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As you may have heard, there is a somewhat important and rather contentious election coming up in a few days. A record number of people have already voted. A record number of people are anxious about the outcome. It seems everybody in the United States is pinning their hopes on one of the candidates for President to win and save America.

Worldwide, the corona virus pandemic is growing, infecting and killing more people than ever before. After a summer reprieve, infections are surging, breaking daily records. Germany, France, Spain and Italy, to name just a few countries, are announcing shutdowns to try and get the virus under control. The United States stills leads the world with 8.8 million reported corona virus cases and more than 227,000 people dead from the disease. Everyone is hoping that they or their friends or family members don’t get infected and that an effective vaccine will be available soon.

Financially speaking, the stock market lost about 900 points recently and the unemployment rate is 7.9 percent. Millions have lost their jobs and are struggling mightily to make ends meet, hoping to get back on their feet as soon as possible.

Hope. Everyone is hoping for something, or rather, a lot of somethings. From meeting daily necessities to finding a job, to ending climate change and desiring world peace. Usually though, what people hope for is a bit more mundane.

For example, I am on the school board of my daughters school here in Oaxaca, Mexico. Sometimes, especially in the age of corona virus, the zoom board meetings can drag on as long as four hours. Before our last meeting I was hoping it wouldn’t go on so long. I was hoping we could get it over with within a couple of hours. As I was considering this desire, some verses from Galatians, which I have been studying lately, came to mind.

Galatians chapter five has a surprising number of references to the Spirit. Most Christians are aware of the fruit of the Spirit, found in verses 22 and 23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). But Paul also refers to the Spirit in verses 5, 16,17,18 and 25. He uses phrases like “through the Spirit”, “walk by the Spirit”, “led by the Spirit”, “live by the Spirit” and “keep in step with the Spirit”. In chapter six he mentions “pleasing the Spirit.”

Pondering this emphasis on the Spirit, I had to ask myself, “If you are walking by the Spirit, and led by the Spirit and living by the Spirit, what is the best you could be hoping for?”

This question caused me to take a step back and realize that most of the things I hope for are all about ME, and not so much about the SPIRIT.

Initially, considering the board meeting. I was hoping it would be shorter than normal because I don’t like board meetings at all, let alone long ones. And especially not long, zoom board meetings! I don’t enjoy them. There are a lot of activities I would rather be taking part in that make me happier than board meetings.

But looking at my attitude towards these meetings, with an eye towards pleasing the Spirit, I was struck by the thought that what I should truly be hoping for was a new attitude!

I have come to see that my hopes should be shaped and informed by the fruit of the Spirit and life in the Spirit. I should hope that our meetings will be full of love for one another and the families that we represent. That my goal, our goal, should be one of trying to bring joy to children and peace to parents who are struggling with zoom learning, home schooling and long distance education. My desire should be to have patience with those other board members with whom I disagree; to show self control in times of disagreement.

The more I thought about the Spirit, the fruit and my hopes, the more I became aware that I need to hope not so much about happenings and the outcome of events, but I to hope that I am walking by the Spirit and led by the Spirit in my inner being. I should hope that my attitude is pleasing to the Spirit regarding everything in life, including the election results, corona virus and my economic situation.

I don’t just want to do the right thing, but I want to think right thoughts, Spirit led thoughts, in every aspect of my life, from the mundane to the sublime. Paul writes in Galatians 5:5, “For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.”

Righteousness is not just doing right, but thinking right. We all struggle with those two aspects of life everyday. We all want to think right thoughts which will lead to right behavior, which leads to happiness. And we all know that God loves us and wants us to be happy, which is why he gave us his Word and his Spirit.

By the grace of God, I will be full of the Word and Spirit and full of the joy of the Lord. I hope.

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Most people in the United States live in the Kingdom of Man. Their priorities are wealth, entertainment, and acceptance, especially on social media. They want those things and find a certain amount of satisfaction in striving for and attaining them.

How different that is from the Kingdom of God. Jesus made contrasts between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man in his sermon on the plain, found in Luke six.

The first contrast is with wealth and riches. Jesus says to his disciples –

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.”

To get a better understanding of what Jesus was trying to communicate, it is important to define three words from his radical statement. The first word is blessed.

Blessed is translated from the Greek word makarios and can also mean happy or fortunate. Perhaps a better way to understand this word is to think of being happy because one is blessed by God.

Kingdom is another word to be defined. It means a realm associated with or regarded as being under the control of a particular person or thing; the spiritual reign or authority of God.

The last word to consider is poor. It is the Greek word ptochos and is also translated destitute, helpless, powerless to accomplish an end. It is a much stronger word than what we normally think of with the English word poor.

With these definitions in mind, Jesus seems to be saying, “Happy are you who are destitute and powerless, for you are are most welcome in the realm of God.”

Those living in the Kingdom, or realm, or normal world of humanity, surely find the above statement to be most ridiculous.

The rich, young man of Mark 10 certainly thought so. He comes to Jesus and asks him what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus ultimately tells him, “Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.”

The conclusion? The rich man went away sad and grieving for he was very wealthy. He was essentially telling Jesus that he would take a pass on the whole eternal life thing because his “Life”, his “Kingdom”, was firmly rooted, embedded and controlled by his riches in the Kingdom of Man.

Jesus tells his disciples that it is hard for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God. Peter pipes up and reminds Jesus that he and the other disciples left everything to follow Jesus. They were basically destitute. They had nothing but the clothes on their backs. Jesus assures them that no one who has left house or family for the gospel’s sake will fail to receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, and in the age to come, eternal life.

The message? Those who are poor, economically and spiritually, and realize that, and follow Jesus, eventually become rich in ways beyond their imagination, and those who are rich economically, and believe they have no need of Jesus eventually become destitute, maybe not in this life, but definitely in the life to come.

That is illustrated in Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus.(Luke 16:19-31) The rich man dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury everyday. At his gate was a destitute beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores who longed to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.

They both died and the angels carried Lazarus to Abraham’s side in heaven. The rich man found himself in Hades, where he was in torment. He was so destitute and powerless that he begs for Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool his tongue.

The tables are turned, just as Jesus taught in Luke 6.

Verse 20 – “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.”

Verse 24- “Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”

Other contrasts between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man that Jesus makes in this chapter:

Verse 21 – Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.

Verse 25 – Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Verse 21 – Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Verse 25 – Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

Verse 22 – Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.

Verse 26 – Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

The choice? She’s a clear one. As humans, we need to recognize our need of Jesus. We need to recognize our spiritual poverty; that our hunger for happiness and satisfaction can only be filled with Christ; that we mourn for lack of justice in this world and realize hope can only be found in Him who promises us that one day we will laugh and all will be well. Choose the Kingdom of God over the Kingdom of Man.

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