When I read the news or watch an update on TV and hear the stories of murder, terror, or civil unrest, I can find myself vacillating between fear, anger, or despair. Do you ever feel powerless or that nothing you do will matter?

In recent years, it seems that in some parts of the Body of Christ we can see a kind of polarization taking place.

Here in the beginning of Jesus’ historic Sermon (what we’ve called, His “manual on true discipleship”), He paints a clear picture of what our identity is as Christ-followers. In the context of this sermon, imagine that a coin represents disciples of Jesus who have a profound impact on the world and culture around them, and the two sides of that coin …

The Sermon on the Mount, an introduction to life as a disciple, connects our life as Christ-followers to the reign and rule of God, that is, His kingdom. Today I’ll focus on the first and eighth Beatitudes which are unique in that they promise present tense blessings: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

I was out for a run recently, listening to worship music on my iPod. I was talking to the Lord, asking why I was feeling distant from Him. I acknowledged that my times with Him had been rushed, and I had been feeling the distance that comes with lack of contact.

 
As I ran, it was as if He replied, “You feel distant from me because you have been relating to me in the third person.”

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about what it means to be “holy,” the importance of Christ-followers being different than the world around them. Yet, if this wonderful difference is only experienced among fellow believers—in the holy huddle—a needy world will never experience the life giving difference.

As followers of Jesus, we are all called to holiness (see 1 Peter 1:15). But I know I don’t get “it” right every time. And I can certainly find a chorus of friends and co-workers who would echo a hearty “amen.” The word holiness means “set apart or purposefully different.” It doesn’t mean “perfection.”

One of the ways we can pass along God’s goodness to others is through our words.

 
Recently, our house was full of people. Usually I enjoy having people around. But I was tired, and sometimes when I’m tired out, I need to be alone and recharge, so having a houseful was wonderful, but challenging. One morning, I got into it with one of our adult kids. I got out of hand and my words became hurtful to the point that another of our adult children said, “Dad!” Gotta hate being called down by your own kids, especially when they are right!

When people rub up against you, what do they feel? Back in December, while Christmas shopping for my wife, Pam, I found myself sampling the feel of some clothing I was thinking of buying for her. Some felt soft to the touch; others not so much. What is the texture of your life? In one of his letters to the early believers, the apostle Paul described the texture that will be produced by the Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s life:

How do we measure the output of our lives? How do we tell if we are “tube-people”? (See my previous post about “tube-people” vs. “can-people.”) Looking back at my own life story, I find there were seasons that were characterized by genuinely living for God, and seasons that smelled of self-motivation. Jesus used the idea of “fruit” to express the outflow of a person’s life.