BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS – PART 5

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:12-17

When we come to Christ, our spirit is born again and God sees us as righteous in Christ. We are reconciled to God through what Jesus did on the cross, and He has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.

To bring reconciliation means to bring peace between conflicting parties. It may be between God and sinners, but also between people who are in conflict with each other. God wants to use us to bring people back to Himself, and also to resolve conflict between people. This is not something that requires merely a personality type, but the Holy Spirit working through a person’s life.

Every Christian is called to be a peacemaker: “we are ambassadors for Christ” [2 Corinthians 5:20]. When we seek to bring peace wherever we go, we are simply doing what the Father does – it is not surprising, therefore, that peacemakers are called sons of God!

Peace only works in conjunction with truth, wisdom and love. It is not the same as appeasement, which is peace at any price. Peace is costly. It cost the death of God’s only son. “To proclaim ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace is the work of a false prophet, not of Christian witness” [Jeremiah 8:11].

Peace often involves pain. John Stott has written, “We may not be personally involved in a dispute, but may find ourselves struggling to reconcile to each other two people or groups who are estranged and at variance with each other. In this case, there will be the pain of listening, of ridding ourselves of prejudice, of striving sympathetically to understand both the opposing points of view, and of risking misunderstanding, ingratitude or failure.” Facing up to issues is vital in bringing peace but it is often painful.

Peace making requires a positive attitude of love and care. When you start to love people you become vulnerable. C.S. Lewis wrote: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal! Wrap it carefully around with little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell.”

Questions:

To be a peacemaker requires honesty, truthfulness, dependence upon the Holy Spirit and love. Are you prepared to be a peacemaker?

In the context of our reading today, what does it mean to have a ministry of reconciliation?

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS – PART 4

Bible Reading: Ephesians 2:11-22

We are called to be peacemakers and the greatest possible example that we could have is Jesus Himself. He is the great peacemaker. In our reading today, we see that Christ is our peace [v14], He made peace [v15], and He preached peace [v17]. The words “made peace” in Greek mean, “to create peace”. The Greek word for peace comes from the root word ‘eiro’ and has the meaning, “one, peace, quietness, rest + set at one again” [Strongs].

The peace that Jesus brings is set against the backcloth of the words “enmity” [v15], “separation” [v14], and “reconciliation” [v16]. Jesus reconciled two parties who were at enmity and separated from each other, and made them to be at peace with each other. The words to reconcile mean, “to bring together again.”

There is two-fold enmity in this passage; firstly between Jew and Gentile [v13-15], and then between God and sinful man. Sin not only separates people from God but it also divides people from each other. Adam and Eve sinned and were separated from God. Their sons were separated from each other and Cain killed Abel.

The wall that separated the Jews and Gentiles was the Law. The Law made a clear distinction between them, and it was necessary for the wall to be pulled down for reconciliation to be effected [v14]. The wall was broken down when Jesus died on the cross. The price of this reconciliation was the blood of Jesus. He fulfilled the righteous demands of the law and removed the barrier that separated Jew from Gentile. Now there is no difference between them [Romans 10:12-13], and both are saved in the same way, by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.

We see in the life and ministry of Jesus that the principle of peace making is to bring reconciliation and unity between two or more parties that are in conflict. Jesus has broken down the wall that separated Jew and Gentile, and also made it possible for sinful men to be reconciled to God and that never needs to be repeated. The responsibility given to us today is now to help people enter in to a relationship with God and for people to be reconciled to each other. This is what the peacemaker does!

Questions:

Read James 4:1-10. What are the main reasons why conflicts exist and escalate between people?

Read James 4:13-18. What are the types of wisdom that James writes about?

What is the answer to envy and selfish ambition? What are the characteristics of heavenly wisdom?

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS – PART 3

Bible Reading: John 20:19-29

Let’s continue to explore God’s peace today, remembering that before someone can be a peacemaker they must themselves be people of peace.

In John 14:27, not only did Jesus speak His peace to the disciples but, after His resurrection, He appeared to the disciples and spoke peace to them. They had all fled when Jesus was crucified and were now locked in the upper room for fear of what the Jews might do them. Suddenly, Jesus came. There is an old chorus that says:

“When Jesus comes, the tempter’s power is broken,
When Jesus comes, those tears He wipes away;
He takes the gloom, and fills the life with glory,
For all is changed when Jesus comes to stay.”

Jesus spoke three times to the disciples’ fear when He came to the upper room. His first words to them were, “Peace be with you” [John 19:23]. Recent events had left them in fear. Their expectations and hopes had been shattered. They did not understand what was happening. Jesus had been taken from them and been crucified and now their own lives were in danger.

The second time that Jesus spoke peace in that upper room immediately preceded the words, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” [John20:21]. He was now speaking peace to their future. Jesus would send out the disciples in exactly the same way as the Father had sent Him. How did the Father send Jesus? He was sent to lay down His life. He was sent to battle against, and defeat, an evil enemy. He was sent to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. He was sent to minister under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls us in the same way as He called those first disciples and He promises His peace to us in the same way that He promised them.

The third time Jesus spoke peace in the upper room was eight days after He first appeared there [John 20:26]. The disciples were still behind shut doors, but this time Jesus spoke to Thomas and to his unbelief.

Jesus spoke peace into the hearts of His disciples. What was causing lack of peace? It was disappointment, unfulfilled expectations, ignorance, fear, doubt, and uncertainty about the future.

Questions:

Are there any areas of your life that lack the peace of God – either things in the past, the present or the future? Surrender those things to Him and allow His peace to flood those areas of your life.

Why do you think that the disciples were still in the upper room eight days after Jesus had spoken peace to them and commissioned to minister in the same way that the Father had sent Him?

Why do you think that disappointment is a powerful and dangerous emotion?

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS – PART 2

Bible Reading: Isaiah 26:1-9

We saw yesterday that before a person can really be a peacemaker they must themselves be at peace. Over the next two days, we are going to look a little closer of what God’s peace is like in our hearts. God’s peace is supernatural. Let me enlarge on this by using a testimony from our own lives.

Many years ago, Esther and I were ministering together at a Christian holiday centre on the East coast of England. Before leaving to return home, someone asked if they could pray for us as we travelled home with our two young children. His prayer was unusual, “Lord, put an angel on each wheel and one on the steering wheel”.

Later that morning, we drove down a steep hill with a single lane carriageway. As we approached a bend at the bottom of the hill, we came face to face with a truck on our side of the road. It was impossible to avoid a head-on collision. I was so startled by Esther shouting out “Jesus” that I let go of the steering wheel, and somehow God’s autopilot took over. The car veered off the road and up a steep grassy bank, but did not have enough momentum to reach the top of the bank. It rolled over before landing in an upright position. The truck had passed and the collision was avoided. There was an angel on the steering wheel!

The roof of the car had caved in leaving a three-inch gap where the windscreen had been. My seat had collapsed causing me to lie unhurt across the car. Angela, aged six, banged her head on the roof of the car but apart from that was unhurt. Timothy, nearly two years old, was sitting in his child seat, and coats from the back of the car had fallen on top of him and protected him. He pulled the coats off and said, “Boo!” I asked Esther if she was okay and all she could say was, “I have such peace!”

We had all rolled over in the car, and the car was a write-off, and all that Esther could say was, “I have such peace!” That has to be supernatural! Even when the enemy attacks and everything seems to be going wrong God wants to bring us to that place of trust and peace.

Questions:

Why do you think that it is important that we have God’s peace in own hearts if we are to be peacemakers?

Make a list of the things that hinder God’s peace ruling in your own heart? Now surrender those things to the Lord and invite His peace into your heart and mind.

In our reading today, God gives us a precious promise of peace [Isaiah 26:3]. What are the conditions stated in that verse for enjoying this peace?

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS – PART 1

Bible Reading: Philippians 4:2-9

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” [Matthew 5:9]

The word “peace” is used in many contexts, subject to misunderstanding and therefore needs to be clearly defined. Let’s begin with the dictionary definition of the word peace:

  1. A quiet tranquility (needs peace to work well); a mental calm; serenity (peace of mind).
  1. Freedom from or the cessation of war; freedom from civil disorder
  • keep the peace: prevent, or refrain from, strife.
  • make one’s peace: re-establish friendly relations.
  • make peace: bring about peace; reconcile.
  • Peacemaker: a person who brings about peace. A person who brings calm and quiet; re-establishes friendly relationships between people brings reconciliation.

In the Biblical sense, peace is not just the negative absence of conflict, but something very positive. The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom” and it speaks of wellbeing and wholeness! In the Hebrew understanding of shalom, it means completeness, wholeness, peace, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, fullness, perfectness, rest, harmony: the absence of agitation and discord. What a remarkable definition of peace and so full of meaning compared with our English word peace!

In Philippians 4:7, the Greek word for peace is the word “eirẽnẽ” [Grk] and speaks of the calmness that a nation enjoys when it has a caring, competent and secure leader. Having this kind of peace means having tranquility in your heart that originates from the understanding that your life is truly in the hands of a loving God. It means to experience quietness in your inner self.

True peace is only found in Jesus Christ. One of His titles is the “Prince of Peace”. True is not something that the world can give you – Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives do I give you” [John 14:27]. This peace is supernatural. Philippians 4:7 says, “Which surpasses all understanding.” In simple English, “it doesn’t make sense”. This peace is not dependent upon our circumstances and it is therefore far more than the absence of strife. It is a settled rest, and a sense of security, wellbeing and rightness. According to Philippians 4:7, this peace is protective, in the sense that it guards our hearts and minds.

Questions:

Why do you think it is important that someone who is a peacemaker must first himself or herself be at peace?

What words in the meaning of the word “shalom” speak particularly to you today and why is this so?

BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART – PART 2

Bible Reading: Psalm 51:1-19, Psalm 119:9-16

One of the big issues of life is the problem of mixed motives of the heart. What may seem to be lovely on the outside is often a cover for something more sinister on the inside. James, writing to Christians, speaks about bitter envy and self-seeking [“selfish ambition” margin NKJV]. He says that where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every kind of evil are there [James 3:14,16].

It is not God’s intention that we live a double life, pretending that everything is good outwardly, when that is not the case. It is easy to just keep on doing what we are doing when just beneath the surface all is not well. Hurts, bruises and wounds may have led to deep inner anger and we lay the blame in wrong places. So often, it is the wife or children that bear the brunt of this. We might even do all the “spiritually right things,” and yet blame spiritual warfare, our spiritual leaders or lack of prayer, whilst the reason lies within us. In a word, we are being dishonest!

The pure in heart face up and admit to their shortcomings. Transparency and truthfulness are evidence of their purity. The Bible calls this “walking in the light”. Nathaniel was a man without guile [John 1:47]. The word “guile” means that to have no hidden motives or selfish aims. What you saw with Nathaniel was what you got! When repented of his sin he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” [Psalm 51:10].

The Bible says about Caleb and Joshua that they “wholly followed the Lord”

[Numbers 32:12]. The word “wholly” is translated as “wholeheartedly” in the New Living Translation. It means to have an undivided heart that is fully consecrated and separated to the Lord.

I was once asked to give a reference for a lady who had worked for seven employers over a 21-year period. She had never stayed at any job for more than three years and in each case, had walked away with a six figure pay-off. She lacked loyalty, and I discovered from two of her employers that they were glad when she left their employment. I did not give her a reference and she got so angry with me! Loyalty, faithfulness and love are the marks of a pure heart. These are attributes of God and to these people God promises the ultimate reward – they shall see Him! He was everything to them on earth, and one day they shall see Him and be more fully like Him.

Questions:

Why do you think it is possible to work for God but our hearts not be right with God?

What are the main causes of wounds and bruises that make us dishonest in our walk with God and with people?

Will you ask God to create within you a hunger for purity of heart and then be real with Him as He shows you truth about yourself?

BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART – PART 1

Bible Reading: Psalm 24:1-10

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” [Matthew 5:8]

Many years ago, Dr W.E. Sangster was speaking to students at Leicester University and spoke about inviting Jesus into your heart. One of the students – who thought rather too much of himself – challenged Sangster saying: “How can you ask Jesus to come into your heart? Your heart is only a biological pump”. Sangster had the measure of the student and responded by saying, “What do you say to your girlfriend when you say goodnight to her? “I love you with all my biological pump?” What exactly is the heart of man?

The heart is that inner part of man where the depths of our soul and our spirit touch. David said, “You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part….” [Psalm 51:6]. Jesus, speaking about the Holy Spirit, said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart [“innermost being” – Amplified Bible] will flow rivers of living water” [John 7:37-38].

The Greeks understood the heart to be the seat of our affections. Jesus said that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also [Matthew 6:21]. What our hearts love is our treasure! We are called to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” [Matt. 22:37].

The heart is the source of our words and actions. Jesus said, “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart,” and “out of the heart come evil thoughts” [Matthew 15:18-19]. When we talk about a pure heart, we are talking about the inner person, and the result of purity of heart is seen in a person’s life and character.

The Bible says that the heart of man is desperately wicked. The heart is deceitful above all things…. who can know it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]. Our hearts are so full of mixed motives, distractions, divided loyalties and deception.

Only God can make the heart of man pure. It was impossible for the Law to make the heart of man pure, and the beatitudes make it even more impossible, and yet James commands us to “purify your hearts” [James 4:8]. Although God is the one who purifies our hearts, we also have a responsibility in our heart being made pure!

Questions:

What does Psalm 24:3-6 say about a pure heart? What one key is there in these verses to having a pure heart?

If God’s Word teaches that only God can make the heart pure, then why do you think James 4:8 says, “purify yourselves”? What do you think that we have to do in order to have a pure heart?

 

THE MERCIFUL – PART 5

Bible Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

In our reading today, the man who was forgiven much refused to forgive his fellow servant who owed him so little. Jesus said to the unforgiving servant, “Should you not also have had compassion [“mercy” Amplified Bible] on your fellow servant just as I had pity of you” [verse 33].

To show mercy on someone is to be compassionate to those who suffer and are needy, but it also to pardon and forgive those who have done wrong to you. The unmerciful refuse to forgive!

Joseph’s brothers treated him unmercifully, putting him in a pit and selling him into slavery. Later, when they were at his mercy, Joseph showed them mercy. He wept for their misery, met their needs, forgave them and restored them. He said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” [Genesis 50:20]. Forgiveness did not make the wrong into a right. Joseph was quite clear about that – “You meant it for evil,” but he could see the sovereignty of God even in the wrong that was done to him. Mercy is not treating someone as they deserve but instead offering them forgiveness.

To the merciful, God offers this wonderful promise: that they shall obtain mercy. It is the law of proportionate returns! When you forgive, you are forgiven; when you give you, will receive; what you sow, you reap; when you honour people, you yourself will be honoured; and when you are merciful, you will obtain mercy! As you do to others, so shall it be done to you.

Consider some of the blessings that the Bible promises to those who are merciful: Their children will be blessed [Psalm 37:26]. We read In Psalm 112:4-9 that the compassionate man [v4, 5, 9a] will have light [v4]; experience good [v5]; be secure [v6-8]; be remembered forever [v6b, 9b] and will be honoured [v9c]. The merciful find favour and high esteem before God and men [Proverbs 3:3-4]. The merciful man does good for his own soul [Proverbs 11:17]. He who is merciful finds life, honour and righteousness [Proverbs 21:21]. In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus makes it clear that those who show mercy will have a great reward and will be called sons of the Most High!

Questions:

Describe in your own words the meaning of being merciful. Now on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, how do you rate yourself in being merciful?

We know that forgiving those who have hurt us is a part of showing mercy. What did Jesus say about the relationship between being forgiven and being merciful in Luke 7:47?

 

THE MERCIFUL – PART 4

Bible Reading:  Romans 8:12-17 especially verse 14

A young man who attended the mid-week service, heard the pastor speaking about hearing and obeying the Lord’s voice and wondered if God still speaks to people today.

At 10 o’clock that evening he started driving home, and began to pray, “God, if you still speak to people speak to me. I will listen. I will do my best to obey”.

As he drove home, he suddenly had the strangest thought to stop and buy a gallon of milk. It seemed strange, but he said, “Okay God, in case that is you I will buy the milk”. It did not seem like to hard a test of obedience and he could always use the milk himself.

As he drove home, he passed a particular street and again felt an urge, “Turn down that street”. It seemed crazy and so he continued driving but then felt so strongly that he should turn back and drive down the street. He drove past several blocks, when suddenly he felt like he should stop. It was quiet area, and most of the houses looked dark like the people were already in bed.

Again, he sensed something, “Go and give the milk to the people in the house across the street. The house was in darkness and it looked like the people were already asleep. He felt foolish and thought that if the people were asleep and he woke them up that they might be angry with him, but he walked across the street and rang the bell. A man’s voice yelled out, “Who is it? What do you want?” The door opened and the man standing there in jeans and a T-shirt looked like he had just got out of bed. He did not seem happy to have a stranger standing on his doorstep.

The young man thrust out the gallon of milk, “Here, I brought this to you”. The man took the milk and rushed down the hallway. A woman appeared carrying the milk toward the kitchen. The man followed her holding a baby. The man was crying and said, “We were just praying. We had some big bills this month and we ran out of money. We didn’t have any milk for our baby. I was just praying and asking God to show me how to get some milk”. His wife in the kitchen yelled out, “I asked God to send an angel with some. Are you an angel? The young man reached into his wallet, pulled out all the money he had on him and put it in the man’s hand.

I have come to conclusion that as we reach out to others, hearing and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit that guidance becomes much easier. Why is this? Because you are moving in the direction that God moves – to bless others.

Questions:

What lessons can you learn from this story about the relationship between mercy and God’s guidance? Why do you think that we have mad the issue of guidance so difficult?   

Would you pray the same prayer that this young man prayed, “God, if you still speak to people speak to me. I will listen?”    

THE MERCIFUL – PART 3

Bible Reading: Isaiah 58:1-14

 

Showing mercy towards others is to walk in the way that Jesus walked. He felt people’s pain and was full of compassion. The heart of mercy, as in all that we do in the name of Jesus, is an issue of the motives and attitude of our heart.

  •  Those who show mercy receive mercy, but we must careful that the receiving of mercy does not become the motive for being merciful.
  •  Although in mercy we might help people financially, we must be careful that we don’t excuse our responsibilities by just giving money and thinking that we have “done our bit!”
  •  Some people care out of a sense of needing to be needed and even people who have experienced rejection might care for people in the hope of gaining acceptance.
  •  We need to be aware that we don’t care for people in order to gain merit, or find acceptance with God! No amount of “doing good” can earn us acceptance or favour with God!
  •  We must not carry people’s burdens in such a way that we hinder them from coming to God – or that we become a replacement for God, and they lean on us and not the Lord Himself.

We must always be careful that we don’t use the care of others to mask our own personal needs, or be manipulative for personal gain.

Whilst we must be aware of these dangers, it is equally important that we recognise how much loving care for those in need pleases the heart of God.

In Matthew 25:34-46, Jesus speaks of ministering to the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked, the sick, and those in prison, and says that as we care for them we are ministering to Him.

In James 1:27, the writer says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world”.

In his epistle, John says that we should love in deed and truth and not in word only [1 John 3:16].

Isaiah says that religion for religion’s sake is worthless. Religious ceremony and fasting that does not issue from a holy life and that that does not minister to the bound, the oppressed, the hungry, poor, and naked, and our own flesh and blood is of no value.

Questions:

What are the amazing promises in Isaiah 58 given to those who show compassion towards the needy? See if you can find nine wonderful promises between Isaiah 58 verse 8 and verse 12.

Who are some of the needy people that God speaks of in His word and who need compassion and care? What would the Lord have you to do?

Read Job 42:10. What happened to Job when he prayed for His friends?