Sitting on the Mount of Beatitudes
On our Holy Land tours, the Mount of Beatitudes is one of our favorite places to visit in Israel. Much of its attraction can be linked to its serenity. Although a church and some gardens have been added to the site, it is still just part of a huge meadow on the side of a hill overlooking the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is very likely that his was the place where Jesus preached his most famous discourse now known as the Sermon on the Mount.

The hillside is located just a few miles from Capernaum, the once-busy trade center that served as the headquarters for Jesus’ earthly ministry. The mount provided a great get-away spot for the rabbi Jesus to gather his eclectic group of followers known as the disciples. It was on this hillside meadow that He taught and trained them.

It wasn’t long before crowds of people came to hear the rabbi speak. They were initially drawn by the miracles and healings that Jesus performed, but they grew increasingly fascinated by the lessons that he taught. His teachings contradicted those of their own religious leaders known as the Pharisees. Instead of focusing on obeying external laws, as the Pharisees did, Jesus focused on what was going inside his listener’s minds and hearts.

The lessons he shared on the hillside meadow are recounted in Matthew 5-7. Among those lessons Jesus taught that:

  • Knowing God is not a religious experience based on someone’s good works. It is a relationship only possible if we are willing to accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Our salvation depends upon His good works—not ours.
  • Pleasing God does not require strict, self-righteous obedience to written rules and regulations. Instead, it requires a willingness to sacrificially serve others.
  • Receiving God’s blessing does not result in external gains in our wealth or status. Instead, it involves internal rewards such as peace, joy, and a sense of worth.

There are eight particular ways that Jesus explained to his followers that they could receive God’s blessing. We call these eight ways, the beatitudes—which is how this meadow got its name.

  • You will be blessed if you depend upon God instead of filling your spirit with personal pride. Heaven is reserved for humble people!
  • You will be blessed if you weep for those who are hurting. Then you will see the world as God sees it, and God himself will comfort you.
  • You will be blessed if you are more successful in God’s eyes than in the world’s. He owns this earth, and He will give you everything you need.
  • You will be blessed if your deepest longing is to have a right relationship with God. You will never feel empty or worthless.
  • You will be blessed when you show mercy instead of condemnation. If you show mercy, God will show you mercy, too!
  • You will be blessed if the desire of your heart is to please God. He will show you amazing things about Himself.
  • You will be blessed if you help others find peace with God and with each other. God will delight in calling you His child!
  • You will be blessed if you are willing to endure hardship here on earth because of your faith in God. You will be greatly rewarded when you get to heaven!

In the fourth Century AD, a large octagonal Catholic church was built on top of the mount where Jesus so often taught. Each of its octagonal sides represents one of the beatitudes. In a few weeks, our Lakeland, Florida tour group will be sitting on this very hillside. We will be surrounded by pink bougainvillea, graceful cyclamens, and sturdy date palms, experiencing some of the same scenery that Jesus experienced. We will be listening to the birds, and watching the fishing boats ply the Sea of Galilee.

We will be one of many tour groups on the mount. Some will be dressed in bright red or yellow saris, others will be distinguished by all wearing white baseball caps, and still others will be lead by nuns in flowing robes or guides with gold flags fluttering in the breeze. Some visitors will be quietly praying, while others will be joyfully singing hymns in their native languages.

But with everything going on, we will be able to focus on the fact that this is the place where Jesus began to change the course of history, by challenging the Jewish religious leaders of his day, and by laying down the principal tenets of discipleship not only to his disciples but for all his future followers. The Mount of Beatitudes is the place where he taught us how to truly count our blessings!
Ed Diaz
71:17 Ministry

175 Years
About Us

8002 U. S. Highway 301 South, Riverview, FL  33578  813-677-5995
Take It to Heart
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves.  (Hebrews 12:5-6) God provides the discipline we need to become mature members of His family. This isn’t an easy teaching to understand. Sometimes we wonder if God is disciplining us whenever we get sick. If we suffer a misfortune, is it because we’ve committed a certain sin? Not necessarily. It’s often hard to know when a particular hardship constitutes divine chastening.

Often God whispers in our heart to tell us He is correcting us. Our conscience whispers, “The Lord is teaching you a lesson.” If so, take it to heart. He’s doing it out of love.”

In a broader way, all the hardships of life are the means by which we develop the discipline of discipleship. There are lessons in every circumstance, and maturity can be gained in every hardship. Just like earthly fathers, our Heavenly Father demonstrates His love for us through discipline. Though we don’t like discipline, let’s learn to be thankful for this demonstration of God’s love in our life. If God didn’t discipline His children He would be a negligent father.  He would be displaying cruel disinterest if He were indifferent to whether His children obeyed or not.  (Erwin Lutzer)

Turning Point Ministry

One for the Road
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  (1 Corinthians 6:19) Major Ian Thomas, a British expositor, described a foolish man who was trying to push his car when it was filled with gasoline and capable of running on its own. He said that’s how many people try to live the Christian life—in their own strength and by their own efforts. But only Christ can live a life of godliness. He wants to do it through us by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit

As we walk in the Spirit, we become more and more like Jesus because He is controlling more and more of us. That perspective adjusts the way we look at difficulty. The devil seeks to harm us, but God uses every peril and problem to develop a more disciplined, Christlike, Christ-filled, Christ-empowered life. What a blessing to have a Heavenly Father who desires us to be more like Him! As we walk with Him, let’s thank Him for the daily work of the Spirit in our life.  The Christian life is nothing less than the life which He lived then… lived now by Him in you!  (Ian Thomas)

Turning Point Ministry

Not Dwelling on the Challenges
During our recent Appointive Cabinet sessions, Bishop Berlin led us in Bible study for the first hour of each day. We studied through the book of Nehemiah during our first week, and the Emmaus Road story in Luke for our second week.

The verses that stood out to me the most were from Nehemiah 2:17-18:  "Then I said to them, 'You see the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me."

Nehemiah assessed the situation. He clearly labeled the challenges in their midst. But he didn't dwell there long. In the very next sentence, he invited them to be a part of the rebuilding. And he proclaimed the presence of God among them that would make it possible.

As church leaders—pastors and laity—our task is similar to Nehemiah's. We name the challenges: declining attendance, aging congregations, conflict, and more. We name the challenges, but we don't dwell there. We don't let the challenges overwhelm us. We don't despair. Instead, we invite people to join us in rebuilding. And we remind them that it is the gracious hand of God that makes it possible.

I'm praying for each of your churches this Lent, Holy Week, and Easter season. Peace,

Rev. Emily Hotho
Gulf Central District Superintendent