Blessed Are The Peacemakers

Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

I believe that most people want to live in peace. After all, why would anyone want to be filled with anger, jealousy and bitterness and allow those feelings to control their lives? Well, the reality is that some people seem to actually thrive on living under those conditions and it eventually defines who they are as a human being. We all know people who seem to take great pleasure in quarreling and tearing down other people. And it’s especially sad, when we encounter people like this who call themselves Christian. Jesus clearly teaches that his true followers will be those who love one another: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

I am proud that I have taught my children how to respond to those who use hurtful words in an attempt to tear you down. I will admit that I am certainly not a perfect man by any means. There was a time when I allowed my emotions and my anger to get the best of me. However, over time, God has taught me how to respond to people that only want to cause trouble. My family has once again been exposed to those who want nothing more than to get a reaction out of me in order to provoke me and start an argument. And once again, this has provided me an opportunity to show them how to best live out Christ’s command to “love one another.” I am thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to show my family how to best respond to anger and bitterness.

The Apostle Paul had some great instructions on how to conduct yourself when faced with quarreling people. Paul, writing to the church in Rome, tells believers how to best react to those who try to provoke you. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:17-19).

Many of you reading this today most likely knows someone who tries to provoke you in order to get a reaction out of you. They will go to any lengths to draw you into an argument or confrontation and they become extremely frustrated and even more angry when you refuse to respond to their immature attacks. I believe that God gives each of us the Holy Spirit to help us to know what to say and how to respond in these types of situations. When we choose to follow the urgings of the Holy Spirit instead of the evil one, we choose to follow Christ’s command to love even those who say hateful and hurtful things about us. We are choosing light over darkness, we are choosing life over death, and we are choosing to follow Christ and His commandments instead of the evil and destructive desires of Satan.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Sometimes peace is just not possible because some people do not want to live in peace. Paul offers some great advice on what to do if you try to live in peace and others do not want peace. He says, “as far as it depends on you.” We can only control ourselves and our own behavior – how others behave is entirely up to them. There will be instances when other people simply do not want peace. So Paul says that if we have done everything we can to live in peace with one another, and others do not want peace, then we must let them go and let God take control. That’s good advice that I try to live by. When I realize that peace is just not possible, I turn that over to God and I go on living out my life by allowing the peace of Christ to transform me and I leave judgment and condemnation up to God.

Paul ends the 12th chapter of Romans with this message: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). That’s good advice for all of us to take with us each and every day of our lives, especially in the world that we are living in today. May the peace of Christ be with you today and always!

Christ’s Power over Human Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:7b-10: Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. But he (Jesus) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul was taken up to the third heaven, to the very presence of God and Christ, where he was given revelations that he could not even speak of. Now we don’t know if Paul was actually there in body or in spirit, and quite honestly it really doesn’t matter. It’s hard to deny that Paul saw and heard things that no one else had. Paul would have every reason to brag and become conceited about such a grand vision, but he instead talked about his weaknesses.

Paul had a “thorn in his flesh”, some type of unknown affliction that caused him great distress. So Paul asks the Lord to take away this infirmity but the Risen Christ tells him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Human weakness is where the divine power of Christ can be displayed in a powerful way.

We live in a world today where most people don’t like to admit their weaknesses. Most of us want to appear strong and in total control of every detail of our lives. We strive to maintain the appearance that everything is all-right and our lives are perfect. Most of us know that this is not reality. Even among our brothers and sisters in Christ, we would rather not dwell on our weakness as a human being; we want everyone to think that we have it all together. Paul encourages us to acknowledge our failures and limitations in order for the power of Christ to rest upon us and sustain us.

Paul is inspiring us to draw upon God’s “all-surpassing power” (2 Cor. 4:7) that can help us to persevere and endure all kinds of life’s difficulties. When we begin to realize our frailty as a human being, that’s when this “all-surpassing power” from God (and not from ourselves) can sustain and renew our lives. It is only then that we can begin to live a life that goes out into this fallen world and shines the light of Christ into a world that so desperately needs the light.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NIV): But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.


The Blessed Hope

Titus 2:11-14: For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

The early church called the Glorious Appearing of Christ – the “blessed hope.” Paul penned this in the writing of his letter to Titus and the early church used this phrase to describe Christ’s return for his church quite often. I wonder how many in the church today even know about this phrase which anticipates the Second Coming of Christ. We don’t hear many sermons preached on this topic and I believe that to be very unfortunate. The Glorious Appearing of Christ should excite and motivate all Christians but the “blessed hope” is too often ignored.

Paul was given special insight by Christ to certain “mysteries” and it can often be difficult to determine just exactly what Paul is saying. However, the above passage from Titus is not one of those occasions. Paul clearly tells us that it is only by God’s grace that we can obtain the gift of salvation. Christ accomplished that work completely on the cross at Calvary and God raised him from the dead to conquer death and sin once and for all. So if we accept God’s grace and believe in Christ as our Savior, we naturally should say “no” to those things in our world that are ungodly and worldly.

Too many people in the church today are worldly people. They spend their time chasing after worldly gains and they don’t give a second thought to the things that God wants us to pay attention to. They are consumed with going after the things of this world and receiving praise from the world for their accomplishments. Many often seek the titles that the world bestows upon them rather than seeking the things of God and working behind the scenes. We want to be seated at places of honor and to be noticed instead of being the least and dedicated to serving others. 

Paul exhorts us to live “self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” while we anxiously wait for the “blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with joyfully thinking about and hoping for the glorious return of Christ in the near future to gather his church, his believers. This is the good news that should be proclaimed from pulpits, especially in our present day and age. So many people have lost all hope and they need to have it restored. What greater hope is there than the day the Lord returns to take us home to heaven?

The words of Paul: Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

The Day and Hour Unknown – Watch!

Mark 14:32-33, 37: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!'”

Zechariah 14:4: On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.

Acts 1: 10-12: They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”  Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.

Most Christians today have some basic understanding of where we currently are in relation to God’s prophetic timeline. The Church Age, which is the Age of Grace, is where we find ourselves today along God’s biblical or prophetic timeline. What many Christians don’t know or disagree upon is exactly when the Church Age will come to a close. Many believe that the Church Age will end before the tribulation and others are of the opinion that the Church Age will end either at the mid-point or at the end of the tribulation. There are some, of course, who do not believe there will be a time of tribulation.

For me, the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians reveals exactly when the Church Age will end. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

The Church will have been taken away (raptured) and the seven year period of tribulation will begin. This will not be a secretive event as described in many popular books like the Left Behind series. It will be a public event that will be heard and seen by all the people of the earth as Paul describes in the above scripture reference. Paul famously referred to Christ’s return as the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

Read carefully Paul’s words from 1 Thessalonians 4: 17: “we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them (the dead in Christ) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Paul is describing Jesus coming back for his Church before the beginning of the time of tribulation. This is not Jesus’ second coming where he physically stands on the earth. That will take place after the period of tribulation when Jesus will come with power and great glory (see Matthew 24:30) and stand again on the Mount of Olives (see Zechariah 14:4), from which he ascended into heaven (see  Acts 1:10-12).

Jesus himself gave us signs to watch for so that His followers would know when the Age of Grace (Church Age) would begin drawing to a close. Israel, as God’s chosen people, is where all believers should watch for signs. When Israel officially became a nation on May 14, 1948, God’s end time clock began to tick even faster. Knowing the threat that Iran and other nations pose to Israel, the national security and protection of God’s chosen people continues to be of utmost importance. The prudent believer will most certainly keep their attention and watchfulness focused on Israel in the days and months ahead.

Revelation 3:10:  Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

Easter Sunday 2015

The Empty Tomb: John 20: 1-22

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

  “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

   She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

On this glorious Easter morning we awake to a world that is filled with hope instead of despair. A morning that is full of light instead of the darkness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Christ is risen and He is victorious over evil.This Easter morning we join with believers throughout the world in proclaiming: Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen indeed!

Passion Week – 2015 – Saturday

Today is referred to as Holy Saturday or Black Saturday. It is the last day of Holy Week, in which we await the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning. On Holy Saturday we remember the day that the body of Christ lay in the tomb.

From the book of Matthew we find this event occurring on Saturday, which was the Sabbath. Matthew 27:62-66: The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

The words of Jesus from John 16:20-22: I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

On this day, I am certain that the disciples were confused and scared. Jesus had been crucified and all may have seemed hopeless and lost. We know that the disciples struggled often in their walk of faith and on this dark day they could not begin to comprehend what was about to take place the next morning. The despair they must have felt and the guilt of abandoning Jesus would have been a heavy burden to bear. They probably could not comprehend or imagine – the light and the hope that would forever change the world – come tomorrow morning. Even though it may have seemed that evil had prevailed we know that evil will never prevail against God’s Kingdom. Tomorrow we can say with complete joy and confidence that – Christ is risen – Christ is risen indeed!


Passion Week 2015 – Friday

The Jewish and Roman trials of Jesus

Jesus’ trial took place in two stages: a Jewish trial and a Roman trial, each of which had three parts. The Jewish trial consisted of: (1) the preliminary hearing before Annas, the former high priest; (2) the trial before Caiaphas, the ruling high priest, and the Sanhedrin; and (3) the final action of the council, which brought to a conclusion its all-night session.  The three episodes of the Roman trial were: (1) the trial before Pilate; (2) the trial before Herod Antipas; and (3) the trial before Pilate continued and concluded. [1]

The first trial occurred during the nighttime hours before Annas. In the second trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus is pronounced “worthy of death.”  Matthew 26:67-68: Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” The third trial occurred immediately at daybreak and the council condemns Jesus and leads him off to Pilate.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us that when Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5).

Still early in the morning, Jesus goes before Pilate. When Pilate realizes that Jesus is a Galilean, he sends him to Herod Antipas, because Galilee was under Herod’s jurisdiction. Luke tells us that when Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. Luke writes that Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends – before this they had been enemies (Luke 23:11-12).

Pilate then examines Jesus and cannot find a basis for a charge against Jesus. Pilate wanted to release Jesus but the crowd kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:20-21). Herod then speaks to the crowd for a third time telling them that he will have Jesus punished and then released. “But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.” So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

Jesus is crucified (from approximately 9 AM until Noon)

Mark’s gospel gives us the following account of Jesus’ crucifixion. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get (Mark 15:21-24).

John 19:25-27: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Luke 23:44-49: It was now about the sixth hour (noon) and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour (3pm), for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Jesus Burial

 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Jesus’ body would have been wrapped and placed in the tomb before sunset, when the Sabbath would begin and no work could be done.

Good Friday has ended with our Lord and Savior placed in the tomb.

[1] Zondervan NIV Study Bible, 2002, page 1559

Passion Week 2015 – Thursday


Thursday – The Last Supper and Gethsemane

Jesus prepares himself and his disciples for his death and gives the Passover meal a new meaning.

Luke 22:14-23: The Last Supper

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet: According to John’s Gospel, “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1). John tells us that Satan had already prompted Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus. After the meal, Jesus gets up and begins to wash his disciples feet. Jesus says to his disciples, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7). Jesus tells his disciples that they should also wash one another’s feet, being humble in service towards others.

The gospel of Mark tells us that when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26).


Gethsemane: Mark 14:32-42: 32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

 41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Jesus Arrested: Mark 14-43-50: 43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

   48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

Before the Sanhedrin: Mark 14:53-56; 64b-65:  53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

 This concludes the events of Thursday of Holy Week.