A Poor, Mourning, Gentle, Hungry, Thirsty Pilgrim

Matthew 5:3-6 (NASB)
“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 gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Poverty is not a virtue. Poverty of spirit indicates an awakened conscience to the richness of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, “…who though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich.” Our poverty is highlighted by our bankruptcy of inability to effect change or appease the Holy. Poverty is seen by the open Treasure of Light that we newly see by the chest filled with the treasure of the King and His presence. “In His light we see light.”

To mourn is not divine nor do tears of a broken heart ensure comfort that ends in a predestined resolve of happy hope. (“And they lived happily ever after.” Really? Yes! If we mourn rightly!) Crying does not ensure joy. Yet the glory here is that we who biblically mourn have eyes no longer transfixed inwardly upon our personal failures or guilt as serial lawbreakers nor upon our aggravated bitterness born of another’s lawlessness which relentlessly assaults our expectations with repetitious disappointments. Mourners are biblically comforted by being born again and from above by the Holy Spirit according to the imperishable word implanted within our hearts to birth a living, abiding hope, by which we now through tears say, “All my springs of joy are in you.”

Gentleness is not a passivity that woos others to give us an earthly inheritance as they marvel at our indifference to abuse received as our nonresponse to violence impresses them with super human tolerance or ignorance. Yes. It is not a candy-man, nor anti-man “hit me with your best shot…” A gentle man is a warrior-prince who knows his masculine options as well as His rights of inheritance, and he is bold as a lion as the wicked flee his presence as the Lord equips him with sword and shield. Moses is the preeminent type as Christ is the fulfillment. Don’t overlook the whip nor the sword welded by by the Lion-Lamb of the Tribe of Judah who for cause of truth and justice had to humble Himself to the point of death for a season that our redemption might be made complete. Our inheritance is a matter of adoption into the King’s family. We are in the King’s family by invitation. His gentleness makes us good and His goodness gives His delight in sharing the treasure of His presence with His own. Do we bear marks of being make gentled by the Good Shepherd who is the model quintessential One who is “gentle and humble of heart”?

Just because I hunger and thirst for spiritual stuff is no insurance that I will partake of the true bounty that is ever before me. Has my taste changed to long for and pursue that heavenly manna and that holy drink that truly satisfies my soul’s need for the water that springs up into eternal life and the Bread of heaven that gives life to the world? There are copy food cakes and fraudulent fad foods that promise the best in this life and the life to come. They always seem to taste so temporally sweet and earthy, yet they never touch the splendor of the King nor satisfy the deepest longing of our heart and soul. Yes, oh yes! Their delectable, attractive passing pleasure is ecstatic in temporal satisfaction but soon the soul is hungry, and a truly burning heart hungers for true food spoken of by He who came down from Heaven as the Bread of life to give His life for the world. I will only be satisfied as I “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” My journey can only end where it first began: in the Light of the One who called me by grace. He is the One who bids us to come drink freely of the waters of life that mysteriously become a well of water springing up within us into an ever-flowing well of water for the healing of the nations much as the water became wine to satisfy the celebrants at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee.

God’s call to me is to discern the counterfeits of today by a heart evaluation of myself in light of the instruction which the Lord Jesus gives me today. Am I real and do I pursue Him by establishing a life long obedience in the same direction that is characterized by construction of my house upon the Rock, so that when the storms come, He will ensure my standing when once again the sun shines on the New Day which He promises?

Mr. Bojangles was Really a Hero in Disguise


The power of the preconceived notions that had developed within the darkroom of my mind caused me to miss the obvious first clues. I erred as I denied what I really saw before me. The old man who greeted me simply did not fit the clinical picture that I thought I saw, and was supposed to see, even though I stared straight at him. The written information stated the old man, who pushed really hard on 90, tended to drink more than he ought. “Excessively“, the papers said.

The wiry-framed man lay dressed in scant more than mere quiet dignity as he stretched out upon the operating room table. For some undisclosed reason, it just seemed he did not fit the stereotypical hard-drinker profile. He patiently waited upon me to finish my final preparations of magical medicines, powerful potions, and to complete the connection of the required monitors that would soon assist me to render him insensible to his surroundings and asleep into the “Never-Never-Land of Propofol.”

Our conversation continued and I acknowledged with some surprise his clarity of thought and speech that exceeded my expectation for his age and supposedly perpetually inebriated condition. I gave pause once again as I also considered his glaringly contorted arms that lay outstretched in a symbolic, cross-like fashion, suspiciously covered in scars that smacked of the work of knives, many knives that marred not simply in a superficial style. Rather, his arms revealed deeply eroded, carved caverns which had been hewed out of what remained of his sparingly defined muscle layers. This noteworthy evidence in conjunction with my record that stated his tendency to be a “Mr. Bojangles” who “drinks a bit”, made me assume these scars testified a visible war record of many, many bar room brawls and knife fights of younger years.

So I asked the question that had invaded and continued to haunt my previously, biased mind… “Those look like old knife wounds on your arms… uh, what happened?”

In a surprisingly, dignified, (and I perceived an almost defiant manner), the old man answered, “They are knife scars. Most are anyway.” But he was not forthcoming to confirm the details of my suspicions that had already yielded my foregone conclusion of a guilty condemnation and the “just” reasonable consequence rendered upon the old drunk for past foolish behavior.

So I asked the question again, refusing to be satisfied with anything less than the best of the worst so I might more easily exalt myself over and above him in a self-righteous satisfaction all at his expense. And before I knew it, the trap was lightly sprung, and I found myself wading off into the deep snare a of dark history that was to flounder me in abject humility. It was as though the old gentleman himself unwittingly and carefully assisted me to tie the millstone about my neck as I insisted to the point of intrusiveness, “But how did you get so many knife wounds?”

In a gentle, almost surreal tone he answered quietly, but loud enough to resound as thunder throughout the hum and activity of the OR, which suddenly ceased as he uttered these words, “I was a POW.”

Momentarily stunned by this revelation that seemed to hang in the air near half an eternity, I finally managed a pathetic sound that was supposed to come out something like, “Uh, where, uh… where were you?”

“I was a POW in Germany for ten and a half months during WWII.” And then visions of atrocities beyond my imagination flooded my brain and burst upon my sight as this old hero and warrior who lay before me, quietly trusted me to do him good, not evil, as he drifted off to sleep. My knees were literally weakened and my body gave a visible shudder as I pondered this quiet declaration of war upon my pride and arrogance. I then briefly shared a story from my VA days of an old veteran volunteer who helped out there, and who had actually survived the Bataan Death March. This old grizzled warrior looked at me and simply said, “Now that was really a hard thing to do.”

I smiled as I looked at his scars again, and then thanked him for his superior service to our country, above and beyond anything I had ever done or conceived of doing. Then I repented to my God for my erroneous view and sinful disdain of a true hero, whom I initially identified as a simple drunk bearing marks of the consequences of riotous living. But in truth there lay before me a real-life American hero who actually bore in his body the marks of my freedom. I took excellent care of this old gentleman, my true hero, who once endured much hostility for me, (and many others), that we might continue to draw breath in a free land until this day.

God bless America. And God bless those whose hands You have trained, (and those You still train), for war that we might live in peace and liberty to know and worship Thee. And let us not forget… thank You for the right to write in English… not German, and thank you Jesus, by all means, that I did not have to learn Japanese!

Well it’s the Fourth of July in a few days. This true account seems appropriate.
My son, Stephen Paul Vining, is currently being trained in the art of war at Ft. Benning.
Please pray for him and for all others training to fight freedom’s fight.
May we never forget those who guard the line that we might live.
Pray most especially that he and the others might know
the nearness of God for their good..
July 1, 2012