Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: beatitudes (page 1 of 2)

Jesus Said: Be Shalom


Happy are people who make peace because they will be called God’s children. (Matthew 5:9, Common English Bible)

There have been a lot of troubling images out of the city of Baltimore.

These images of violence fill our TV and computer screens. And let’s be honest, they are a bit more than we can handle. The tension in our society over justice for all people seems to have collided in the streets.

Questions are being raised by many, especially those in the church, as to how we should respond. What does justice look like? What role does the church play in such discussions? Where is God calling us to be a part of this?

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Follow Friday: Susan Irene Fox

I first discovered Susan Irene Fox and her self-titled blog after she started liking some of mine posts. Out of curiosity I started reading her blog. Susan has a way of sharing profound, spiritual thoughts that are welcoming and not threatening. After a twenty-year career as an elementary school teacher, that ended due to a permanent disability, Susan started blogging to get her name out there.

She had started a Bible curriculum projected for grades K-6 called Branches. The blog was to give her an online fingerprint for potential publishers. Ever since then, both the curriculum and the blog have evolved. “The curriculum,” Susan says, “is now a biblical devotional series for families.”  Branches, which is based on John 5:14-15, is currently in the editing stage. Meanwhile, the blog has greatly expanded as “a way to edify, encourage, enrich – and sometimes gently exhort – the Body of Christ,” Susan says. The blog has become, for Susan, a way to abide in the Spirit, while building the Kingdom of God.

As I have lifted the focus off me and onto God, the experience has become rich with new insight. Followers have increased organically as the Spirit has led them. And when just one person tells me the words I write have reached his or her heart, that comment keeps me motivated for weeks, because I have been an obedient vessel.

At times, Susan will post a poem, which is an incredible way to express a gospel truth. “Poetry,” Susan says, “is a rekindled love.” She wrote poetry during high school and college. She would teach grammar through poetry writing. Often, as she writes in her personal prayer journal, she will write poems. She never, however, had the courage to make any of the poems public. With great delight, the poems were welcomed and well received. Susan got a number of reassurance and support for them, including from other poets. She now posts a poem every Sunday – “my small way of praising Him.”

Susan, like other bloggers, will occasionally do a series. Currently she is doing a series on the Beatitudes. Susan says there are two reasons that went into her decision to do a series. “The first,” she says, “is because writing a series keeps me motivated, interested, and educated.” It gives her the opportunity to “dive more deeply into a small amount of Scripture,” and then share what she gleaned from that dive with others. “The second reason,” she says, “is that, as I’m editing Branches, I’m relooking at this living text called the Bible.” Susan says that each time she ponders on the Bible, “it seems to speak differently” to her. These new ponderings lead her into areas she may not have been ready to see previously in her life. “It’s an adventure,” she says, “and I love to follow each new path.”

The topics in the series are the same topics that are included in Branches. The first series was on the Fruit of the Spirits. The series after the Beatitudes will be The Twenty Third Psalm. Each series gives an opportunity to chew and digest small pieces of Scripture at a time.

I was curious to know who Susan reads. Every so often she will quote a Christian thinker and ponderer. When Susan first came to faith, she “soaked up Lee Strobel’s books.” She names her pillars as N. T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and Henry and Richard Blackaby. She also reads Max Lucado, Tullian Tchividjian, Jonathan Merrit, Francis Chan, Phyllis Tickle, David Platt, John Ortberg, Beth Moore, and Tim Keller. But that is just to name a few.

Blogging has its rewards. I wanted to know what the most rewarding part of Susan was from blogging.

The most rewarding part of blogging is the discovery of new things about Scripture from the most amazing blog writers. I have so much to learn as a new believer, yet just this week I was greatly comforted and inspired that I am not unlike all those other “new believers” in the first century – Mary and Martha, Priscilla and Lydia, Titus and Timothy – and I am humbled and enriched to be in such gracious company.

You can read Susan’s blog at susanirenefox.com and you can follow her on Twitter @susanirenefox.

Jesus Said: More Jesus, Less You

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.” (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

The bus’ tires left the smooth pavement and hit dirt and rocks. As the bus jolted down the road, the road got narrower and narrower. After turning tight corners and dodging huge rocks, we arrived at our destination. The small, leaning building was a church in the midst of a shantytown in Costa Rica.

As we drove past the homes that were constructed with random pieces of lumber and corrugated tin, I realized that I was not in Kansas (or Virginia) anymore. As the children ran barefoot along the bus to welcome us and out of curiosity, I knew that whatever my first world problems were, they didn’t compare to the lives of these in this shantytown.

I imagined the words of Mother Teresa as she escorted visitors down her streets of Calcutta:

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Jesus Said: To Die For

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. “Not only that – count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. (Matthew 5:10-11, The Message)

Martin Luther King, Jr., in a speech in 1965, said, “If you haven’t discovered something that is worth dying for, you haven’t found anything worth living for.”  As 21st century Americans, we live for our careers, we live for our educations, we live for our families, we live for our nation, but do we live for our God?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3) willingly went into the fiery furnace, not with a certainty that God would save them, but because of their zeal to live their lives for their God.  They refused to bow to the idol made of gold, and they were persecuted for it.  They were tied up and thrown into the fiery furnace. We are taught—maybe even expected—to bow at the altar of the media, the altar of the shopping mall, the altar of the self.

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Jesus Said: Open Your Eyes

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (Matthew 5:8, The Message)

In the film, The Ron Clark Story (2006), Matthew Perry plays native North Carolinian teacher Ron Clark who moves to New York City to teach elementary school.  Clark learns quickly that the inner city school system is very different from that in small-town North Carolina.  But Clark also learns that the inner city kids need the same love that the small town kids do.

United Methodist minister James Howell reminds us that “many great teachers and heroes, from Gregory of Nyssa in the fourth century to Mother Teresa in the twentieth have taught us that we ‘see God’ in what is not at all invisible: in our neighbor.”

When we truly see our neighbor for who they are, we see God.

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