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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)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Mercy of Discipline (day 54)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Mercy is undeserved kindness, yes, but it is more than that. Often mercy gives me what I need in order to help me become what I need to become.

I have been told that David wrote Psalm 51 after his adultery led to the murder of one of his faithful soldiers. (2 Samuel 11-12) That adultery led to the death of the child and David repenting bitterly. Psalm 51 is his expression of that repentance. In verse 8 he writes,

Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which You have broken may rejoice.

David the shepherd knew that if a lamb habitually ran off, the shepherd must break the legs of that lamb and carry it until they healed. This was done so that the lamb could learn to not run off. David recognized God as his shepherd (Psalms 23) and saw the discipline of God as the love of the shepherd teaching him faithfulness.

Mercy is also discipline for my good.

In the NIV Bible Proverbs 19:18 reads,

Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.

God’s mercy disciplines his children for our good. In the same way I need to use discipline with the ones God puts into my care.

Hebrews chapter 12 says quite a bit about the value of discipline. I have found it to be extremely encouraging. Today verse 11 is significant for our consideration;

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Father in Heaven, God of Mercy and Love thank you for the mercy of discipline that you use to teach me your will and your ways. Thank you for each discipline that you are using to guide me in the way of righteousness, especially for those that seem painful. Obviously there I am most rebellious and need extra mercy. Thank you that you are changing me into the image of Jesus, always for your glory. Amen.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mercy and Forgiveness (day 53)

Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus teaches us what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. In verse 12 he says, “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Here is another part of The Lord’s Prayer that we are inclined to just read or say without thinking. I especially have a hard time thinking of it when someone cuts me off in a line, or when someone is rude to me or someone I care about. But just a little later in verses 14-15 Jesus nails the lid on this one.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Mercy is that quality of life that gives kindness when condemnation is deserved.

Mercy is never deserved and everyone needs mercy often.

God is Mercy to the very extreme. Throughout His word we can see God being extremely merciful to those who did not deserve it. Preserving a rebellious nation, forgiving a murderer, sending Jesus to redeem a world lost because of rebellion and sin.

That mercy is offered freely to all who ask for it. At the same time, we see that God is just. There is judgement for those who refuse mercy.

It is God’s mercy that redeems me and causes me to be Born Again. It is also God’s mercy that gives me grace to become like Jesus.

What can a just God do with someone who refuses his grace?

Jesus says “… if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

This is extremely serious!

Not only is it serious, but as with all of the blessings the condition is followed by a promise of tremendous value to someone who recognizes their need for mercy.

Father in Heaven, Father of Mercy thank you for this wonderful promise. Thank you for the truth that is revealed here. Thank you that as I learn to become merciful, I am becoming more like Jesus, my Lord and my Savior. That I might become a glory to His name. Amen.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Law of the Lord (day 52)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul:
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart:
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever:
the judgments of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they then gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is thy servant warned: in keeping of them there is great reward. (Psalms 19:7-11)

This world is full of distractions that would draw me away from following Jesus. The words of Psalms 19 are a wonderful encouragement for me to pursue righteousness. As I consider prayerfully and thoughtfully these words, the eyes of my heart and my understanding are enlightened and encouraged again and again.

I don’t know how many times I have heard about the 644 laws in the Old Testament. (I’m not sure about that number, it doesn’t matter to me.) What I do believe matters is the law that shows me the way to love my brothers and sisters in a godly way. I believe that the law that shows me how to lay down my will and do what I know to be God’s will is very important for me.

I have reduced it to 4 guidelines that I have found to be pretty inclusive. And by the way still have me seeing my need for grace to help to accomplish them.

1.    Love God
2.    Love others
3.    Don’t judge
4.    Be thankful

The prophet Micah offered a simple answer also in chapter 6 verse 8.

the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.

Have you seen any area that God wants to work in your life? If not be still and listen. He is always willing, even eager to help each of us become more like Jesus.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Motivation not Condemnation (day 51)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. But the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; so that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

I remember the first time I consciously read this passage. My understanding was so small and immature, but I was thrilled that, because I was “in Christ Jesus”, condemnation was no longer a thing I had to fear. I don’t think I even finished the verse consciously.

But let us continue reading. This promise is for those who do not walk or live in agreement with the flesh, but instead live their lives in harmony with the will of the Spirit of God. Once again I see the work of becoming a disciple.

“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”

The Law of commandments could never make me free. But the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus overcomes the flesh and gives me power to live a life of victory.

FEAR of damnation will bring me into need. Truly it is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10) But coming to the cross in that desperate need and seeing that redemption is freely given creates a deep love and desire in my heart to be pleasing.

That love is the motivation to fulfill the Law by following the leading of the Spirit. Then the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in me as I am learning to walk according to the spirit and not according to the flesh.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Power of Your Word (day 50)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.

And so we pray;

Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven…

These words roll off the tongue so easily. Have we ever stopped to think about what they mean?

When someone from another country comes to the United States and wants to become a citizen, they are required to take an oath. We don’t think much about oaths any more but they are extremely serious matters.

In Judges 11 there is a story about a man named Jephthah who made an oath to God. In the end he had to sacrifice his only child to fulfill that oath. This is a very sad story. I cannot say he was right to make such an oath, but he took it very seriously. This is an example of just how serious oaths are intended to be.

The oath that people take when they want to become citizens includes the promise to abide by the laws of this country.

When I say, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” I am essentially taking an oath to conform my life to the laws of God’s kingdom. I always need grace to help fulfill any promise to do God’s will, especially since it is in direct opposition to my natural inclinations.

Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, fightings, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkennesses, revelings, and things like these; of which I tell you before, as I also said before, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law. But those belonging to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.  (Galatians 5:19-24)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Way to true Joy (day 49)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.

It seems more and more that whenever someone says anything about being righteous someone else jumps in with, “We can’t save ourselves!” but who is talking about saving ourselves? Not me! I am talking about following Jesus.

If I am going to follow Jesus, it only seems reasonable that I will want to do whatever I can to become like him. Therefore, I should be working to develop similar likes and dislikes to his. In Hebrews 1:9 it says;

You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity,

If this is a description of Jesus, then if I am a follower of Jesus this is something that I should be learning to do as well.

If we read the entire verse, we can see how that will work out.

You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows.

In Matthew 5 we can see the truth that Jesus spoke. In Hebrews 1 we can see the truth that Jesus lived, and the reward.

This is what this series is about; becoming disciples and learning to observe all the things that Jesus has commanded.

It is easy to look around and find sin everywhere to condemn. But I need to find the sin that is in me and hate that. I need to look for ways that I can be righteous and love that. Then I am following Jesus. I am inclined to look outside my self but that is not the way Jesus went, so it should not be the way for me.

I am learning to be a disciple. I am not very good at it yet, but I have great hope. I hope you understand this. Let us learn together.

Father of love and mercy, thank you so much for the example that Jesus has given us of loving righteousness and hating iniquity. Help me to grow in faithfulness here. I am so easily drawn away and inclined to make excuses. Jesus never did that. I do need grace to follow his example. Please give me that grace, in His name and for your glory, Amen. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Righteousness Without The Law (day 48)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.
As we look at this blessing I am probably not the only one to think of Romans 3:10;

…as it is written: “There is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understands there is none that seeks after God.”
But this is the righteousness that is achieved by full compliance with the law. There is another righteousness which is attainable. Further down in Romans 3:21-22 it says;

But now a righteousness of God has been revealed apart from Law, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets; even the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ, toward all and upon all those who believe. For there is no difference,

Here is righteousness that is available to “all those who believe” The righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ.

I believe that we are redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ and what he did by living a life apart from sin and dying on the cross. I also believe that this may be something a little different. In this translation it says “the faith of Jesus Christ.” We can also see this phrase in Galatians 2:20 in the King James Version.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

And so, as I am being conformed to the image of His son (Romans 8:29) I am learning to live by the same faith that guided Jesus’ life. “Not my will but thine be done, Oh Lord.” I truly desire this, I am hungry for this. God promises he will satisfy my hunger; He will fill me up.

Wonderful Heavenly Father, thank you for this encouragement once again to be learning to follow Jesus so that I might become more and more like him. (2 Corinthians 3:18) 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A God shaped hole (day 47)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Several years ago, in the late 60s or early 70s someone came up with the phrase, “There is a God shaped hole in each of us.” And it’s true. In the center of each of us is a space that only God can fill. Many people in fact most people try to fill that space with other things, but it just won’t work.

Many people try to fill that hole with themselves. Remember Satan told Eve, “You shall be as God...” (Genesis 3:5) So, people have chosen things, pleasures, power or fame to fill that hole. Each of these things are offerings to the one in the center of that God shaped hole. I am not God I will not be satisfied.

Other people try religion to fill that hole. Too often this is just another way of putting myself at the center, in God’s place. When I am so sure that I have all the answers and that anyone who doesn’t agree with me is condemned, I may be self-satisfied but I will not be truly satisfied.

But if I look around and see that, in fact, I only know a little more than nothing about what it means to have God fill that space where he belongs. Then I am truly sorry for my arrogance and pride. Then I quiet myself to allow God to teach me how to be filled with His presence. Then He will come and fill me to my capacity and help me take all of the other things out of that space so that He can continue to fill me.

But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.

Wonderful Father in Heaven, thank you for showing me my error. Give me diligence to humble myself before you so that you can truly fill that space inside me that has always been yours. Then I will be satisfied and give glory to you and your son my savior Jesus. Amen.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Walk Like your Heritage (day 46)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.

And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him. He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:27)
Think of it. This is our heritage. Many people boast about their ancestors, saying things like, “I am a direct descendant of this or that well know person.” It is not uncommon for people to wear a certain kind of clothing to demonstrate or proclaim that they are Irish or Indian or what have you. Sometimes they will begin to use figures of speech that identify them with their national heritage. They want to look like their heritage.

I don’t know that there is anything wrong about wanting to identify with my ancestors. I would very much like to visit England, but probably as much to see where my favorite writers lived as to visit the village of Everingham north of London.

However, if I consider my first heritage, isn’t it logical that I should want to be identified as much as possible with the God who made me in His image.

I never did anything to have the name Everingham. I don’t deserve it one way or another. But I have been encouraged to be a good example of what it means to be an Everingham.

In the same way and to a much greater degree, I have done absolutely nothing that qualifies me to be called a child of God. Yet, because of God’s wonderful mercy I am able to boldly say that He has made me his child.

Therefore, to desire to be a good example of what it means to be a child of God might be to desire to be righteous. That is my desire and hunger, how about you?

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the calling with which you are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Inherit the earth? (day 45)

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Someone told me this is their favorite blessing. I think they might not understand the real meaning of the blessing. But then we all see as through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Moses (the meekest man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3)) died on a mountain top alone and had no property. Jesus died on a cross and we have no record of him having any property. Paul certainly didn’t have what we would think of as a glorious inheritance.

What does it mean to inherit the earth? The American dream is to own property, but I think that is an illusion. Jesus says (Matthew 6:19-21)

Do not lay-up treasures on earth for yourselves, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay-up treasures in Heaven for yourselves, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
I suspect that inheriting the earth might involve having legitimate claim to the things of earth that have real value. Wouldn’t that be the souls of men. Notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:15,

For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for I have begotten you in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Paul claimed the Corinthian Christians as his children.

The world had gone away from the path of life. Jesus came to show us the way back and to make the way possible. It cost him more than we can imagine yet he gained the best part of the whole earth, the souls of those who would follow him.

Jesus has said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” I desire this to be my inheritance. How about you?

Father in Heaven thank you so much for this understanding that has alluded me for so long. I have been deceived by the worlds values. Give me grace to remember and to find the grace to be meek so that I can truly inherit the most valuable things of the earth, men’s souls. In Jesus name and for his glory always, Amen. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Meek Enough to say Follow Me (day 44)

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
And walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea. For they were fishermen. And He said to them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they immediately left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)

Have you ever thought about how odd it was for this guy walking along the beach to say to some professional fishermen, “follow me”?

Take off your religious glasses and just look at this from a natural standpoint. It is really kind of surprising and then to see that they just left their business and did what he said. That is amazing to me.

Think of what it must take to say boldly “follow me.” Now if your taking someone to find the canned peas in the grocery all you need is to know where they are. But if you are telling someone how to become like Jesus, that’s a little different story.

There seems to be two kinds of people who would say “follow me.” The first group that I think of are the very arrogant. They want followers for vanity’s sake. The second are the very meek. They are confident in the way they are going that it is the best way, and for love want others to go that way as well. Both of these people need tremendous boldness.

(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.) (Numbers 12:3)

And still Moses said to the Nation of Israel, “follow me out of slavery and bondage.” He didn’t want to be the guy but he believed God had told him, so he had to obey.

Jesus obeyed his Father in all things and so he said “follow me.”

Paul, who had persecuted the church when he came to the truth said,

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
Therefore, as you see me following Jesus I tell you as well. Follow me.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalms 139:23-24)