Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Part 2 of 2)

BEattitudes

Joshua 1:9 states:  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go.” 

We will never be alone or without Our God, regardless of what is happening to us as we follow him.  We are his agents of change in an evil and rebellious world.

being willing to dieThis final Beatitude does not demand that we be purposefully different, but rather we delight in living for Christ in every moment. This in itself will mark us as not of this world and will bring persecution our way. But persecution cannot derail us from a purposeful life in Christ. We must allow our adversaries to make us better, not bitter. This will only magnify his presence in us as we resist the entangling snares of the evil one. In martyrdom for Christ, our daily persecutions are small steps that eventually lead to longer strides. 

Polycarp

Consider again the early Church. Rome, in its power and pride, was out to destroy anything that was contrary to their gods and religious system in which the emperor was worshiped as a god. Authentic Christians would not bow down for these royal edicts, and so they expected persecution that would result in death. They considered it a privilege to carry one’s witness to this sacrificial stage. Every one of the apostles experienced such a death, with the exception of John. Even he was sentenced to the Island of Patmos by the Romans to die of hard labor, yet he survived. 

Polycarp imageStories of supreme martyrdom are numerous during this early age of the church, and such is the final episode in the life of Polycarp. He was one of John’s most dedicated disciples and served as the bishop of the early church at Smyrna during the latter years of his life. Following is a compilation from “John’s Story: The Last Eyewitness” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins in which they eloquently describe the death of this faithful saint discipled by John the Apostle .

Even as the Roman soldiers arrested Polycarp he treated them kindly. They allowed him to pray before being carried off to prison.  He lifted his voice to God for two hours and many of the listening soldiers repented before God.

In Rome a judge sentenced Polycarp to death in the Coliseum unless he would renounce Polycarp before judgeGod and save himself, but Polycarp adamantly refused, welcoming the animals awaiting to devour him.  

The judge, annoyed at Polycarp’s response, decided to change the manner of his death to fire. 

Fire did not frighten Polycarp either. He likened it to the future judgment of eternal punishment for all unbelievers. He encouraged the judge to dispose of him as he wished.

polycarp burningThe soldiers set to nail Polycarp to the stake to prevent his escape from the pain, but Polycarp assured them that God would provide him the strength to withstand the pain to confront this excruciating death without moving. They left him tied to the stake.

After Polycarp prayed to thank God allowing him this Polycarp fire like a sailwitness and martyrdom the fire was ignited, yet the flames arched around the saint and would not burn him.  The incensed judge ordered Polycarp to be killed by the sword in the midst of the flames, and his blood spurt forth and put out the fire. The fire had to be restarted to cremate the body of Polycarp.

Although part of this story is obviously legend, the message is still powerful. Polycarp was eager and willing to die for our Lord, regardless of the pain associated with it. God received the glory from his and all martyrs’ deaths throughout the generations. But martyrdom is not relegated to the past. It is pertinent now. Jesus said in Matthew 11:6, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” 

precipices of the persecuted, Marlin J Harris, Let the Beatitudes be my attitude in youThe Precipices of the Persecuted

We Are Martyrs Daily for Christ! Our pathway has become a narrow ledge, but we risk it gladly to follow our Savior wherever he leads us. Whether our persecution is found in the daily denials of spiritual living or requires the physical surrender of life, the motivation and commitment is the same. As peacemakers we are equipped, ready, and eager to do whatever is necessary to proclaim Christ in this Jesus rescues the martyrsworld. We can do nothing less.

Our peacemaking has propelled us to this plane of living, and whether we die in a single physical act or daily, in pieces, it is all for him. We are to be crusaders and heroes for Christ! 

Take up your crossBe preoccupied for Christ and his purposes, not with the world’s perception of you.  Be prepared to plainly identify with and suffer for him in this world. 

Thoughts for meditation: 

Have you thanked God for any persecution experienced today for his cause? 

How is God preparing you to be more his martyr each day?

Prepare yourself to be a hero for him!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. (Part 1 of 2)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.                  chains and cuffs                                                                         Matthew 5:10 

Peacemaking for God will provoke persecution in this world. Effective difference makers for God should anticipate negative reactions for their positive actions and false accusations for their good intentions.  While the world chooses to refuse the truth that Jesus is the only way to the Father, we, who have experienced him, know that he is all life, and life in abundance. Yes, identity with Jesus in this world reaps unjust persecution, and this is what every believer should expect and be ready to accept.

Jesus on the cross

Let’s consider the life Jesus lived that brought him to the cross:

  • His sole objective was to follow God’s specific guidance every single day. Jesus baptized
  • He manifested God’s love wherever he was and to everyone around him.
  • He stood up against evil and opposition to God’s commandments.
  • Jesus and sinful womanHe daily discipled his followers, showing them his way to live and minister to others.
  • He was always ready for worldly reactions to his actions.

Expect Unjust Persecution

Much persecution exists in this evil world and entire masses of humanity endure great wrongs; however, what separates the persecution of the blessed from others suffering persecution is the cause—for righteousness sake. These are persecuted because they refuse to renounce the sacred place of God in their lives.

This last Beatitude instructs us to anticipate the same treatment in this world that Jesus persecuted by serpentexperienced. Man, with his intolerance and unbelief, has not changed, nor has Satan. At this point in our quest, the supreme goal is to become more and more like our Lord and reflect his image in every way. His path is the best for our lives, and his Holy Spirit and grace now characterize our lives.

following JesusThe God in us shines through us to others, offering tender mercy, maintaining pure relationships, and pursuing peace with all around us.

In the first century, persecution of the newly formed church was brutal and relentless. Lady martyrSatan and his world were cruelly attacking this new religion in every way possible. In Romans 8:31-36, Paul exhorts his fellow believers by saying,

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.  

Martyrs are not only those who suffer a physical death for Christ, but also are those who live in a constant state of readiness to sacrifice their life for his cause. God knows our heart and how ready we are at any moment to pay the supreme price.

persecuted1Righteous Living Like Jesus

Think about it. Righteous living affects almost every waking decision. How will you begin your day? By clicking on the news or seeking communion with the Lord of the Universe? As you travel to school or work, will you listen to the morning radio shows with their criticisms of others and innuendos, or tune to music or message that will inspire and focus you on Jesus for the day? During the day do you participate in gossip, or do you edify those around you? Do you plunge right into your midday meal or offer a word of grace while others stare or take note? Do you respond to a frustrating person with irritation and pride, or do you offer the offender grace and/or words of forgiveness? The daily choices are endless, but these decision-points clearly display how sincerely we live for God. Our decisions and actions for God predispose us to persecution by the world.

Another important response is our reaction to those individuals who seek to control us or modern day martyrwho unexpectedly attack us. Do such instances reveal the presence of His Spirit within us, and our daily spiritual discipline to demonstrate that we are followers of Christ?

The basic question is: Are we prepared to live and/or die as daily martyrs for Christ”?  To do so requires a deep denial of self. But the benefit of such selflessness might, just as Paul exhorts, cause others to ask for a defense of the Gospel, opening the door to share why we are compelled and empowered to be different. What matters to others is not important to us; our only desire is to please God.

Lord, into Your Hands I commend my spirit and my reputation. —T. W. Hunt and Claude N. King, “Mind of Christ”

Martyrs for Christ

Blessed are the peacemakers (Part 2 of 2)

blessed are the peacemakers3

We are now peacemakers, but we cannot do it on our own! God has endowed his children with special gifts and provides spiritual tools for peacemaking purposes to be well equipped and effective soldiers in the battle for peace and reconciliation.burn conflict

dove over world

Primary Peacemaking Tools

The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23) engenders us with “… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control, against such things there is no law.” Indeed, if we were to permit these outreaching virtues to control our daily walk, there would be no need for any law. God deeply desires to incorporate this complete fruit in our hearts to dramatically promote peacemaking and insure the quality of our lives. Memorize Galatians 5:22-23, and earnestly ask God to incorporate these spiritual qualities into every moment of your daily walk in the world.

How do we assimilate these traits into our daily life?

By “more of God and less of me” worship in the spiritliving.He must increase, but I must decrease,” cried John the Baptist in John 3:30 (NASB). God will honor this simple and humble request, and daily invade every believer who makes this his heart’s cry.  This sincere and simple prayer will create a much different life than we can ever live on our own!

God’s increased presence within empowers us to practice peacemaking, not in our strength but in the strength and direction of the Holy Spirit.

study the WordPeacemaking situations also require heavenly wisdom to identify solutions and provide counsel. Such wisdom is described in James 3:17 as “first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful and fruitful, impartial, and sincere.” invoking the Beatitudes of mourning, meekness, righteousness, and mercy. “The wise in heart will be called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.”  Proverbs 16:21 (NASB)

The pure in heart have attained these attributes and enjoy impressive credibility to serve as effective peacemakers for the Lord. The cumulative effects of the Beatitudes produce valuable preparation for the saints serving in his kingdom.

A Prime Examplepeacemaker ministries

An organization called Peacemaker Ministries is based on this Beatitude and practices conflict resolution with groups inside and outside the church. In his book The Peacemaker, Ken Sande, president of Peacemaker Ministers, recommends using the following Four G’s to bring reconciliation to marriages, the family, friendships, the workplace, school, and the church.

Glorify God. Seek to bring glory to him in every situation, making this our selfless andthe glory of God supreme objective. This was Christ’s primary goal in his life, death, and resurrection—all that he did here on earth was “to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11).

Get the log out of your own eyeGet the log out of our own eye. Don’t blame others, but instead ask ourselves, “What have I contributed to this conflict?” Relate to others in total honesty and seek confession from each party which cultivates the terrain for genuine reconciliation.

 

Gently restore the relationship. Don’t ignore the other person, pretend that the clasping hands1problem doesn’t exist, and talk to everyone else about that person. Recognize every person as valued and indispensable to the solution of this problem. Without his or her participation in this process, no solution will be found. Ask God for the precise opportunity for sincere conversation. Pray for the moving of hearts among all involved.

 

Prodigal sonGo and be reconciled. Earnestly seek reconciliation, trusting in the Spirit of God to lead, direct, and bring it to pass. When God is working in hearts, reconciliation is eagerly accomplished. The resolution is often an emotional time of rejoicing, restoring, and becoming right with one another and before God.

There is a fifth G that underlies all the others: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is what motivates every authentic peacemaker, guiding, motivating, directing, and empowering us to live and share with others the true foundation of peace in this world.

resurrection

vine & branchesI Am The Vine

Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Our peace-making efforts depend entirely upon the Vine working within us. We must be spiritually sensitive to what God is doing all around us and allow him to enlist us as he desires to use us.  If we don’t pray daily for such sensitivity we will be “un-used instruments” in His Kingdom.  We must be a seeking branch!

As his branches as we offer the shade of consolation and fruit of reconciliation to others; cross with brancheshowever, we are only the conduits of peacemaking.  Jesus truly transforms lives and reconciles broken relationships, acting, moving, and relating through us as the life-sustaining Vine he is. He will accomplish miracles through us. We must be aware that God is constantly at work in people’s lives, inching them toward him and we must let him use us to bring others into His Kingdom, leading them to a peace that surpasses all understanding and giving true consolation.

Jesus is the vine

In Christ’s vineyard, opportunities for peacemaking abound. Some people need our support to help them stand. Others need our assistance to help bind them together. The estranged seek reconciliation. We must lead each of them first to the Vine, then we, as branches, can support, bind, and entwine as God uses us to intercede in each situation and help bring unity.

Bear fruitGod’s peace now resides powerfully in us. We are his peace, and we are a piece of him in this world. Be a maker and promoter of peace with all who you encounter in life.

peace making is the keyThoughts for meditation:

-What peacemaking assignment has God given you?

  • -How are you promoting peace in your daily life?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Part 1 of 2)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.  Matthew 5: 9

transparent heartPeacemakers Come From A Pure Heart!

We have experienced how the Beatitude of a pure heart elevates the quality of relationships to an entirely different dimension. God’s spirit compels us to guard these relationships as precious jewels: pure, polished, and maintain them transparent at all times.

As peacemakers we are God’s persistent protagonists of peace at all times, a daunting challenge in our earthly environment, requiring strong courage, faith, and wisdom that only originates from God.

Joseph of the Old Testament was a powerful peacemaking instrument for God. His multi colored tunicforgiving heart and sensitive spirit, coupled with caring and responsible actions made Joseph an extremely effective peacemaker in every difficult situation he encountered

 

          • Joseph being sold into slaveryBeing sold into slavery by his jealous brothers

potipher's wife attempt to seduce

Resisting the seductive attempts by the wife of his master in Egypt

 

 

Interpreting dreams and ministering to fellow prisonersInterpreting dreams of baker and cupbearer

Prophesying seven years of famine to PharaohJoseph interpreting Pharoahs dreams1

 

 

  • Joseph forgives his brothersReceiving his brothers and granting their request for food.
  • Healing the hurt created by his brothers with the balm that God had transformed their evil intentions for good
  • Bringing his family to Goshen for the formation of God’s future people.

 

Yet who is the primary peacemaker in all the history of man?

The obvious answer is Jesus, because he reconciled back to God all of mankind who had been separated due to Adam and Eve’s deliberate sin in the Garden of Eden. Jesus hug

When Jesus’ spirit reigns in our lives, and we are truly pure in heart, as we see in Joseph’s life—we will become peacemakers on this earth.

Jesus’ Teachings on Peacemaking

The adage “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (Deuteronomy 19:21) is thought to biblically justify vengeance, but in reality it was meant to equalize revenge, keeping the injured party from exceeding the wrong done to them.

Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, voiced God’s perspective on such attitudes of revenge inTurn the other cheek his Sermon on the Mount, first in Matthew 5:39, “But I tell you do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek; turn to him the other also.” An emotional knee-jerk reaction, although very natural and seemingly justifiable, is not the way of God.

Jesus then proceeded with practical applications of that day, “If anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, give him your coat also. And he who forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” The Roman soldier was a universally hated figure, a symbol of forced foreign rule upon the Jewish nation. Under Roman law any soldier could compel a Jew to carry his armor the distance of one mile. Imagine the reaction of that soldier, accustomed to stubborn resistance and constant complaining, to be asked at the end of the first mile, “Sir, may I assist you for another mile?” Surely, that soldier’s mouth would drop open to inquire amazingly why this additional service was being offered. Such an opportunity opened the door to share about God’s great love for all mankind, even this despised Roman soldier.  What an unexpected appeal this circumstance could open to announce God’s love for someone of “the world”! 

Jesus then decreed the Second Greatest commandment in Matthew 5:45, “Love your neighbors, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you might be sons of yourclasping hands  Father in heaven.

Peace is love personified and must be the true distinguishing mark of any follower of Christ as Jesus shares in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give you, love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all men shall know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Such a level of love cannot to be jealously guarded and practiced only among believers, but rather should be an overflowing, crusading current that sweeps others into God’s family.

God's love radiates

Jesus desires to attract mankind to him; and a primary magnetizing manner is through supernatural expressions of love and concern by his children made possible by His SpiritPeace beyond belief working in us! The Beatitudes challenge, compel, and enable us to live out the Second Greatest Commandment, because of their transforming power of God in us!

 

True peacemakers provide some of the greatest demonstrations of God’s love on this planet!  Will you be one of them?

In Part 2 we will take a look at Peacemaking Tools for the Kingdom.

Blessed are the pure in heart (Part 3 of 3)

Blessed are the pure in heart2In the Beatitude of the Pure in Heart we have been totally honest before God and before ourselves.  A pure heart begins with finding and keeping a transparent love relationship with God, as Jesus described the first and greatest commandment. But he followed that with the second most important commandment of the Law and the Prophets:           to love your neighbor as yourself.

In these last four Beatitudes not only has our relationship with God further intensified, butpure in heart (break down walls in any relationship) we have been equally challenged to apply these same spiritual realities with our fellow man. A pure heart is essential in our relationships with others. Any and all barriers must be decimated.

 

seeking GodIn Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus instructed that anyone desiring to place an offering at the altar and worship God must first examine their own heart. If any offense is habored toward a neighbor, that relationship must first be reconciled, before presenting an offering to God. Again, in Matthew 18:35, Jesus reinforces that the restoration of our relationships with others must be taken to states of true genuineness. “This [judgment] is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

This spiritual law decreed by Christ certainly still applies to us today, and especially tocross and hands--testifying of God those committed to live out the Beatitude of the pure in heart. Self is totally sacrificed before God, and our relationships here on earth must be clean, sure, and unsoiled.

 

If you know that you have offended someone, or even if you were the one offended, you are person obligated to resolve that conflict, and not wait on the other individual to take the initiative.

God wants YOU to be His WHO

The Spirit of Christ will prompt and direct us to take the actions required to maintain a pure heart before God and man. We cannot knowingly ignore any unresolved relationship problem with others and expect our heart to be clean before Our Lord or them!

Conclusion:transparent heart

Those with pure hearts possess the Light that makes their life different and distinct. They enjoy a relationship with God untainted, genuine, and totally transparent. This is the abundant life that Jesus died to make possible for us and is the same quality of Garden of Eden fellowship that God sent Jesus to re-create with man. Such high and holy fellowship generates purity in relationships with all those around us every day. Jesus living fully in us is life that we never could have before imagined.

 rainbow heartOur path now leads only upward in our relationship with the Lord. Treacherous stretches still loom ahead in the Beatitude Quest that will challenge us to become even more that we can be. Be inspired from where God has brought you and be encouraged to continue on to where Jesus yearns to carry you still!

What better way can there be to accomplish our days on this earth than to see God moreThe cross in your heart clearly and commune with him more fully in each moment? And this Godly communion enriches all other relationships we have in this life.

Be pure in heart—confess your sin and truly come to know God face to face.

Forgive others, embracing those who have wronged you and who you have wronged.

look yourself in the eyeThoughts for meditation:

  • Have you laid your heart bare before the Lord today?
  • Are there obstacles in any human relationships that you need to address?

My heart like Your Heart