullied, the lonely, the unpopular ones… take heart. He is our prize and our help. He is our true victory. And he is free to everyone who seeks him.

"The Beatitudes" by Jen Norton