Level Ground

Today’s Scripture is a whopper. It happens in a physical location that Luke describes as “level ground,” but it also happens at a spiritual “level ground” as well. When you read this, expect to be grounded.

And possibly leveled.

Luke is very transparent about the audience: they came to hear Jesus because they needed healing. They came to level ground to be healed from all their diseases. Some had unclean spirits. Some were bothered. They had learned about his power, and everyone wanted to touch him.

Are you sick in spirit?

Are you bothered by life?

Do you need to be healed?

Proceed with caution.

Luke 6 (Common English Bible)

17 Jesus came down from the mountain with them and stood on a large area of level ground. A great company of his disciples and a huge crowd of people from all around Judea and Jerusalem and the area around Tyre and Sidon joined him there. 18 They came to hear him and to be healed from their diseases, and those bothered by unclean spirits were healed. 19 The whole crowd wanted to touch him, because power was going out from him and he was healing everyone.

2Jesus raised his eyes to his disciples and said:

“Happy are you who are poor,
    because God’s kingdom is yours.
21 Happy are you who hunger now,
    because you will be satisfied.
Happy are you who weep now,
    because you will laugh.

So far, so good. This twist on what we normally think of happiness fits into Jesus’ style of teaching. Happy=poor, happy=hungry, happy=weeping … this all equates in the system I call “Jesus math.” Jesus doesn’t do math like we do. He has his own system of equations.

Then it gets more extreme.

2Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and condemn your name as evil because of the Human One. 23 Rejoice when that happens! Leap for joy because you have a great reward in heaven. Their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.

To define happiness THIS way requires the mind of the divine. But do you see what Jesus is getting at here? Happiness means being completely, wholly, and entirely SOLD OUT to Jesus and his cross. That indeed is cause to rejoice, even in the midst of the world’s condemnation.

Then it gets more extreme.

24 But how terrible for you who are rich,
    because you have already received your comfort.
25 How terrible for you who have plenty now,
    because you will be hungry.
How terrible for you who laugh now,
    because you will mourn and weep.
26 How terrible for you when all speak well of you.
    Their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.

Jesus math comes in again. Terrible=rich. Terrible=plentiful. Terrible=laughing. Terrible=praise from the world.

What can we learn from this today? I think it calls us to take a hard look at our own math. If you live your life on the “plus side” of things, perhaps it is time to minus out some of your excess and reach out to others. When we share from our plenty … our resources, our lives, our egos, and our hearts … that is when our math shifts.

What can you do today to bring joy to someone? How can you build up someone’s situation and diminish your own in the cause of the kingdom? Where can you impact the world for something outside of yourself?

And if you find yourself on the “minus side” of things, where can you go to reach out for help?

We are all sick in one way or another, but when we touch Jesus’ power, his healing flows to us and through us. That, my friends, is the math of equality.

Jesus calls us all to level the ground around us. Where do you fit into the equasion?

Dawn Breaks by Michelle Robertson

Truly Happy

What would it take for you to be truly happy? Deeply, unquestionably, full-tilt happy? I know that is an enormous question, especially if you are reading this first thing in the morning. You may need to go grab another cup of coffee.

I think that there are some answers that come more easily than others. For those who are in places or systems of oppression, “being free” probably comes to mind. For those who are battling a serious illness, “being well” is a natural response. I would hazard a guess that for everyone reading this today, “the end of the pandemic” rings true.

Those responses represent things that are beyond our control. What is something you can control that would bring you happiness?

Psalm 128 (Common English Bible)

Everyone who honors the Lord,
        who walks in God’s ways, is truly happy!

There is always a practical simplicity to the Psalms, isn’t there? The Psalmist boils true happiness down to two precepts: 1. honor God, and 2. follow his ways.

Other translations use the word fear in place of honor. I have never cared for that, as we tend to define fear as be afraid when we read it. But fear is understood here as reverential trust. That changes it, doesn’t it? Having a reverential trust of God and following his commandments is the key to happiness. Simple, right?

Wrong.

For most of us, following God’s ways as spelled out in God’s Word is very difficult indeed. Our need to assert our free will, our need to have things our own way, our weakness against temptation, and our easily distracted lives get in the way. We can read and study God’s Word until the cows come home, but living God’s Word is a different matter all together.

But the Psalmist goes on to describe the reward for honoring God:

You will definitely enjoy what you’ve worked hard for—
    you’ll be happy; and things will go well for you.
In your house, your wife will be like a vine full of fruit.
  All around your table, your children will be like olive trees, freshly planted.
That’s how it goes for anyone who honors the Lord:
    they will be blessed!

That’s how it goes! Honor God, and you and your family will be blessed by knowing that you are faithfully serving in ways that are meaningful and significant.

When we truly honor God, we make what is important to him important to us. When we follow his ways, we behave in the way that Jesus behaved…tolerant, accepting, forgiving, inclusive, and most of all, loving. Every day that we make strides in those areas we are guaranteed to come closer to true happiness.

May the Lord bless you from Zion.
    May you experience Jerusalem’s goodness your whole life long.

Blessings, goodness, and happiness await those who walk with God. If you don’t have those things in your life right now, consider the path you are on. Good things come to those whose lives are turned toward God.

Look for the Cross by Bonnie Bennett