Weakness!

“I am glad to boast about my weaknesses!” Apostle Paul

Apostle Paul: “Three times I begged the Lord to take (his thorn in the flesh) away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT 

Rediscovering this section of scripture this morning pierced my heart! Re-reading these words of Paul also reminds me of the incredible patience and mercy of the Lord. He knows how much patience and mercy are necessary in my life daily. Thank you, Lord.

How can I show strength in weakness, Lord? I ask. A man needs to be strong to face the world and its hardships and obstacles. Men have to show strength as an example to those they lead; their families and children. Men stand with shoulders squared, heads up and eyes fixed on the prize, the future, their success. It seems to me that weakness has no place in a man’s life.  

Then slowly, as a distant light becomes evident after a long, dark tunnel, I  realized that God’s weakness is not the same as man’s; that His weakness is stronger than man’s strength. And, finally—God’s weakness, the weakness described and displayed by the Apostle Paul, is far removed from the image we conjure up. 

2 Corinthians 13:4  “Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.”

2 Corinthians 6:4. “In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.”

Philippians 4:11-13 “ I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

The Apostle Paul learned an important secret; and that is trusting that God will provide as He sees fit. Paul learned how to be content with any circumstance. As we read Paul’s description of depending on God for everything, we may bristle a little at the idea of not taking care of everything ourselves. But how can we demonstrate our faith in the Lord, appearing weak to onlookers, without trusting in Christ? 

“The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” ~George Muller

The Election!

“Give to [the government] what is [the government’s]” Luke 20:25

It was a few days after the election and the results were still in the air. This was the closest election in recent memory with emotions running high as accusations of fraud came from both sides.

“Well I know that they’re going to expose corruption and false votes on the Democrats side of things. Our man will remain in office for sure,” said Sam, the adult Sunday School leader. The class erupted in aggressive agreement, taking them abruptly off topic.

“Just a minute friends,” said John in a loud voice. “What business do we have in bringing politics into this Bible class?” As quickly as they began, the class was brought to order.

Sam confronted John, “What are you saying? We all voted for the current president and know that the opposition would do anything to get him out of office. It’s our duty to expose any sort of lawlessness in the government. We’re not doormats, are we?”

Tumult again! Emotions ran high as some rose to their feet in adamant agreement.

“How do you know we all voted for the same man?” John said.

Stunned silence followed.

“Are you saying you voted against the president? How could you do that?”

“Who I voted for is my business. I am more concerned about our attitudes in the Bible class. When was the last time we got this excited about God’s Word or some other Biblical issue? And what does the Bible say about taking the government to task when we perceive them treating us as doormats?”

“You really voted for a Democrat?” said Sam. “I still love you, John but I admit that I’m disappointed.”

“Sam, I didn’t say who I voted for, nor do I intend to. I’m talking about our rebellious attitude because it seems our side may not win, as though God was in danger of being defeated. Christ is King, folks. This is just a political election. And if our man is defeated then that must be God’s plan, according to the Bible!

“Well, don’t you think it’s our responsibility to take the government to task when they get out of control and threaten our religious freedoms?”

“Who was the government when Jesus was teaching and preaching?”

“We all know the answer to that, the Romans were in charge.”

“And they were horribly corrupt and evil wouldn’t you say? They were especially hard on Christians weren’t they? Arresting and killing them, burning them at the stake in some instances.”

“Yes, that’s true enough,” said Sam.

“Well then, did Jesus command his followers to rise up against the evil regime?”

“No. I guess you’re right, John.”

“And when he was challenged in Luke 20:22-25, what did he reply?”

One of the class read aloud, “Now tell us, is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He saw through their trickery and said, “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” Caesar’s, they replied. “Well then,” He said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

“To bring that forward to our lives, we could say, Give to the government what belongs to the government, couldn’t we?” They agreed.

“Although sinful and corrupt, this world is under God’s control and His will shall always be fulfilled no matter how it looks to us. If the current president is defeated after the final tally of votes, then that is God’s plan which also means we should be content with the result.

“Look at Romans 13:1-7,” said John:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.”

“As followers of Christ our position is to be light in a dark world; to lead people to Christ by our living example, not to set the government straight!”

“I’ve found another appropriate verse,” said a class member, “1 Peter 2:13-14, Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”

“And here’s an appropriate verse,” said another person, 1 Timothy 3:1-3

“Here are my directions: Pray much for others; plead for God’s mercy upon them; give thanks for all he is going to do for them. 2 Pray in this way for kings and all others who are in authority over us, or are in places of high responsibility, so that we can live in peace and quietness, spending our time in godly living and thinking much about the Lord. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior.”

Aside from privately asking God if He could take away His forthcoming death on the cross, what was our Lord’s demeanor during this excruciating time? It was not decrying the unjust rulings of the Roman government and Jewish religious leaders was it? No. Jesus remained focused on the “joy set before Him.” Let us remain focused on the joy set before us so others may be drawn to our light.

The Power of Thought

October Sunrise in Oregon

“We take every thought captive” ~2 Corinthians 10:5

Since it’s original printing in 1937, Think and Grow Rich had sold more than 20 million copies at the time of author, Napoleon Hill’s death in 1970. This book still remains as one of the all-time best selling books. According to Hill, the germ of the idea behind his book was given to him by Andrew Carnegie, another well-known and wealthy businessman. 

Each chapter recounts stories of men who refused to give up once they established their goal. They fixed their minds upon that goal and worked through all difficulties and obstacles until they obtained their riches. Of course many such books have been written throughout the years but this one seems to be the master seller still, focusing on setting goals, visualizing what you want and never giving up. 

There is power in our thoughts and there is also destruction in them. Proverbs 23:4 says in words we should place on our computer monitors or bathroom mirrors:  “Don’t wear yourself out to get rich; stop giving attention to it. As soon as your eyes fly to it, it disappears, for it makes wings for itself and flies like an eagle to the sky.” HCSB 

Matthew 6:21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Surely as Christians, we’ve learned that the love of money is the root of all evil and therefore we have set money in its rightful place in our lives. A place of necessity to live and to share. And yet, if we are honest, each time we see a book such as Think and Grow Rich, a little twinge peeks above the horizon and suggests that if we did grow rich, think how many people we could help. Such thoughts are to be handled according to the following verse: 

2 Corinthians 10:4-5  We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 

As it turns out, our thoughts are either focused on our Heavenly Father and His will and instructions for us discovered in the pages of the Bible or they are not! And if not, then on what? Will our thoughts please God and build up our relationship with Him? 

1 Corinthians 13:11  When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. 

Romans 12:3  And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you. 

Ephesians 3:20-21  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.   

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. 

Philippians 4:7  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

The ability to think is a God-given gift and is accompanied by great power. Power for good and evil. Power to build up or tear down. The source of our thoughts decides which result will follow. 

Run For It!

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing” James 1:12

It had been ten years since their freedom of worship had been taken away. At first it was for economic reasons, so they, the government, said. “We must cut back on all nonessential expenses. Since there are so many partially full churches that worship the same God, we’ve decided it would be more economical to combine your meetings into local buildings. Not only will this save expenses, it will save in travel as well, therefore using less fuel.”

All pastors and priests were gathered together to facilitate this combining effort. Those opposed were told they must attend special classes where they would better understand these economic sanctions. “You select few have been chosen to attend a series of intense classes whereby the government’s top secret decision-making processes regarding  religious-diversity and economic betterment will be explained in detail.” Many of the pastors felt honored. The few who resisted were transferred to government schools. Within a year, those who agreed with these church combining measures returned to their homes. A few seemed to require more training. Some never returned home.

By the sixth year of government imposed sanctions of various sorts, public religious meetings became illegal except for government controlled varieties which allowed for a mixture of meetings that seemed to express biblical teachings. By then, most of those attending had become content with the seeker-friendly messages and social activities. New parents especially appreciated the youth-schools where their children were happier and content.

Inch by inch and step by step, religious freedom had become a thing of the past. And illegal. There were patrols assigned the task of infiltrating neighborhoods with an aim at squelching any attempts at secret Christian meetings. When asked why such patrols were necessary, the government’s answer was, “In an effort to eliminate those rebels who refuse to align themselves with our public welfare policies, we find it necessary to segregate such people who bring dissension and fear. Once found, they are sent to retraining camps.”

By the tenth year, public worship was a distant memory, replaced by a very similar brand of meetings that satisfied the itching ears of those who attended. Rather than wrestling with the strict, biblical God of old, these new services focused on a feel-good, non-invasive god. One who wanted everyone to be understood and appreciated. Under the new regime, church attendance was actually up.

Not everyone attended these new era church meetings. Some were still driven by an unquenched desire to secretly meet with others who gave their allegiance to the God of the Bible; who followed their Savior, Jesus Christ. At the literal risk of their lives, many small groups met in vacant rooms, remote parks, and abandoned buildings to share their faith.

Once such group met in a garage every week for prayer and Scripture readings. It was a cool Spring evening as the eight were kneeling in prayer when the door crashed open and three rifle-toting soldiers barged in. No one moved. The Christians barely breathed. The soldiers pointed their rifles at them.

“You have 30 seconds to leave or you will be executed!” shouted the officer in charge.”

Instantly people reacted and fled for their lives. Three remained, huddled together.

“Ten seconds remain!” shouted the soldier. No one moved.

Ten seconds later, the officer in charge nodded at the soldier closest to the door. He quickly locked the door. The men set their rifles against the wall.

“We have been hearing of this Jesus you follow and wanted to know if we could find any who were willing to give their lives for their faith. Tell us about the God you are willing to die for.”

What about me? Would I have run through the chairs like an Olympic sprinter to save my life? Of course I would like to say, No way. Not me. I would have remained like those steadfast men of faith, willing to face certain death. But…the truth is, I may have fled for my life just like the others. Which does not make me bad or a man of no faith. It makes me human and not ready for that ultimate sacrifice. We cannot say until we are forced to make such a decision. Our faith in Christ is not validated by a willingness to be ultimately strong. Quite the contrary. What does the Apostle Paul say in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Anxious and Uncertain

Strange how life presents itself to us. New schools, friends, jobs. All the while, we look for satisfaction and happiness. Occasionally we find it. It lasts for a short while. Obstacles and problems seem to wait around each corner. You find a job, buy a car, meet a friend or two, fall in love. And then, your job ends (company closes or you get fired), girlfriend thinks your best friend is cuter which brings the end to a friendship and a sweetheart. Contentment has eluded you once again. All of a sudden your world collapsed and took away your hopes for the future. To top it off, your car was stolen. Who would steal a car like mine? Maybe leaving the keys in the ignition was to blame.

Expecting life to satisfy our needs and bring contentment is an illusion. Life as we know it presents human efforts minus the life-changing redemption of Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ brings absolute forgiveness, all sins washed away, contentment through our faith.

According to the apostle Paul, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” Book of James, chapter 1, verse 12.

Follow Me!

“He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out…” John 2:15

It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon in the city, with shoppers looking for bargains and negotiating for the best prices. They learned to favor the tables and stalls in the portico of the church. It was cooler and one could take time looking over the animals, goods and produce. Although it was on church grounds, buyers knew these sellers had the best variety.. 

Because of the Passover feast, sales were brisk at the market as the people needed sacrificial animals. Commerce had crept into their worship so thoroughly that no one noticed…except for one man on this day.

Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate The Passover and remember, with his disciples, God’s deliverance from the Angel of death. The blood of an innocent lamb brought their deliverance, just as His blood was about to deliver all people from the penalty of their sins.

 Jesus became incensed at what he saw; they were turning His Father’s house of worship into a house of commerce. This would not do. Grabbing common items readily available he fashioned a whip and returned to the temple/market renouncing their behavior, tossing tables over, scattering sellers and buyers alike, driving them and their animals from the temple!

Above the chaos, people heard his booming voice, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” John 2:16 CEB

After this shocking display the Jewish leaders demanded that he explain his behavior; to which Jesus said, “All right. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” NLT They didn’t understand he was referring to his own resurrection.

Would it be different today? Would we behave differently toward such extreme behavior from a pastor? Using hindsight and the benefit of two thousand years, we casually read over this event, understanding that Jesus was confronting the malaise of the church as it blended with the world, as many of us have today.

Jesus broke the religious rules; he challenged all current religious ideas of behavior and demanded action from his followers. Walking along the sea shore, Jesus called out to men, instructing them to lay down their lives right then and follow him. Not only did this cut off their earnings, it damaged the family business as well.

Would we respond differently today? If this type of Jesus barged into our church-world how would we receive him? If he showed up at a church bazaar, throwing tables and money about, what would we think? We would probably think he was crazy or too radical. We want church leaders who are more reasonable and predictable. We don’t want to be challenged to give up more and love more (especially to those who are slightly repugnant to us). We desire to feel comfortable in our church surroundings, smiling amiably to fellow members. We desire people who are easy to love.

Matt. 4:17  From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Matt. 4:18-22  “As Jesus walked alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 20 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 21 Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee, their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and 22 immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

Jesus was the master of confrontation; the epitome of bluntness; his words penetrated the heart and stirred people to action. 

Matt. 7:24-27  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matt. 8:21-22  “Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

Would it be different today? Is it? Do we expect God to work through us, through our church services, through our daily lives? Do we take up our cross daily? Imagine our response to the Lord if He told us to walk away from the funeral proceedings we were responsible for, and follow Me!

Luke 9:23  “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

Most of us cling tightly to our lives, our plans, our responsibilities. A close friend’s mother passed away some time ago and he was overwhelmed with the details of her funeral and memorial service following. It was an emotional time for all of his family. Consider now, Jesus walking up to him, in the midst of planning, fixing his gaze upon him saying, “Walk away, leave all this and follow me. Let these others bury the dead.” That would be crazy, we would say. And yet that is exactly what Jesus did!”

Reject Fear!

Again and again Jesus stated that fear is the enemy of life. “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Luke 8:50). “Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Fear breeds a deadening caution, a holding back, a stagnant waiting until people  no longer can recall what they are waiting for or saving themselves for. When we fear failure more than we love life, when we are dominated by thoughts of what we might have been rather than by thoughts of what we might become, when we are haunted by the disparity between our ideal self and our real self, when we are tormented by guilt, shame, remorse, and self-condemnation, we deny our faith in the God of love. When God calls us to break camp, abandon the comfort and security of the status quo, and embark in perilous freedom on the journey to a new Canaan, and we procrastinate out of fear, this represents not only a decision to remain in Haran, but also a lack of trust. 

 From the book, The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning, page 20

Love Your Enemies

Praise Your Name, Jesus!

“Pray for those who torment you and persecute you”  Matt. 5:44

Jim looked forward to Saturday evenings at his Bible study group. It was prayer night. He loved praying for so many friends and loved ones; his and those of his fellow Christians. But this night would be a milestone for Jim—a point of no return. It would be a reshaping of his prayer life.

Phil was leading the group and he asked everyone to make a list during the coming week. The list was to be of those people considered their enemies. Included should be politicians, rude clerks, greedy corporations, worldly church leaders and so on. To kick start the project they would begin with prayers for enemies..

Jim almost bolted and ran. He had been deceived and stolen from by two friends. They had taken his business, good credit and left him with a pile of debt. In addition to the business debt, Jim was forced to hire an attorney which cost him thousands of dollars and did little to help. Later he discovered the attorney was noted as one of the least competent in town.

As Phil asked everyone to pray, Jim began with a simmering anger, clenching his fists, silently asking God why He allowed all of those terrible things to happen to him. And now, when he thought it was all behind him, how could God ask him to pray for those who used and maligned him? His heart was breaking and his blood pressure was rising. Tears began to flow. 

“I know that some of you will ask why we’re praying for our enemies,” Phil said. “Why not just try and forget them and hopefully never talk to them again. After all, we are admonished by Jesus to love as proof of our Christianity. You may even feel that as long as you don’t still nurture the hate and anger toward them, you’ve done well. As always, let’s see what the Bible says about this issue.”

Matthew 5:43-44  ~”You have been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you”

Acts 7:59-60  ~”As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.”

Romans 12:12-14   ~”Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come, endure them patiently, steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer. Give freely to fellow-Christians in want, never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them.  And as for those who try to make your life a misery, bless them. Don’t curse, bless.”

Romans 12:20-21  ~”If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”* 

1 Cor. 4:11-13   ~”Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.”

1 Cor. 13:4-8  ~”Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!”

1 Peter 2:20-21 ,23  ~”Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.  He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.”  

By now, cleansing tears were flowing throughout the room. Calling out to God in prayer opened their hearts for change, for a touch of the Master’s hand, for purification and redemption. And what of us, do we harbor ill feelings, grudges, anger toward someone who has actually wronged us? Someone who took advantage of us? Someone who has not paid the price, as far as we know? And that is the point;  as Stephen asked God to forgive those who killed him, we must allow God to help us forgive those who have wronged us. We must pray for them.    

*Proverbs 25:21-22

Blessings and Suffering

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings” Romans 5:3

How often have you heard it or thought it? It goes something like this, “Friends, God wants to bless you today. He wants you to have that promotion, to get that new house and car. God does not hold back on giving the ones He loves the desires of their hearts.” And then what follows are a few examples that send shivers up our spines as we begin to visualize those “blessings” pouring down from the hand of God. Sort of like a divine vending machine, just waiting for us to break the code and ask for stuff so we can be happy little Christians, surrounded by material blessings that Jesus died for us to receive.

I speak from experience, my friends. I have pleaded with God for things. I’ve lined up all my behavior, prayer time, sacrificial giving (more than ten percent) and helping at church. And yet—no stuff! Then it occurred to me that I was asking God to bless my desires, to bring forth the items as requested. 

Confronting my sinfulness, the Holy Spirit methodically revealed Scriptures which explained just how our Heavenly Father wants us to live. He wants us to know what we should expect, as followers of our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:17-18  “And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.”

2 Cor 4:17-18  “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

These Scriptures, like so many others, snap us to reality; the reality of actually living the Gospel, not just talking about it. Jesus set the example by his beating, torture and death. How can we possibly skip past the shocking sacrifice He made for us to rationalize our materialistic desires? If you want blessings, and that’s just fine, here are examples:

1 Peter 1:8-9  “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”

Acts 20:35  “In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

James 1:12  “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

And the most famous and least taught today is found in Matthew 5:3-9  “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

To our Lord and Savior, blessings and sufferings are intertwined as the strands of a rope because, unlike us, His view is eternal. He sees through this temporary life, into the everlasting one. He was able to look through the suffering of the cross to what lay beyond.

1 Peter 4:12-14   “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.”

2 Thess 1:4-8  “We are happy to tell other churches about your patience and complete faith in God, in spite of all the crushing troubles and hardships you are going through.This is only one example of the fair, just way God does things, for he is using your sufferings to make you ready for his Kingdom, while at the same time he is preparing judgment and punishment for those who are hurting you. And so I would say to you who are suffering, God will give you rest along with us when the Lord Jesus appears suddenly from heaven in flaming fire with his mighty angels, bringing judgment on those who do not wish to know God and who refuse to accept his plan to save them through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If we intend on living our lives for Christ, as lights in a dark world, we must shift our focus from this materialistic, self-indulging world to the life of temporary trials and sufferings that refine and strengthen us; trials that replace sinful appetites with Godly desires. Our aim should be to “count it all joy” when we’re beset with trials just as athletes in training are willing to undergo hours of pain and self-denial for the crown that awaits. That crown is temporary while ours is eternal.

Love Your Enemies


Charles was teaching an adult Sunday School class with 20-25 people. The same group had been meeting for several months and shared many of their fears, joys and challenges of walking with Christ as Savior. It was a class that seemed focused on serving the Lord, willing to make sacrifices.
One Sunday, Charles surprised everyone with a test! Of course there were protests and grumblings. “A test? Where are we, in school again?” He smiled and passed out the papers just the same. The test was actually not what they thought. Rather than finding out their knowledge of what he’d been teaching, it challenged the depth of their faith, forcing every person to face their “true life” walk with Christ. At the end of the test he included Luke 6:27-38 followed by this question: “Do you think that Christians today are to take these verses literally— to actually live our lives using this as our guide?”
Luke 6:27-38 (Words of Christ):
● Love your enemies
● Do good to those who hate you
● Bless those who curse you
● Pray for those who mistreat you
● If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also
● If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also
● Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back
● Do to others as you would like them to do to you
● “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners
love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why
should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those
who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
● Love your enemies! Do good to them
● Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. 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 those who are unthankful and wicked
● You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate
● Do not judge others, and you will not be judged
● Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you
● Forgive others, and you will be forgiven
● Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.  The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.


What do you think? Are these verses in the Gospel of Luke an actual blueprint for living our lives today or a metaphor, meant to encourage and challenge Christians to live more sacrificially? Do you find yourself thinking that most of these statements are good as a guide but a few of them are over the top? 

Did God include these verses to be thought provoking but not literal? Perhaps the purpose of these verses is to provide a basic outline for Christian living but not to be taken literally. But then, how can we pick and choose which Bible verses are literal and applicable for today’s Believers? Do we have the freedom to ignore verses that present too great a challenge for our flesh? 

If we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, given to its writers by the Holy Spirit, then who are we to disregard those which present too great a challenge? We only have to look to the Book of Job to be reminded of who God is:
Job 38:4-7 ~“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?”


Finally, what does the Bible itself have to say about all the verses contained inside?:
2 Timothy 3:16 ~”All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

Whatever seems normal seems right. In our American lives, we are brought up to believe that we are capable of guiding our own lives, reaching for that elusive golden ring which, once securely held, brings happiness and satisfaction. 

However, there is no golden ring. Happiness and satisfaction may only be found through faith in Jesus Christ. His sacrificial death brought forgiveness of all our sins. Faith in Him allows us to love and be kind to our enemies— whether or not they reply in kind.