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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Understanding the Beatitudes

When studying Matthew's Gospel, the Life of Christ, or the teachings of Jesus one will ALWAYS be required to confront the Sermon on the Mount. The task can seem huge, even difficult. Jesus says so much in those three chapters. But when studying these earth shattering words there is a necessity in focusing on the Beatitudes of Jesus in the opening verses of the iconic sermon. The temptation is to take each one and try to exegete each individual line and statement like a marksman peering through his scope and taking a shot with a sniper rifle.

And then the next target.

But Jesus surely didn’t mean these statements to stand alone by themselves, and Matthew certainly didn’t. Nowhere else do we see in Matthew’s account where Jesus makes singular statements that don’t have a broader context surrounding them. Rather, Matthew orchestrates his entire Gospel account around five major discourses or sermons that Jesus preaches.
What is interesting is what Jesus does just before this section of scripture. He sits down on a mountain, a traditional rabbinical way of teaching. Before this, we see Jesus walking all over preaching one message: repent. To back up his preaching he is performing miracles and healing the sick.
Directly after these statements he turns to himself, who He is and what His purpose is.
There is a bigger purpose for these statements, this collection of intriguing sayings, than just individual proverbs. These are detailed inclusive attention grabbers for the introduction to the greatest sermon ever preached.
I would suggest that instead of a sniper, we should imagine these statements to be more like a shotgun. One shot. Many pellets.

One shot… yet it hits everyone right where they are. Jesus, with one opening statement hits everyone in the crowd with a statement to grab their attention and turn their world upside down. These statements are meant to hit together. Not individually.

Think about the audience Jesus is with when he begins preaching. They are expecting a conquering warrior to overcome the oppression of Rome, set things back to how they used to be, reclaim the land, and be self-sustainable again. They want their Golden Years back.
Jesus says with a swift movement that not only are they wrong with their theological assumptions about what it means to follow the Law and the Prophets, but they are completely wrong with where they place their eschatological hope. God’s Kingdom is not of this world. These values that Jesus is placing on those whom God calls "blessed" are antithetical to the systems put in place by this world.

“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. 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled. 

Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy. 

Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."


Nathan Bryant

is a pastor living in Phoenix, AZ. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology. Nathan has a combined passion for unity and discipleship in the global church.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

Follow him on Twitter:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Art of Evangelism

Forward: I know this post is going to be controversial. As much as that is not my intention, it seems controversy is inevitable when dealing with a subject like this and critiquing a well-known author and speaker. I want to say this beforehand to those who support Carl Medearis. I like Carl. I have had conversations with Carl and attended seminars with him as the keynote speaker. I have read his book Speaking of Jesus. I appreciate his heart and work for the Kingdom of God. Carl is a fellow Kingdom worker. There are people in the Kingdom because of the work God has done through him. Carl, thank you for your faithful work for the Kingdom of Heaven.
To those who faithfully follow and read – this post may be more technical than most. I do not apologize for this. Sometimes this is necessary to address issues. I have taken over one month to research and address this issue. [1] I humbly ask that you consider the words before you. My hope is that this post will lead to a series of helpful discussions about this issue (hopefully with Carl).

The Issue
On September 2, 2014, Carl Medearis posted the following on his Facebook page after having a twitter conversation with his followers. Although Carl has become well known for bringing up controversial topics (of some I agree with), the following was too much for me to swallow:

Okay, now that the Twitter conversation is over - I need to tell you guys that I don't even believe in Evangelism as it's commonly practiced. Which is, of course, why my book "Speaking of Jesus" has the subtitle of: The art of NOT-evangelism." It's an unhelpful, un-useful and un-biblical word and concept. "Making disciples" is the term Jesus used. A disciple is a follower. So...we encourage people to follow Jesus. That might sound like semantics - and partly it is - but it's a hugely important shift. From evangelizing people into Christianity, to discipling (mentoring/encouraging) them to follow Jesus from whatever their background. The Way of Jesus is everything!
Later, in a comment he made on this post, Carl said since the word “evangelism” does not appear in the Bible, we shouldn’t use it.
The issue we will be looking into today is this: Is the concept of evangelism biblical? Or, is it something that came around after the time of Jesus and the Apostles. And in the words of my friend, Carl, “That might sound like semantics - and partly it is,” because words and the way we use them matter.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Amish Children

An author for Readers Digest once wrote how he studied the Amish people in preparation for an article on them. In his observation at one of the school yards, he noted that the children never screamed or yelled.
This amazed him.
I mean, have you ever been around a playground with a bunch of kids? All they do is run around and scream.
Intrigued and honestly dumbfounded at the amount of discipline these kids had, he spoke to the schoolmaster. He remarked how he had not once heard an Amish child yell, and asked why the schoolmaster thought that was so.

Do they know how to have fun? They looked like they were.

Are they little balls of energy like any other kids? They were running around like crazy and they were all smiling and laughing with each other.

The schoolmaster simply replied, "Well, have you ever heard an Amish adult yell?"

Our actions really do have a way of impacting others. People follow what they see more than what they are told.

Are you aware of who is watching you?
Do you realize the influence you have on others?

These Amish kids didn't have any kind of reference point to think that yelling was fun or even acceptable... because what their parents and community modeled was soft spoken, loving speech.

The point is not whether yelling is right or wrong, though no one really appreciates being yelled at... but that what we model is what we teach. What we model shows where our true values lie.

When people look at you, what do they see?

What are you modeling for those who look up to/ at you?

Readers Digest story from Counter Attack, Jay Carty, Multnomah Press, 1988, p. 41ff


Nathan Bryant

is a pastor living in Phoenix, AZ. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology. Nathan has a combined passion for unity and discipleship in the global church.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

Follow him on Twitter: