Monday, July 31, 2017

2 Peter 1:1-3

Peter was one of Jesus’ original 12 Disciples and listed among the Apostles. As Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles Peter was the Apostle to the Jewish Christians: But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), (Gal 2:7-8)

So the writings of Peter take on a Jewish/Christian flavor. It begins with him using his Jewish name Simon, Symeon.

2Pe 1:1  Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

2Pe 1:2  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
       Knowledge gained from a process of study.
       Knowledge gained from observation-experience.
       Knowledge settled down upon. It is an understanding, an illumination, insight given not gained. Faith – given. Knowledge – given.

2Pe 1:3  seeing [understanding] that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by to His own glory and excellence.

Granted – given to us – faith/knowledge. We didn’t accomplish, achieve or reach some level of reward.
Everything – Everything. All things.
       Specific to how we live our life in a godly way.

Php 4:11  Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

This is how I live when all is well. This is how I live when all is not well. SAME

Difference in surviving and thriving
   Survive – have just enough
   Thrive – have more than enough
How do you qualify someone as rich?
   Is there a dollar amount?
   Rich is having more than enough.
Forbes: Average American is 90 times richer than the average person in the rest of the world.
We are rich in everything pertaining to life and godliness.
·      the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience,
·      the riches of His glory
·      riches for all who call on Him;
·      the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
·      the riches of His grace
·      the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
·      unfathomable riches of Christ
2Co 4:7  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
Peter wants us to understand the value of that treasure – the scope of the riches – the extent of everything.

Determining value: whatever someone is willing to
pay, based on what they think somethings worth.
   Extrinsic – as valued from others
   Intrinsic – as you value something – Antique Road
       Grandmother’s old wedding ring is priceless to you because she wore it. It means nothing to a jeweler but something to melt down for scrap gold.
No extrinsic value but high intrinsic value.

On the other hand, you may have something of tremendous extrinsic value and not even know it.
       The Bradfords had been dirt-poor farmers in East Texas forever. Dad Joiner felt there was oil underneath their land. When the Daisy Bradford #3 well came in he had discovered one of the largest oil deposits ever discovered at that time.
They lived all those years and never knew the value of what was theirs.

We don’t realize what we have in Christ so He has to
settle that knowledge down upon us.
By to – the direction of His calling is toward what is unique about Him—what draws us to Him…
      Glory and excellence.
              Glory: who He is
              Excellence: what He does

His reputation and the success of His reputation define the product of His work.

  To send an army into battle unprepared is unthinkable. 
  To leave Christians on the earth after salvation without what is necessary for them to thrive is inconsistent with God’s reputation and work.
  We not only are equipped, we are fully equipped for life.
   Satan wants us to think we’re paupers, even though we are wealthy in the riches of Christ.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Thoughts on Prayer

Making His Name Glorious
Blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen. (Ps 72:19)

Video of earth
"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." (Rev 4:11)

How do we make God’s Name Glorious: recognizing who He is.

Categories of God:                                                   We are:
·         Creator                                                                      Created – DNA proves
·         Sustainer of life                                                        Consumers of life
·         Beginning and end                                                   Somewhere in the middle
·         Owns the plan                                                          Are included in that plan

·         Omnipresent                         Can only be where we are
·         Omniscient                           Can only know what we’ve been taught, seen or exp.
·         Omnipotent                          Micropotent
·         Infinite                                  Finite
·         Full perspective                    Limited perspective (fence) – Here, God, use my insight...

El Elyon – God Most High – not only is there no one higher but there is also no possibility of being higher.
El Shaddai God-Almighty – all authority – all-sufficient One, One who can accomplish all He wills, the sovereign One

To say God is sovereign is to say that He is Supreme, does everything according to His will, fulfills His purpose, is ruler over all things, maintains His plan that no one can ruin.

Ancients thought they could have some measure of control over their gods. That’s what made idolatry so attractive. They thought that by ritual activity they could manipulate their god to do their will. We need rain, we need sunshine, we need fertility.

Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, "O Baal, answer us." But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made…So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. (1 Kings 18:26-29)

Ever felt that way, trying to get God’s attention to a matter in your life? Then Elijah prayed and God brought fire from Heaven.

Ever feel your prayers aren't getting through either? Other than the fact that the priests of Baal weren’t praying to God Almighty, why would God answer some prayers and not others? What is His criteria for answering?
·         I like them better.
·         She’s more spiritual.
·         They prayed standing up, the others were sitting down.
·         What they’re asking makes better sense than what I had in mind.
·         They’re bugging me to death with their requests so I’m giving in to what they ask.
·         They think they’re asking for a fish but I know better. I’ll give them what they’re really asking for and it will be a snake.

God’s single criteria: I am willing.

While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:12-13)

God says yes when what we are asking:
·         Fits His plans
·         Agrees with His intentions
·         Compliments His will.

Wouldn’t you think Paul would get whatever he asked?

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:7-10)

Paul asked three times for God to heal him of this thorn, remove his suffering. God said, no, this thorn will help accomplish greater things in your life than if I remove it.

Paul accepted, rather than challenged, God’s right to be God.

What do we do when God doesn’t answer as we ask?
·         Become angry
·         Lose confidence in God
·         Become hopeless
·         Doubt His love.
       Are we saying God made a mistake?
Are we saying because God didn’t do what we asked He has failed us?
Are we challenging His goodness?
Are we disputing His wisdom to know what’s best?
Are we justified in our displeasure?

1986 a film came out Children of a Lesser God – about a school for deaf children. Title was a statement: God had let them down because of their deafness. When we feel God has let us down, we sense we are lesser children in God’s family.

Is that our opinion in prayer?  We can’t focus on one outcome and say it’s this or nothing. This is the only thing I will accept.

When we serve a Sovereign God we have to realize there is purpose in stuff I may want to change. And if God doesn’t change our circumstances, He’s failing us. No, He’s accomplishing things greater than we ask.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Dan 3:16-18)

Habakkuk: Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Hab 3:17-18)

God gave us prayer so we wouldn’t feel hopeless, helpless and would look to Him as an outlet for our faith. To get our eyes on Him so we can agree with His highest good.  We cannot only honor Him when/if He does what we want.

Randy Alcorn wrote: We should pray for ourselves and our suffering loved ones, not simply try to pray away suffering. “God, please heal this cancer” is appropriate, but it is equally appropriate to pray: “God, please use this cancer for your glory, for as long as they have it.”

We are having a Prayer for Healing Service tonight. Healing is a broad term. What may be healing to us isn’t what healing means to God. And what healing means to God may not be what it means to us. We’ll begin by praying for wisdom as to how to pray.

If all we have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail and every solution is to pound the nail away.

If we think every disease has to be removed, we’ll miss out on the blessings God intends for us and the ones we’re praying for. If we put all our prayers into one basket, we may find God isn’t in that basket but over here doing a greater work.

Disease may not be the enemy we think it is. But the true enemy may be taking advantage of the disease to kill, steal and destroy a person’s faith, joy, peace, confidence.

We don’t want to think this way but if the disease has God’s purpose attached to it, we may be praying against God’s will to have Him remove it.

What if I have a disease that God will use to end my life on earth? What do I need? Not healing that takes the disease away, but healing that invigorates my faith. I will need you to pray for my endurance, my patience, my hope in tomorrow, peace in my darkness, courage for what I face and courage for my family to grieve in the hope of Heaven, relief from my pain and misery, defeat of my fears? Pray I might see God working in my life even though death is working in my body. Pray that my love for Him will grow. Pray for the victory He will accomplish through my life that makes His name glorious.

Lois didn’t ask us to pray for healing from her cancer but for wisdom to make right decisions.

We pray within context of who we’re talking to: Almighty, Most High God. When we pray to a God like that, our prayers start with believing His will is best. We then ask whatever we want Him to do, yet rest in promise that He will accomplish whatever concerns us. He will do what is according to His greater purpose.

We have a group of ladies that pray here every Monday. We have another group of prayer warriors that pray here each Wednesday night. If I have any need, I want those two groups praying for me.
·         They know God hears them.
·         They know God can do the miraculous.
·         They pray expecting God’s best.
·         They pray in faith to a faithful God.
·         They trust God with the outcome.
·         They see God’s love in whatever happens.

Jody surprised his kids with a trip to Disneyworld a few weeks ago. When they were walking down Main Street toward the castle, Oliver asked his dad, “Daddy, did you do this because you loved us?”

In all that’s going on in our lives or the lives of our loved ones, we have one constant we can know for sure: what He does, He does because He loves us.

1.       Fortunately, God doesn’t need our input to know what to do in any situation.
2.      But He gives us permission to ask, believing—not believing in what we ask, but believing in who He is to do what’s best.
3.      So even though we may not know His intentions, we can ask expectantly, because we are trusting Him to do beyond what we ask.

4.      Then, we trust Him with the outcome.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

BEATITUDES - Persecution 2

Persecution is a targeted effort to exterminate, drive away or subjugate a people based on their association with a religious, ethnic, social or racial group.

75% of the world’s population lives in areas of severe religious persecution. There are 196 countries in the world. 60 of those countries practice some form of extreme opposition against Christians today.
This persecution ranges from harassment and discrimination to beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, imprisonment, slavery, and even death.

Number one among nations who practice persecution is North Korea. When you run a totalitarian state you can’t allow anyone any freedoms in any area of life.

Out of the next 59, fifty of those countries are Muslim-controlled. If your religion can’t allow competition, you have to get rid of the competition.

In our country, we have social persecution which is a clash over conflicting social standards. Those who hold traditional values, Biblical values are now being challenged by those who want a completely secular society. To change a society, you have to get rid of whatever influence tries to interfere with that change. The tactics in this battle are designed to silence the voices of those who oppose.

You see it every day. If someone cannot win their argument logically, they begin making outlandish accusations, twist meanings of words and make indefensible statements. Are you still beating your wife?

Anyone with an opposing viewpoint is immediately given a name:
  • If you are concerned about inner city unrest or crime or support the police you get labeled a racist.
  • If you want secure borders and restricted entrance into our country from terrorist-supportive nations, you are xenophobic.
  • If you oppose the LGBT agenda of same-sex marriage or just open bathrooms because of your Biblical beliefs or even concern for safety, you are homophobic.
  • If you see the influx of radical Muslims as a threat because of their desire to impose their beliefs, laws and practices in our country as they have throughout the world, you are called islamophobic.

Your fear (phobia) indicates your ignorance and that you hold a bias that prevents you from understanding.

Don’t worry, there are those prepared to correct these fears. It is a movement called the New Morality. With each generation there have been those who have tried to stretch the fabric of what is acceptable so a society can embrace changing morals and practices.  Brian Camenker, with Mass Resistance, said, "As a Jew, I see what happened to Jews in the 1930s and 40s is much the same thing that is happening to Christians now. There's an organized movement to demonize Christians." Maggie Gallagher, with the American Principles Project, said, "What we're seeing very clearly is an effort to target Christians legally when possible and then to humiliate or deprive them of social respect.”

April 23, 2015, Hillary Clinton shared this insight: “All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper.”

I thought, of course, she meant the Bill of Rights. When our Constitution was written, certain questions were raised about the extent of the power of this new government. Some feared it would erase individual and states’ rights. Others felt the government would surely never do that. So the compromise was a collection of limitations for the government, Rights for the American people.
To remain a free society, these rights must be upheld so the wishes of a few cannot overtake the convictions of the majority.

But Hillary couldn’t leave it there. She continued, “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

In other words, for a secular world to work, this New Morality must silence the distracting opinions of those who oppose any change.

Years ago in Burleson, the school board was in a battle over creation curriculum. It even attracted the attention of the ACLU who sent an attorney to scare everyone into submission. Someone said that it had always been true that a teacher could share her opinion in discussions and even the ACLU couldn’t stop that.

A baker and his wife are in a legal battle in Colorado because they refused to make a cake to celebrate a gay couple’s wedding reception, even though they offered any other baked good. Just not a wedding cake. Why? It could set the stage for religious views intruding further on laws designed to make society more civil and more open.

A farmer in Michigan was banned from the farmers market in Lancing, because he put on his Facebook page that he believed marriage was between a man and a woman. The city developed a policy to exclude Steve and others like him from selling in the farmer’s market.

Southern Poverty Law Center (an extreme liberal organization) has labeled the Family Research Council and the American Family Association – both highly respected religious organizations – as hate groups.

In Hawaii, this sign now must be placed in all Crisis Pregnancy Centers: This clinic does not provide abortion services or abortion referrals. Only ultrasounds performed by qualified healthcare professionals and read by licensed clinicians should be considered medically accurate. Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services including all FDA-approved methods of contraception, prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women.

Opinions held because of Biblical beliefs will be the attack zone by those wishing to stop the interference from those of us who hold traditional, Biblical values. The reason is to silence the voice of any who stand in the way of America becoming a totally secular society.

Back in Roman times, to legally execute a person by Roman law, the charges must be read to him. These were read to a Christian leader: “You have lived a sacrilegious life, and you have gathered around yourself many vicious men in a conspiracy. You have set yourself up as an enemy of the Roman gods and of their sacred rites. And our pious and most religious emperors Valerian and Gallienus, have been unable to bring you back to the observance of their own sacred rituals. Therefore, having been apprehended as the instigator and ringleader of a criminal conspiracy … you will be executed.” 

What was his crime? Being a Christian who lived in allegiance to Almighty God and surrendered that allegiance to no other person. His Christian beliefs would not let him burn incense to Caesar and declare Caesar is lord. So those beliefs and the practices that came from those beliefs were against the law.

What if it became against the law to pray in public? What if the penalty was prison, or worse, be executed?

What did Daniel do? Daniel 6
·         He stayed faithful.
·         He accepted the consequences.
·         He entrusted His life to Almighty God.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus [through which we have eternal life, the love of God and the promises of the Father], so that the life of Jesus [the heavenlies—the presence of God with us] also may be manifested in our body. (2 Cor 4:7-10)

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:10-12)

1.       Being persecuted for righteousness sake is a blessing not a punishment.
2.      It is a means by which God can demonstrate His faithfulness in remarkable ways.
3.      The battle surrounding us is not ours to fight but His.
4.      Our role is to remain faithful to the truth, even if being faithful comes with consequences.

5.      If faced with a choice between Jesus and the world, choose Jesus.

Monday, July 10, 2017

BEATITUDES - Persecution Pt. 1

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matt 5:10)

Persecution typically means "to harass someone because of beliefs." But it can also mean insulting, ostracizing, falsely accusing, legally hampering, limiting freedom, restricting access, threatening violence to even carrying out those threats, arrest, enforcement of fines, imprisonment, even death.

The word itself means: aggressively chase, like an army going after an enemy, like a hunter pursuing a catch to hunt down, not for food, but to overtake. This chase or hunting down may be to remove the influence of or drive away. Like a farmer wanting to get rid of wild hogs. Or chasing away crows from his cornfield.

But Jesus wasn’t talking about the methods of persecution. He was looking at the reason for the persecution: persecution for the sake of righteousness. It is mistreatment because of their beliefs and loyalty to Him.

Peter wrote: For this finds favor, that for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. (1 Pet 2:19-20) Undeserved and unwanted.

It’s persecution resulting from the simple fact they are Christians. Jesus said: If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. (Jn 15:20)

Now, there’s an interesting perspective in the Beatitude. He doesn’t say blessed are those who will be persecuted, thinking persecution is something unique to happen in the future. He uses the past tense – blessed are those who have been persecuted.

Why? To link something coming with what has already gone on. (12) He says: Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:12) In other words, the persecution to come will be a continuation of the persecution in the past.

When a king or a people didn’t like the word of a prophet, they would have him beaten, thrown in prison, run out of town or even killed. Why? Because the man who represented God often contradicted what the king or society wanted to hear.

Jesus says if you stand in that place, contradicting someone or some group, opposing them simply because you have different beliefs—beliefs that challenge their beliefs—you can anticipate some form of persecution. Why? Because that has been the practice of the enemies of righteousness from the beginning. It’s how Satan has tried to destroy believers or diminish the testimony of the faithful since the Garden of Eden.

Okay, then, I’ll just sit down, shut up and blend in. If you aren’t obnoxious they’ll leave you alone, right? Not if you identify yourself as a believer. Paul said: Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim 3:12)

To one degree or another, all believers will be made to fear bearing the name of Christ. So, how is that blessing? By connecting the persecution with the promise—the Kingdom of Heaven.

What’s interesting in this Beatitude is that the phrase translated The Kingdom of Heaven is actually The Kingdom of the Heavenlies.

Kingdom of the Heavenlies isn’t Heaven, though Heaven is within the Kingdom. It is the realm into which God’s authority extends—from the throne room to the court room, to the very crevices on our sweaty brow and twitching nerves within our body. Like the Spirit brooding over the deep, He has the right to be wherever He chooses.

The Kingdom of the Heavenlies is anywhere the touch of God can be felt. It is the realm of God’s authority, supremacy, sovereignty.  Wherever God is doing work—that’s where the kingdom is. Whether it is called the Kingdom of God as Luke does or the Kingdom of the Heavenlies as Matthew does it represents the presence of God.

Now, regrettably, there is another realm, one in which evil reigns. It’s ruler is Satan. We once lived in that realm. And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course

of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. (Eph 2:1-2)

Within that realm is great power for destruction, strong fortresses raised against our God, freedom to steal, kill and destroy, activity to aggressively accuse, condemn and devour. Satan rules the hearts of those within that realm who belong to him.

We are in that world but not of that world. We are affected by it but it does not own us nor define us.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenlies. [the attempts of Satan to invade the heavenlies and defeat the purposes of God] Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Eph 6:10-13)

Resist: not giving in, giving up, giving out
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” 

Stand: remain firm in your faith, confident in the promises of God’s Word.

Satan’s attacks are aimed at getting us to deny, reject or revoke the Word of God in our lives. Who we are and how we live is based upon the truth of God’s Word. Satan wants us to reject what God has said, making that Word insignificant in our lives. His goal is to make us feel vulnerable:

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Matt 13:19-22)

If he can steal away a promise by making us doubt, or choke out the effectiveness of God’s truth by distracting us with the cares of the world, we will not see the goodness of God in our lives.

Ever play mercy? Someone gets you into a compromised position, bends something or presses on something until you hurt so much you cry mercy. Satan will inflict us with whatever he thinks will get us to reject our faith. We are vulnerable but not helpless.

Why? There remains the promise: the heavenlies, the kingdom of God’s authority. God will reinforce and strengthen us to stand. Not just that Heaven awaits us after this is all over but within whatever we face, we will experience Heaven. We will see God.

Story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo. Where did their help come to them? In the furnace. The furnace existed in the realm of Satan’s domain yet was within the Kingdom of the Heavenlies. God didn’t get them out of the furnace. He met them in the furnace and brought the Heavenlies to them.

The farmer is never closer to the land than when it’s being cultivated, churned, chopped and disjointed. When we enter persecution, Heaven opens up and we see God is there.

When Stephen was stoned, the Bible says: Being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55-56)

In the promise of the Heavenlies, God is standing in our behalf, as we become faithful witnesses to His goodness and faithfulness.

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. (Luke 21:12-13)

Lactantius, during the Roman era, explained this about Christians being persecuted: “There is another cause why God permits persecutions to be carried out against us, that the people of God may be increased.” The people were watching out of curiosity, then asked him what was so good that persecution seemed preferable to life itself, “so that neither loss of goods, nor of the light, nor bodily pain or tortures deter them.”

Toward the end of the Roman persecution, the most severe and intense efforts were used to rid the world of Christianity.

In Egypt in 312, Eusebius of Caesarea was an eyewitness of the final horrors of Rome’s persecution. He writes that “we ourselves beheld, when we were at these places, so many were beheaded in a single day, that the murderous axe was dulled, and worn out, and broken in pieces, and the executioners grew utterly weary.… others faced punishment by fire. It was then that we observed a most marvelous eagerness and a truly divine power and zeal in those who placed their faith in the Christ of God. Thus, as soon as sentence was given against the first, some from one quarter and others from another would leap up to the tribunal before the judge and confess themselves Christians.… ”

That’s what was said of Jesus: who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 11:2)

They were convinced what Jesus did for them was worth anything they experienced because of Him. But we have this treasures in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed: perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Cor 4:7-10)

The persecuted discover a unique dispensation for them, special provisions, unparalleled promises, the presence of God. All of this reassures them that manifesting Jesus through their lives is far better than life itself.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. (Rev 12:10-12)

They overcame, but they died. How is that overcoming? Jesus said: I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. (Luke 12:4)

They overcame because the persecutors didn’t win. They remained faithful. God accomplished things through them that no persecution could touch—as they professed a testimony of absolute confidence in Him while He held their precious souls safe and close.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35-39)

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matt 5:10)

1.      Seventy-five percent of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions or persecution
2.    Christians in sixty countries around the world face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus.
3.    The promise that God is prepared for that persecution tells us when we are persecuted for being a Christian, He will provide what we need to stand firm.

4.      Enduring persecution means to resist (not give up, not give in, not give away) even though the consequences are challenging and severe.

Monday, July 3, 2017

BEATITUDES -- Peace Doer

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

When we were growing up, we were known by our last names. That’s the Smith kids. We had certain characteristics that identified us. The Shaver kids had different characteristics. The Kelly’s even different. Our behavior was predictable. Our interests were predefined. Some ruckus would happen, Oh that’s the Thomas bunch. We were known by our families.

It’s not intentional, but children resemble the behavior of their parents. Watch them role-playing and you’ll see miniature versions of their parents. Little girls playing with their dolls suddenly become the mommy. They get bossy and stern. They take over. They tell their dolls what to do. Why? They’re copying the behavior they’ve seen in their moms.

Little boys driving their cars yell at other drivers, honk their imaginary horns, cut others off, speed around corners. Why? They’re copying the behavior they’ve seen in their dads.

Kids reproduce what they see. They are being dad-like or mom-like. Those characteristics then identify them.

If we were to be God-like, what would that look like? Obviously, we can’t duplicate God’s unique traits. We can’t suddenly become all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present. But if we were to act as God would act, how would we act?

We would match what we believe about Him with our actions:
·         If we believe He is loving, we would be loving.
·         If we believe He is merciful, we would be merciful.
·         If we believe He is caring, we would be caring.
·         If we believe He is holy, we would be holy in our behavior.

When believers were first called Christians, it was in derision. It was a slam against them for being like Jesus. One day someone realized that was exactly what they were supposed to be—like Jesus, and the name became their own.

Their actions reminded others of Jesus. Their goal became to live in a way that reflects how Jesus lived and what He taught. His actions explained the Father. Their actions explained Him.
In our Beatitude, Jesus is telling us what demonstrates we are children of God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.   

But if we’re not careful, we’ll let an unfortunate translation take us a wrong direction.

Though your Bible reads this way, Jesus didn’t say: Blessed are the peacemakers… What He said was: Blessed are the peace-doers, for they will be called sons of God.

The word translated make is actually to do. Jesus didn’t tell us to make peace but to do peace. If we say let’s do lunch, we’re going to go someplace and enjoy what someone else has made. To do peace is to enjoy what Jesus provides. To live in such a way that His peace characterizes our lives.

We need to know what it means to do peace but we also need to redefine what peace means.

The definition we’re accustomed to doesn’t fit how it’s used in the Bible. To us, peace is the absence of conflict, the removal of stress and irritation, the freedom from disturbance, end to war and violence. It makes us think of words like quiet and tranquility, calm and restfulness. It is the relaxation we feel when the turmoil ends.

But Jesus said: These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (Jn 16:33)

Do you find that a bit unsettling? What kind of gift is peace if it doesn’t get rid of tribulation? How can you have peace and tribulation at the same time?

The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. It is never used to describe something we don’t have: like the absence of trouble. Shalom doesn’t take things out of our lives but adds to our lives. It is a word of blessing that means having everything which makes for a person’s highest good. A person who greets you with Shalom is wishing for you the best of all good things. May what’s best be added to your life.

So how do tribulations fit in? Tribulations simply are opportunities to know that God has our highest good in mind. They are ways to see God’s best for us. That changes our perspective.

The tunnel suddenly has an end. The forest has an opening. The night will soon be over. Knowing I will see God’s good provides a way for us to travel through our tribulation.
·         If He guarantees direction, I don’t have to wander aimlessly.
·         If He promises hope, I don’t have be afraid.
·         If He assures forgiveness, I don’t have to live buried beneath my guilt.
·         If He gives peace, I don’t have to tremble because of my problems.

An emotional moment for Jesus was when He couldn’t give His peace to those who needed it most.

If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:42-44)

They were facing the destruction of their Temple and losing their homeland. Jesus said there was a tribulation coming that they could not escape. He wept for them because He couldn’t give them the peace needed to get through it. They had rejected Him, it wasn’t available. That which would have been for their highest good, they’d never get to experience. They’d have to go through their tribulation alone.

The peace they needed wouldn’t have taken them out of tribulation or prevented them from going into tribulation. It would have gotten them through tribulation. Shalom doesn’t take taking tribulation out of the equation, it adds what is necessary to get through tribulation.

Even the Greek word equivalent for Shalom didn’t focus on removing what causes disruption to our lives but on that which brings divisions together. Adding, not taking away.

The Greek word means to join together, to be one again. It speaks of the wholeness that happens when the parts that have come apart are reconnected.


See how that happens in our tribulations. Suddenly our problems get so large they block our view of God. We are separated from our comfort, hope, rest. We are stressed, we are disrupted, we are undone and unraveled. Why? Because something has wedged itself between our confidence in Jesus’ peace and our problems.

Tribulation tries to separate us from that peace:
·         Fear gets in the way of faith.
·         Confusion gets in the way of following.
·         Desperation gets in the way of hope.
·         Panic gets in the way of trust.
·         Uncertainty gets in the way of confidence.
·         Worry gets in the way of anticipation.

Paul said peace is to become the standard, the normal of our lives: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, (Col 3:15)

When our tribulation is trying to convince us nothing is good in what’s going on, peace points out God is working things for good.

Paul said: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)

Peace, then, isn’t the result of removing conflict, but the ability within conflict to see God at work accomplishing what concerns us.

That’s what God was doing in our Salvation: When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Col 2:13-14)

Sin was the wall separating us from Him. But God removed the wall so, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Rom 5:1)

What is peace? Having everything we need added so God can work all things toward our highest good.

Paul prayed: Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! (2 Thess 3:16)

Peace in every circumstance. That covers quite a bit of circumstances. Good, bad, happy, sad, fearful, disastrous, worrisome, violent, relaxing, quiet.

So, when Jesus said: in Me you may have peace but in the world you have tribulation, He didn’t have to remove tribulation for us to have His peace. He could accomplish what is best in our lives in spite of tribulation.

How do I live in peace? By connecting God with whatever is separating me from Him. The tribulations are not the problem. The problem is I have allowed them to get in the way of my confidence to trust Him.

Recently, Sadie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame, was followed in the mall, then found the same three men parked in a van beside her car. Obviously afraid, she courageously got into her car and left quickly. She wrote: “even though we serve a GOOD God...scary things can happen at any time, because until the day Jesus comes back evil will still be in the world."  But despite the scary ordeal, she said she was thankful to be able to have joy knowing I'm protected in the shadow of [God's] wing."

God in this moment, I do peace. I acknowledge you are here in the midst of my tribulation. I trust you because I know you are doing what is in my best interest.

David wrote: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces." For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, "May peace be within you." For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good. (Ps 122:6-9)

Blessed are the peace-doers for they will be called sons of God. They will be known by who their God is. They will desire what God desires. They will be God-like in their actions and attitudes. They will measure what they do by the good it will accomplish. They will trust God to balance them between rest and tribulation. Their lives will reflect their confidence in the goodness of God.

The Peace-doers promise: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28)

What is your all things today that needs to work together for good? Is it causing division between your ability to trust God and your tribulation? By claiming that promise, you will be a peace doer.

1.       Peace is the process by which God works out His best in our lives.
2.      We don’t have peace, we do peace.
3.      We are to live confidently, letting peace rule in our hearts.
4.      His peace will work whether we are at rest or in tribulation.

5.      If we are stressed, we are not doing peace—not trusting God.