Meet Jesus: Ill Will Matthew 5:11

9385_554298617946432_1309700350_n (2)Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, … 11: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

 Reviled, persecuted, falsely accused, and discussed with cussedness is the condition of a follower of Jesus.  Now, that was His condition.  And, now, that is our condition.  It is a strange communion with Christ that we desire.  We want to be like Him in every way except this one.  Sure, we would like to be gracious and kind and merciful and full of miracles.  But, do we want the accompaniment?   Jesus was conditioned to being treated this way every place He went.  Are we?

During the televangelist season of failure in the 1980s, a co-worker approached me on break.  This had been a hard time as many personal failures of Christian leaders were in the media and being talked about in congregations.  Jimmy Swaggart was one of those in the news regularly.  This co-worker made a crude comment about the minister and the accusations in the papers.  True or not, I had no idea.  My retort was to encourage them to find truth before repeating the news lest they find themselves against God.  Even if it was true, why would they wish ill will to the man?  Over years, he had been used of God to bless many.  Now there was a reported failure.  Wouldn’t we want him to be restored?  Wouldn’t we want him to enjoy family for the remaining years of life?  Wouldn’t we want repentance and continued good works?  The co-worker really wasn’t attacking Jimmy Swaggart.  They were attacking the cause of Christ and possible hypocrisy.  That is a dangerous game to play.  Who wants to be one to accuse Christ of inconsistency?

ACT!  Have you ever verbally wished ill will to another Christian?  Did you do it out of envy?  Have you ever heard someone else do this?  Did you participate by listening?  The next time you hear an accusation against a brother or sister in Christ, rise to their defense.  Bless them in your prayers and bless them in the hearing of others.  Don’t entertain the ill will.

PRAY!   Father, this kingdom of heaven is a strange life.  We find ourselves continually beset with accusations when we do good and needing to bless others in the same.  In the kingdom, we are joined in Christ to the same body.  In the kingdom, what affects one affects the other.  Teach us to be blessors, especially when others in Christ are attacked.  Teach us to turn what the enemy means for ill will into something of blessing.  Teach us to walk in the kingdom.

If we can pray for you regarding anything in your life, please let us know.  Our greatest blessing is to bless others in prayer. .  www.prayermetro.com   Phil@shepherdok.com

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Meet Jesus: Discerning Kingdom Matthew 5:10again

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he omeetjesussortpened his mouth, and taught them, saying, … 10: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Marks of Honor: Being a joint-heir with Jesus is a great honor.  With that honor comes challenge, persecution, problems, and pain.  Those four lead us to discern the kingdom of heaven.  As Jesus walked this earth, His life was full of all four of these semi-pessimistic issues.  Man tends to get trapped in the pain of the issues instead of seeing the possibilities.  Jesus never became trapped.  At the high point at which all four converged on the cross, He was still looking to the joy that was set before Him.  He was still pointing a man to paradise.  He was still persisting in taking care of family and friends.  He was still speaking of salvation available.  He was still talking to the Father.  He was still submitting to the will of God for His life and living.  He was discerning of the kingdom behind the scene.

Kingdom Sink Holes: The realization that kingdom living includes all of the items listed above must sink in to our souls.  It is a kingdom of challenge, persecution, problems, pain, possibility, joy, righteousness, peace, paradise, family, friends, care, salvation, encouragement, conversation, submission, service, and more.  This kingdom in which we are called to live today and tomorrow and beyond is not as super simple as we want it to be.  It is fulfilling.  It is live to the max.  It is a joy unspeakable in the middle of pain indescribable.

Robert’s Doubling Day Dilemma: The complex issues pushing against Robert’s heart stymied progress on his studies.  For two years he had been in this MBA program.  Now he was beginning to doubt he could finish.  His teenagers were struggling through issues that needed his time and counsel.  Betty, Robert’s wife, faced a rocky middle life every day that rattled her emotions and body.  She needed him.  Sales were down as he needed time to do the studies.  That meant less income as his eldest daughter completed her last year at the university.  Men from his study group at church were calling for time and a merciful ear.  This morning, Robert knew he was involved in all the right places.  Now he needed strength to go forward.  His prayer was soft and intense at once.  “God, I need help.”

ACT!  What the mix of your life in the kingdom?  Are you moving forward?  Have the normal problems pushed you out of the path you seek?  Take inventory of the mix.  What is going right?  What is going wrong?  What are you doing in the middle?  Make sure you are doing the right things not those that are most pressing.

 PRAY!   Father, this kingdom of heaven is a strange life.  Yes, Father, I submit that it is a life not a place.  The kingdom affects me every day. 

 Father, can You show me some light this morning.  Show me the peace that comes after persecution.  Show me the joy the will be revealed after the pain has passed.  Reveal to me the strength and endurance that will be built in me as the challenge is engaged and conquered.  Let me see Your face. 

 As Moses called out to see You, Father, so do I.  It is Your glory that will inspire me.  It is the blessing of the beauty of the kingdom that will give me strength to continue.  Keep me focused on living in righteousness concerning the right actions and thoughts not the comfortable items.

 

Meet Jesus: The Walk of Persecution Matthew 5:10

meetjesushealerMatthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, … 10: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Walk: To walk with Jesus links us with persecution and suffering.  His walk on earth was full of many sorrows.  Some of those were the normal sorrows all of us endure such as loss of family members, friends being sick and just normal stuff.  Some of those sorrows were persecutions from friends and trusted people and strangers.  One of His greatest persecutors was the religious leaders of the day.  These were men dedicated to God.  These were men, whom the Father worked with daily to grow understanding.  These should have been friends of Jesus and the message He brought.  His message was a fulfillment of thousands of years of promises.  These very people turned on the God they worshipped and persecuted Him.  We are joined to that persecution when we are joined to Him.

Brian’s Exchange: The exchange was painful.  Brian had worked for this company for four years.  He had put in countless weekends and nights.  Calls came at all hours of the day.  Last year, his direct reporting structure had changed.  This new vice president was different.  During his annual review, Brian had gotten two messages.  1. Prayer has no place at work.  2.  You need to be less involved outside of work.  The company doesn’t like it.

Why a Problem Now?  This had never been a problem before.  For years he had been active in the faith community as a volunteer.  Now, his personal life was being attacked by his work management.  There was nothing active at the work place other than visiting with folks over break and lunch.  The attack was devastating.  He really had no experience to compare with this.  The hardest part was that the organization purported to the public to be linked to a large Southern denomination.  To the employees behind the scenes it was something different.

ACT!  How do you return blessing for cursing when you are persecuted?  Scripture tells us to bless those that persecute us.  Have you ever been in the situation of real persecution for your faith?  Think of a way to bless those that persecute you for your faith.

PRAY!   Father, persecution from anyone is hard.  Persecution from those from whom we expect blessing is super hard.  How do we survive?  How do we handle it?  How do we continue in good works even in the middle of the mess?  Teach us, Father.  Show us the path of Christ.  Show us how to reach out and continue to spread the gospel when the environment is hard.  Teach us to pray and bless over those that persecute that they might get connected with Christ themselves.  Help those that persecute us to have the eyes of their understanding enlightened.  Help them to see.  Help them to engage love in all they do.  Bless them abundantly.

 

Meet Jesus: Persecuted To Life Matthew 5:10

When you are truly persecuted because you represent a higher standard of living and love than another, you can triumph.  The kingdom of heaven is about living in love in this world regardless of circumstance.

 Matthew 5: 10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.unshakeable

Persecution is a tough concept. Persecution because you represent a higher frame of living than your persecutors is not as common as some think.  But it is more common than we want to believe.  There are people convicted by their own selfishness that will trap those living in love and service.  Love is the higher standard.  Service is the higher standard.   Reward comes.

Maybe an employer toughens your work and restricts your freedom because you live to a higher standard.   It is common.  There is no law enforceable against it.  It happens.   Reward comes.

Persecution does not mean having a hard life.  Persecution is specific restriction and abuse.   Some persecute because they have been persecuted.  They live out their pain against others.  Some persecute because they want control. They enslave others to do their bidding.  Some persecute out of ignorance and socialization to please another in some warped sense of reality.

Maybe the legal system toughens your expression and strangles your voice because you choose to serve.  It is common.  The law supports it.  Law may not be fair.  Reward comes.

Persecution because you represent a higher standard of love and service is what Jesus represents.   Sure those that wanted control came against him.  Some were just ignorant. Some were serving their own misguided belief systems.  But some attacked because Jesus dared to love and serve.  They just could not stand to see love and acceptance that was not based on fear and control.

Maybe family sneers and scoffs and questions your motives.  It happens.   Live and love them anyway.  You may have to stand alone.  Reward comes.

Jesus stood above His persecutors.   That is where the kingdom survives.  Persecutors can’t take it away.  It is a matter of the heart.  The kingdom of love and service survives persecution and lives for another day and hour.  The reward comes.

Persecuted?  Keep loving.  Keep serving.  Live through it to the next hour.  Tough?  You bet it is.  The kingdom is in you.  There is reward ahead.

Father, what a day in which You have placed us.  There are so many sources of power and control that want to restrict and contain love and service. It should not be this way.

But, Father, You know this world acts this way.  You have seen nations abuse nations.  You see ideals squash love and acceptance.  You witness the inhumanity of people against those they cannot understand and do not wish to accept because of a higher law of love that they live in You.

Relieve those that are persecuted for righteousness and those persecuted for love and those persecuted for service. Restore their fortunes and their heart and loose restrictions.  Bring reward in this life, Father. Let them see Your hand in this life, Father.

For these specifically persecuted I pray, Father.  Release their love and service that they might be a blessing to the rest of us.  For that is what these are, Father.  They are meant to be a blessing.  Release their joy to bless us.  Deliver us from such evil.  For Yours is the kingdom.

Meet Jesus: Peacemaker Matthew 5:9

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, ….. 9: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 

Peace is tough to produce. In a world of accusations and self seeking, most want to know quickly, “What’s in it for me?”. That rarely leads to peace. But, we can have peace both inside and out. It takes work.

Nothing soothes the soul like peace. One who makes peace is always welcome. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He will keep you in perfect peace if you stay your mind on him. With prayer, you can ensure your heart and mind are guarded by peace. He is a Shepherd of still waters and quiet resting places. He is peace. These are all promises. And they take work.

Following Him in the peacemaking business will grant you “child of God” status. Hmmmm.. Others are impressed, when you lead to peace what is a troubled situation. Others are impacted when you take a conflict and bring it to resolution. Peace or conflict affects so many people around you that everyone notices the peacemaker. They like to be treated with a peacemaking mentality. People just love it. They will call you a child of God, they love it so much.

The normal way of making peace in organizations is to eliminate one of the parties. Now that is not conflict resolution. Neither is separating them a resolution. That is not peace but tolerance for war and selfishness. Real peace brings the parties together. That is a tougher way of resolution, but the best.

At first peace must be found internally. Our own angsts have to be quiesced. When we are struggling inside, it can be impossible to be at peace with others. The pain just keeps erupting into conversations and communications.

A friend walked into a hectic computer facility some years ago. As he recounts the story, another worker looked straight at him and commented on his peaceful attitude. He laughed. He had felt anything but peaceful. Problems had been growing in number and impact on the company. The constant push and pull had wearied him. Yet, the other person saw was peace. Yes, he had helped many others resolve conflicts. Yes, he tried to put it all on God instead of carrying it. It just made him laugh to think that they saw peace and he felt turmoil. The work of peace in him and on him from the Father amazed him. It was impacting others and he did not realize that fact.
No slick answers here. Just a reminder that peace is work the work. There are promises from the Prince of Peace that He can make it work in you and out of you. Let Him. Work on it.

ACT! Do you make peace with yourself? Do you make peace with others? Do you make peace for others? Think about a situation with strain exists. Don’t pick a conflict, just a strained issue. Take time to speak some encouragement and confidence to the other person before conflict develops.

PRAY! Father, my heart wants to live like You. Being Your child is all I want. Help me follow the paths of peace to be called a child of God. Embrace my heart with peace from the Lord of Peace. Collapse my self-made bubbles and pride with peace in the midst of self-created conflicts. Show me a strain so I can apply the balm of Gilead in peace and encouragement. Peacemakers have smoother days. Let me have it.

Meet Jesus: Pure In Heart Matthew 5:8

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, ….. 8: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Jesus truly is pure in heart. His heart has always been to build us. His heart has always been to redeem us. His heart has always been to receive us. And certainly He saw God regularly.

What does it mean to see God? To see Him in that same pure heart is a great privilege. In the book of Genesis, it is common for men to get direct communication from God about circumstance and decisions. Today, that seems uncommon. Many will say, “God told me”, and have no concept of what they are saying. It can be interpreted, “I want to hear this so I did”. Others really did “hear from God” as evidenced in real results consistent with His way and voice.

The pure in heart see God. They have clarity to receive when He speaks. They have a consistency unfiltered by their own desires. Seek purity that thinks of God’s ways not yours.

One study class in a morning gives questions about life and church. They reflect purity of heart. There are a few funny questions meant to make me laugh. Most were direct to the heart. One asked the question, “Why do we interpret the scriptures in different ways and always think we have the correct and only answer?” That one cut to heart. How many times have I been guilty of the answer to that question? This week one of my sons questioned a doctrine I hold dear. Why did it hurt? It isn’t an important doctrine. It is just something special to me. Purity of heart would not be hurt. In a recent sermon picked up over the internet, the minister of a large congregation preached as truth strongly questionable interpretation of unclear verses against another denomination. Maybe he has a little inferiority. I don’t know. But why do we do it? Purity of heart would not want to be right on small matters to the point of being hurt and hurting others.

In the parking lot of a church I was visiting, I met Lillian. This cute, bright girl was about eight. She was part of a group of adults and kids walking from their home to go shopping. The group of four looked inviting so I walked over and introduced myself. The group I was teaching was not ready yet, so I just wandered in the parking lot with a little figgetyness. Lillian bounced and bounced. She figeted, too. She locked on to two of my fingers. Her longing for an adult male figure was evident. She asked if she had to get new cloths to go to a church. Would she have to wear a dress? We laughed and played a little as I told her she only needed to wash her face. Her face was dirty but her heart was hungry. She has a pure motive to come not to a church but to a Jesus living in the members. She just wants love. That is pure. As they walked away Lillian proclaimed loudly, “I have a dress. I’ll wear my dress.” Pure heart.

ACT! Question yourself. Where have you declared “truth” that really was questionable and needed to be questioned and polished before spoken? Is there a way to clear up with those who heard? Do you want to see God? Would you be able to drop all pretense like Lillian and ask simple questions?

PRAY! Father, it is my soul that is wounded when I reach for impurities. Create in me a clean heart. Cause your Holy Spirit to breathe in my soul freshness. Give us clean hands. Give us pure hearts. Let us not lift our souls to another. We bow our hearts. We bend our knees. Make us vessels of honor and love. We cast down the idols that are impure. We cast down ideas that stand against freedom and peace within the kingdom. Let us be a generation that seeks Your face and Your face alone. Let us put down our ways and wants. Humble us, we humble ourselves. Then we will see You. Let us see You in others. Let us see You in the Lillians in the parking lot.

Meet Jesus: Mercied Matthew 5:7

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, ….. 7: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

 Mercy interests me.  I need a lot of mercy.  All of us do.  So what is mercy?

Mercy is acceptance in spite of my pain and problems and persistent pressures.

Mercy is being received by others regardless.

Mercy is not receiving bad results from bad actions.

Mercy is having a friend I just offended do an act of kindness for me.

Mercy is having my punishment revoked and let go free.

Mercy is someone loving me even when I continually hurt them.

Mercy is good.  It is kind.  It is abundant in Jesus.  He is full of mercy.

When mercy comes to us through others around us, we want to give it back to them.   A merciful person receives mercy from others.

When mercy is held back in a needful situation, we are deeply wounded.  We can decide to respond with mercy and protect our soul.

A really painful act with no mercy was dumped on me last year.  Really, it has taken me many months of pain and speaking blessing and forgiveness over the offenders to even have a day with rest.  The pain of a merciless act can dig deep into our soul.  This one did.  I won’t recant the actions.  They were disloyal, unfaithful, dishonest, and lacked any small amount of mercy.

Yet, I can apply mercy.  It has taken much of my emotional investment and trust in God’s protection for the future of my family, but He is giving me the smile of mercy for these that were unmerciful.  My joy is more certain and more consistent.  The wound of a friend goes deep.  These were friends.  Really, they were friends turned sour.  An unmerciful act of an enemy is expected.  But, a friend of over a decade is not expected to act such a way.

The great news is that we can take from our storehouse of mercy received over life and apply to the ugliest of situations and offenses.  We can dispense mercy in the face of evil and keep the light in our countenance.  Mercy has power.  Mercy received or mercy given  is healing.

ACT!  Mercy is learned by example.  Who around you is always taking care of others even when others take advantage of them?  You think about it and wonder if the person is all connected upstairs.  Why do they keep putting themselves at such risk?  Go spend some time with that person.  Learn from them. 

PRAY!   Father, I hunger for my family to be complete in You.  That is my hunger.  I wish to see all my friends connected to Christ.  There will never be a total satisfaction in me, Father, until I see my community committed to living fully in You and by character and moral principles revealed in Your word.  Satisfy my soul, Lord.  Show me a way to advance the righteousness of the kingdom in my family and friends and community this week.  Don’t let me sit on the sidelines.  Launch me into action.