Monday, December 31, 2012

A time of reflection...


As the year comes to a close, I felt led to share the following passage.  As you read through the passage, reflect back on your year and see where each verse has been fulfilled in your life.  Look back on where God has worked in your life.


Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

2a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to rear down and a time to build,

4a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7a time tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace,

9What does the worker gain from his toil?  10I have seen the burden God has laid on men.  11He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  12I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.  13That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God.  14I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.  God does it so that men will revere him. 

I pray God’s blessings on all of you as you enter a new year.  May your year be filled and may God use you for His purposes.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Great is your reward...

Week 52:

Matthew 5:11-12 11Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I believe that we are on the cusp of experiencing (and in some ways are currently experiencing) this verse in our culture here in the United States today. More and more haters of Christianity are voicing their sentiment daily on the open waves of the internet and the social media. Through politics, we are seeing a large move away from the traditional family and strong words from those who are for this move. Some of the criticism received from this move angers us a Christians, especially when we experience the insults to our own character as practicing Christians.

I challenge us to welcome that persecution. Jesus tells us in this verse that it will happen and that we are blessed because of it. It is inevitable that there will be opponents to Christ and his teachings. I have heard several times throughout the years through scholars and preachers this concept: One can talk about God in general and not create too much of a controversy. However, start talking about Jesus and people become uncomfortable and at times even defensive and/or hostile. Too many in this world cannot accept that Jesus is the only way to the Father. In short, it is convicting at times and people do not want to be convicted. To be convicted would mean that something is not right and has to be fixed or adjusted. To that person, the only answer is to refute, defend, insult, and persecute.

One area I would like to challenge readers to look into is for all of us to ask, “Why” are we personally invoking this persecution? The “why” is personal and requires some personal reflection. When someone has opposition to me as a Christian is it because of Jesus or because of me representing Jesus poorly? Jesus tells us in this verse that we will face this persecution because of his name. I fully expect this to happen throughout my lifetime as I follow Jesus. However, another side to this coin is…do I use the teachings of Jesus as an oppressive, exclusive “we’re in and they’re out” way of living my life? I have observed that there are some in the world who would be Jesus followers had they not experienced religious people in their life that misrepresented Jesus. I must take each opposing situation and look at my life and decide, “Am I living as Christ would have me live or am I using Christ’s teachings to mask my inconsistent living and hypocrisy?”

So I go back to my original challenge. I need to welcome the persecution. It will be a blessing in one of two ways: One blessing is “great is the reward” because I am being persecuted because I live in the name of Jesus. The other blessing is when I am misrepresenting Jesus and need to make a change in order to reach those who have been wounded by others who have lived in that same misrepresentation. I close with a reminder for myself as to how to live for Jesus from I Peter 2:12 “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (NIV)


1. In what ways have you seen a rise in the persecution of Christians?
2. In what ways has any of this persecution bled over into your life?
3. Explain a time when you were insulted because of your belief in Jesus and reacted in a way where you had forgotten the heart of this verse.
4. Pay attention this week to the general persecution of Christians (or a particular persecution you are enduring) and look at whether that persecution is because of Jesus’ teachings or because of a misrepresentation of Jesus.
5. As you see this going on, what changes need to be made in your life?

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Because of righteousness...

Week 51:

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Standing up for what is right is not always an easy thing to put into practice. In fact, in this present culture, there are those who would say, “What is right?” The waters of righteousness can become clouded by deception and misdirection. Out of that cloudiness can come persecution to the person who is standing in true righteousness against the relative view of what is right. To know what is right and true can create an atmosphere of persecution.  

As an educator, I deal with students who stand for what is right. Many times I observe these types of situations and have to counsel students as they are shunned or socially punished because their decision may have caused discomfort or trouble for those who did not stand for what is right. The blessing God speaks of is not always immediate. Many times, the person who has stood for what is right, has to endure this persecution to the point of questioning, “Did I do the right thing?”  

As Christians in this culture, many are taking stands for righteousness and are being persecuted through hateful dialogue and accusations of closed mindedness. We watch our country’s moral decay continues to spiral downward and decide to speak up. This is met with strong opposition that mirrors the intolerance the persecutors claim that Christians are living under.  

I was always told and continued the message to others that it is never wrong to stand for what is right. I believe that in the back of my mind as I proclaimed this message was this verse from Matthew 5:10. For one to stand for what is right is not always comfortable or popular as I have noted in examples above. However, I have always believed that blessings would be rewarded for standing in the right. I do not claim to have stood for the right thing in every case; for whatever reason (fear, ignorance, or just plain sinfulness). Because of those decisions I reaped (and sometimes still reap) the consequences of not standing for what is right. I have come to believe the consequences of persecution outweigh the consequences (or perceived rewards) of not standing for what is right.  

Jesus promises the kingdom of heaven for those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. I have made mentioned before in other writings that this kingdom is both now and in the future. The future is the heaven described after our death. This kingdom is the one we are storing up treasures in for the afterlife. Some of the persecution for righteousness we suffer now will have great eternal blessing.  

I also believe that there are blessings in the current kingdom on earth. Amidst the persecution, I know that my character is intact because of what I have stood for. Even though it may be painful and uncomfortable to deal with the persecution, I can rest well in my conscience that I have stayed within my character based on Jesus’ character. At times, standing for what is right throughout a situation will be rewarded in the end. When the situation has run its course and right has prevailed, the one standing in righteousness will be rewarded in some way.  

I do want to briefly give warning about self-righteousness. If I am to stand for what is right, I am to make my stand according to a righteousness that is outside of me, a higher authority, Christ. For me to stand for what is right based solely on my need be right does not reap blessing.  

Now, more than any time in our history, it is time to stand for God’s righteousness. We must do this in a loving way. Follow Christ’s example of righteousness and know that we are blessed.  


1. On what do you base your righteousness? Explain.
2. Describe a time when you have been persecuted for standing up for what is right.
3. Have you seen a blessing from that stand? What was it?
4. This week, observe where righteousness is being championed and what persecutions follow. Make note of the cloudy and misdirecting statements around the persecution.
5. Take a stand for righteousness this week. Pay attention to what God is doing as you step into this action.

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Monday, December 10, 2012


Week 50:

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Jesus was called the “Prince of Peace” at times. Jesus was also the Son of God. One of the ways to become a son of God is to become a peacemaker. I am amazed by the people I encounter who just seem to be able to create harmony amongst groups of people. I have also watched as I see how blessed these people are.  

The peacemaker seems to be one who not only creates and maintains harmony, but also is one who seems to have a sense of peace in his demeanor. No matter the situation, this person is calm and has exactly what is needed for any situation. Jesus was one who created harmony amongst those who would seem to not mesh if it were not for his presence. Just look at his disciples. Who besides the Prince of peace could hold a group of men like that together?

I believe that one common myth about the peacemaker is this idea that she is a negotiator or mediator. The negotiator/mediator can very well possess the gifts of a peaceful demeanor. However, the negotiator/mediator may not possess peacemaking ability at all and would still be successful due to training. Conversely, many negotiators/mediators are true peacemakers.

There are times in my life where I have seen peacemaking ability show up for me. I believe that most of the time, I tend toward peacemaking. Sometimes it is in playing negotiator/mediator for the greater good of the situation. As I reflect back on some of those situations, I have to ask myself, ”What was my motivation in lending my help to this situation?  ” If my help was to ease my discomfort around the conflict that was occurring, then my motivation was not necessarily from a peacemaker’s heart. My intervention or assistance was motivated by selfish gain. If my help was to genuinely see two believers work better together, then my motivation was like that of a peacemaker.  

Another thought is that a true peacemaker should have a spirit of reconciliation. The peacemaker has a heart of reconciliation between man and God, husband and wife, parent and child, person to person, and church member to church. This spirit of reconciliation should not be motivated by satisfaction, but a general concern for relationships. Jesus came to reconcile us back with God. Those who have this spirit of reconciliation have a real conviction of seeing conflicts to reconciliation.  

In my life, I am convicted that I should continue to work on my peacemaking abilities. Obviously, I want to be called a son of God. Beyond that, I want to continue to see God’s kingdom grow and spread. Without reconciliation and peaceful relations, the growth is stunted. I ask that God give me a spirit of peace.


1. What comes to mind for you when you think of the term peacemaker?
2. Describe some traits you have seen in the peacemakers in your life?
3. Do you feel you have the spirit of peacemaking/reconciliation in your life? Why or why not?
4. Describe a situation in your life where you stepped in as a peacemaker. Did you do this out of the spirit of peace or out of discomfort?
5. Over the next few days, look for a situation that will require peacemaking. Check your motivation, and then intervene. Pay attention to what God does through the situation.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

To see God...

Week 49:

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Have you been in situations where you wonder to yourself how does one see God? I see God working around me and in the lives of people serving. However, at times in my life I do not feel or see the presence of God personally. Yes, I can reflect back and see where God has taken me and has worked in my life. But, I don’t always feel his presence or see him. Of course, scripture tells us that no one has ever seen God face to face. I do want at least the next best thing, sensing his presence.

One way to allow the presence of God to show up is through a pure heart. What does one with a pure heart look like? I think many look for purity of heart through purity of thought. We think that if we keep our mind clean that equals purity. Although that is important (I must be constantly renewing my mind and filtering what I take into my mind) it is not the only way to a pure heart.

The way to a pure heart is more than just the way we think. Our beliefs, our values, our emotions are all tied to the heart. To be pure in heart would be to be pure in thought, motives, feelings, and integrity. What we believe in the heart is ultimately what drives us.

Another thing to think about is that actions do not always match the heart…at least for a while. Many of us will not reveal how we feel out of fear of vulnerability. So, we put on an exterior mask to cover the heart. Eventually, however, this catches up to us and we show our pent up heart in unhealthy ways. There is no denying what the heart is holding. We can modify behavior but the heart speaks louder. A simple example would be this: I am a school administrator. Several years ago we adjusted our dress code because we felt that our students were pushing the limits of modesty. With some resistance, our students would abide by the code during the school day. However, when it came time for a sporting event, not during school hours, the students would wear the clothes that verged on immodesty again. We changed their behavior around the issue of modesty during our school day but we did not change the heart as our students went back to their desire to dress their way.

Jesus speaks a lot about the heart. Throughout the Gospels Jesus teachings are heart oriented; especially when he spoke to the Pharisees. David spoke about the heart when he wrote Psalm 51. In verse 10, he asks God to create in him a pure or clean heart. This Psalm was written after the prophet Nathan had pointed out David’s sin with Bathsheba. God spoke about the heart when he chose David as king.  

So, what does it take to have a pure heart? I believe that first and foremost I have to want a pure heart. If it is not my desire to have a pure heart, no amount of work will get me there. Second, there does have to be a renewing of the mind. I have to have a mindset change in order to work on a pure heart. Third, I need to be emotionally healthy. I need to know what I am feeling and be honest with myself and others where I am emotionally. When I do this, I become self-aware and I am able to be authentic. Fourth, I have to be in God’s word and have it written on my heart. We cannot discount this piece of transforming the heart. I cannot count how many times I was able to keep my heart pure because of passages of God’s word written on my heart. Finally, I have to pray. I need to continue to ask God to cleanse me and help me to have a clean heart. I also need to ask others to pray for me as well.  

With a pure heart, we will be able to see God face to face one day. I also believe that he reveals himself to us in small ways as purity of heart grows within us. Prayerfully, as I do my heart work, he will show himself to me in ways that I cannot even imagine.


1. In what ways to do feel you have a pure heart?
2. In what ways is your heart lacking in purity?
3. Describe someone you know who demonstrates a pure heart.
4. Describe someone you know who fakes a pure heart. How do you know?
5. Name some steps you are willing to take in order to improve your purity of heart.
6. Choose one step…then over the course of this next week spend time meditating on and incorporating this step into your life.

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