“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, firstborn over all creation.”
We understand from the accounts of Jesus’ birth in the New Testament, that he arrived on this earth amidst very meager conditions (born in a stable fit for animals), brought into this world through the womb of a most unlikely young lady (Mary – who was of no high social order), and He was born in Bethlehem, not a city of great prestige. Yet in all of this, God’s plans were fulfilled just as they had been foretold many years before. The King of all Kings was coming and would arrive this very night. Working backwards in this passage we can see a glimpse of who God is as Jesus is referred to as, the “image of the invisible God, firstborn over all creation.” He encompassed all that God is in human form that we are unable to see with the eyes of man. For in Christ, God shows us His righteousness, goodness, wisdom, power, and in short, His entire self.
Now working forward in this passage we see, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” What an amazing gift Christ Jesus was then and now is to us in that he came as God’s “special delivery” in the form of a baby, who would grow to fulfill all that He had been sent to accomplish, namely, to deliver us out of darkness and bring us into His kingdom, granting us full redemption, through the forgiveness of our sins. He is the greatest gift ever given in all of human history – and the value of this gift to us is immeasurable as it allows all who accept it freely, access into God’s kingdom for all of eternity. There are times when our greatest struggle is to accept this free gift which continues to give over and over again, day after day, year after year as God’s grace and love continually pour over our lives and those we touch. The majesty and wonder of the true story of Christmas is that God came to us, when we were not able come to him, giving us all of himself, so that in time we could become all that he has called us to be.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for this Christmas season as we’re able to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Your Son, Jesus. He is the greatest gift You could have ever given us as Your way of calling us back to You through His birth, life, death, burial, and glorious resurrection from the grave. Thank You for delivering us out of great darkness and into the “Kingdom of the Son You Love.” Thank You for this Christmas season as we have the opportunity to thank You for our Savior, and the ultimate hope we have through salvation because of Your ever-lasting mercy, grace, and forgiveness. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous
If we were to take a short survey of things people fear, we would most likely find out that many of us are in good company. There is the “fear of being alone,” the “fear of rejection,” the “fear of running out” (not making ends meet), the “fear of complete exhaustion,” the “the fear of unmet expectations,” the “fear of failure,” and the list goes on. Most of these originate in the “fear of man” rather than a healthy “fear of” or “awe” and reverence for God with respect to every area of our lives. Without that proper perspective, the prophet Isaiah writes, we can become easily “dismayed” literally meaning to become disoriented, discouraged, worried, to lose courage, or to become alarmed with fear. If unhealthy fear becomes a driving force in our lives then we’re more susceptible to becoming paralyzed and imprisoned by it, missing out on opportunities to experience the hope-filled life God has planned for us. There are many things of this life that can cause us to “shrink back,” to not “take the risk of letting go” such as the loss of loved ones, broken relationships, tragedy, illness, pain, hardships, past hurts, struggles with shame and the shear feeling of brokenness. Any of these single circumstances or even a combination of more, can move us to a place in which we “fear that things will never be the same again,” or “fear that things will never get any better,” thus causing us to lose hope.
Isaiah says the Lord has a different message for anyone walking in any degree of doubt and fear during this Christmas season: “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!” The very Creator of the universe, the ONE who fashioned you and I with His very hands – sent His one and only Son, Jesus, unto us to redeem us by His death on The Cross. In our times of weakness, discouragement, or disillusionment, He will strengthen us in hope by and through His promises. Therefore, we have nothing to fear that this world has to offer. God holds us in the very Hollow of His Hand, and nothing (regardless of how devastating or difficult it may seem) is ever allowed to touch our lives without first being sifted through His fingers like sand through a sieve. The Lord says, “I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!” And what a mighty hand it is to behold as we set our gaze upon Him and reach out for Him to take hold of us. He is most often waiting on us to simply let go and fall back into the Hollow of His Hand.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for the true hope and peace only You can provide through Your Son, Jesus, our Savior. Thank You for the promise that we need not fear or be dismayed, for You are our Mighty God – the Creator of the universe. You are our ultimate source of strength and ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). What a comfort it is to know that You hold our very lives in the palm of Your loving, righteous hand. May You strengthen us with Your promises and through the power of Your Spirit within us to overcome any type of fear in our lives as we surrender to Your will. Thank you, Lord, for sending Your Son, Jesus into this world in order to save us and make us right with You, therefore, we need not fear. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Blessed are the pure in heart
For they shall see God.”
We know from the Book of Genesis, that we were uniquely created in the very image of God with His desire for us to come to see Him, to love Him, and ultimately “know” Him. It has been said that “the more time we spend with our Lord, the more accustomed we become to His face.” This meaning that we, not being able to physically see God, are able to know His character intimately, recognize His works around us, and witness the power of His transformation in our own lives. This gradual transformation comes through salvation in Christ our Savior, knowledge of God’s word, and the work of His Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
However, there is a distinct qualifier that must be present in the life of a believer in Christ that opens the eyes of the heart to “see God.” All throughout scripture there is woven a theme of moral purity, but not for the sake of outer appearance, rather for the inner purity of the heart which demonstrates a sincere love for God and a desire to live a life of purity through Him. The psalmist David prayed sincerely in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast (immoveable) spirit within me” and in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God, are a broken spirit (humble spirit), a broken and contrite heart, in these, O God, you will not despise.” Purity of the heart is an intentional commitment to pursue the thoughts, will, and mind of God by living a life focused on what pleases Him, placing utmost value on things that matter eternally, rather than the fleeting pursuits and empty desires of this earthly life.
The promise of Christ we find here is that as we seek to be pure in heart, we will see more evidence of God’s presence, His work, and His power in and around our lives. In our efforts to see God more clearly, it is the darkness of sin or even the “good things” of this life that can become distractions which blind us to this blessing. This blessing is possible only with our intentional pursuit of our portion of the promise which requires a commitment to pursue a pure heart above all things in order that the spiritual eyes of our heart be opened to see God. Today, we just like David, can ask God to “create in us a pure heart” and a “steadfast spirit” enabling us to pursue Him more closely.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for this day and the promise that as we pursue a heart of purity, we will indeed be able to see You more clearly. Help us through the power of Your Spirit, Lord, and the faith You’ve given us to walk more closely with You. Create in us today, a heart which is full of purity, and renew a steadfast, immoveable, humble spirit that will open our spiritual eyes that we might see You. Give us a desire to know You more deeply, see You more clearly, and follow You more nearly. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall be shown mercy.”
God sent His one and only Son Jesus into the world on a mission of ultimate love and the greatest act of mercy (unmerited divine favor and compassion) as He lived a sinless life, yet He came to die on the cross for our sins. Where we deserved death, Christ took our sentence upon himself, and we were pardoned through God’s great mercy and forgiveness. The focus of this Beatitude is the commission of those whom know Christ to be vessels of mercy toward others, as in expressing a temperament of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness, being willing to take on another’s sadness or grief as one’s own. This willingness to enter into such difficult times in the lives of others without regard for one’s own interests or the personal sacrifice and risks which may be involved, but a commitment to demonstrate graceful, compassionate companionship. Even silently grieving with someone is a form of showing compassionate mercy.
Such demonstrations of mercy do not require that we fully understand the circumstances of another, nor that we have answers for them. But when we, with a heart of humility and gratitude, are willing to come along beside those who are hurting and brokenhearted, pouring out the merciful gift of grace over them even as they have been turned away by others, we ourselves receive the promise of mercy. With the blessing promised for those who show mercy to others in this life, the promise of Jesus here is that bountiful amounts of mercy are being stored up for them as a heavenly reward. With this promise, there will most certainly be tests of our patience and the need for us to come with a heart of humility to the Lord ourselves, asking for His forgiveness and grace, so that we are able to continue to impart His “divine mercy” upon those around us.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You first and foremost for the greatest gift of mercy You could have ever given us, which is salvation through Your one and only Son, Jesus. He is our true source of hope and the picture of mercy as He showed such deep compassion for those He encountered in His everyday ministry here on earth leading up to giving His life for us on the Cross. As we walk life’s journey, may we be quick to show mercy and compassion to others even when it seems not to be deserved, just as ultimately, we were shown Your great mercy when we were yet undeserving. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
For they shall be filled.”
“Righteousness” spoken of here is the very “moral perfection” of God, His very attributes pursued and practiced in our own lives due to a desire to fall more in love with Jesus and to serve Him only. There are many things of this world in which we can be moved to “hunger and thirst” after, driven by our own natural desires, only to find that such things are always fleeting, never providing lasting fulfillment. A genuine hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God can never be merely a religious practice, for false pursuits after righteousness are easily recognized as counterfeit by the Lord and those around us. Being filled with the righteousness of God is only possible through a sincere desire to walk more closely with the Lord in prayer, study of His word, and a willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The following statement reflects the Lord’s emphasis on the condition of the heart as it relates to the Pursuit of True Righteousness:
God regards the state of the heart as of supreme importance. He does not consider that we can have clean hands if we do not possess a pure heart…But the purity of heart has a wonderful reward reserved for it – the vision of God…Here as elsewhere, there is an essential connection between the grace and the reward. Sin blinds the soul; purity is clear-eyed in the spiritual world. Moreover, it is only to the pure in heart that the vision of God can be a reward.
(W.F. Adeney,Five Gate to Happiness: Homiletics Commentary)
Therefore, it is in a desire to pursue the righteousness of God, and having the willingness to be used of God to have this righteousness overflow from one’s own heart into the lives of others, does the true blessing come. As stated above, “It is only to the pure in heart that the vision of God can be a reward.” The blessing of being filled with the goodness, joy, and peace of God comes only through the hunger and thirst for the things that are most precious to Him. As Christ came to save, His earthly ministry also involved revealing to His followers and to us what most pleased His Father. By living in the righteousness of God, we are truly blessed and share that blessing as our lives overflow into the lives of others.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You today for Your promise to both bless and fill our lives with more of Yourself as we pursue righteousness. May our lives reflect Your goodness, joy, grace, mercy, and kindness toward others resulting from a sincere desire to walk more closely with You. May we indeed, hunger and thirst for Your righteousness moment by moment, day by day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.”
For one to be “meek” is to “have or show a quiet and gentle nature,” being able to bear up under difficult trials, hardships, or suffering. Meekness described here is characteristic of a person of “quiet strength,” one who is humble and modest in spirit. Such individuals possess an underlying source of strength that demonstrates love and compassion in all circumstances, as the Apostle Paul reminds us – “love endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)
Many are those in this world who are grasping for as much of what the king of this world (Satan) can offer them, with the belief that they are indeed “inheriting” or gaining their kingdom here. But we as true children of God are called not to make it our cause to chase after the fleeting things of this world, but as Jesus pointedly remarks, “our kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) For in due time, Christ will return establishing a “New Heaven” and a “New Earth” which will then, be a part of our great inheritance. Therefore, our need here is not to avenge ourselves in order to hold onto certain dreams, passions, possessions, or positions of power, for Christ should be our focus and living in light of eternity our mission. Thus, we are able in Him, to live with meekness through His quiet strength.
Meekness requires a necessary level of Courage – calculated, intentional faith in action which produces this “strength to endure,” even in the midst of the fiery trials and storms of life, whether set in motion from within or from without. We hold to a promise here in Christ, if we possess a spirit that is gentle and humble in heart, walking in the meekness of His strength, we will be able to navigate the sometimes troubled waters of this life without wavering in our faith journey. Meekness from a worldly viewpoint is in most cases seen as a weakness of mind and/or character, but when looked upon by our heavenly Father, those who are meek become some of His greatest servants. For in them is a quiet, moldable spirit of humility and faith-filled courage which will be rewarded.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You today for the promise that You are always with us, empowering us with a spirit of meekness found in Your strength. May we faithfully walk in such a spirit of meekness born out of putting our faith in action producing the courage within us to continue moving forward regardless of our circumstances. Grant us a spirit to walk humbly today with You our God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.”
In order to speak adequately to the promises presented to us by Jesus here in verse four, we must first understand what it is to “Mourn.” This verb means “to feel or express great sadness, sorrow, grief, and/or a deep sense of suffering” caused by a life-changing event such as the loss of someone or the loss of something meaningful in one’s life. The “mourning” or “grieving” process is a necessary and often beneficial part of the human experience from a holistic prospective – mentally, emotionally, physically, and certainly spiritually. The Lord is decisively drawn to those who are mourning, hurting, struggling, and who are brokenhearted.
According to the promises of Christ, we are indeed, “Blessed” through this process of mourning as such circumstances often cause us to press closer into a deeper dependence upon the Lord for comfort, strength, and hope for our future. We are, first and foremost, called to mourn over sin in our lives which separates us from close intimacy in relationship with our Savior. Secondly, however, there are many occasions along life’s journey which present opportunities to appropriately mourn, and therefore receive the promise that we will be both blessed and comforted. In such circumstances, it is the truth of God’s promises, His continual presence in our lives through His Spirit, along with close friends in the faith that become our greatest sources of His comfort.
As we walk through the valleys of mourning over life-changing events, we are promised the hope of being comforted here, this side of eternity. This comfort will come as we press closer to Jesus in prayer and speak His truth over our lives daily, finding moments of stillness and peace with the Lord which will be like medicine for the soul. The Lord promises to comfort and carry us through times of mourning – to be our ultimate source of strength and eternal hope as we take small steps of obedience toward Him. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) Regarding seasons or circumstances of life for which we struggle to find comfort and answers, Pastor Johnny Hunt comments, “When we can’t trace the hand of God in our lives, we can trust His heart.” Our heavenly Father is always good and always has in mind what is best for us, even when we cannot understand the difficult things for which He is still working out in and through our lives.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You today for Your promise that anyone who knows You as Savior and Lord will be blessed and comforted as we walk through times of mourning. Regardless of the depths to which we experience sorrow, grief, pain, and loss in this world, we will always find our source of strength, comfort, and hope for eternity in You. Reminds us often of Your promises and Your very presence within us, especially in the valleys of mourning we may be called to endure along life’s journey. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.