What are the qualities that God desires in his children? One day in the
midst of all the joys and sorrows of the crowd, Jesus moved toward
his inner circle and opened his heart to them.


Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues,
preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of
sickness and disease among the people. They brought to Him all
who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those
who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and Jesus
healed them. His fame went throughout all Syria. Great multitudes
followed Him--from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea,
and beyond the Jordan.

And seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up on a mountain, and when
He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He taught them,
saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
            for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed are those who mourn,
            for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
            for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
            for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
            for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
            for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
            for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
            for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say
all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be
exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they
persecuted the prophets who were before you."

                                                   Matthew 4:23-5:12 NKJV, condensed


 

                                         "I Have a Dream"

Do you have a dream? I hope so. Dreams for happiness, success,
reunion with loved ones, prosperity, good health, peace, reconciliation,
respect--the list could go on and on. Whether you are a parent, the Man
from LaMancha, a CEO, a factory worker, a service rep, or an immigrant,
your dream is important.

Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
in Washington, D.C. and proclaimed his dream for peace on earth and
good will among all people. But long before that famous speech, Jesus
stood on a hillside in Galilee and announced his dream. We know it as
the Beatitudes. Jesus' dream was that all God's children be blessed, happy.

Do you ever dream about the kind of world in which you would like to
live? The kind of people you want to have around? The person you would
like to be? A world where everyone is a useful citizen and has everything
they need. Where people live in harmony with each other and with nature.
Instead of being greedy, judgmental and overbearing , everyone is
considerate, wise, and accepting. Suppose that were the dream, how
could we get there? What are the beginning steps in that direction, the
first step? Jesus has already shown us the way!

Jesus is the doorway into the kingdom of heaven and he welcomes us
daily to enter his realm. Pride, arrogance and feelings of superiority
are out. Possessiveness--me, my, and mine-- is out. Most of us enter
Christ's kingdom on our knees. The money in our pockets will not help,
neither will the resume in the computer nor the great clothes. Here is
what Jesus asks of us:

BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, FOR THEIRS IS THE
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
Dear God, poverty of spirit is something new to us and we do not know
what that looks like. We hate to admit that we don't have it all together.
Our proud faces hide the fear and chaos within. We know not where to
turn for answers, because it is so difficult to acknowledge our needs.
Forgive our pride. Help us be spiritually poor, and to humble ourselves
before You. We cannot handle life alone. We are poor and needy,
and You are the treasure we need.

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN, FOR THEY SHALL BE
COMFORTED.
God of all who suffer, we would rather laugh than shed tears. But only
in sorrow can we experience Your comfort. Forgive us for not wanting
to show our emotions or express our feelings. Help us to cry without
shame, and to feel deeply, not only our own pain, but also the pain of
those around us. From our own losses and mistakes, we learn to
understand the shortcomings of others. Because of our own wounds
we are able to share courage and strength with those around us. As we
do this, we do indeed find comfort.

BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.
Lord of the earth, you require so much from those who believe in You.
Meek is a word we do not like; it lacks the ring of strength, power and
influence. We ask, "Who will look out for me?" Oh, it's not about me.
It's about You and Your creation. We are not to crow about ourselves.
Rather with a gentle and quiet spirit, we take pleasure in seeing the
goodness of other people and promote their strengths. We will lead from
weakness and without praise. We stand for the rights of others while
claiming nothing as a right for ourselves. If we do these things, the
promise is that we will be fit stewards of Your earth.

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR
RIGHTEOUSNESS, FOR THEY SHALL BE SATISFIED.
When people are selfish, cruel and blind, we feel like aliens in our own
world and long for a better way. Like sailors who have been adrift too long,
we hunger for the life You intended for us. We want to believe in God's
dream. As we emerge from the murky waters, clothe us in Your
righteousness. We will live in Your light, and do right things for good
reasons. The more of You we want, the more You will give us and so
we shall be fully satisfied.

BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL, FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY.
God of grace, You have showered us with mercy, love and compassion.
You have given us better than we deserve; now we will do the same for
those who travel the road of life with us. Rid us of all malice and meanness.
Forgive the times we have been exacting and demanding; when we have
insisted that someone pay for their sins. As You forgive us, so we will
forgive each other. Help us to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of
others, and lower our expectations when needful in order to save the
dignity of the other. As we give, so we shall receive.

BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.
Dear Jesus, our lives are pulled in so many different directions. Life is full;
full of good things to do, interesting people to meet, commendable goals
to achieve. Plus all the duties and necessary things that are required
of us. And now You want us to be pure. Undivided. Unmixed. Not just
gold-plated, but solid gold through and through! The pure in heart turn
their faces toward God, and anything that is not bathed in the light of God
needs to be shaved away and let go. That knife is sharp and we do not
know if we can bear the pain, till all that remains is-- everyone we love
and everything we do, in Jesus' name. Then everywhere, at all times,
and in every face, we will see God.

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS, FOR THEY SHALL BE CALLED
CHILDREN OF GOD.
We want to be children of the Heavenly Father, but we have trouble
getting along within the family. We have all experienced conflict; we
know what anger and fear can do. Instead of heaven on earth, we have
created hell. Turn us around from our destructive ways. We must do
an "about face." God help us to strive for peace with justice in all our
relationships, to build bridges instead of walls, and disagree without
being disagreeable. Peace is a rebirth, a starting again at a new
beginning with God and with each other. Those who make peace
are truly created in God's image.

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED FOR
RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
BLESSED ARE YOU WHEN THEY REVILE YOU AND PERSECUTE
YOU, AND SAY ALL KINDS OF EVIL AGAINST YOU FALSELY FOR
MY SAKE. REJOICE AND BE EXCEEDINGLY GLAD, FOR GREAT IS
YOUR REWARD IN HEAVEN, FOR SO THEY PERSECUTED THE
PROPHETS WHO WERE BEFORE YOU.
Thoughts of persecution fill us with dread. But when we are attacked
for Jesus' sake and for believing in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus says
we should be filled with joy, do a happy dance and have a real celebration!
These words surprise us. We need this reminder that those who suffer
for the cause of goodness, draw strength from the kingdom of heaven
within them. Criticism, teasing, ridicule, being treated unfairly, taking
the heat for others--don't save us from all these things, O Lord, but
help us get through it with rejoicing!

Thank you, Jesus, for showing us a happiness not based on our
emotions or our circumstances. Spiritual poverty, sorrow, meekness,
longing for goodness, mercy, purity, making peace, and suffering for the
kingdom of heaven--some people may not recognize the value of these
things. But we know it to be true.  This is where we met God and our
fellowman in meaningful relationships. You have trusted us with Your
dream, now help us to trust You by living Your way every day.  Amen.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: Describe a time in your life, or a particular situation, when
                   you felt close to God. Then as a group, determine if that time
                   of "closeness with God" is described in any of the beatitudes.

 

What are some of the popular uses for the word "bless"?
            Do you have a favorite way in which you "bless" people?
            What did Jesus mean when he used the word "bless"?

 

Which beatitude do you like the best? The least?
            Share the reasons for your choices.
            Is there one beatitude that is more important than another?

 

If you could change one of the beatitudes to suit you better,
            how would it read?
If you could write a beatitude of your own, what would you say?
            "Happy are those who __________________________________"

 

In the real world, many of the beatitudes just don't make sense. The poor
are not blest, those who mourn are not comforted, and we see little mercy
or peace.
            What would you say to someone who says that the beatitudes
            are not worth the paper they are written on? That they are not true?

 

Many of the beatitudes are just the opposite of what is commonly
believed to be true! Make a list of all the qualities Jesus highlighted in the
beatitudes. Then make a second list of what the opposite of each
beatitude is. Finally, consider what you see most in the world around you--
what Jesus said or the opposite?
            Which world would you rather live in?

 

As you think about the beatitudes, is Jesus describing anybody you know?
            If yes, you could bless that person and yourself by telling them so. 
In what ways is Jesus describing you?   Or not describing you?


The beatitudes have been labeled the "Be happy attitudes".
            What is an attitude?  And how is it different from an emotion?
            Can a person become happy by changing their attitude?
            Give examples of how your thinking determines your action?

 

Jesus is speaking of a happiness not dependent on the circumstances.
            Give some examples of people who showed evidence of being
                        blest even though they were going through hard times?
            Have you ever known happiness or peace within an unpleasant
                        circumstance?    If so, how did that happen?

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