The Life Church in Many, Louisiana recently had a competition: whoever could write the best report on The Way would receive a prize and have their article published on our website. Jodi Gulde Cook won the competition. Her article is below, but first here's a little information about her:
NSU graduate, 2009, with a Bachelor's in Family and Consumer Sciences
Worship leader at The Life Church(TLC) since 2012.
Former Youth Services Librarian for Sabine Parish Library
Member of TLC since 2007.
Married to Kyle Cook and mother of Harrison Cook, age 2.
You can read Jodi's article below or download it for future reading and sharing.
The Way: A Pathway to Living Christ’s Beatitudes; a Review
Chris Farris's The Way: A Pathway to Living Christ's Beatitudes is a book that details the characteristics of each topic in Matthew chapter 5's Sermon on the Mount. Looking from a somewhat different angle at each of the beatitudes, Farris pushes the reader to reach deeper for understanding of what God desires of His followers and to be more selfless on the climb along the path to a God-centered life. Each chapter of the book carefully describes the state of life that brings each blessing, preceded by a biblical story that presents the relationship between the two. Farris shows a sobering perspective in pointing out that "blessed" in the beginning of each verse literally means "to be happy." This perspective helps the reader not only see how oxymoronic Jesus's statements to the Jews must have seemed on that day, but also how Christians should view their own life situations in light of the rewards they will receive and not the despair of the situation. With multiple opportunities for practical application and journaling throughout the book, the reader can expect a wonderful growing, learning experience.
The Way begins by setting a stage of self-denial. Jesus leads weary followers up a mountainside. Due to the inconvenience of climbing a mountain amidst hunger, body aches, and personal responsibilities, Jesus lost several people that day. Only those who were willing to deny themselves-- their hunger, pain, and responsibilities-- ended up as the recipients of one of Christ's greatest messages on living a blessed Christian life. His message had a theme of "blessed are...," or "happy are..." Farris points out that this happiness is not an ordinary happiness, but one that is a blessing straight from God for which one must position himself correctly in order to receive. He also notes that the word "are" is not a self-centered verb. It can never be used in the first person singular tense; therefore, to say "happy are…," Jesus is saying that true happiness comes when the focus is removed from one’s self and put it on others.
The first of the beatitudes spotlights the "poor in spirit." Though Jesus was speaking to a crowd of undoubtedly poor people, he was not speaking of their financial or social state. He was speaking of being, as Farris says, "beggars in Christ." Comparing the desperation of biblical beggars with the desperation Christians should feel for God, Farris examples blind Bartimaeus, the woman with the issue of blood, and others who sought Jesus for miracles. The way Christians today show their humility in spirit is by depending on God for all their needs, seeking Him wholeheartedly, and never letting an opportunity for more of Him pass by. For all who position themselves as "poor in spirit," the reward Jesus presents is that "theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Just as Jesus forgave Bartimaeus and opened his eyes, He also invites believers in to see His Kingdom, not only for the blessings it holds, but also to present that Kingdom to others.
The next chapter covers "they that mourn." Well acquainted with oppression and poverty, the Jews were quite familiar with mourning and undoubtedly had a hard time associating it with being blessed. However, Jesus presented that if they allowed their mourning to be carried out with the right spirit, their promise would be that "they shall be comforted." Farris aligns Jesus's message of mourning to the Christian walk. He asserts that there will be things that God will want laid down in order for His servants to better serve Him. Mourning will be a natural occurrence when this happens, but the Comforter will provide peace and healing, just as He did for Noah in the Old Testament and His own disciples in the New Testament.
"The meek" are the topic of the next passage. Farris points out that in the day of the sermon, the oppressed Jews were not interested in meekness; they desired to hear from someone who would boldly do something about the state of the welfare. They were much more interested in a revolution than meekness. However, just as David, Samson, and Joshua were blessed because of their operation in meekness, so also would the Jews be blessed because of it. Rather than allowing one's self to be a doormat, meekness is actually the art of relying completely on God to be strong in the midst of human weakness. Those who embrace the life of the meek "shall inherit the earth." Though letting go of one's own understanding and self-reliance may be one of the hardest things to do, the reward is by far worth the release. To "inherit the earth" did not only mean the earth as a whole but it meant everyone in it, which leads to the instruction in the great commission, once again removing the focus from one's self and reaching for others.
The fourth of the beatitudes begins with "those who thirst and hunger after righteousness." Again hitting close to home for the poverty-stricken Jews, Jesus discusses a basic need of hunger and thirst, but He adds that they should hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus is leading them to desire a lifestyle that is blameless, pure, and holy before God. Farris notes that it is this lifestyle that keeps our "spiritual focus" on the narrow path. To hunger and thirst for this kind of living is to long for it as one who is longing for physical sustenance. Here Jesus gives the promise that those who have that longing "shall be filled."
Next, Jesus calls out "the merciful." The Jews had every earthly reason to bare a grudge against their Roman government. The Romans were ruthless toward the Jews, humiliating them and murdering them on a daily basis. However, Jesus said that the merciful are blessed. He was calling them to do as He would later do on the cross: show love and forgiveness even when the recipient is undeserving. The beautiful promise He offered in return for that mercy given was that "they shall obtain mercy."
"The pure of heart" are the next focus of the beatitudes. Farris recalls the story of a young David fighting Goliath with a slingshot and the purity of simple belief in God's Word. David is known as "the man after God's own heart," and his Psalms display how great his desire was for that. Though he is also known for some of his indiscretions, David was nothing if not committed to having a pure heart. He was committed to his God completely. Just as David didn't allow unexpected obstacles to derail his dedication, followers of Christ cannot allow life's hardships to turn them off the narrow path. The promise that follows is that "they shall see God." Whether actually seeing the face of God or seeing the control, deliverance, revelation, and fulfillment of God, the vision reveals who God is and His purpose for the pure of heart.
Next "the peacemakers" take the forefront. Farris notes that Christ's idea of peacemakers in this passage is not a view of weakness but of conviction, boldness, and strength. The peacemaker is a person of compassion and resilience. The peace offering of the Old Testament was an extra sacrifice offered, above and beyond what was required of them. Christians must also be willing to make this offering of peace if they desire greater communion and closeness with God. In fact, in His sermon, Jesus said the peacemakers would be called "the children of God." This statement opened the door for more than just the Israelites to be called the children of God. By taking on the life of the peacemaker, one is assured to be grafted into God’s family.
The last of the beatitudes discusses "the persecuted." Farris opens this chapter with a stark recollection of the last moments of Stephen's life. With an eye-opening first-person account of how Stephen might have been thinking, the reader feels his love and compassion for the very ones hurling stones at him to end his life. As Farris points out, God's followers had been persecuted more than the followers of any false God from the beginning of time. The Jews knew about persecution and no doubt wondered why Jesus would call the state of being persecuted "blessed." However, His reward may have opened their eyes to where the blessing would come from: "theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Similarly to the poor in spirit, the persecuted are willing to do whatever it takes to reach God and deliver Him to a lost world. Though persecution faced today may be different than what was faced in that day, it is certain that God-followers will be persecuted in some way, but if they will stand firm in their faith they will receive their great reward.
As The Way comes to a close, Farris notes one more portion of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus told His followers they were the salt and light of the earth. Just as salt was used as a means of preservation and antibacterial, so Christ's followers must be the antibacterial against the infections of the world-- infections born in conditions that oppose the beatitudes. As a light to the world, Christians must be a hope in darkness, shining brightly and unfiltered for the world around to see. In allowing that unfiltered light of Christ to reveal His Word, God's followers will reach greater communion with Him and receive revelation of who He truly is.
Thanks again to Jodi for her wonderful piece on The Way. We appreciate her and The Life Church for doing this competition. We are praying with them for God's continued revival in their community and church. You can visit their church's website for more information about their beliefs and services or you can go to their Facebook page for regular updates about what is going on at TLC.
If you would like to hold a similar writing competition or would like to have your review of The Way published on our site, simply Contact us and we would be happy to consider your offerings.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.