Bless Them Which Persecute You

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.  ~Romans 12:14

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

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.  ~Matthew 5:5-12

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  ~Matthew 6:14-15

These are some of the verses I’ve been quoting to myself recently. It is not easy to do the right thing when others seem to hate you and want to make your life miserable and yet, in order to truly have peace and joy, one must obey these commands that Christ laid out for us.

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The other night when I was lying in bed upset about the way a person was treating my family, I began to think about the Father and how He must feel by all the people that mock Him, take His name in vain, and do everything imaginable to grieve Him. All of a sudden, my focus changed, as it put things in a new light.

I don’t think there is anything we can go through on earth that Jesus didn’t experience in some form or fashion and yet He prayed for those who crucified Him. He mourned for Jerusalem and the way they would treat His people. He died for a world that He knew would hate Him. That is the posture He wants us to have. We must rid ourselves of all pride, the “need” to be right, even the desire to justify our actions at times, and humbly go to God in the midst of difficult situations. And somehow we must find a way to pray for those who persecute us. I think, many times, they really don’t know what they’re doing. And, even if they do and their goal is to hurt you in every way they can, only God can change a heart. Retaliation will only make it worse.

As I write this, a part of me wonders if anyone else can relate to this or if I should just be writing in my journal. I’ve learned, however, that most of the time, God allows me to go through things because someone else is going through a similar situation and needs to know they’re not alone. They need encouraged to draw near to the Lord and reminded of how they need to walk in various situations. That is my prayer. No matter who is being mean to you right now, God sees and He will take care of it in His time. This is simply a time to keep growing in walking in His ways. Hold tightly to His hand and don’t deal with it in your flesh. Ask God to give you His heart for this person and to give you wisdom in dealing with the situation. I’ve no doubt that He will.

Be Faithful

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!   ~Proverbs 20:6-7.

When I was a child, I was amazed at how many adults did not keep their word. They would promise, “One day, I’ll _________” but, alas, that day never came, and I would be disappointed.

When I was a teenager, my mom hired a man to tune our piano. I enjoyed watching him, and he talked to me as he worked. In the course of conversation, I mentioned that I like southern gospel music. He told me he would take me to a concert sometime. At that time, I’d lived long enough to know people often said things they didn’t mean so I didn’t figure I would ever see him again. A short time later, however, he called and asked if he could take my brother and me to a concert. This was over 25 years ago, and I still remember his kindness. He could have gone to the concert by himself, and I would never know, and I probably wouldn’t remember him but he took time to honor his word, which still blesses me today.

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It is sad to me how many young people walk away from the Lord or never embrace Christianity, even when they have grown up in church and in Godly homes. I’ve fought to understand why, in order to be able to stop this trend. I believe a big reason for this is due to the hypocrisy they see in their parents and others in the Church. I know this is not the only reason an adult child will rebel but I expect it is the case in many situations. Young people pick up on whether people are real or phony, honest or crafty.

Even as an adult, I want to surround myself with people I can trust. I get so tired of dishonesty, backbiting, double lives, etc. I pray often that God will help me to be faithful. I want to be dependable, loyal, and trustworthy. I want to be faithful to point others to the Lord, not only in word but also by example. I believe if the world saw more faithfulness in God’s people, they would desire to know this God as well.

Suffering is a Blessing from the Lord

depression I have been out of circulation for a little while due to some rather difficult circumstances my family has had to face. While I will not discuss the details of this, suffice it to say that God has been blessing us through the furnace of the refiner’s fire. In the last year we have faced a great number of difficulties. As a result, there have been days where we have wept because of the suffering we faced. There have also been days where we rejoiced in our pain that we serve a great and powerful God who knew exactly what He was doing, even if we didn’t. Through all this time, my faith has been tried in ways I never expected. Even today, as I write this post, I know that in my heart, despondency and depression are close at hand. If I did not admit this, if I tried to tell you that we have been all smiles, never doubting God for even a moment, I would be a terrible liar. Yet, I write this, not to complain so that people will comfort me. I write it to be a comfort to you.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 tells us “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” What this is teaching us is that God allows us to endure suffering and affliction and that He comforts us in that affliction. In turn, we then can comfort others in their suffering, with the same comfort we received from God. That is to say that one of the reasons we endure suffering is so we can be comforted and in turn we can comfort others who suffer.

It sounds like a crazy revolving door, yet it makes a lot of sense. If the world were just one giant accidental cosmic burp, as evolution teaches us, then there is not one thing in which we can find comfort in our suffering. In fact, suffering and affliction should be exalted because it is what culls the weaker of the species off. We should not seek to comfort those who are hurting; we should let them die off because they are too weak to handle the harsh realities of life.

Yet, it is in the gospel that we find the reason for comfort. God created the entire universe, this massive, seemingly endless expanse. And tucked away in one tiny portion of it, He created a planet where He placed mankind. There, He placed the breath of life into man and gave him dominion over all His creation. God gave man but one command, to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yet, Adam, in his wanton rebellion, ate of the tree, ushering in death and forever tainting mankind in sin. The creation was perfect, no suffering, no death, and no affliction. Yet, the perfect creation was forever marred by the sin of man. Now mankind must endure suffering because of the wickedness of his heart.

God then promised Adam that from his descendants would one day come a Seed that would defeat death and redeem fallen man. In that promise was comfort. It was a promise that despite what man brought upon himself, God would one day rescue him from it. That promise was fulfilled when the Son of God came down from His throne and took on humanity. Jesus Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to the law of God, yet He willing received the wrath of the Father at the cross and took the full punishment that all sinners deserve. Following His death, Christ was buried in the tomb, yet rose Himself three days later, defeating sin and death. God promised comfort to those who would recognize their sinfulness before a holy Judge, who would repent of those sins and throw themselves at the foot of the blood stained cross, crying out in faith to the One who had died for them. That comfort was given when sinners were made sinless in the eyes of God, being given the righteousness of Christ in exchange for the sinful burden He nailed to the cross.

All those who have ever trusted in Christ – those looking forward from the promise made to Adam in the garden and those looking back at the finished work of the cross – have the comfort of knowing that their sins are forgiven and that they will experience eternal life in the presence of their Savior. But they also have comfort in knowing two other things. One, that when they enter into that eternal life, all pain and suffering will come to an end. And that, two, while in this life, all the pain and suffering they endure will happen only because the sovereign will of God has allowed it. No momentary affliction, no matter how intense, will be felt without the express decree of God. And in that is great comfort, because if God has willed it, then it is for His glory and our ultimate good.

How can pain and suffering be good? First, it reminds us that this life is only temporary. This world, as beautiful and amazing as it can be, is a fallen, busted wreck. It is tainted by the effect of sin brought into it by man. Because it is in this state, one day, God will destroy it all and create a new heavens and a new earth. Suffering in this life reminds us that God’s sovereign decree is that one day He will bring all things into judgment. Only those who have repented and placed their faith in Christ while be spared His righteous wrath, poured down in fire from Heaven. Suffering causes us to long for that day when He will restore His creation, and reminds us to hold onto this world with very light hands.

Secondly, suffering causes us to realize we are not in control of our lives. There is nothing that happens to us that God has not ordained. Therefore, no matter how hard we try to orchestrate the events of our lives so that we have the great success and most comfort possible, only God can determine what the next day (or hour, or even minute) will bring. Suffering humbles us and causes us to understand that we cannot for even one moment be in complete control of our lives. We wholly depend upon God for life and breath. Therefore, suffering makes us cling tightly to the Master of our destiny, knowing that everything He does is right and good. It frees us from trying to be the ultimate director in the play that we try to write for ourselves. It causes us to rest in Him who ordained it from the very beginning.

Of course, such rest does not come easily for us sinful beings trapped in this tainted flesh. That is why God continually allows suffering and affliction to tear us from the grasp of wretched and rebellious world. With each new trial in our lives, if we will but cling to the Master, the pain we feel will be comforted by the very One who brought us into that suffering. And as He carries us through it, we can look back and see where He has refined us into a fine and precious tool, created for His workmanship. Then we can know that the suffering we endured was for His purposes, and for our ultimate good.

I implore you know, if you are going through a terrible trial, cling to the Lord. Know that He is using this time to make you into something He will use. It is not easy, it is most certainly painful. If you will but trust in Him alone, not so that you may gain something from it, but so that you may bring glory to Him, then you will find that one day you can be a comfort to someone else who is enduring a time of testing. You can testify to how God used your pain to strip away those things that kept you trapped in a sinful mindset. How He humbled and purified you, how He made you fit for His use. During this time, do not cry out as if this suffering never should have occurred to you. Know that, were God to give us what we truly deserve, this light affliction would be nothing compared to His judgment. So glory in His mercy that this time of hurting is His work in you, and find comfort in knowing there is not one thing God has allowed in your life that is not a blessing from Him

Something to Think About

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I am one who still celebrates Christmas with my family. Yes I know the allegations of it’s pagan origins, but I’m not going to argue that issue here today. Suffice it to say, if you are like me, then you enjoy sharing gifts with your loved ones. But as I share the picture posted above, I cannot help but be convicted by the influence out culture holds over us. If it is not the the newest, the latest and greatest gadget or toy, we feel cheated. We act as though we deserve to have the best and how dare anyone give us less.

But in our nation, even those of the lowest “class” have far more than the poorest nations in the world. I ask you to consider this, if you have a roof over your head, clothing to keep you warm and food to eat, realize your are greatly blessed by the Lord. If you have more than that, if you have a stable job, the ability to provide your family with even the smallest of gifts this season, you have been blessed above and beyond anything you deserve.

If you have a family that just “has to have” the newest and best, take the time to lead them through the gospel. Show them what we all truly deserve, the wrath of God. Then show them that in His great love for us, Christ died to redeem us. Anything above and beyond that gift is God’s blessings and we should not despise them.

Then, as Christians who have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, may we examine the blessings we have received and see where we might share them with those who are not so fortunate. Let us bestow upon those who are in far greater need than ourselves, providing for what their physical needs may be. Then, when we do so, let us share that greatest gift of all, the message that Jesus Christ came to save sinners.