G. W. Carver and J.H. Pickle, Jr.

Have you heard of these men? Both are scientists … well, J. H. is still a scientist, but G. W. was a scientist until he passed away in 1943.

David Pickle called me last week and said he had a book for me, so I drove over to get it. It was so interesting that it didn’t take me very long to finish reading it. The book was compiled and written by Dave’s brother, John H. Pickle, Jr., and it’s an amazing account of his father’s interaction with the outstanding scientist, George Washington Carver! The title of the book is, One of His Boys.

Quoting from the back of the book, “George Washington Carver is today remembered in part for the many products he derived from the peanut, a crop he urged on Southern Farmers to replace cotton and avoid soil exhaustion and the boll weevil. Less known are the multitude of college students Carver took under his wing over the years in relationships that were cherished by and valuable to the scientist. One of His Boys is the story of the mentorship of Johnnie Pickle, one young man inspired to follow in Carver’s footsteps after witnessing firsthand the Wizard of Tuskegee’s wisdom.”

Johnnie Pickle had the privilege of meeting the African American scientist in 1932. Because of this “chance encounter” Johnnie was inspired to become a scientist. Johnnie’s son, John Jr. also followed in Carver’s and Johnnie’s footsteps, and [quoting the book] “spent thirty years developing products for farmers to use. He is now retired and continues to promote good science.”

Dr. John H. Pickle, Jr., spoke about their father’s long-time interaction with Carver. The presentation was at the George Washington Carver National Monument on Saturday, September 11, 2021. I attended and enjoyed the presentation as well as enjoyed meeting Dr. John Pickle.

Carver was the most prominent black scientist in the early 1900s. Two of the things he is famous for were crop-rotation and creating over 300 uses for the peanut. I found it quite interesting that, until 1870, peanuts grown in America were primarily used as a garden crop, and its primary large-scale purpose was hog food until around 1932.

Here’s a bit of peanut trivia.

President Thomas Jefferson was a botanist and grew peanuts. The peanut was nutrition for soldiers during the Civil War. Known as goober peas, the Southerners pronounced them gooba peas because the word from Africa was, nguba.

Enter George Washington Carver, the Wizard from Tuskegee.

Quoting Carver: “All my life, I have risen regularly at four in the morning to go into the woods and talk with God. That’s where He reveals His secrets to me. When everybody else is asleep, I hear God best and learn my plan.”

One morning, George asked God why He made the peanut.

Quoting Carver: “He told me, separate the peanut into water, fats, oils, gums, resins, sugars, starches, and amino acids. Then recombine these under My three laws of compatibility, temperature, and pressure. Then you will know why I made the peanut.”

Eight of these discoveries are flour, paste, insulation, paper, wood stains, shaving cream, tires, and skin lotion.

That heavenly advice helped Carver discover over 300 uses for the peanut, and that changed the South, changed ethnic relations, and changed the agriculture industry.

I laughed when I learned that Carver didn’t merely “talk to God.” He “conversed with God.” That’s exactly what prayer is supposed to be – a conversation with God. Carver said, “God speaks to us every hour, if we will only TUNE IN.”

God is alive, and He wants to communicate with us. If I do all the talking, I’ll get no answers. I know what my problems and needs are, at least I think I know, but God really knows them. If I merely recite to God what He already knows, I’m not learning anything.

But if I listen, I can hear God giving me helpful information – as He gave Carver information. God communicates with me often, and wants to converse with you, too. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep know My voice.”

God listens, then responds to us. Do you listen to God?

Truth Must Prevail

“With your expertise with words, why didn’t you become a lawyer?”

I’ve been asked that question often and the answer is simple. But first, let’s review the historical American judicial concept.

  1. Innocent until proven guilty. The first reference I could find to that phrase is from the Law Reports of the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1835 that says, “The law presumes all innocent of crime until proven guilty.” Americans wanted to prevent rule by emotion and/or prejudice. And the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution (1868) grants all citizens – including former slaves – equal protection of the laws. We wanted to assure that ALL American citizens were treated equally and fairly.
  2. Everyone gets a fair trial. Governments in the old countries gave preferential treatment to nobility and wealthy people. But we’ve declared that a defendant will be tried by jury consisting of peers in the same locale who desire truth to prevail. This fair-trial principle assures that time is permitted to gather evidence, that truth-seeking lawyers are available to represent both sides, and for justice to prevail.
  3. Justice will prevail. Whether by judge or jury, we want the innocent to be free from any legal retribution, to receive adequate restitution, and the guilty to face the consequences of his/her crime. Justice is the administration of law, the determination of right and wrong according to a standard of truth. And a standard is not variable; it is solid, fixed, immovable.

A legal standard assures equality in the three points listed above because it downplays emotion and over-rides prejudice.

Now let’s review current practices within our judicial system.

Lawyers play games with both defendants and victims. While it is true that a defendant should be represented by a legally astute person (lawyer), the defending lawyers often cover up truth in an attempt to prove the person is innocent. This is intentional. They are trying to do their job. Also, the prosecuting lawyers tend to go overboard in demonizing the defendant in order to gain the greatest ruling for his/her client. On both sides, truth is not the issue: word games are employed and winning the case is the prize.

In order to play the game adequately, the standard of law is set aside. Defendants are often tried outside the locale in which the crime was committed; and as much as possible, jurors are chosen if they know nothing of the case, then are told how they must judge. In other words, jurors are often not free to judge according to the crime.  

Sometimes as the defending attorney sees that he is losing the case, he will employ the procedural rule: You missed this step or the police did that wrong, therefore, my client should go free. Other times the the lawyers intentionally make either the accused or the accuser the target of the judicial system.

What happened to the standard of law? Or, you may ask, what IS the standard of law?

A legal standard is a code that is a systematic and comprehensive statement of laws. The code of Hammurabi dating back to 1755 BC is one of the oldest. The Ten Commandments were given to Moses around 1450 BC, and these are foundational to the Bible. The Roman Empire based their law on the Law of the Twelve Tables of 451 BC (Lex XII Tabularum). Of course, every empire and major nation had or has their legal code.

The United States of America based our legal system on the Bible. It is a Judeo-Christian system with overtones of Hammurabi, Greece, Rome, and England intertwined. And we thrived as a nation as long as we lived by that standard.

Why didn’t I become a lawyer? Our judicial system is no longer based on the standard of law, but flounders on the floating quagmire of relativism and argumentation. Truth is not the focus and is often ignored in the fight to win the case. I strongly reject that judicial farce.

To further complicate matters, morality is also set aside. Right and wrong are decided on the prevailing winds of relativism – not on Hammurabi, the Ten Commandments, The Twelve Tables, or the Holy Bible. Men and women (judges and Congress) over-ride the standard – the Holy Word of God – but I openly establish my ethics on the Bible and on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Insisting on “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,” I wouldn’t last long as a lawyer.

But take heart: Jesus will re-establish truth and law when He returns. And He WILL return.

What’s Over the Next Hill?

“Daddy, what’s over that hill?”

“What do you think you’ll see?” Dad chuckled. He must have been humored at my numerous questions. He continued, “If you sit still for a minute, we’ll be on that hill, then we’ll both find out.” Dad knew but wanted the view to be a surprise.

From my earliest memories at almost 3-years old, I’ve always wondered: What’s around the corner? What’s in the box? How did the mountain get there? What’s fire made out of? What’s over the next hill? I’ve always had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I still do.

That was a special trip for me. I was 5 years old, and seldom had the privilege of spending time with dad and mom by myself. Eventually, I had five sisters and four brothers, and this trip would be the first of three trips where I was the only one dad and mom took with them.

Mom was taking a nap in the front seat of the Hudson Hornet, my four sisters (two older and two younger) were left with elders in the church, and I was leaning over the front seat looking with eyes wide open. I had never seen mountains and valleys like this. Seat belts hadn’t been invented yet, but we never had a problem.

There were no freeways where we lived in 1951, and our highways allowed us to travel at the break-neck speed of 55 miles per hour. However, some of these mountain roads allowed only 35-45 mph. Our destination was about 400 miles away, and we left home long before daylight.

As we approached the crest of the hill, dad asked, “Eugene, do you know where we’re going?”

“Yes, we’re goin’ campin’.”

“That’s right. But do you remember where mother said we’re going?”

While I was trying to remember that hard word, we reached the top of the hill. Dad pulled over to the side of the road.

“Ooooohhhhh Daddy! Someone broke that mountain in half!” I was stunned to see half a mountain standing on the side of the valley.

Dad already had his camera in hand and was opening the door. “Son, that broken mountain is called ‘Half-Dome’ and this is called Yosemite Na… Eugene? Where are you?”

Dad found me hiding inside the car, not wanting to get out. I was scared spitless of heights, and when I saw the valley floor WAY DOWN THERE, I panicked. But peeking out the window, I couldn’t take my eyes off that broken mountain.

“Okay, Eugene. Would you get out of the car if I hold your hand?”

I shook my head, “Hu-uh.”

When mom said, “Daddy will let you look through his binoculars if you get out of the car,” I agreed to hold daddy’s hand and get out.

That was my introduction to Yosemite National Park.

We drove down into the canyon and dad took me on a few short hikes. I enjoyed playing in the heavy mist of Bridal Veil Falls, then helping dad set up camp. I don’t remember how much of a help I was, but it was fun being with daddy and mommy.

My favorite part was watching the fire fall down the face of Glacier Point. The park ranger gave a talk each evening, and an entertainment group sang as others prepared a roaring fire on top of Glacier Point. Then at 9:00 PM, the ranger hollered, “Let the fire fall!”

Several men then pushed the burning material over the edge with bulldozers, and a river of glowing embers fell more than a half mile (some 3,000) feet to the valley floor. Little boys never forget things like that. (The final “fire-fall” was on January 25, 1968.)

The question of “what’s over the next hill” has never left me. I might see an elk, a river, a glowing sunset, the wide expanse of the ocean, or another mountain. I never tire of it. And I am blessed with a wife who shares the same adventurous spirit.

We’ve been in every state of the Union and have driven over many hills. But there is one “hill” I cannot experience yet, and I can only imagine what the other side looks like. I’ll go over that hill after I take my last breath here on earth and enter heaven. I’m not in a hurry to get there, but God, dad, and mom are waiting for me, and I won’t be afraid of that height. Who knows: God might have thousands of hills over there for me to experience.

Water!

“Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” So states the 29th stanza of the The Rime [Rhyme] of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The somewhat confusing poem is too long for me to remember, but those lines stick with me.

One of Bob Nolan’s songs sung by the Sons of the Pioneers is Cool Water. The first stanza is: “All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water; Cool water. Old Dan and I with throats burned dry and souls that cry for water, Cool water.” By the way, Old Dan is the mule or horse.

There’s much water in the poem and no water in the song – but in both situations, drinkable water is not available. Mankind has fought for thousands of years over water rights, but what’s the reason for this obsession?

Simply this: Humans can live for four or five weeks without food; but barely a week without water.

However, earth is a watery world. Earth is the only planet in our solar system that is naturally and readily habitable for mankind. Water is found almost everywhere either on or under the surface of the earth: from the polar ice caps to boiling geysers.

The oceans are an integral part of our lives because their influence dominates the world’s weather systems. About 96% of earth’s water covers approximately 71% of the earth’s surface. I read that under current atmospheric conditions, the atmosphere can hold approximately 37 million, billion gallons of water – enough to cover the entire surface of the world, including oceans, with one inch of water.

But if the solid earth were a smooth, round ball, one estimate is that the existing surface water – from oceans, lakes, and rivers – would be about 1.5 miles deep.

A water molecule is made of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom – H2O – and water aids in sustaining a breathable atmosphere and a viable temperature. It is water that keeps vegetation, animals, and people alive.

Solar radiation heats the atmosphere, land, and oceans. As the warm air rises, water vapor rises with it. As the moisture enters the upper atmosphere, it cools, forms clouds, and spreads the live-sustaining liquid across the world as rain, hail, and snow.

Water is the world’s greatest solvent – humorously, but correctly, called dihydrogen monoxide (H2O). It is called the universal solvent because it dissolves more minerals and compounds than any other chemical known. Scientists have proven this by extracting gold, silver, lead, copper, and a host of other elements from sea water. Water from rain and snow dissolves those minerals from mountains and prairies and deposits them into lakes and oceans.

As corn, beans, wheat, potatoes, and all the other crops grow, their root systems absorb these minerals, and they become part of us as we eat the food. It takes water a long time to break down organic material; therefore, the body creates HCL (hydrochloric acid) to break down or digest food, and the watery blood system distributes food, vitamins, and minerals to every cell of the body.

Water is a major component of the human body. Bodies of newborn babies average 78% water but the adult body averages about 60%. The average water content in adult blood is 80%, and lungs are about 90% water.

Water has enabled mankind to build or advance civilization in many ways. Rivers, lakes, and oceans have been major highways of the world for thousands of years. Dams have been built across major rivers around the world, and the rushing water turns huge hydroelectric turbines to produce electrical power for untold millions of homes and factories. The oceans provide food for people and help to regulate climate by redistributing heat around the world.

Water is critical for life; and without water, live cannot exist.

But there is another kind of water that is critical for humanity. As H2O is mandatory for human life, Jesus has provided “living water” that is mandatory for Eternal Life. Jesus said in John 4:14, “Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.”

How? That means He will sustain or help us throughout life. We “drink” of this living water by learning to know Jesus, purposely obeying Him, and living to please Him. This water includes wisdom that we need as we interact with others; and this water is necessary in every other aspect of human life.

Without this living water, we cannot enter the kingdom of God. Have you partaken of God’s living-water? Quench your spiritual thirst. Start by reading the Gospel of John. Follow it up by reading the book of Romans.

Memories of Dad

I was five years old, we lived in El Cajon, California, and the church building dad and the deacons built was completed. I was allowed to run in and around the building during certain phases of construction; but after completion, running in church was not allowed.

But I didn’t always obey my parents.

Reddy was my best friend, and when daddy wasn’t watching, we liked to run up the long flight of stairs on one side of the sanctuary, race in the upstairs hallway, and run down the stairs on the other side.

Dad warned me with, “I’ll tan your hide if you don’t obey me.” But for some reason, I did it anyway. I also went into his church office whenever I wanted to. After all, I was the pastor’s kid.

One Sunday morning dad had a personnel issue to handle, and told me to stay out of his office. I could obey that order. Until …

I told Reddy that Daddy was busy so we could run. “Goody!” Reddy almost shouted.

Up one side we ran, down the hall we raced, and ran down the steps on the other side. But getting ready to run down the steps on the second round, I tripped on the top step.

I tumbled head-over-heels all the way down. Miraculously, not a bone was broken and I wasn’t even bleeding anywhere. But my breathing mechanism had totally shut down!

In that situation, there was only one thing to do – Go See Daddy!

Not breathing, I burst into his office. Dad turned and was about to order me back out but saw that my face was turning blue and my mouth was wide open.

“Oh, my Lord!” I remember hearing dad say.

He quickly placed me over his knee, gave me a hard whack on the back which restarted my breathing, and said, “That’ll take care of you ‘til we get home!”

Now I had a different problem.

Back home after the church meeting, dad asked me what had happened. Fearfully, I admitted that I disobeyed him and tumbled down the stairs as I was running. (The picture is dad holding my sister, Sharon.)

I was amazed – and relieved – when dad pronounced, “Tumbling down the stairs was your punishment – this time.” Then pulling me to himself and wrapping his arms around me, he gently said, “Eugene, that fall was a hard lesson. Do you think you can remember not to run in church?”

There was only one answer: “Yes, daddy. I won’t run in church again.”

And I never did.

Three years later, we lived in Baldwin Park, California, and dad was in his final year of preparation to re-enter the US Navy as a chaplain. His schedule of seminary classes, being a pastor-husband-father, and sneaking in a few hours of sleep whenever possible, was quite full.

One Friday when I was sitting at the kitchen table with dad as he was finalizing his sermon for the coming Sunday, mom told me it was time for bed.

“Can I stay up with Daddy for a while?”

“No; it’s time for bed. Come on.”

“Can I PLEASE stay up for a little while? I don’t get to see Daddy very much.”

Dad looked up and said, “Eugene, if you want to stay up with me, you need to be very quiet. Don’t make a sound.”

“I’ll be quiet.” I never said something that fast before in my life.

Mom gave me a pencil (no pens back then), and dad gave me some paper. I was in heaven for another hour with my daddy. I have no idea what I wrote, scribbled, or doodled that night, but I remember the extreme joy of being with my daddy. And the well-worn Bible that dad was using that night is now in my office.

Dad is in heaven and our communication is over until I get there. But I do have the extreme joy of spending time with God – my eternal Father in heaven. He enjoys my visits.

God has an open-door policy, and continually invites us into His presence. Have you visited Him lately?

God’s Instruction Manual for Christians

Have you ever struggled with trying to assemble a piece of furniture you bought in a kit? These so-called “easy to assemble kits” can soon raise your blood pressure if you fail to read and follow the instructions accompanying the kit. However, even reading the directions carefully can still present problems because they’re not always clearly understandable to the reader.

In like manner, sometimes we have problems understanding portions of Scripture – even while reading carefully. Why is that? The Bible was written in a different time zone, in a different culture, and in a different language; and at times it seems to be hard to understand.

This book, Charter of the Christian Faith, could well be titled “God’s Instruction Manual for Christians.” My friend, Gene, has brought to life these vital truths through numerous illustrations from Scripture, his own life, and the lives of others. This portion of scripture is foundational if we are to attain to Christlikeness. Sadly, we so often skim over the beatitudes in our attempt to finish our designated daily reading on time.

This teaching is by no means ‘fast food’ to be eaten in haste, but rather a fine meal to linger over as you allow the Holy Spirit to apply these truths to your life. Why not find a quiet place and feast your soul? Take as long as you need; the longer you chew the more you will profit from it.

Rev. David Ravenhill: Pastor, Evangelist, Author, Teacher

Are You Color-Blind?

Years ago, I suspected that one of my friends might have a vision difficulty, so I asked him: “Are you color-blind?” He surprised me by asking if I referred to ethnic identification. We laughed, and he told me he was partially color-blind. But he had a point to which I will return later.

So, optically-speaking, what does it mean to be color-blind? Normally, color-blindness is an inherited genetic vision problem; but aging, disease, sickness, or an injury can also trigger it. Sometimes color-blindness can be a side-effect of medicine.

A color-blind person has difficulty seeing primary colors, or a mix of these colors from which every other conceivable color comes. Three theories potentially define primary colors. One basic concept identifies red, blue, and green; and another theory classifies red, blue, and yellow as primary. A third theory includes red, blue, green, and yellow.

A popular belief is that color-blind people cannot see any color at all, but that isn’t always correct. Therefore, the term is actually misleading, but we’ll use it for ease of understanding in this Reflection. And let me add here: very seldom will people even with excellent vision see colors exactly the same as others do.

As various mixes of primary colors produce the different colors and hues, the light-receiving cones in the retinas of our eyes sense variations of the light spectrum which the brain interprets as the hundreds of possible colors. The highest concentration of these color-receiving cones is in the macula – the central part of the retina. Color-blindness occurs when the cones don’t function properly.

One common method of diagnosing color-blindness is by looking at patterns of variously colored dots and trying to decipher numbers, letters, or other patterns embedded therein. The patterns the person can or cannot recognize reveal the area of difficulty.

Inherited color-blindness cannot be treated at present, but sometimes an acquired deficiency can be treated. And I found it interesting that men (about 8%) are more likely to have the color-recognition problem than women (half a percent); but more women are carriers of the deficiency.

Color-blindness may make people ineligible for some vocations, such as flying planes. But during World War II, the Army Air Corp (predecessor to the United States Air Force) hired color-blind people to be “spotters” in planes because they would not be fooled by the camouflaging that was used to hide trucks, cannons, supplies, and soldiers.

What I found to be even more interesting is that some “color-blind” people are not really color-blind. Their eyes function properly and the retinas receive all available colors; but the individuals do not recognize color. The problem here is perception, not vision.

Many folks take the handicap in stride and get on with life. Some artists such as Australia’s Clifton Pugh overcame his handicap by focusing on shades of light and dark rather than on overt color; and France’s Charles Méryon overcame color-deficiency by focusing on etching rather than on painting.

Let me get back to ethnic identification.

My eyes have been tested for color reception, and they came out very good. Also, with my eye-glasses, I have near 20-10 (near perfect) vision. But I am somewhat “color-blind” regarding ethnicity. Many of my friends are not Caucasian or White, yet we call each other brother or sister. Ethnicity is not an issue and the love of Christ flows between us. As I interact with people from around the world, I see people made in the image of God. Even if the person isn’t a Christian, I still see someone whom Jesus loves and for whom Jesus died.

But there is another type of “color-blindness”. As our spotters in the Army Air Corp in World War II were not fooled by enemy camouflage, God’s “color-blind” people are not fooled by Satan’s deception in education, politics, and in the church.

True Vision

They are not fooled by anti-Biblical teaching that is camouflaged by religious, philosophical, political, or educational rhetoric. They are not fooled by so-called political-correctness that squelches Christianity while uplifting other religions, philosophies, and lifestyles.

These folks are blessed by the Lord, but they often come under attack. The world rejects or hates them and misguided Christians misunderstand them. But these color-blind people, like the Apostle Paul and Billy Graham, are the ones who keep the faith in Almighty God alive, and spread it around the world. If you have that kind of vision, as I do, don’t back down. People need to hear us.

You Can Rule With God

The following is an excerpt from the chapter on Humility in my book, Charter of the Christian Faith.

Years ago, Tom Whittlesey, a life-long friend and author in Tulsa, Oklahoma, wrote and gave me a proverb that helps me stay on track:

“God is not impressed with our ability; God is not disappointed with our inability; God is only gratified with our availability.”

With that in mind, think about the following people who were available to God.

  1. Noah wasn’t a ship builder, but he obeyed God and saved mankind from total annihilation.
  2. Abraham was trained to be an idol-maker but became the father of the Faith.
  3. Sarah was Abraham’s pampered half-sister, but she became the mother of the Jewish nation.
  4. Moses grew up in the Egyptian palace, became a general in the Egyptian army, and committed murder. Nevertheless, he prompted Pharaoh to set the people free.
  5. Rahab was an innkeeper, and perhaps a prostitute; but she assisted the Israelites as they crossed the Jordan River. Then marrying an Israelite, she became one of the ancestresses of Jesus.
  6. King David committed adultery and ordered a murder, but he wrote many of the Psalms while making Israel a mighty nation.
  7. Deborah, the judge, was not a soldier, but she gave Barak the battle plan.
  8. Peter was an uncouth, impulsive fisherman, but he is the one who declared Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God! and became a leader in the early Church.
  9. Saul arrested Christians to be tortured or killed, but he became the Apostle Paul, ministered to the gentile nations, and wrote at least thirteen of the New Testament books.
  10. Martin Luther was a depressed monk, but he rediscovered, “By faith you are saved; not by works lest any man should boast.”
  11. Corrie ten Boom was a watchmaker’s daughter; but surviving the holocaust during World War II, she shared her testimony of love and forgiveness around the world.
  12. Billy Graham was raised on a dairy farm, but he took the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

Did you notice how each of the people on that list helped build the kingdom of God? They were not trained to do what made them famous, and all of them would have remained in the shadows of history had they not obeyed God. However, because they responded to the Lord, their influence is still being felt in the world, and that is one way by which they are rulers in God’s Kingdom.

Because of God’s promises, their rulership has been increased in heaven. The principle is in Luke 19:17 where Jesus was telling a story. “The king said to the servant, ‘You are a good servant. Since I can trust you with small things, I will let you rule over ten of my cities” (NCV). When we humbly avail ourselves to the Lord, and obey Him, God is not hesitant to expand our reputation in order to build His Kingdom. Let me repeat: God is not impressed with our ability; God is not disappointed with our inability; God is only gratified with our availability.

God created us to rule with Him. His response to our humble availability is likely to be, I am indeed pleased. After a maturing process, you shall become a ruler in My Kingdom, beginning in this earthly life.

Read more in Charter of the Christian Faith – available at Amazon.com.

The Beatitudes are Progressive

This is a follow-up to last week’s blog. It gives a little more insight into the book, Charter of the Christian Faith.

I began seriously studying the Beatitudes while attending the Oklahoma Baptist University in 1985. At the end of the semester, I had to choose one of five topics for my thesis, and I chose Matthew 5:1-12. As I began the research, I experienced almost as much confusion as I did when I read the Beatitudes as a child. But the more I dug into the topic, the more interesting it became, and the greater impact it had on my life.

A major concept I discovered is that the Beatitudes are progressive; they are sequential steps to godliness. It wasn’t obvious when I compared Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God with Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. The words didn’t adequately convey the intent of the Beatitudes; that’s why it’s difficult to comprehend the depth of the message. But when I realized that poor in spirit is sincere humility and mourning is deep sorrow because I have offended God, it became clear that there is an order to these concepts.

This example will clarify my point. When we want to learn math, we don’t begin by studying lambda calculus or advanced trigonometry. We start with adding and subtracting, and progress from there. In like manner, we’ll find out that everything we need to know, or even want to know, about enhancing our relationship with Jesus, starts with humility: the first Beatitude.

As we study the Bible, we find that the Beatitudes, and how God uses them to change and mature us, flow in magnificent sequence—in perfect order.

As we often climb stairs one step at a time to enter a house, mankind has known for thousands of years that we learn one step at a time. Jesus knew it and was a master teacher. That’s why these are not random thoughts to mull over; they are sequential. Following a logical order, each Beatitude is the step to reach the next one.

The goal that God the Father set before all of us is for us to become like Christ, but He knows it will be a life-long endeavor. Therefore, He provided the eight-step process the Church calls the Beatitudes to make the spiritual journey more understandable. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount, prefaced by the Beatitudes “is considered to be the most important sermon Jesus ever preached and starts with what is considered to be the most important attitudes that we need to have, The Beatitudes.”11

Preceding each chapter, is a pictorial illustration of the journey. The man represents humanity, the donkey represents the human mind without Christ, and the lion represents the Lion of Judah, and that is Jesus who is available to help us.

How did Jesus begin this teaching?

And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain; and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him. And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying….

Whoa! Stop there. Let’s think about this.

There were 5,000 men, plus possibly another 5,000 women and children. How could a multitude that large hear, let alone understand, someone sitting down? Something doesn’t seem right about this picture.

That’s why we study. Let’s read further and analyze the scene.

Although Jesus spoke to large crowds at other times, Matthew 5:2 reveals that Jesus may not have been speaking loudly to thousands, or even hundreds of men, women, and children in this setting. Others may have heard, but the entire Sermon on the Mount—three chapters—was spoken primarily to these twelve men. Why do I say that?

The phrase He opened His mouth is a solemn pronunciation. This is in contrast with verses such as Mark 15:1 which says, And they cried out again, Crucify him! To cry out is to shout! But the phrase He opened His mouth is an important, quiet activity. Jesus was teaching His followers personally, quietly, and without the interference of a noisy crowd.

According to the end of chapter seven, there were many people on the hillside, and some listened in and learned from the Master. (Jesus also taught these same truths to others in different places.) But in this setting, although others may have heard, Jesus purposely addressed a small group of twelve men.

Learn more about Jesus’ primary teaching in the New Testament, and how you can become an effective representative of Almighty God by reading Charter of the Christian Faith. You may find the book on Amazon.

THE BE-WHATITUDES?

For many years I’ve taught about the Bible and from the Bible. One of the series I’ve been asked to teach on quite often is found in the 5th chapter of Matthew. Because of the profound nature of that section of Scripture, I call this teaching, Charter of the Christian Faith. Today’s blog is a portion of the preface of my book by the same name, and will give you a feel for what’s in the following pages. The foreword is written by Rev. David Ravenhill.

I remember as a child in Sunday School, one of my teachers wanted us to memorize the be-something-or-others; but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. I hated memorizing, and these things didn’t make any sense to me. Not only did I not understand them, but the teacher also couldn’t adequately explain them, either so I never got a gold star for learning those be-whatitudes.

But I did mentally retain other verses that made sense to me. Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” And John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I understood those verses, even in the King James Version. In fact, most of what I committed to memory was from the KJV.

Also, Acts 1:11 clearly told me that while the people stood watching the incredulous sight of Jesus ascending into the sky, angels told them how Jesus will return. Men of Galilee, they said, why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return from heaven in the same way you saw Him go! (NLT). That gave me confidence that Jesus would come back, and it told me how He would return. No questions, no guesses. No less than 67 famous people, and more than five hundred others, have claimed to be the returned messiah; but people should have understood they were fake messiahs because not one of them came the way the Bible says Jesus would return.

Nevertheless, I had a hard time with the Beatitudes, but I wasn’t alone. Author Philip Yancey said in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, “I learned the Beatitudes [as a teenager] yet I never faced the fact that none of us—I above all—could make sense of those mysterious sayings, let alone live by them.” He later said, “If I fail to understand this teaching, I fail to understand Him [Jesus].” That is a powerful statement.

Teacher and song-writer Bill Gaither said, “What we call the Beatitudes still challenge our value systems every day.” Many people—including many in the Church—view the Beatitudes merely as lofty ideals: holy-sounding platitudes which are beyond our grasp. Some people think of them as verses or sayings to comfort the spirit in time of trouble. But is this the primary intent of the first major teaching that Jesus gave us in the New Testament? I don’t think so.

I believe Matthew 5:3-12 is the Charter of the Christian Faith, and this Charter is developed in the full Sermon on the Mount in chapters five through seven.

Again, quoting E. Stanley Jones, “Years ago when I asked Mahatma Gandhi what we could do to naturalize Christianity in India so that it would cease to be a foreign thing, among other concepts he replied: ‘Practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down’—and he had in mind the Sermon on the Mount.… This fresh discovery, by a Hindu, of a truth long buried beneath the armaments of the fighting West, has been one of the most important spiritual discoveries of modern times.”

In order to properly understand the Beatitudes, we must realize they were not originally intended for our consolation, and they’re not statements to make us sound spiritual. Rather, they comprise one of the most important sets of instructions we could ever receive.

I’ll share more highlights in weeks to come, but you can order your copy on Amazon today. Also, check out my website at genelinzey.com.