Thursday, May 22, 2014

Key Principle #15: Prayer (pt. 2)

     Why is prayer so vital to the church and to our lives? I believe we can see three reasons, with today's devotional being the first, based on Acts10:
    
     1. Prayer Empowers Us.
     Peter and Cornelius were both praying when God saw fit to empower both of them. He empowered Peter to see that indeed God shows no partiality. He was empowered to go beyond his prejudiced heart. Peter was changed by his vision and was prepared to see where God was leading him, but his vision only came because he was in prayer.
     We should pray, NOT primarily so to change the world or change the heart of God. Rather, we should pray because our hearts are desperately wicked and it’s me, it is me, it is me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.
     C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, said, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time-waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me."
     One of the biggest scandals I believe in the church today is not pornography, not adultery, not envy, but idolatry. Most Christians, myself included, do not follow after heavenly Father, but rather our own hedonistic feelings. Amen?
     Let me give you a test:
     If I were to tell you that tonight that Joel Olsteen or Dave Ramsey or Rick Warren or David Jeremiah were going to be at your church tonight...
     Would you go?
     In addition to one of those preachers being there, suppose that your pastor said he has been blessed by an anonymous donor who wanted to help the congregation get out of debt and your pastor was going to give out $1,000 to the first 250 people who came...
     Now, would you go?
     How many of you would pray about coming to church tonight? “Dear Lord, you know I am in debt. I want to ask you, is it Your will for me to come back tonight?” Most of you would not even think about praying about it and a large majority probably would go up to church as soon as you heard to make sure you were first in line.
     Would you feel “led to come”?
     Yet, most would never come to church if all they were doing is praying.
     My point is this: Most Christians are not led by the Spirit of God, but they are led by Christian preachers or greed or even by their personal feelings and all of those things which take the place of God are, simply and surely, idolatry.
    The number one reason we should pray is because our heart is desperately wicked and we need to pray as David did in Ps. 51: 10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
      If a thousand dollars would bring you to church, but not the preached word, or a call to prayer, then we must really think what it is that motivates us to go.
   Peter had a hunger, a strong hunger, while he was praying. He could have stopped praying to meet his need, but he didn’t. The lusts of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life can get us to turn away from prayer but it can also get us when we are afflicted to turn to God in prayer.
     Look at James 5:13 “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” Verse 14 says our afflictions should prompt us to call others, the elders of the church, to pray. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sunday: Blessed are the persecuted

The downloadable pdf is now available on www.fbckilleen.com or


Why persecution follows peacemaking
Why is a believer persecuted? It is for righteousness sake.
D. Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote “it is interesting…that this particular Beatitude follows immediately the reference to the peacemakers…He is persecuted because he is a certain type of person.”
Not exactly a compelling reason to strive for righteousness or peacemaking is it? But it is true throughout Scripture. Why did Cain kill Abel? Why did Saul pursue David? What put Daniel in the lions’ den or the three Hebrew boys in a fiery furnace? What did Job do to deserve what happened to him?
Many times in life and in the Bible, we see that doing the right thing often leads to unpopularity in the world. There is a reason for that. This is not our home, as we live in a fallen world and God has prepared us for the kingdom of heaven.
Same reward, different degree
  Secondly, look at the reward. We are back where we started. After climbing the steps of the Beatitudes, have we come to the bottom rung? Hardly! Look at Matt. 20:1-16. Laborers hired at the end of the day got exactly what those who worked for at the beginning of the day. They complained, but the owner said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?”
   When we see all that we have suffered for righteousness’ sake compared to what we might have received without the salvation through Christ, no wonder we will cast our crowns at the feet of Jesus. The reward of the kingdom of heaven is no more deserved at the top of the staircase than it was at the bottom. A true servant of Christ will say as the servant He spoke of said in Luke 17:7-10, “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.”

So is there a point in attempting to live the Beatitudes, if we are going to get the same reward as everyone else? By all means! Persecution has the same reward of the kingdom of heaven as being poor in spirit, but so much more.
Matthew 13:43 explains the story of the wheat and tares, “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” God will remember our labor and our persecution and He will reward us. Matthew 5:12 explains further, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
Verses about God rewarding us.
God will reward you openly for righteous works done secretly.
4 Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. 6 When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. 18 No one will suspect you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in secret. And your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ. 18 The nations were angry with you, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants. You will reward your prophets and your holy people, all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest.
 (Matt. 6:4, 6, 18, Col. 3:24, Rev. 11:18, 22:12).
Rewards for small acts will never be lost. Salvation is free, but rewards are according to our works, especially loving our enemies.
42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded. 8 they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. 35 Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don't be concerned that they might not repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked. 
 (Matthew 10:42, 1 Corinthians 3:8, Luke 6:35)
Some outwardly righteous works won’t receive any heavenly rewards.

1 "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  2 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.   

Why are you being persecuted?
   Finally, let us note again what righteousness is and why that is the source of our persecution. It is not the act of being noble or good or even being what the world would call “right.” The Biblical definition of righteousness is “right standing with God,” and not with the world.
  This is not Murphy’s Law of “No good deed will go unpunished.” This is Kingdom’s Law that says that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking (that is, living selfishly), but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” In Matthew 5:10, He says “for righteousness’ sake,” and then in the very next verse, He says, “for My sake,” making persecution for righteousness and for Christ as being equal.
Blessed are you who have spent time in this devotional this week
for Christian Home Week. May God richly bless you and
make you a blessing to others. Amen.
Sunday’s “Be-Attitude”
Kid’s Korner by Morgan Perry
Jesus knows exactly what it feels like to be “persecuted for righteousness.” He was cruelly and harshly treated because he had done everything right, because he was the son of God. Jesus wants us to do what is right, to share how God wants us to make good choices, and generally live our life in a way that makes Him proud. Sometimes, when we do this, people will make fun of us. Here, in this Beatitude, Jesus wants us to understand that He will bless our life for being faithful to Him and our Heavenly Father.
Have you ever felt persecuted, treated cruelly or harshly, by someone?
How did that make you feel?
Have you every persecuted someone else?
Take a moment to think about how that made them feel.
Is it easy or hard to do what is right?
Pray for God to help make you strong, able to know what to do to make Him proud!

Saturday: Blessed are the Peacemakers

The downloadable pdf is now available on www.fbckilleen.com or
 

From Purity to Peace; from seeing God to sons of God

What is a peacemaker? Is it only helping others to be reconciled with one another? If that is all, why would that alone result in us being called children of God? The word “peacemaker” is unique to this verse. The closest comparison in the New Testament is found in Col. 1:20 as it is applied to Christ.

18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

Did you catch it? No, not the underlined words of making peace--the other part of the verses, with words like “firstborn” “reconcile” and “the Father.” Isn’t it amazing that the only two places in Scripture where peace-making is explained, it also relates to the family relationship?

Is there a connection? Jesus is not saying “Happy are those who help people get along with each other.” He is talking about making peace with our heavenly Father, and how that gets us to be called His children!

If you have all of the other beatitudes, that is great. But we must help others make peace with God! This is higher than only having our own purity of heart because it brings purity to others. It brings others to Christ, reconciling them and making “peace through the blood of the cross.”

Peace on earth is not lasting. Peace made with Christ is everlasting! “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” (John 14:27). He is not saying “Blessed are people who make peace like the world makes peace.” Jesus said there would never be lasting worldly peace, instead in the world we would have trouble. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).

Questions: Combine John 14:27 with John 14:1. What should keep our hearts from being troubled, afraid and essentially give us peace? In John 16:33, What did Jesus say he did to bring peace to believers?

Things that make for your peace

There is nothing that breaks the heart of Jesus more than when people fail to make peace with His heavenly Father. There is Biblical proof that this is true in Luke 19:41-44.

41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Do you want to see an absence of worldly peace? Bring up the name of Jesus. Jesus spoke about worldly peace but not in a positive sense.

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; 36 and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. Matt. 10:34.39

Paul also made it abundantly clear that making peace means bringing people to salvation, reconciliation between God and man. And that results in us being called the children of God! Read Ephesians 2:

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances,   so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,  16  and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity… 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God

Are you called a child of God?

What does it take to be a child of God? Clearly, it is by grace received through faith, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” (John 1:12-13).

But what does it take to be called the children of God? To be called a child of God is when others see you as a “chip off the old block.” We are called children of God because we are doing what the Father is doing. It means we are acting like God and bringing peace between humanity and God. Read 1 John 1:1 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”

We are called children of God because we follow Him, in faith and then in obedience. We are never more like Christ than when we reconcile the world to make peace with God.

Saturday’s “Be-Attitude”  
Kid’s Korner by Morgan Perry
Jesus wants us to be “peacemakers.” Being a “peacemaker” means that you will help people get along and be friends. In addition you will take time to tell people about how Jesus wants us to treat each other when we have problems. Although it may be hard at times, we should NEVER talk unkindly about others, because we should not cause fights.
Has anyone ever hurt you so much that you wanted to hurt them back?
How did you feel when you were going through that?
According to this Be-Attitude, how does Jesus want us to handle these situations?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday: Blessed are the Pure in Heart

 
Climbing from mercy to purity

The climbing of the stairs of the beatitudes is not only stepping up for the requirements of the “blesseds” but also for the rewards. What that means is not only is it a greater challenge to seek to be pure in heart (5:8) than it is to be merciful (5:7), but the rewards also increase. We are comforted, but even better we shall inherit the earth. Better yet, we shall be filled with the righteousness of Christ by faith. Greater still, we shall receive mercy because even the righteous still need mercy. But what could be greater than that? Seeing God!

In the Old Testament, seeing God was a thing to be feared, because “no man can see God and live” (Exod. 33:20). Yet several did see God, including Moses, Isaiah, and Job said he knew that he would see God (Job 19:26, which also supports the resurrection). Seeing God was feared, yet an honor without parallel.  

Who has a pure heart?

“Well you know my heart,” some will say. Oh no I don’t! Jer. 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Only God knows all the hearts of humanity (1 King. 8:39).

The first mention of the word heart was in Gen. 6:5, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” It is described as “uncircumcised, hardened, wicked, godless, defiling the whole man, resisting the repeated will of God.”

But Ezekiel promised a wonderful heart surgery in Ezek. 11:19 and 36:26, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” The Psalmist said that God can create in us a clean heart (Ps. 51:10).

In the New Testament, we see that it is with the heart man believes and it results in righteousness (Rom. 10:9-10). And it is only through that faith are our hearts purified, “So God, who knows the heart,…(gave) them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith (Acts 15:8-9).

Once we are saved, then we can pursue “righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” It is only after we are saved can we truly love as it says in 1 Peter 1:22 “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.

Turn to James 4:7-10 and see how closely the brother of our Lord is recalling the beatitudes.

7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
Old Testament parallel

Psalm 24 was undoubtedly in the Lord’s mind when he said this beatitude. It reads, “The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face.”
Pure hearts want to see God

Do you truly want to see God. In discussing whether or not God was in a sense bribing His children to be good by offering them rewards, C.S. Lewis said, “We are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” (The Problem with Pain)

Some people don’t really want to go to heaven and they definitely would not want to see God in this lifetime. They may say they do but it is because they do not truly see their sinfulness. It is like the illustration of a mechanic who goes to work.

“Each day, the mechanic starts clean. Throughout the day, he becomes dirty; but he does not feel overly dirty because he has been like that for days on end. When he looks at himself, he thinks he is relatively clean. He started clean in the morning, and he cannot see how filthy he has become during the day.

“Imagine, however, if right after work, the mechanic went to a wedding. He tried to embrace the bride, who was wearing a pure white dress. All of the sudden, he realized that he was filthy. The purity of the white dress caused the mechanic to see his own impurity. So it is with the purity of the heart.

“The more we see the purity of Christ, the more we see our own filthiness. When we see the heavenly Bridegroom dressed in white, we see the blessedness and purity of the robe of Christ’s righteousness. The more we see the purity of Christ, the more we see the uncleanness and impurities of our own soul.” (Daily Devotional, gospelchapel.com)

A filthy person doesn’t want to be near a clean person once he realizes his filthiness. On the other hand a pure person’s greatest reward is to see the ultimate in purity of heart, the God who created us. 

Question: Do you truly want to see God?

Some people don’t really want to go to heaven and they definitely would not want to see God in this lifetime. They may say they do but it is because they do not truly see their sinfulness. A pure person’s greatest reward is to see the ultimate in purity of heart, the God who created us.


Question: If you don’t want to go to church, don’t want to read the Bible, don’t want to hear sermons, don’t want to give, but want to live like the world does, ask yourself this, “Do I really want to see God?”

What keeps us from seeing God?

Hebrews 12:14 speaks on seeing God, “Pursue peace with all men and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

A filthy person doesn’t want to be near a clean person once he realizes his filthiness.  

Question: Think of a time when you were absolutely filthy. What did you want to do and did you want to be in a perfectly clean room? 

 
Kid’s Korner by Morgan Perry                                           
Friday’s “Be-Attitude”
The focus of your life should be to love God. If you truly love Him, then your actions will show your love and friendship with Him. In this Beatitude, Jesus is teaching us that we should not focus on how we look, what we have, or what we wished we had. Instead, we should focus on our love for God. When we have that close friendship, we will not only see God working in our lives, but we are guaranteed to see Him in heaven.
 
How do your actions show your love and friendship with God?
 
If you do not know, have you asked God to be your friend and to be a part of your life?
 
Do you believe in Jesus Christ and that He died on the cross
to forgive you for your sins and do you believe he rose from the dead?
 
If you have never told God that you believe in Him, you can speak with Him now, in prayer, and tell Him that.
 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Thursday: Blessed are the merciful



A politician went to have his portrait done and upon seeing the results was quite upset about how his pictures had turned out. He went in and griped at the photographer and said, “These pictures do not do me justice!” “Justice?” the photographer said, “with a face like yours, you do not need justice; you need mercy.”

Question: What is justice? What is mercy?

How mercy builds upon righteousness
   Previously we studied the righteousness of God, of Christ and of humans. Longing for righteousness must be followed by mercy. A poor spirit (5:3) leads to mourning (5:4) which leads to humility (5:5), followed by a desire for righteousness (5:6). We have no righteousness apart from faith.

In light of that, how can we have anything except for a merciful heart? The word for can be translated because. The verse could read, “Merciful people are happy, because they too shall obtain mercy.” They do not carry grudges or keep a score of debts. They dispense mercy, knowing that they have and shall receive mercy themselves, and are happier for it.

We sometimes think mercy is the opposite of justice, but actually it is a complement to it. When we see justice, we see the need for mercy. A mother of a man accused of a serious crime went to Napoleon and pled for mercy. “Mercy for that scoundrel? He doesn’t deserve it!” was Napoleon’s reply. The mother said, “Sir, it wouldn’t be mercy if he deserved it!” The mother's logic prompted Napoleon to relent, “Well, then, I will have mercy.”

Some people use this and other verses on forgiveness to say that God’s mercy on us depends on our mercy towards others. Such thinking is contradictory to what the word mercy means…we shall obtain mercy because of our sins, not because of our good works.

Question: What is the opposite of being a merciful person?

Mercy for the miserable

The Greek word for merciful and mercy is based on eleos which is a descriptive adjective and is not based on emotions. In other words, God doesn’t feel sorry for us, but rather He is a merciful in His nature. The Latin word is miserecordia which sounds a lot like our word, miserable. In fact, the King James translates a Greek word similar to eleos to miserable twice. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable(1 Cor. 15:19)

“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). A person who needs mercy is miserable and a person who refuses to give it will eventually become miserable.

Read Romans 9:16 “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” Luke 6:36 “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”

Now read Matthew 6:12,14-15 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. …For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Questions: Who is it that initiates mercy, God or us? Do we have to do anything to deserve mercy? What do others have to do in order for us to be merciful?

Being merciful is a Be-Attitude

What is your attitude towards others who are miserable and pitiable? The worse someone is, the more they need mercy. In God’s eyes, how someone acts towards us is not what’s most important, but rather how we react. The word merciful is not a noun, but rather an adjective. It describes who the believer is, and not just what he does.

Questions: When you are wronged, do you seek justice or mercy? Now, when you are wrong, do you seek justice or mercy?

When and how do we obtain mercy?

If we are merciful, we may notice that others are merciful toward us and we will see God’s mercy come to us like a reflection in a mirror. It is more than just receiving mercy in heaven, but we shall obtain mercy here as well. So how can we go beyond our hurts and get to healing?  

      Don’ts and do’s                                              Do’s and don’ts

1) Don’t nurse, burn                                   1) Immerse, don’t churn
   (Job 11:16, Acts 19:19)                                 (Mic. 7:19, Prov. 30:33)
 

2) Don’t rehearse, spurn                           2) Reverse, don’t yearn
   (Heb. 8:12, 10:17)                                         (Isa. 61:3, Ex. 14:12)
 

3) Don’t curse, learn                                  3) Verse, don’t turn
   (Prov. 9:9, 2 Cor. 1:4)                                 (Ps. 119:10-11)
 

Thursday’s “Be-Attitude”                                               
Kid’s Korner by Morgan Perry
Have you ever heard the saying, “Treat others the way you want to be treated”? This is exactly what Jesus is talking about in this Beatitude. He is telling us that we should show mercy, or kindness, to people, even when they don’t deserve it. This is because there are times that we need forgiveness and God ALWAYS forgives us. If we show others mercy and forgiveness, we will be given the same from God.
 
Give an example of how someone has hurt your feelings.
 
How should you respond to their actions?
 
Give an example of how you have possibly hurt God’s feelings.
 
How does He respond to your actions? (When we ask for forgiveness and make every effort to make better choices, God ALWAYS forgives)