Christ’s Sermon: Blessed are the Faithful

Part 2: The Beatitudes

Throughout man’s history, God recognizes faithful believers. He rewards those who place Him as their number one priority and live by His commandments. The Lord blesses His chosen ones, and in the Gospel of Matthew, we find this to be true. Blessed are God’s faithful followers.

Christ’s sermon on the mountain begins with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-12). Each of them starts with a blessing. In fact, this is Christ’s way of reaching out to humanity with the keys to eternal happiness. Because being blessed means living a joyful life through God’s grace.

This blissful consciousness is God given and not by our making. And when we live the Beatitudes, God takes notice, and our lives become prime examples of a Christ-centered life. And this makes living in a broken world enjoyable.

Jesus uses the Beatitudes as the blueprint for a life built on God’s word through living in His truths. They radiate a life anchored in Christ’s Deity showing others the inner-workings of God’s Spirit. In the same way, they are the spiritual principles the Lord gives to those worthy to receive His unconditional love.

In the Beatitudes, Christ outlines God’s eternal plan for a life centered on Christian action. As a matter of fact, it’s in those scriptures that Jesus spells out in perfect detail the behavior a Christian must show to find God’s blessing. For this reason, we need to deny ourselves and live for Christ.

It’s important to realize the Beatitudes have three distinct attributes. First, they show a life rooted in humility. For example, becoming poor in spirit isn’t a lack of spirit but is surrendering free will for God’s purposes.

Once a believer becomes willing to continue letting go of individualism for Christ’s sake then his or her spirit transforms into one driven by the Holy Spirit. And this brings an overwhelming want to serve God better.

This spiritual transition from spiritual darkness into Christ’s light opens the door to the kingdom of heaven. And the more our spirits yearn for God, the happier we become because real gratification of life comes from dependence on Christ and not from selfish motives.

This spiritual transition from darkness into Christ’s light opens the door to the kingdom of heaven. And the more our spirits yearn for God, the happier we become because real gratification of life comes from dependence on Christ and not from selfish motives.

The second Christian attribute contained within the Beatitudes is acting on God’s word without reservations. A point often overlooked is an active participation in God’s truth means developing a personal willingness to apply faith under each circumstance of a Christian’s life. With is in mind it’s easy to understand words are meaningless until they become active. With this in mind, Christ makes it easy to understand the meaning behind the Beatitudes.

As a matter of fact finding the kingdom of heaven, God’s comfort, eternal inheritance, and Christ’s righteousness are more than words. One must take action by showing God a willingness to do His will in a world that rejects His truths. This means showing a humble, mournful, and righteous life (in unjust circumstances) and knowing others will ridicule us for standing firm on Christ’s words.

The last spiritual attribute in Christ’s Beatitudes is receiving God’s unconditional love. A most compelling evidence to God’s love is best shown in His rewards of mercy, seeing Him, becoming sons of God. And receiving a great reward in heaven for standing firm in times of Christ persecution is His gift to the faithful. Christ didn’t shy away from the way God responds to those who follow the Beatitudes.

In my past unhappiness raised its head. Living in darkness brought me emptiness and discontent. Everything I tried to bring me joy failed because I lived in the lusts of the world. My selfish motives became interwoven in prideful ambitions. I knew nothing of meekness nor God Himself. Then, when I wanted to die, God rescued me.

I’m grateful God saved me and introduced me to Christ. Today my code for Christian living are the Beatitudes. I’m not perfect and fail to live those spiritual truths. But the moment I realize my failure and humbly ask Christ for help then through repentance I’m connected to the Holy Spirit.

How do you practice the Beatitudes?

Christ’s Sermon on the Mountain

 

Part 1: Overview

I have heard many great sermons preached on God’s truth. Those pastors are pouring out their hearts to spread God’s words. They motivate, inspire and encourage me to live for God. But the most excellent sermon I’ve ever read is the Sermon on the Mountain and the one sharing is Christ Himself.

Understanding the Sermon on the Mountain (Matthew: Chapters 5-7) is of the utmost importance. In fact, this speech speaks volumes and describes the Christian qualities God’s expects from his faithful followers.

Those chapters are Christ’s blueprints for building a spiritual foundation anchored in God’s Spirit. Here Christ gives us the tools of righteousness and leaves no doubt of the will of God.

Contained within those three chapters are God’s real truths and corrects every wrong presentation of the Lord’s word. In the Old Testament, the stubborn attitudes from God’s chosen ones continued to place distant between them and God. They became misled, and their spiritual leaders taught them an incorrect understanding of God’s word.

They practiced Jewish traditions giving little or no focus on God’s law. And when the time came for God to deliver Christ to them they were unprepared for the Lord’s truth.

As soon as Christ taught His Disciples the wisdom behind the Father’s words everything they knew changed. The scriptures written in The Sermon on the Mountain comes directly from God’s voice and spoken by Christ.

Christ’s opens His sermon with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) and ends it by telling the disciples His role as God’s Son (Matthew 7:24-27).

The Sermon on the Mountain shows the actions a member in Christ’s kingdom needs to take to find favor with God. In fact, the other three Gospels support its validity. Everything Jesus spoke of in this powerful sermon is in each Gospel. God is constant, never deviates from His words and we understand this from the way the Gospels tells the same truths.

In this sermon, Christ’s delivers God’s message of how a believer needs to respond to life’s terms. In other words, it spells out the solutions to the way we approach God (Matthew 6:5-15) and how to treat our neighbors (Matthew 5:43-48). Christ made sure He spoke on the actions God wants humans to take to live in His kingdom.

Christ shows God’s way of handling anger (Matthew 5:21-24), lust (Matthew 5:27-30), marriage (Matthew 5:31-32), and hatred (Matthew 5:43-48). Jesus explained the reason not live by oaths (Matthew 5:33-37) and how to avoid selfishness (Matthew 5:38-42).

In Chapter 6 the sermon identifies the proper way to please God (Matthew 6:1-4). Jesus spoke on how to pray (Matthew 6:5-15) and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). The rest of this chapter places the focus on building a relationship with God (Matthew 6:19-20, 24) righteousness (Matthew 6:22-24), and trusting God (Matthew 6:25-34).

Chapter seven begins with Jesus sharing God’s command of taking a non-judgmental towards others. Then Christ points out going to God by asking, seeking and knocking on God’s door. The last sixteen verses of chapter seven cover the narrow way, false belief, and reliance on Christ himself.

Over the next few weeks, I will share a deeper look into The Sermon on the Mountain. I hope you will join me and share your experiences with Christ’s masterful display of God’s word.

The Undisputable Miracles of Christ

God never fails to place Himself as the true God, and He used Christ’s miracles as the means of setting Himself above everything. No other false gods match God’s eternal grace.

We are discussing the Gospel of Matthew. In this Gospel, God established His Son Christ as King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2). The Lord made His King unlike any other king manned. No human king equals Christ’s eternal powers. Because when Christ walked on earth He healed many human sicknesses (Matthew 4:23).

It’s important to realize the way God operates. When we look at the last three scriptures in Matthew’s fourth chapter, we notice God’s divine plan working in Christ’s healing ministry. Our Father captivated those present since many traveled to see Him work wonders. They became baffled over Jesus’s ability to heal.

Christ carried out thirty-seven recorded miracles. With this in mind, God leaves no doubt of whom Christ is because those unusual events come from God and no human can duplicate them. No human past or present can heal or cure the many physical defects known to humanity.

Yes, the disciples healed others, but it was through the Holy Spirit they did miracles. And those miracles are a witness to God’s existence and His powerfulness.

In the days of Christ’s ministry, God saw it fitting to show those living on earth an unbelievable experience. Right before their eyes, a first of its kind set of events unfolded. They heard of the miracles of how God parted the Red Sea and provided food.

With their own eyes, the indisputable existence of Christ’s supernatural powers emerged.

One of the greatest of miracles Christ showed was raising humans from physical death. To highlight His unique qualities, Jesus raised three people from the dead (Matthew 9:18, 23 Luke 5:11 John 11:43).

Take a moment and envision this incredible display of Christ’s amazing ability. It’s inconceivable. But God is almighty, and this resurrection miracle (Matthew 9:25) proves Christ is His Son because no human restores human life.

Besides resurrecting others from death, Christ gave sight to the blind (Matthew 9:29  ).

Imagine being blind, never seeing God’s stunning natural wonders. Unable to predict the way your mother looks or fixate on a sunrise. They lived in darkness. Then through your faith and asking Christ for healing, your sight restored watching the world for the first time. God is remarkable, and this miracle is the essence of Christ’s unbelievable ability to do the impossible (Luke 18:27).

Another miracle Christ did was curing a leper. When Jesus walked on earth, this infectious disease frightens people. Hopelessness plagued those inflicted. The infected became outcasts living in isolation. They couldn’t live with family friends or with the general population.

Those free from the illness thought unfavorable towards them because of superstitions. Anyone touches a leper became uncleaned and could not live among the healthy. But Jesus placed His hands on him, and the leprosy was no more (Matthew 8:3).

The indisputable miracles of Christ give us the wisdom of God’s powerfulness. Miracles explain the extraordinary attributes of God aimed at showing us His love for humanity. Christ’s miracles strengthen our faith because in our present times we don’t experience miracles. Remember our faith isn’t by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

What do Jesus’s miracles mean to you?

 

Christ: The Essence of Real Discipleship

After Christ had returned from His 40 days of fasting (Matthew 4:1-2), He chose His first four disciples. God planned for His Son’s ministry to be short, and Christ needed to teach others the mysteries of God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:26-27). These four men became the essence of real discipleship.

It’s not by accident Christ approached these men. Since Christ is God (John 10:30), we see God’s Spirit working because those men without delay followed Jesus. They didn’t question who Jesus is and did as He asked. This illustrates God’s undeniable presence in a faithful believer’s life.

The first two men anointed to discipleship are Peter and his brother Andrew (Matthew 4:18). They were fishermen casting their nets from the shore. Christ told them He will make them fisher of men (Matthew 4:19). Here Jesus gives us the essence of discipleship-fishers of men. In fact, Christ appointed Peter as the leader of His church.

The next two who Christ called on is James and John (Matthew 4:21-22). Again Matthew highlights the impact God made in their lives. Those two men showed an unshakable trust in Christ because upon hearing God’s command they picked up their cross and walked with Christ.

When we take an honest look at the way, those men responded to Christ; we gain knowledge into true discipleship. The first thing to remember is their unselfish commitment to God. Their faith shows us a disciple denies oneself for the will of God. It takes selflessness to live as a disciple. Likewise, for us to become disciples, we must do the same.

Jesus recruited eight more disciples. One of those twelve betrayed Him (Judas Iscariot) in the garden of Gethsemane. Many others entered discipleship because God planned for anyone who believes in Christ sovereignty (John 8:31-32). Today others are still being granted this same privilege.

The essence of discipleship is applying Christ’s teachings to our everyday lives. It’s easy speaking the Gospels. But a more challenging presentation of God’s Spirit is exemplifying the impact Christ has in the way we respond to adversity.

For example, our reactions to life terms need to radiate the way Christ dealt with His troubles. Even though our problems don’t match the ones Jesus endured, He shows us the spiritual principles necessary in staying firm on God’s word. It’s our reliance on Christ that we find courage beyond ours to face the world full of evilness.

One of the first things to remember is discipleship radiates God’s Living Spirit. This doesn’t mean a disciple is perfect. Everyone falls short of living in God’s will (Romans 3:23), and no one is free from sin (1 John 1:1-10). With this in mind, we must remember it’s our willingness to repent and let Christ remove our trespasses. Nothing pleases God more than a believer’s action of repentance.

A disciple is a spiritual craftsman working for Christ’s Deity spreading God’s truth. And for this purpose, the Holy Spirit is the driving force behind discipleship. Without God’s Spirit present in the life of a disciple, the message of Christ’s Kingship is ineffective. This includes taking a self-righteous approach in sharing Jesus’s truths.

Discipleship is of divine importance because our spiritual lives depend on our willingness to live in Christ. This significant God-granted experience is not without responsibility. We must pick up our cross (regardless of its pain) and become His servants. Remember we no longer living in the world but God’s kingdom!

Have you found your discipleship?

Christ Defeats Satan’s Temptations

As we continue looking at Matthew’s Gospel we see how God made Christ the King over temptation. A most compelling evidence attesting to this truth is the way Christ defeats Satan’s temptations in the wilderness (Matthew 4:3-11).

A temptation is a real and devastating problem. Eve couldn’t resist it nor did Adam. I can’t either and neither can you. The moment we give into its demand, everything changes for the worse. In fact, this three syllables ten letter word damages our relationship with God.

But the Lord’s love for His children is greater than the trouble temptation causes because He redeems us through Christ.

To show us Christ’s as the redeemer, Matthew’s testimony to the three temptations He faced proves Jesus is stronger than everything the devil can dole out. Each time Lucifer confronted Christ with his cunning deception He didn’t waver from God’s powerful truths.

When we take a deeper look into the enticement, Satan used against Christ an incredible insight of God’s sovereignty emerges. Since the Messiah is God’s Son so Lucifer created those temptations to overtake Jesus’s kingship.

In other words, those attempts of disobedience aren’t for humans but made for Jesus. The devil understood who Christ is and designed his temptation in line with assaulting His loyalty to God.

For instance, the devil’s first try to trick Jesus is asking Him to do a miracle. Here Matthew shows us the wisdom of Christ. Jesus rebutted His tempter by sharing the purpose of life isn’t just physical.

Christ used the Old Testament scripture to let Satan know the way God intends for a believer to live (Deuteronomy 8:3). Here our Messiah gives us a blueprint for building a spiritual foundation anchored in God’s will. Remember, my friends. Salvation goes beyond the flesh.

After Jesus defeated Satan’s first entrapment, then he tries to lure Christ into tempting God. Here we find the devil seeking to extinguish himself as an expert in interpreting God’s word. The devil used Psalm 91:11-12 to show our Messiah his knowledge of God’s law.

Again Jesus corrected him by explaining another key point in living in God’s kingdom is never to tempt the Father (Deuteronomy 6:16). Here Christ gives His adversary God’s truth to stress the Lord’s way in staying humble. Tempting God is useless because He is the most powerful and knows our hearts.

God’s enemy failed in those two attempts but gave one last try to make Christ stumble. This last temptation is the real motive behind Satan’s intention of turning away from God and working for his evil deeds.

But Christ’s unshakable trust in the Lord coupled with His perfect wisdom crushed the devil’s trap. Jesus said to him: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”

Matthew gives concrete evidence of Christ’s undeniable power in defeating Satan’s temptations. Under those circumstances, Jesus proved He is God’s King by illustrating His dominance over sin.

Through Christ’s victory, God rewarded Him by sending angels to minister to Him (Matthew 4:11). Likewise, we receive a blessing when we rely on Jesus because God takes notice when we move away from sin and into righteousness.

I know the result of temptation. Every time I give into its enticing call my spirit becomes disturbed leading me to sin. I’m powerless over its entrapment. The moment I succumb to its demands my relationship with God becomes fractured placing a wedge between Christ and me.

On my own, this troubling dilemma gets worse. But when I humble myself before Christ and ask for help I find courage beyond mine. Then I’m able to stop and turn away from temptation.

My battles with temptation are overwhelming. But because of my everyday reliance on Christ, those wars become lessen. Since Christ overtook Satan’s domain, He gives me the strength to live in God’s will.

I’m not perfect and when I sin my willingness to repent gives me a way back to Christ. Even though I have to wait for God’s mercy the results from practicing patience outweigh the suffering caused by a hardened heart.

In conclusion, temptations aren’t impossible to overcome because God gave us Christ as our saving King. No matter how tempting you become remember Jesus is never absent.

How do you overcome your temptation?

Christ’s Deliverance: God’s Greatest Pleasure

God is astonishing in the way He keeps His word. For centuries He used Prophets to prepare for the day of Christ’s deliverance. The Lord’s love for His Son coupled with His compassion for humanity gives Him incredible pleasure.

 

 

God made this eternal deliverance His greatest gift. To receive this infinite treasure, one must receive God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8).

Because of Christ’s baptism; God’s new plan for salvation is real (Matthew 3:15).

Last week we discussed God’s message of repentance. We saw the crucial role an act of contrition is in God’s eyes.

Matthew wastes no time to show us God’s joy in delivering His beloved Son (Matthew 3:16-17).

When God speaks, it has the utmost importance for humanity. It’s imperative to understand God’s language. Without knowledge of His dialect, eternal life stays elusive. And, Matthew recorded Christ’s deliverance through God’s voice.

 

 

Here in this part of Matthew’s third chapter (Matthew 3:13-17), we come to see God’s overwhelming joy for His Son.

Since Adam and Eve’s disobedience, it’s rare for God to express pleasure with humanity. In Jesus’s baptism, God treats us with His happiness.

Imagine witnessing God’s pleasure. It’s mind boggling pondering over the Lord’s excitement to give humanity a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). But God’s love is never absent from those He saves. I’m thankful to understand Christ is the way to God’s kingdom (John 14:6).

Watching the pleasure God showed in delivering His Son is a privilege. With this in mind, remember not everyone understands the meaning behind Christ’s ministry. This experience is an incredible gift. We are fortunate God included us in His kingdom.

The moment God exposed Christ as His Son the way of believing in Him changed. At the time of Christ’s arrival, an unfavorable faith in God developed and under those circumstances God put right this tragic mistake.

At this point in man’s history, many believers relied on traditions handed to them through the generations. Most of those doctrines center on rituals and not anchored in God’s truth. But Christ’s deliverance put an end to this incorrect understanding of God’s word. Because of Christ’s deliverance God unlocked His mysteries (Colossians 1:24-27).

When I meditate over Christ’s deliverance, it makes me grateful for God’s truth.

I use to live in darkness consumed by a life full of resentment, bitterness, and selfishness. Everything I centered in prideful motives leading to a life filled with disappointment.

It brings me great pleasure to share with you God pulled me from the darkness. Today my life changed, and it started with God introducing me to Christ. This new way of living isn’t easy, but with Christ, as my guide, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). Even though I’m not perfect Christ helps me overcome my sinful nature.

 

 

Christ’s deliverance fosters many discussions, and we have touched on a few of them. We can agree without Christ our lives stay troubled. But on the positive side with Him, our place in God’s kingdom is everlasting!

What does Christ’s deliverance mean to you?

 

 

Repentance and the Commencement of Christ’s Kingship

Experiencing Christ’s commencement begins with repentance. Nothing grabs Jesus’s attention more than a believer’s willingness to turn away from sin and do the will of God.

In the past weeks, we saw how God established Christ as King (Matthew 1: 1-17) and reviewed Jesus’ unconventional birth (Matthew 1:18-25).

Next, we examined the three wise men declaration of Christ the King (Matthew 2:1-12).

And then we looked at Satan’s failed assassination on baby Jesus (Matthew 2:13-15). So, when the devil didn’t succeed in killing God’s King we saw Lucifer’s murderous acts on innocent boy’s (Matthew 2:16-18).

Our last conversation ended with how Christ became a Nazarene (Matthew 2:19-23).

Now we check out the role John the Baptist plays in proclaiming Christ the King of the Jews.

In Fact, when new Kings took the throne he sent a messenger announcing his kingship. Likewise, God did the same by choosing John the Baptist as His envoy.

God used John as a courier for Christ’s Kingship. John’s ministry became the starting point to God’s new Covenant with humanity.

And for this reason (God’s kingdom) the Lord’s messenger preached repentance (Matthew 3:2).

In Matthew’s third chapter God shows us the course of action, oneself must take to receive His King. Since God’s Spirit worked through John, it paved the way for Christ’s commencement.

First Matthew tells us John listened to those whom he baptized confess their sins (Matthew 3:6).

Yes, confession is an imperative action in a life anchored in Christ’s Deity and without a willingness to confess a believer’s life experiences unnecessary suffering.

But God’s messenger didn’t stop at confession. No, he emphasized a change in behavior through repentance.

And those two Christian attributes (confession and repentance) are equally relevant to our present day walk in Christ!

The Pharisees and Sadducees became curious and visited the Jordon where many Jews received baptism. Upon their arrival, John unleashed a strong warning on their motives. His stern words (Matthew 3:7-10) are most compelling evidence of how they weren’t favorable in God’s eyes. Here Matthew displays their spiritual fate by illustrating their inward hearts.

John’s confrontation with the Pharisees and Sadducees is important to realize because if I’m not right in my faith, the same results will happen to me. This means I must live in repentance and prove a change in behavior.

Repentance is a point often overlooked. Since God holds repentance as one of His highest commandments (2 Chronicles 7:14), then it becomes crucial to understand how to apply it to our faith.

I know repentance is hard. In my journey with Christ, the greatest spiritual lessons I’ve learned come from my disobedience. When I hold onto sin, my spirit is gravely affected, and I suffer from guilt. Until I get right with Christ, the spiritual pain causes me to make unwise decisions.

But when I stop and spend quiet time confessing my sin to Christ, then when God sees fit He releases my turmoil. Even though at times it takes a while before I experience God’s mercy; without exception this experience changes my behavior. And the more I spend quiet time with Christ the easier I find to live holy.

This message of repentance John preached is a focal point for every Christian past and present. The moment he began sharing God’s plan of preparation for Christ an entry into His kingdom emerged.

God wants everybody to understand salvation starts with an act of contrition. Once we humble ourselves, without reservation, then Christ takes control of our hearts, and we learn the real meaning of repentance. Since Matthew shared with us the importance of repentance then there are no excuses not to apply John’s message.

What are your thoughts on repentance?

Satan’s Failed Attempt on Baby Jesus

God’s mightiness is hard to fathom. In Matthew’s Gospel, he gives insight into the Lord’s undeniable strength. Our Father’s enemy (Satan) understood Christ’s Kingship meant the end of his reign and tried using King Herod to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:13).

God knew everything and protected Christ from the wickedness of Herod. Nothing gets pass God (Jeremiah 16:17). Satan knows Christ’s Kingship is God’s final plan for humanity and tried to eliminate Him as a child. Since God is Almighty (Revelation 1:8), the devil didn’t exterminate the King of the Jews!

When you look at Matthew’s second chapter, a glimpse into God’s undeniable plan of salvation emerges. Last week we discussed http://wp.me/p74gem-c2 God’s announcement of His promised Messiah(Matthew 2:2). And the rest of this chapter shows us God’s indisputable faithfulness. Our Father let none human or the devil defeat His King making sure our eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:11) stayed intact.

The devil uses many wicked ways to destroy God’s kingdom. When Herod unleashed his rage on the Jewish people (Matthew 2:16), we see Satan’s hatred.

Throughout the Old Testament, the terror caused by Lucifer is real. In Noah’s generation, God stepped in and annihilated Satan’s evil grip on the human heart (Genesis 6:17).

No one past or present can change the evil facts of the devil, and Matthew saw this by watching Herod murder innocent boys (Matthew 2:16). Even today we see this happening around the world, but God in His Glory secured a way out of spiritual death. The Lord wants to save everyone and guaranteed Christ birth by protecting Him from the devil (1 Timothy 2:1-4). We are fortunate to experience God’s grace and proclaim the good news of Christ!

 

In fact, God used the Prophet Jeremiah to make known the future suffering Christ birth caused at the time it took place (Jeremiah 31:15). You may wonder why God doesn’t intervene and eradicate evilness. That’s a great question, and it’s hard to grasp the way God works. But a saving faith understands the Lord gives everyone a chance to know Him.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

God keeps His word and led Joseph into Egypt fulfilling Hosea prophecy (Hosea 11:1). Our Father never changes, and His Word without exception is pure. Everything God does is in the Bible, and He used Matthew to highlight the prophecies from the Old Testament.

Matthew closes his second chapter by giving us the reason Christ lived in Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23). Again we come in contact with Satan’s constant attempts on killing baby Jesus. This is the third time God sent an angel to direct Joseph actions in protecting His Son.

 

 

When I pause and ponder over Matthew’s second chapter, it strengthens my trust in God’s eternal plan. This recorded Biblical history gives me the opportunity to test my faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). And for me, God’s words are more than metaphors they are the actions I need to take to live in Christ.

What’s your outlook on Matthew’s second chapter?

 

Open Eyed Running

 

 

 

The first time I went for a trail run, it was like I had been placed on a whole new planet and I really, really liked it.  But probably not for the same reasons that many others before me have liked it.  See, I fell in love with trail running not just for the beauty of the wilderness and the challenge of the constantly changing footstep, all of which are incredibly awesome, but because of what there wasn’t.

As a hard of hearing person (not deaf, there are days where I wish I was deaf because then at least I would have an excuse for not understanding what people are saying) running on streets is extremely difficult because of what you can hear.  You can hear the sound of a car, the sound of traffic, the sounds of ambulances and even sometimes the sound of a biker or runner coming up behind you.  The problem is twofold, though.

First, you have no idea where that sound is coming from.  It could be right beside you, on the street over or two blocks in front of you.  As a hard of hearing person running on the streets, the sounds get all mixed up and actually at times even get irritating at worse and distracting at best.

You can try wearing headphones and listening to music but in a way that is even worse because now you can’t stay in tune with the sounds your body makes (for me I know when I am off stride because I feel it in my feet and sometimes hear it as a slap on the pavement instead of a stride on the pavement) or how you are breathing (sometimes I get out of sync and am mouth breathing instead of sucking in oxygen through my nose) and then you never really get into that beautiful rhythm of running.

The second thing that is difficult for hard of hearing runners running the streets of your town or city is the mental exhaustion that happens because you literally have to work twice as hard as somebody else to define what that sound is and where it is coming from and whether it is a danger or normal.  I never ran as a normal hearing person, so I don’t really know what it is, but I do know as a hard of hearing person often times the hardest part of the run is all these sounds mixing in my head and constantly trying to figure out what they mean and whether I need to be aware.

I also cannot tell you how many times I have been on a sidewalk and thought I heard a car right on me and then tripped over the crack in the sidewalk because I’m swiveling my head to try and figure out if a car is backing out of a driveway, will he see me and then blammo there I am laying on the grass with my feeling severely embarrassed.

So imagine my first time out on a trail, there is no sound but the sights, and the feelings were just phenomenal.  It was like a new world opening up that I had never experienced before.  It was almost like my eyes being opened for the very first time, and I was seeing things that I know I probably had seen my whole life, especially having grown up in the mountains but here I am running a trail in the Big Horn Mountains outside Sheridan, WY and I literally felt like I was alive for the very first time.  What I really began to experience can only be described as Open Eyed Running.

This is where your eyes are continually opened to the possibilities and beauty around you, where you fall in love with your world and dream of the days that were simpler.  The only time in my life that can even compare is the day I realized that God was real and that He wanted to be part of my life, not just part of a religious ceremony on Sunday mornings.  Living becomes different because you are seeing everything in a different light and from a different perspective.  That is how it is with trail running.  I can run the same trail three weekends in a row, and it never gets boring, it’s never the same trail twice in a row.  And that is so similar to life also.

I cannot even begin to imagine what I would do if life were vanilla and the same all the time.  It would be so frustrating to me, and that is what running has become to me also.  Every trail run opens up new possibilities and most of my runs I am not even aware of what is going on around me (that is why my wife makes me wear a bell on my pack) or what time it is (only once have I come back to a trailhead in the dark but that was more because I stink at reading maps than anything else, all for a different story) and I find myself on the trail thinking about ways to challenge myself to dig deeper and to reach for more.

And what I see!!!!!  I cannot even begin to describe the beauty that surrounds me out in the wilderness.  I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times I have literally had to stop in my tracks to look at the beauty stretching before me.

Like this time there was this dead tree that I could see as I ran up a hill, but it sort of looked like a twig until I got up next to it and then the crooked beauty, the way it just stood there through time slightly moving in the breeze reminded me that the spiritual part of my journey often reminds me of that dead tree.  Sometimes I feel as if my faith is dead but then I can look down and see that it’s not dead,  it’s still firmly planted in the soil and that over the next hill or through the bog I find myself in I’m going to find a flourishing tree, full of life and vigor.  Not having to strain to identify sounds has done all these things for me.

 

Now when I am out running a trail, my route may be wet, snowy, muddy, dry or any other adjective you can possibly imagine but I always can find the proper place to plant my foot because I am not having to figure out the sounds around me, I’m just running and enjoying life going on around me, feeling the soft breeze, the warm sun or the whipping, chilly wind trying to push through my layers of clothing.  I can hear my breathing, feel my muscles and even when in the middle of the forest running in snow I can hear the crunch of the snow and the slide of the little ice balls running under the sole of my foot.

I guess this is what I love about running trails the most, the open eyed running and awareness of all the beauty that surrounds me, even when I’m stressed out about work and wondering if I’m being a good enough husband the trail keeps me grounded because running them alleviates a stress point in my life which allows me to be more than I could be running the streets around me.

So the next time you say something to a runner, and he/she doesn’t say something back consider that just maybe they’re hearing challenged and every sense is working so hard that they can’t even acknowledge that you are around.

The Three Wise Men Unwavering Trust

In Matthew’s Gospel, he shares the journey of the three wise men from the east. In this story, two relevant circumstances arose from their arrival in Jerusalem.

First, they asked where to find Christ’s birthplace. They didn’t hesitate telling others their mission is worshiping the King of the Jews.

And as the result of their inquiry it caused trouble amongst the citizens.

Their message disturbed Herod, the king. Because God used strangers to announce the news of his King’s birth. This threatened Herod’s throne. So the king of Judea gathered the Jewish spiritual leaders asking them where this remarkable event took place. They answered Herod by sharing Bethlehem (Matthew 2:6) as God’s chosen town.

Even the residents of Jerusalem became terrified. Imagine living under Herod’s hard rule knowing he wouldn’t tolerate another king to invade his territory. And when those wise men disobeyed Herod, he took his rage out on the Jews by murdering their first-born boy’s ages two years and younger (Matthew 2:16).

The real revelation in Matthew’s three wise men story is how the Jews didn’t receive God’s word. On Christ’s birthday, God’s chosen people became numb to His presence. They forgot God’s prophesies because their spiritual leaders (the Pharisees) didn’t teach them God’s truth.

The Pharisees held Moses as the ultimate authority in sharing God’s word. They relied on his teachings and added unique traditions for their followers. But when those wise men came to worship the King of the Jews it fell on deaf ears. None of them remembered Moses’ words on God’s truth on the birth of Christ (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).

The time of Christ’s birth isn’t an accident. God knew the way His children believed needed to change. They became confused over the truth of God’s word because their spiritual leaders misled them. So the Lord used Gentiles to announce Christ the King.

God commanded those men to worship baby Jesus. So they traveled to a foreign land leaving behind the comfort of home and humbled them themselves to Christ the King (Matthew 2:11). Guided by God (star) these Gentiles glorified God by offering young Christ gifts.

I wonder if my faith is strong enough to do the same. Could I leave my familiar place and have the spiritual confidence to share with total strangers God’s message of salvation? Do I have trust in Christ to pick up my cross regardless of its burden and live in God’s will?

The three wise men are excellent examples of a faith in action anchored in an unwavering trust in God. Matthew allowed us to witness their unshakable reliance on the Lord and when we follow Christ with the same actions, our lives become spiritually whole.

How do you relate to the three wise men story?