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Friday, December 16, 2016

Doing What my Father Does

This week we watched a sermon about simplicity at ( A lot that was shared was very encouraging. At the end of the message we were encouraged to begin and end each day by taking a few minutes to meditate on John 5:19 & 20.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He sees the Father do. For whatever things He does, these also the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all the things that He Himself does. And He will show Him greater works than these, so that you may marvel.
The implication was that we should begin each day by asking God what he is doing and then be like Jesus and, do what God is doing. Pretty simple.

As I have been doing this I have realized a couple of things that I need to pay better attention to.

First, Jesus said that truly he could do nothing of or by himself. As I thought about that it put a lot of things into perspective. If Jesus admitted that he could do nothing without his Father, how could I ever expect to do anything of value, on my own.

The second thing I see is that Jesus only did what he sees the Father doing. Over the years, I have heard people ask the question, “Why didn’t Jesus…” The simple answer is He didn’t see his Father doing that. I tend to get grand ideas about what I could do if I just got the opportunity. I have tried to do some of those things, wanting recognition. But the things I hear God wanting me to do are much less spectacular. Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute and speak evil of you, Speak evil of no one. Those are just a very few. I’m sure you have heard some mundane things that our Father wants you to do also, things you are not doing.

Third, the Father loves the Son and shows him all things that He is doing. At this point it became clear why I am not seeing greater things that the Father is doing. I haven’t been doing the things he has shown me. His desire is to show me great and marvelous things that He can do through me. But until I learn to be faithful in the little things how can I possibly be able to do great things. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

White Christmas

Forty-eight years ago, at about this time I watched the movie “Holiday Inn” for the first time. You probably know it as “White Christmas.” That year I had flunked out of Bible College, gotten married and gotten drafted. I was waiting to go to officer candidate school in Oklahoma spending the holidays with my new wife and her family.

The opening scene of that movie is somewhere in a war-ravaged Europe. A bunch of soldiers are making the best of Christmas in Hell. That first time I saw that scene I cried like a baby. I had just finished about 5 months of training with a bunch of young fellows that I had gotten to know pretty well and liked some of them quite a bit. Almost all of them had gotten orders to go to Viet Nam. I could only imagine what they were experiencing but I knew they weren’t with their families, and they were in dangerous places.

I didn’t go to OCS and a year later I was in Viet Nam. It was not a nice place to be. Bob Hope only came to the big bases and only about 1% of the GI’s got to see him. Christmas in Viet Nam was not a happy time. I got lots of cards and a few care packages, but that only made me more aware that I was not with my family at Christmas. I got to the place where I wished there were no cards or packages. It was pretty depressing.

Most years I watch “White Christmas.” Most years I get a little teary. This year, I cried again. Boys and girls the age of my grand-daughter are still in dangerous places, away from family. Some of them will never come home.

War is terrible. But in this world, it is a fact. You and I can probably do little to change that fact. But we can pray, we can remember the ones who are carrying the burden in this terrible time. Not only the boys and girls that are in those dangerous places, but also the wives and husbands, the children and the parents whose hearts are longing for their loved ones.

While we are busy making merry and exchanging gifts, remember those who cannot share the joy with loved ones. If you have the opportunity, find a way to share your love with someone whose loved ones are not able to be with them. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Follow Jesus (day 80)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
As I look at these virtues regularly at least one seems too difficult. I can be tempted here to be discouraged and give up. I am tempted.

Many times, Jesus says, “Follow me.”. As I look at the virtues in the blessings, I see Jesus’ life. As there is difficulty I can see that he had difficulty as well. In Hebrews 12:2 it says;

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Of course, we believe that the cross of Calvary was a terrible suffering, but it was not the only suffering Jesus endured. It also says in Hebrews 4:15;

For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted just as we are, yet without sin.

In the everyday life, Jesus was tempted. He was contradicted. And still he learned obedience because he chose to suffer. (ref 1 Peter 2:23 & Hebrews 5:8) He suffered when he was tempted.

Back in the Hebrews 12 passage it speaks of “the joy that was set before him”. You and I are that joy. He had to suffer when tempted every day in order for the cross of Calvary to have any effect. And he left us an example to follow. Not just to get to heaven, but also that we might have life abundant now. He did it so that we can be being changed to become like him.

That is his joy and this is the way.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)
Follow Jesus.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Claim Your Inheritance (79)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven

For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. What does that mean to you?

Jesus spoke a lot about the kingdom of Heaven. The first time we read is in Matthew 4 where he says “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The kingdom of heaven is very near. In the verse we are considering, he says that those who are blessed by being persecuted for righteousness sake are in possession of the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus began the blessings with the promise of the kingdom of heaven and here near the end of the blessings he promises it again. It seems to me that this may indicate that what comes between has a significant part in this business of possessing the kingdom of heaven.

As I endeavor to incorporate the virtues of the blessings into my life I find difficulty all around. The old nature wants to stand up and demand that things not change but remain as they always were. But if I by faith, turn away from the old ways and pursue the new life in Jesus, that embraces the virtues, I will suffer, but I will also enter into the kingdom of heaven. It will be mine.

Yesterday I shared a passage that is especially encouraging. In 1 Peter 1:4 it speaks of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled and that does not fade away, which is reserved in heaven for you.

When a minor child is provided with an inheritance, there are usually qualifications to be fulfilled in order to receive that inheritance. This is usually something like coming of age or completing schooling.

In the case of the kingdom of heaven, some of the qualifications are set out in the beatitudes. The gifts or inheritance is explained in the blessings.

As we believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, let us also believe and enter into obedience to his words. This is how I can enter into the kingdom of heaven, this is how I claim my inheritance and it becomes mine.

an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled and that does not fade away, which is reserved in heaven for you.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Faith Tested and Proven (day 78)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
As I am thinking and praying about what else to say about this concept, I have come across a passage so powerful and so complete that I feel that I can add nothing to it. Please read this passage slowly and allow the Spirit of God to speak to your heart.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

God builds me up as I am able (day 77)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The persecution for righteousness sake that most of us have to learn to endure might seem to most as simply the irritations of life.

How can that be persecution for righteousness sake?

In those little irritations, I can learn to be patient. In those little irritations, I can learn to answer kindly.

If you truly desire to be a disciple of Jesus, this is a desire you have received from God, and God will be your help and guide in this process. Truly discipleship is a process.

And as God is your helper and guide, he cares especially for your progress. Paul tells us;

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
God measures our trials to us in proportion to our ability. If I cannot stand the loss of a few dollars without becoming depressed and irritated, God knows that I am not ready to be faithful in the loss of a loved one.

All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
If you are believing these words of God, words of faith, you can say with confidence, “nothing bad ever happens to me.” Right after Romans 8:28, in verse 29 it says;

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
This is God’s purpose for each one of us, that we become like Jesus.

Have you accepted God’s purpose as your own?

In order for an athlete to become stronger he must continually exercise his muscles with harder and harder exercises until his goal is reached. It is the same for each of us.

Jesus says; Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:2)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Find Your Joy (day 76)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into different kinds of temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

WOW! Did you see that “all joy”? And Jesus says “blessed”.

Have you ever gotten really happy when you were tempted to become angry, impatient or discouraged?

Of course, this is easy to talk about when you’re warm and dry and there is food in the ‘frig. But what about when the car won’t start, again? What about when the rent is due now and pay day is a week away? What about when your son or daughter is sick and you can’t afford the doctor or the medicine? These are real trials. These are real temptations.

This is where I truly show my faith. Do I count it all joy or do I doubt and become discouraged and disagreeable? God’s word says that I should count it as joyful when things don’t go my way.

If I will be faithful God’s word promises that patience will be developed in me and I will become perfect lacking nothing. Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven will be mine.

Do you believe it? Will you purpose in your heart to live this promise?

When our son was young, I would listen to his prayers at night. One night he prayed that God would help him be patient with his sisters. We had a talk about how God could help him the most to be patient. It was not by them being agreeable all the time. No, we can only learn patience when things don’t go our way.

Recently I realized that patience is not a gift from God. Trials and temptations are the gift, because they develop patience in me.

Father in Heaven, help me to always be mindful that trials and temptations are the gift that you give me to strengthen my faith so that I can learn patience and become perfect and complete in you. What a wonderful Joy! Amen

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Way into the Kingdom (day 75)

Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
“Persecuted for righteousness sake,” what does that mean?
I had thought that this was persecution that resulted from being righteous. But is that what it says?

The way it is written it could mean because I am righteous, but it could also mean, in order to help me become righteous. There is some reason to think that this may be accurate if you look at Acts 14:22
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
When Paul exhorted the disciples as he was passing through the different cities he did not tell them, “everything is taken care of just be happy Christians”. No, he exhorted them to continue in faith and expect to have difficulty. This is the way into the kingdom of God.

It is absolutely true and correct that Jesus died to pay the debt of sin, to reconcile us to God, to redeem us. But we are still exhorted to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

What does that mean?

I suspect it means more than, ‘pick up your ‘get out of Hell free’ card on your way out of the baptistry.’

At the end of the sermon on the mount, Jesus says,

Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock.
DOING the things Jesus tells me to do is not always pleasant, especially at first. Often when I am instructed to do a thing that is contrary to my will, it seems that I am being persecuted. In the case of the commands of Jesus, very much of what he tells me to do is contrary to my will, although it is the very best thing for me to do, and leads to the abundant life that he promised.

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons, for what son is he whom the father does not chasten? But if you are without chastisement, of which all are partakers, then you are bastards and not sons. (Hebrews 12:7)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Expect Persecution (day 74)

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Many years ago, when I began this journey of discovery in the blessings, these last 2 gave me some real problems. Because they seemed to be way too similar. But as I have thought and prayed over them, I believe God has shown me that they are radically different.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
The first thing I notice is that this blessing follows the same form as the first 7. It is pronounced in the third person; Blessed are they”.

However, it is different in that being persecuted is not something that I can strive to attain. It is something that will or won’t happen to me. But there is no doubt about will or won’t. Jesus says;

I have spoken these things to you so that you might have peace in Me. In the world, you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
There is a verse of promise that many people like to think of, but do you think of it in connection with this verse from John 16? That popular promise verse is Romans 8:28.

All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
God’s Word says we are blessed when we are persecuted. Jesus has said that we can have peace in Him when we have tribulation. And Paul said “ALL THINGS work together for good.”

Today I am challenged to simply believe what seems hard to believe. I am challenged to find peace in Jesus in the midst of tribulation and trial.

Blessed Father in Heaven, your word tells me that your thoughts are not my thoughts and your ways are not the ways I would choose. Your ways are as the heavens are above the earth, higher than anything I can understand or comprehend. Give me grace Blessed Father to accept the truth of your word until I can understand more of your way. (ref Isaiah 55:8-9)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Reconciled (day 73)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.
The truly good news, the best news of all time is that though we were in total rebellion toward God, God in his merciful love sent Jesus to reconcile all men to himself.

Anyone who has lived from paycheck to just about paycheck has probably had some experience with a check book. If you have one of these, it is a good idea from time to time to reconcile your check book. For those who are not aware of what I’m talking about, you need to get a statement from your bank that tells of the transactions that they have processed and make sure that your record agrees with the bank. When your record agrees with the bank’s statement you have peace with the bank. It does not work the other way round. Sometimes banks do make mistakes, but rarely, very rarely.

The God who made you and me designed us to function best in proper relationship to Himself and gave us instructions so we would be able to be happy and at peace with all of his nature.

Unfortunately, in our arrogance and stupidity we have come up with thousands of “better ideas”. And so, our lives are unimaginably out of balance with God.

When you are balancing your check book and find that you and the bank do not agree, you need to find out where the difference occurred and make a correction, usually to your own record. Sometimes you can’t find the problem. Then you must insert what is called a reconciling entry. The bank will almost never, if ever, make the reconciling entry in your favor, when you are the cause for the difference.

That is exactly what God has done in the case of Jesus.

We were out of balance with God and God’s nature. God sent Jesus to live a life in balance, in agreement, in union with Him and his nature in order to show us what that looks like. And then he was executed according to God’s plan, to make the reconciling adjustment for our arrogance and rebellion.

whereas God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and putting the word of reconciliation in us. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saint Francis Prayer (day 72)

Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the sons of God.
For many years, I have admired the prayer of St. Francis. I don’t know how many are familiar with that prayer. Mostly I don’t have any idea of who reads this devotion, but I will include it here because it is beautiful and it provides much to think about on the subject of being a peace maker.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, let me sow pardon;
Where there is doubt, let me sow faith;
Where there is despair, let me sow hope;
Where there is darkness, let me sow light;
Where there is sadness, let me sow joy;

Oh, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved, as to love

For it is in giving, that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Place where Peace is (day 71)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God
In every city, there is at least one place where there is peace. Neighbors do not quarrel and fuss, those of different religions don’t argue and democrats and republicans never have a cross word to share. That place is of course, the cemetery.

The reason for the peace is obviously because everyone is dead. In order to bring peace there are many things that must be dead in me.

One of the first things that I must die to is judging. this is not an easy thing to do. There will be people and circumstances that violate my core beliefs. I cannot judge them if I desire to be one who brings peace. I may need to not be close friends with these people, but I must not judge them. I find this is a problem for me especially when it comes to beliefs. But it is still an absolute. Jesus says, “Judge not lest ye be judged, for with the same measure you meet it shall be measured to you again.”

Another thing that must die in me in order to be a peace maker is all gossip. It may be necessary for me to not be around certain people because of differences that for me are essential, but any explanation beyond, “We have areas where we can’t agree,” is gossip. To discuss those differences with anyone other than the person or persons involved, or God, is gossip.

Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, the fighting ceases. (Proverbs 26:20) 

If I wish to be a peacemaker all evil speaking must die. It must die before it reaches my lips. All negative comments must die. This is extremely difficult, but it is possible.

So then let us pursue the things of peace, and the things for building up one another. (Romans 14:19)

Thank you, dear Father, for showing me things that I must put to death in my flesh if I am to be a peacemaker. These things are too great for me, but your grace is sufficient and your Spirit is present to help. All praise and glory to your name. Amen.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Three Practical Instructions (day 70)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
Towards the end of 1 Thessalonians Paul gives some practical instructions that are very helpful if I will follow them.

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:14-22)

Right in the middle of these very practical instructions are 3 that are wonderfully helpful, once again, if I will follow them.

·         Rejoice evermore.
·         Pray without ceasing.
·         In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

In order to bring peace into a situation I must have peace within myself. As I have followed these instructions and to the degree that I have followed them, I have experienced great peace.

It is very important that I also say, these instructions are often not easy or pleasant to follow. Take a look at the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. Most of them were doing what they were instructed to do, and it was often not pleasant. Although many of them did not see the reward of their faithfulness in the flesh, they worked in peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, Rejoice! Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

This is the Word of God! If I will take heed, pay attention, obey, submit to this authority, I will find peace. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Time for a Break

Do not be anxious for any reason, rather in everything through prayer and petition, always with thanksgiving, keep your heart open to God. And the wonderful peace of God, that is beyond understanding, will be the guard for your heart and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 my rendition)
Sometimes life just comes at you a few days before you were ready for it. It seems that has happened to us. I knew we were going to take a trip in a few days but apparently, it is going to be sooner. At any rate this series of devotions is going to have to take a break before I can finish the last few days.

We will be gone for 2 or 3 weeks and then hopefully I will be able to finish. I hope this has been encouraging for some. It has been very profitable for me to work on these things. I do look forward to continuing as soon as possible.

In the meantime, I wish to encourage each of you to Be Faithful, that is how we avail ourselves of His blessings.

My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into different kinds of temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.

How I Put My Shoes On (day 69)

Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:45)
Every day almost everyone gets up and puts on their clothes and does their morning what-evers and then heads out to deal with the things and people in their life. When you get ready in the morning, do you get your heart ready for the day?

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world's rulers, of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Do you meet the world with peace, or is the tumult of your own life always striking out at others? Who left the toothpaste tube open? Why did you do it that way? Have you heard yourself striking out and then been ashamed, but not known how to make it right? I have. Wouldn’t it be better to not strike out in the first place?

The problem, I believe, is that what is in my heart is not peace.

My days are full of contradictions, little tiny contradictions that irritate me. I imagine yours are also. It’s raining. I can’t find my keys. I lost that phone number. Can you add any that you have seen today?

I spoke about the sturdy shoes for battle 2 days ago. How do I put them on? One way that I have discovered is to begin my day by writing 3 things that I am thankful for. It could be that I am thankful that I can write, and read. It could be that I have heard a gospel that can bring me peace. It could be that on a cold rainy day I have a warm dry place to be. After memorizing and meditation, this is maybe my most profitable spiritual exercise for me. This builds peace in my heart. Sometimes I need to list more than 3. You may as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

God's Peace is for Everyone (day 68)

Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He has come to me (as he has to many) with peace and comfort.

Some have taught that, when God looks at me, He sees Jesus. He doesn’t see my sin. I don’t think this understanding is helpful or true. When God and Jesus look at me they see my sin clearly and still they love me.

Because of that wonderful love, God’s Love, even when I charge off and become critical, when I make myself a judge, when my flesh rises up and I give it control, when I stumble and fall, I still come to myself and say I must return to my Father’s house. Without God’s love calling me back I would never think of that, I would be lost forever.

When I have come to God to repent, to beg forgiveness and ask for mercy and grace, He has never met me with condemnation. He has always met me with mercy. That mercy has often had correction and the rod of discipline with it, but it is always mercy. Because of this great mercy we have peace with God.

God my Father is always merciful and will always be merciful to any who come to him for mercy. His mercy is always for my good that I might become more like Jesus.

I can see God’s great mercy toward myself and his word tells me of His mercy for all in 2 Peter 3:9;

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

If I am to be his disciple, If I am to be conformed to his image, if I am to be a peace maker, I must find grace to embrace this will in my heart. Jesus tells me;

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Matthew 6:45)

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Gospel of Peace (day 67)

Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the sons of God.

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
(Isaiah 52:7)

We used to sing this beautiful verse in church. It was very enthusiastic and up-lifting, but I don’t think I ever really thought much about it.

In Ephesians 6:10-18 the apostle Paul is writing about putting on the armor of God so that we can be prepared to do battle with principalities, powers and the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places (verse 12). In verse 15 he writes;

and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.

Thinking of shoes for doing battle, I suspect fashion and style might not be the primary consideration. Practical strong and comfortable in all situations are probably more important.

The gospel of peace, the good news of peace, what does that mean?

God in his great love has seen that we are lost in our own arrogance and lust, and because of that love He sent Jesus to show us the way back to himself and to pay the redemption price for our sin. This is a large part of the gospel of peace.

How do I make peace? How do I share this peace?

I can only say what I have seen. Those who have most effectively brought this peace to me are those who have most fully entered into this peace themselves.

I suspect that this is the way to put on shoes that will stand up in battle and will take peace to those in need.

Father of Love, help me to be ever conscious of the good news of peace that you have given to me. Help me to keep my heart open to you so that my heart will be open to those you love and want to bring into your love. Please dear Father make me an instrument of your peace. In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Pure Heart in This Moment (day 66)

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
All of what I have said is as true as I can comprehend. Yet, in the final analysis all that I can do will absolutely fall short. I must do the things that I read in God’s Word. I must do what I hear the Spirit say in my heart as it agrees with God’s Word. After I have done all that I have been commanded to do then I can only say, “I am an unprofitable servant, I have only done what it is my duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)

But God in His unimaginable mercy longs to give me that pure heart that I must have to be able to see him.

When I have done all that I can do, I see that I am still not measuring up. I am still lacking. But God, my Heavenly Father will give me, in this moment that pure heart that I desire. In this moment if I will cry out to Him, He will cleanse my heart and I will be able to see Him.

All of my obedience only contributes to my absolute need for His unimaginable love to pour in and cleanse my heart, in this moment.

Have you seen a little child in a department store or mall that has lost track of his mom or dad? Have you seen the panic in his eyes? For that child, Mommy or Daddy is the world, and safety and all provision.

In the same way, I need to be learning to be always aware of my need for the presence of God to give me what I need in this moment. Then I will be depending on Him for the pure heart that can see Him.

If I am a disciple of Jesus I must see that this is how he lived. Jesus himself says;

“Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He sees the Father do. For whatever things He does, these also the Son does likewise.” (John 5:10)
And so, I must live in the same way, looking to God in all things, at all times.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Where No One Sees (day 65)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
There is so much to be done, seen and said in this world that God our Heavenly Father desires for us. We try to do things for God and in Jesus name but from our own flesh. So much of that is wasted effort, only producing popular programs, entertainment.

Building my life on the virtues that we see in the first 7 blessings is changing me on the inside; truly in my heart.

The apostle Paul saw how serious this matter is when he wrote in Ephesians 6:12;

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

When I fail to see how serious this is, I play right into the enemy’s hand. I begin to do things his way. I begin to fight according to the flesh, with rules and behavior modification ideas. At that moment I am losing.

Working on outward things will only create an appearance of godliness. If I concentrate on the things that are inward, then I begin to make real progress.

In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul gives a clear picture of where and how I must work in verses 3-5.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

It is the things that stand in the way of knowing God that I must be fighting in my own life, the way that God has prescribed.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Faith of a Little Child (Day 64)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
In Exodus 33 & 34 there is a story about the man Moses, who actually saw the back parts of God. When he came down from the mountain, the children of Israel were afraid to look at him because his face did shine. This blessing says that the pure in heart will see God.

I can hardly think about this blessing without thinking of the story I told a few weeks ago about the little boy and his mother. I will repeat it because it is beautiful.

Son: Did you know that if you look God in the eye, you can go in the deep end of the pool and you won't drown?
Mother: (feeling alarmed): Where did you hear that?!?
Son: Well, Jesus did it. He looked God in the eye and he walked on water. So that's what you do if you want to walk on water.

Adults are far too skeptical. We reason everything out based on empirical evidence. So how can we believe the wonderful things that the Word of God promises? Unless we take Jesus’ words seriously we will never know most of what God desires to do. Jesus says;

 Truly I say to you, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
Later on The apostle Paul writes;

But as it is written, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard," nor has it entered into the heart of man, "the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)
And Jesus did say;

Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me, the works that I do he shall do also, and greater works than these he shall do, because I go to My Father.  (John 14:12)
Don’t ask a 70-year-old theologian what these things mean ask a 7-year-old child.

God of Wonder, Father of Mercy open my eyes to the things you wish to do in and through me. Help me see clearly that I do not need to manipulate circumstances, but only work on the things your Word points out in my life. In Jesus lovely name and for His glory, Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Lie (day 63)

And the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat of it, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”

Surely I have believed the lie.

Assuredly I have taken it into my heart and given it the place of honor.
My Will, My Desires, My Pleasures these things are paramount.
This is the way for me to find Happiness, Satisfaction, Completion.
I lied and said, “Jesus is Lord” when all the time, I only wanted to not go to Hell.
Truly I have been lord and judge in all things.

Surely I have believed the Lie.

Where is the truth that can overcome?
Here is truth;
In me, that is, in my flesh good does not dwell.
My heart has been thoroughly polluted by my flesh,
But here is truth to begin the cleansing process

Create in me a clean heart Oh Lord
And renew a right spirit within me…
Blessed are the pure in heart,

For they shall see God.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

No zap Flash BANG for me (day 62)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
How can I get a Pure Heart? How can I remove all of the little idol shelves in my heart so that there is no place for lust to find a welcome?

Many people like to quote 2 Corinthians 5:17 as the simple answer to these questions.

So that if anyone is in Christ, that one is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

I cannot tell you how much I wish it was that simple. Pray the “sinner’s prayer”, go get baptized and ZAP, FLASH, BANG you’re a new creature. All the old bad stuff is gone and you are walking in the light.

It hasn’t worked that way for me. The way I have found is the way I have been talking about for the last several years. The way I have found in God’s Word. I am only learning it myself but I believe it is the way. I believe God is leading me this way.

Absolutely, I must come to the foot of the cross and admit my wretchedness and ask God to forgive and accept me and give me the gift of a new birth into His kingdom. I must obey the commands to repent and be baptized. Then I must learn to walk in this new life.

Have you noticed that from Acts to Revelation, “born again” Christians are exhorted again and again to live the life that they were called to live?  

David said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” I am learning to fill all those places where lust, anger, demands and all sorts of willfulness have found a home, to fill those places in my heart with God’s Word.

It’s working.

Wonderful Father in Heaven, Thank you for the gift to be able to call you Father. Thank you that your word truly is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. By it you can keep me from stumbling and you can lead me in the way I should go. Open the eyes of my understanding to treasure your word above all earthly riches. That you may be glorified, in Jesus name. Amen. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Be on Guard (day 61)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Jesus is the perfect example of a pure heart. Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, the author and completer. (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus lived the life that God desires each of us to live, because his heart’s deepest cry was, “Not my will, but thine be done, Oh Lord.”

Later in the “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus says;

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
In the heart is where sin is originated. It is sin before it ever leaves the heart. In the book of James, I see the progress of sin and how it is formed in my heart. (James 1:14-15)

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Whenever lust finds a place in my heat, a place where it is welcome, then it can develop and grow sin that can only end in death. This takes place in my heart, the place where I like it.

Could it be that a pure heart is one where lust cannot find a place where it is welcome?

The lusts are in my flesh. Someone has said that when the lusts in my flesh come up to the door of my heart and want to come in, it is my duty to meet them there with the cross.

Proverbs 4:23 has a very serious exhortation for me. One translation that claims to be literal says,

Above every charge keep your heart, for out of it are the outgoings of life.

Father in Heaven, this is an area where I often am found with my guard down. Please help me to find grace to be more diligent here and to guard my heart so that when lust comes to enter, I will be at the door with the cross to stop it. In the blessed name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Heart Turns My Head (day 60)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Yesterday I said this may be the most frightening of the blessings. Some of you may have wondered why. For me I have seen glimpses of how my heart truly is, not how I would like it to be. It is not a good picture.

In Ezekiel 8 there is a prophecy about a hole in the wall of the temple which led to a secret chamber where all of the elders were worshiping all kinds of abominations. In verse 12 God says to Ezekiel;

And He said to me, Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, each man in his image room? For they are saying, Jehovah does not see us; Jehovah has forsaken the earth.
Adulteries, murders, robbery and all sorts of covetousness, as I in stillness looked at what sort of things I hide in my heart, these are things I found. At times I am successful at removing those things from my heart, but there is still a place for them there, sort of like a shelf with a label that says what belongs there.

I suspect that a pure heart is one where not only the abominations cannot be found, but where there is no place for them.

Imagine seeing a beautiful woman and immediately your attention is drawn to her face looking for signs of virtue, and hope, no matter how she is dressed. Imagine seeing a person obviously ruined by sin and rebellion and immediately praying for grace for repentance. I could come up with more illustrations but hopefully you can see where I am going.

It is my heart that directs my attention. It is my heart that produces my immediate, automatic responses.

Eternal ever present, all knowing God, you know my heart. There is nothing that I can hide from you, and yet by your spirit you call me to yourself. Thanks and praise always belong to you. Your will is that I find grace for repentance and for full salvation. You are the only source of grace; I must cling to you. Amen

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalms 51:10-12)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Building a Pure Heart (day 59)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Somehow, as I was memorizing and repeating the blessings, this one would often get lost. I would just skip it. But I quickly realized that if I truly wanted to take part in the last blessings I must build the ones before into my life. I must learn to be merciful, before I could experience what it means to have a pure heart, before I could become a peace maker.

You can learn enough to build a storage shed in a few hours, but if you want to build a house, that is an entirely different matter. There is foundational work that must be done and understood in order to get things done properly.

To learn more fully how to be merciful I first had to learn some things about

1.    Being poor in spirit.
2.    How to mourn sincerely.
3.    What it means to be meek and how to be meek
4.    After the other three I was ready to begin learning to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

On the 26th day of this series I said the first blessing is the key to everything. I still believe that. I must begin there every day, every moment.

Every one of these blessings contains a partial description of Jesus the man. To be merciful is something I cannot fake. It will be visible. It may only be in a look of disapproval or scorn, or it may be in a tone of voice. But it will be visible.

The first 4 blessings can possibly be faked pretty convincingly but to be merciful is a line, it cannot be faked at all successfully. It must be built on the first 4 blessings.

Tomorrow we will begin looking at what might be the most frightening area so far.

Father of mercy, thank you for your wonderful will for each of us. Thank you that you want each one to be becoming more and more like Jesus each day. I need grace to be faithful to the truth of your word, to be living these things and not just writing and reading them. Then and only then will I bring glory to your name. Amen!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Psalm 136 (Day 58)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Psalms 136 is an amazing Psalm. In many of the older translations all 26 verses end with the same phrase; “For his mercy endures forever.”

Each verse is a snap shot of God’s goodness to all mankind first of all and then to His Chosen people especially.  

It is the mercy of God that has given us a world to live in. It is the mercy of God that has surrounded us with beauty to enjoy and food to eat. We are nothing and can do nothing to deserve any of this. We were each one born by no virtue of our own. We each one grew to where we are only because God’s mercy has given us life and intelligence and wisdom.

The children of Israel did nothing to earn the goodness of God. Actually if you read about them a little you would certainly say, “The goodness of God was indeed merciful.”

When I look at my own life… well, I have no reason for pride.  God is indeed merciful to continue to encourage me to draw close to him. I look around and see multitudes of people who have no interest in drawing closer to God, and I realize that except for his mercy, I would be in the same place.

And so when I see Jesus’ blessing on those who show mercy, my only reasonable response is to commit to learn to be merciful as God has been so merciful to me.

God’s mercy is still poured out on all of mankind as he still provides food enough to feed the world, spring time and harvest, and winter for rest. He has given us His Word and His Son. If we do not learn to be merciful, how will they know?

When the religious leaders condemned Jesus for eating with sinners he responded; Matthew 9:12-13

The ones who are whole do not need a physician, but the ones who are sick. But go and learn what this is, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Friday, October 14, 2016

It Is a Heart Condition (Day 57)

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.
Often I have heard frustrated parents tell a child, “say you’re sorry.” To which a sullen child says, “Sorry.” Obviously nothing good has taken place. The parent is still frustrated and the child is only a little angrier and not a bit less glad that he hit his sister, or whatever it was that he did.

This is how much of religion is practiced. I see this in myself. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says:

If I give all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned but have not charity, it profits me nothing.

Outward acts of mercy are of no eternal value unless they come from my heart, from a heart of mercy.

David recognized this and at the end of Psalms 19 he says;

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight oh Lord my rock and my redeemer.

People can learn to behave properly. Children learn to not use profanity around their parents or other authorities, but it is still in their hearts. Outward acts of mercy are of value to the one who receives them but do little good for me if they do not come from my heart. Therefore, Paul wrote in Romans 12:2;

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind in order to prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

When I give up all judging in my heart and mind, then mercy can rule in my heart and God will be free to show me tremendous mercy.

Blessed Father in Heaven, your name is Mercy. It is what you are. You made me in your image to be conformed to your image. There is much that I find within that is not like you. Thank you, thank you that if I come to you in need you will hear me. I need grace to become like you in mercy that I might receive mercy. In Jesus name and for your glory always, Amen. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mercy in Prayer (day 56)

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

I am commanded to practice mercy in my prayers. 1 Timothy 2:1

First of all, then, I exhort that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,

This must be a mistake. It must be a misprint. Certainly we cannot be expected to pray for everyone, to be thankful for everyone. Can we?

This passage often reminds me of the scene in the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof” where someone asks the rabbi if there is a proper blessing for the Tsar. His reply was, “Of course there is a blessing for everyone.” His blessing was, “May God bless and keep the Tsar…far away from us.”

That was a humorous answer, but how should I pray and intercede with thanksgiving for all men? 

ALL men!

Should we not pray according to God’s will for all men?

How can we know God’s will for all men?

Well let’s look at 2 Peter 3:9 to see if we can get some idea.

The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness, but is long-suffering toward us, not purposing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

As I am learning to be merciful, one of the most valuable things that I am learning is to pray for mercy especially for those that I would naturally count as enemies; for those who mistreat me or those that I love, for those who are ungodly and wicked.

This is not complicated but it takes a determination to do by faith what I would never choose to do by my own will. But then my will is not what is important if I am a disciple of Jesus.

God of mercy, Father of love, give me grace to do what I see is your will. Help me remember to speak your will to you as I pray in obedience to your word. Thank you for this wonderful lesson in mercy that you want to make flesh in me as I am becoming more and more like your Son my Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mercy in the way I speak (day 55)

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.
I am commanded to practice mercy with my words.

Titus is a delightful letter of practical instructions. I was looking for a certain scripture and found it there and ended up reading the entire letter. I recommend it.
In chapter 3 at the beginning (vs. 1-2) Paul says,

Put them in mind to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no one, not being quarrelsome, but forbearing, showing all meekness to all men.

“Speak evil of no one,” Wow! Now that is a challenge.

Things like this may be the reason that at the beginning of Matthew 5 it says

And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain. And when He had sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying,

The “them” that Jesus taught was not the multitude. It was “his disciples.” Words like this are for disciples not casual Christians.

When I see this instruction and know I must take it seriously, I am very aware of my need for help to obey what the Word of God tells me to do.

There are a lot of things that I am inclined to say about too many people. But, the Word of God quietly tells me “speak evil of no one.”  

Heavenly Father I am so inclined to be many things but merciful is not among them. I desperately need your grace to help me here, especially with my words. Thank you that your will is that I be changed to be like Jesus and you give the help we need always when we ask. In Jesus lovely name, Amen.

Let your speech be always with grace, having been seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:6)