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Luke 6:22-23, Matthew 5:10-12  Click on these links to read the passages. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

 Are we willing to stand in the face of persecution and proclaim Jesus? Or would you prefer to fall in with the crowd to avoid being singled out and identified as one who has a higher calling on your life? The true saints throughout history have been willing to stand on their faith, even to the point of death. Jesus tells us we will be blessed if we suffer persecution for his sake.

Worldwide, more Christians are being persecuted for their faith than in any other time in history. Anyone who doesn’t believe this is encouraged to type the words “Christian Persecution” into a Google search and be prepared to be shocked.

Few in our country (USA) have suffered persecution for the sake of their Christian faith today, though it does happen on a lesser scale. People have lost favor with employers for standing up for what was right. Men and women may face abuse from their spouses or other family members over their decisions to worship Christ and to follow his teachings. We may experience rejection from our friends.

But times are changing, and there are more and more examples of religious persecusuion in the news every day. Just this past week two major publishers of the Bible have been sued by a homosexual man for their translations of the Bible which specifically call homosexuality a sin. Click here for more on the story. Bit by bit the ACLU, athiest groups, and other ultra liberal organizations are at work trying to chip away the evangelical Christian’s rights to openly share their faith.

Does this strike a sense of terror in the bottom of your stomach? Jesus wants to set the record straight for you by encouraging your heart. He tells his followers that those who are persecuted for his sake will be greatly blessed in heaven. The Apostle Peter also shares some encouraging words for those who suffer for the sake of Christ in 1 Peter 4:12-19. Peter encourages us to rejoice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ.

We can’t help but admire Cassie Bernall, the high school student who allowed herself to be shot and killed in the Columbine High School incident because she confessed faith in Christ at gunpoint. It is wise to resolve in your heart in advance what you would do in various situations in which you could be persecuted. Having done so will make it easier to hold fast to your convictions in any given situation.

Father God, what we know personally about persecution for our faith pales in comparison to what Jesus went through when he suffered persecution even to death on the cross so that we might find forgiveness and eternal life with him in heaven. Give us the will and the courage to accept the persecution that may come to us in our lifetime, and enable us to endure in the faith giving praise and thanks to you, that we might share in your sufferings.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:21b, Matthew 5:4  Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

How can we be blessed when we cry? In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says that those who cry now will laugh in the future. Matthew’s account in 5:4 says that mourners will be comforted.

Jesus promises over and over that there will come a day when everything will be turned upside down. We will all pass through a form of judgement when God separates the sheep from the goats. People who have lost a faithful loved one who walked with Jesus in this life can more nearly know morning and joy at the same time. The contrast between sorrow and joy is perhaps never so real as when they realize that their departed loved one has left his or her broken down crippled body behind and has entered into the presence of Jesus with a glorious new body. 

But God doesn’t expect us to have to wait until we die to enjoy his blessings. Read Psalm 30 and find your spirits lifted. The Psalmist shared that weeping may last for a night but joy comes in the morning. He also declared that God had turned his wailing into dancing.

I have often heard the difference between happiness and joy explained. Happiness is based on our circumstances. We are happy when people praise us and do nice things for us. But joy is based on our contentment with our lot in life and our relationship with God. As long as our trusting eyes are focused on God, we can be content knowing we are in loving and competent hands. But when our eyes stray as we compare our circumstances to those around us who have more wealth, status, or _______ (fill in the blank), we risk losing our joy as we covet what others have.

Whoa! I’m preaching to myself today!

Father God, help me to keep my eyes focused on you alone. Help me to accept my lot in life with true joy and thanksgiving in my heart, and help me to accept disappointments without grumbling and complaining.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:21, Matthew 5:6 Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

Have you ever been truly hungry? Did you consider it a blessing? Would the world consider it a blessing? These questions come to mind as I read Luke 6:21.  Jesus’ response according to Luke was that the hungry will be satisfied. It seems that Jesus was speaking in terms of eternity. This is in keeping with other statements Jesus made such as “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

It can be tempting to let this passage ease our consciences and allow us to become complacent about the multitudes of hungry people in the world. If Christians were truly allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them in their study of Scriptures, they would not be tempted to slip into this kind of thinking. Consider Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5:31-46 where he speaks of separating the sheep from the goats. Jesus told his listeners that whatever they did for the hungry and thirsty they did for him, and if they did not feed or give them water they were also denying it to him.

But God is also mindful about the here and now.  Jesus had compassion on the hungry when he multiplied bread and fish to feed the multitudes. God had compassion on the Israelites wandering in the desert and gave them manna from heaven. He also gave them water out of a rock. Perhaps our greatest hindrance from receiving his supernatural blessings is our own lack of faith that he can or will supply our needs.

Matthew expresses this Beatitude in spiritual terms as he refers to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus’ promise that they shall be filled, fortunately, more readily offers hope for at least partial fulfillment in this life. Similar verses such as “Seek and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7) quickly come to mind. Jeremiah presents the same concept emphasizing the importance of seeking God with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

I can not leave this Beatitude without bringing up fasting. This is a voluntary condition of physical hunger that holds promise of spiritual blessings for us. I confess that I have never undergone a total fast, so I am very limited in my personal experience; though a personal friend (who is much younger than I) went on a fast for several days. I was amazed at her testimony of how God worked through her in a supernatural way during her fasting experience. This is surely a means of drawing close to God that is underestimated by many Christians today.

Heavenly Father, enlighten us with your Holy Spirit to understand the teachings you have for us in your Holy Word, the Bible. Help us not to fall away by denying the truths you have given to us. Help us to be aware of your blessings when the world tells us we are losing. Help us to give thanks in all circumstances, even if we are hungry and thirsty; and if we are well fed and satisfied, help us to have compassion for others who are not.

Disclaimer: Since I began this study of the Beatitudes in the book of Luke, I have continued with 6:21 recognizing that doing so has caused me to skip Matthew 5:4-5 which I will pick up later. I’m glad I’m only commited to a blog and not a book or magazine article as I write this, in which case I would start over and use Matthew to guide the study with cross references to Luke.

 Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:20Matthew 5:3  Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

As I read the first of the Beatitudes in Luke I kept saying to myself that this wasn’t the way I remembered it. I searched several translations, but still couldn’t find one that started “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Instead I kept finding “Blessed are the poor.” I finally realized that I learned the Beatitudes from Matthew and not Luke.

So which is it? I could get all uptight over this and say that both should report this exactly the same way, but I have resolved in my heart to not let such minor differences unsettle my faith. In fact, quite the opposite. The fact that two different people reported the same instances with so many details that are the same bears witness to the fact that they didn’t need to consult with each other to tell the story. Both were capable writers and independent witnesses to the historical facts of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

So which is it? I believe that God was present in the Spirit when both accounts were written and both accurately express what he wants us to know. There are blessings that only the poor can know. Life can be simpler when you don’t have to worry about losing your fortune if the stock market crashes. The poor are less likely to have a child kidnapped for ransom. But even more importantly, the poor have learned to trust God to meet their needs.

Comparisons have been made on who is more generous, the rich or the poor, and it is the poor who will give the greater percent of their income to help others. This is perhaps one example of the freedom that the poor experience but that is elusive to the rich. Perhaps this is in part how theirs (the poor) is the kingdom of heaven.

The insertion of the words “in spirit” as seen in Matthew’s account changes the meaning a little, but it is still within the framework of the rest of Biblical teaching. Therefore I believe this is equally valid in the Beatitudes. When I think of being poor in spirit, I think of brokenness. We are a stiff-necked people, we make our plans and expect God to bless them (not the other way around). We tend to think we are in control of our lives, and when things seem to start spinning out of control we panic and fall to our knees making demands on God. Somewhere down in the bottom of all this turmoil is where we come to our wit’s end. This is where our spirit is finally broken, and where we look up to God and ask him to fix the mess we have made of our lives. The blessing God gives for a broken spirit is eternal life as we turn our lives over to him. This is the kingdom of heaven.

I have been worrying over my financial future as I face an earlier than advisable retirement in January. So now that I have wrestled through these scriptures, I need to re-read my own post. It is re-assuring that God has so much to say about trusting him with our tomorrows. Then to consider that I might be more fully blessed if I am poor than if I were rich… that boggles my mind in a comforting way.

I have been weighing out in my mind whether I should spend next week in a Salkehatchie Summer Service camp. It will be a last minute decision, but it is something I’ve been wanting to do for thirteen years, ever since the time I first learned about the program. I think this passage of scripture will take on even more meaning as I work through the week.

Father God, you know the blessings that are the best. Help us to see life through your eyes and not the eyes of the world. Help us to be satisfied, even generous, with what you have given us.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:17-23 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

When most people think of blessings, they think of the last time they received unexpected money, honor, man’s applause, being healed of a disease or injury, gifts, things going right making life easier for ourselves… the list could go on and on. But Jesus gave us a new twist on how we should view blessings in the spiritual realm.

The word had gotten out about Jesus’ power to heal the sick and the multitudes began to seek him out wherever he went. Jesus saw that the people were seeking him only for the physical healing he could give them. He then spoke to his disciples explaining the source of true spiritual blessings. His words suprised the people then, and still surprise us today. They are like a foreign language to those who are unable to see the wisdom contained in them. It is clear that Jesus expects his followers to rise above the “me first” way of thinking and to be willing to sacrifice our own needs and wants for the sake of others.

I plan to deal with each statement in the Beatitudes with separate posts.

Lord give us wisdom to understand everything you have to say to us. When your words seem difficult let us seek you out with hearts that are willing to listen. Help us to step outside earthly wisdom to seek the higher wisdom that you have to give to those who are willing to seek it.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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