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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.