Jan. 22 – (Matt. 5:9) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  The one word in Jesus’ time for peace was “shalom”. Shalom was a “hello” and “goodbye” expression in meeting with anyone. It means, may you be completed with peace.  Peace is a key word in Jesus’ life and ministry.  He came to establish it, His message explained it, His death purchased it, and His resurrected presence enables it.  Prophecy proclaimed Him the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).  Angels said Peace had come to earth in announcing His birth (Luke 2:14).  As sinners were forgiven, His parting words were to go in peace.  He told his disciples that He was leaving Peace with them (Jn. 14:57).  His first words upon returning after His resurrection was “Shalom.”

       So, what does that mean to us today? It seems so natural to sift Jesus’ teachings through our own prejudices and preconceptions until we hear Him saying what we already have in mind.  That is the enemy of studying the Word that we must fight against every day. Does peace mean to you a smoldering grudge and exhausted hatreds because you think keeping peace is non-confrontational and so you try to bury all of it?  Does it mean avoiding any conflict so there is no tension in the air? Most of us with an inferiority complex or symptoms of personal failure want to change the people we feel has caused that depleted state.  Failing students want to change the marking systems, relationships in conflict want to change the other person. An employee who desires a better salary wants to change his boss or the way his boss does things. We have to be careful that we don’t want to change others so we don’t have to deal with our own shortcomings. None of these ways were “Jesus’ Way”.  

     We need a different kind of peace.  One that finds us peaceful in “our own skin” first. Then it spreads out from there…family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, people you touch as you live life, interracial, intraracial.   Let me go back to where it starts in finding peace.  When we find peace with God, we begin the process of finding peace within ourselves. It goes from there. I think that’s enough for us to ponder today. 😊

Jan. 23 – (Matt. 5:9) We have so many opportunities every single day, to make peace in our world. We need to be sensitive and act when we recognize those opportunity.  We need to use our energy, our personality, our money, and our influence to make a difference. It takes prayer and listening to the Holy spirit.

            There are 3 parts to making peace: 1. Making peace between us and others 2. Making peace between people we know who are separated from one another because of misunderstanding, hurt and hatred. 3. Making peace between groups in our society.

      In making peace with others, have you thought about talking to the Lord about what you have done and what was done to you before talking to the person?  Duh!  I don’t mean just thinking about the hurt but rather voicing it to the Lord and asking Him to show you more insight than you currently have. Continue to pray and ask Him how He wants to heal you and them. Then follow His prompting.

     We are called to receive the peace of Christ and to take the initiative in sharing it in life’s relationships and responsibilities. The difficulty is taking the first step.  An old saying: The longest journey begins with the first step. Let’s choose to take that first step! 

Jan. 24 – (Matt. 5:10) “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The NT word for “exceeding glad” comes from two Greek words which mean literally “to leap exceedingly”.  Have you ever been so happy you jumped for joy?  That is the mood for this word. Let’s look at the whole sentence again.  It’s not saying you should be so joyous for being persecuted alone.  You are to be so joyous because you are good (righteous) and that has caused the persecution.  Do you see the difference? 

        American “Christians” do not face the threat of death, dismemberment or imprisonment like so many in some other countries.  We have it so much easier.  Ours is subtler, and mainly attacks our self-worth through attitudes, possible lost jobs or promotions, or labeling.  Let’s be very careful though, in perceiving why we are being persecuted. Sometimes we are persecuted because our “delivery” of Christian morals or ways are not Christlike.   Our pure actions however, will cause one of two responses.  They will either admire it and seek it for themselves or resent it and hope to find something in us that they can malign and thus discredit us or our conviction. In the latter, it is not our responsibility or concern to “fix them”.  Just jump for “Joy” and leave it totally up to the Lord.  (I know easier said than done!)

Jan. 25 – (Matt. 5:10) I like the approach of this Beatitude by Lloyd j. Ogilvie. He begins by describing his best friend for over thirty years.  My best friend has been with me through trials and tragedies, pain and persecution, ups and downs, success and failure.  He is the kind of friend who knows all about me and never goes away.  He has a special way of helping me to see myself and do something about it.  He accepts me the way I am, and yet that very acceptance makes me want to be all that I was meant to be in spite of all the difficulties around me.  He laughs with me over my mistakes and weeps with me in my sorrows.  He has been faithful all through life’s battles. I have never been left alone when I suffered criticism, hostility or resistance for doing what love demanded.  He is with me when truth triumphs and is always there to absorb the anguish of defeat in a righteous cause.  We share a vision, a hope, a dream together…my friend and I.  As a matter of fact, he gives me the daring to be true to what I believe regardless of cost.  He meets all the qualifications of a real friend: he loves without limit; he is loyal when others turn away; he listens to my hurts; and he liberates me to grasp life with gusto, regardless of the consequences.  I have only one hope; when I come to the end of this portion of heaven and pass on to the next, the one thing people will remember is that I was his friend.  My best friend is Jesus Christ!  

            If you can’t look at Jesus as being your friend, look at John 15:15-16 first. Yes, He is so much more but we need to include this aspect as well.  I know for me it’s hard to include “friend”.  I think it’s because we don’t have a full understanding of “friend”.   If we could look at persecution for righteousness sake, with Jesus Christ as that kind of perfect friend, wouldn’t it give us a different view?  For me it goes from motivation by law (I have to do it on my own) to motivation from a Relationship (I can joyously do this because Jesus is that Friend who makes it all totally possible)!  Let’s think about that today. 😊

Jan. 26 – (Matt. 5:10) This is the only Beatitude that promises a reward in heaven. We want to see justice and reward here on earth. We think: “I’ve done my best and look what it has gotten me.”  Those thoughts or spoken words tell us we expect “our justice” to be seen here.    Is it to say, “I told you so.”? To be utterly realistic, we have to say some accounts will not be seen here but only when we get to heaven.  It reminds me of the verse “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  It is a promise….and a threat depending how much you are listening and obeying Him!

Jan. 27 – (Matt. 5:2-13) What do you think about the idea that all people suffer?  Think about the most depraved individual.  Do they suffer?  Yes.  Does there suffering lead to happiness?  No.  That is the difference.  We get to choose what the end result will be. We do not go out and find happiness; it finds us while we are pursuing something else – the Kingdom of God! Let’s review how to receive happiness:

1.      Happiness happens to the “poor in spirit”. To be poor in spirit means to accept our humanness, our dependence upon God for life and being.

2.      Happiness happens to those “who mourn.” Those who mourn the same things that makes God cry, namely, the things which impede the kingdom’s progress.

3.      Happiness comes to those who submit their innate powers to God’s discipline.  In other words, their worth is not in how they look to man but only to God.

4.      Happiness comes to those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness”.  As we hunger and thirst for God, our mind is renewed little by little and we are changed in our thoughts and attitudes and actions to be purer, more truthful, and have more love with others. Let’s save the rest for tomorrow.

Jan. 28 – (Matt. 5:2-13) DID YOU KNOW?  A sign of maturity is being willing to wait (for as long as is needed) for a gratification of what we know is the right thing (righteousness).

5.      Happiness happens to the “merciful” when we give the other guy credit for being every bit as worthy of God’s grace as we are.  Selah

6.      Happiness happens to the “pure in heart”. When we “will” one thing in our lives – to obey and pleasure the heart of God.

7.      Happiness happens to the “peacemakers”. A peacemaker is one who reconciles persons with persons by reconciling them to God.

8.      Happiness happens to “those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.”  It those who are persecuted in some way when they show God’s kingdom in some way. 

There is so much to ponder in these 11 verses.  Let’s continue to ask God for ways to live out what we are learning.