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Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:10)

Welcome to following Jesus, now die! What a crazy way to climax this amazing set of character builders.
Just for fun, did you notice that we have had 7 Beatitudes before this? 7 is God’s perfect number, the number of completion. God rested on the 7thday because He was done, not because He was tired.

So why do the beatitudes keep going?

Well, I think the first 7 of these steps on God’s stairway to heaven are pretty complete. (See my comments in What Peace?)
I feel like Jesus is saying “Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life! I died for you, now you get to die to yourself, every day!”
It is important to know that Jesus promises persecution to Christians. There are a number of references, but my favorite is probably “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2 NASB) Did you hear that – Jesus said they would throw you out of church, and the guy who kills you will think he is doing God a favor. (kind of reminds me of a guy named Saul of Tarsus)
OK, so I have a question for you. What does it mean if you never feel any persecution? [Tweet This] Is this a cultural thing that no longer is in effect? Is this statement just idle words? Is Jesus just prepping the few who will get in big trouble for His name’s sake, and we don’t take the heat because we live in “Christian” America?
Nope, that’s not it. If you don’t ever feel any persecution, you might want to go back over the steps. Make sure you have not jumped to the conclusion that you are a Christian, because of some outside factor. You can only become a Christian, by being changed from the inside out. Jesus said the He and His Father would come and take up residence in you. 
Today, the point I am making is that persecution is not a something unlucky Christians face, but rather it is evidence that Christ is living in you. And let me be clear, No Christ inside – No kingdom of heaven!
These words might seem a little harsh today, but don’t be offended by me being obnoxious. If it is God word that offends you, I beg you, go back to step one – humble yourselves before the hand of Almighty God! Do it today. Ask Him if you are His. Don’t wait – do it now.
Thanks for reading this my friends.
I remain, Ben
Hey – if you are curious about the Kingdom of God check out my post from a couple weeks ago on the topic called "Kingdom".

they will be called the sons of God. (Matt 5:9)
OK – now that is a big promise! Peacemakers will be called the sons of God. Interesting since the one and only begotten Son of God is called the Prince of Peace.
This promise raises a couple of questions for me.
First, who is doing the calling? Who will call us the sons of God? And this one gets 3 answers.
  • Those outside the family will be inclined to say “these have been with Jesus,” or perhaps “you must be one of them.”
  • Those inside the family will see the family resemblance, and welcome us in with open arms.
  • But the best and most significant is the Father who has called us, has called us His sons!
My next question is: What does it mean to be a son of God?
Romans 8 does a great job of describing this.
We call Him “Abba” which is akin to Papa in my understanding.
We share in Christ’s inheritance. And the Word does not imply that we get a share, but rather that we share – Joint heirs! In Christ we inherit all things. Ephesians 1 tells us we already have every spiritual blessing, and again in Romans 8 we find that He who did not spare His only Son will withhold nothing from us.
It is a big deal to be a son of God! I suggest you ponder for a while what it would be like in the natural to be the prince of a wealthy nation. What are the privileges and what are the responsibilities. What would it mean to be the prince? What does it mean to be a Son of God? What are the privileges and responsibilities?
BenThanks for reading
Ben

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.(Matt 5:9 – NASB)

The word “Peacemaker” interests me in that it only appears one time in all of the Greek New Testament. It is made up of (you guessed it) 2 root words. There are those who say it means to be a peace lover, or pacific or peaceful person, but the majority fall to the side of a more active idea. This peacemaker is not an appeaser, not one who avoids conflict. Rather one who makes peace is one who actively does what is necessary to end conflict. I really like the definition for the “maker” part of the word. Check out this excerpt from the BlueLetterBible.org:
I love this because it is such a call to action. We cannot sit passively by and hope for peace. Peace is produced – it is made –it is the product of peacemaking activity! Let me say that one more time: Peace is the product of peacemaking activity! [Tweet This]
Again, as we covered in Friday's post, “What Peace?” we are talking about the peace that passes understanding from reconciliation with the Father. When you enter into this peace you immediately have an active roll in helping others find the way to this peace. If you are a Christian, if you call Jesus Lord, and live with the expectation of a place prepared for you beyond the grave, you are called to be a peacemaker.
Peacemaking starts with praying for those with whom we have some influence. God will make clear paths for you to step into, in order to help others find peace in their life, and more importantly peace with the Father.
Start today – Ask the Lord for the who and the how, and you will be amazed at the opportunities you see. Tell me about them! I can’t wait to hear what God has done with your submitted life!
Thanks for reading.
Ben

photo credit: Swami Stream via photopin cc

There are times when I hear folks talk about suffering they are dealing with, and talk as though it was a gift from Jesus for them to struggle with in this life. I hear people talk about diseases this way, and financial problems, bad jobs, even bad marriages. As if Jesus tricked you into marrying the wrong man to help you mature. Hmmm. Is this what Jesus was talking about when He promised us trouble in this life?
Let’s just look at a couple verses. I won’t even comment much today, I just want to put some Scripture out there and let them do the talking. (ok I might just do a little highlighting along the way so you don’t miss the point.

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:10-12

They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. (John 16:2)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have beenon frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have beenin labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

Boy – it did me good just to read though all that scripture – How about you?
Well – all that is to say, the suffering God promises is the stuff that will be done to us by men. God promise stands sure, He will not leave us or forsake us, but He is not trying to crush us either – that would be our enemy. God is our comfort and strength, a very present help in trouble, not a very present cause of trouble.
Tell me what you think. Comment on the post or on facebook if you get stirred up reading these scriptures.
Thanks for coming today.
I remain, Ben.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

(Matt 5:9 – NASB)
Today I would like to focus on this idea of peace. What peace is Jesus referring to? Is it simply tranquility, or the cessation of hostility? Is it some sort of détente like we had with the former USSR when they could no longer afford to maintain a cold war?
Consider what the father of John the Baptist said upon the birth of this man of God.
“Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79 NKJV)
And again in the next chapter in regard to Jesus Himself: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14)
The peace we are talking about here is the peace that Jesus offers, the ending of hostilities between God and man. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that the mind set on the flesh is actively hostile toward God. This war ends not when God ignores our sin, but when we surrender our lives to him.
With the coming of the Prince of Peace, Jesus, we can finally put down the weapons of our warfare against God: our hate, our rebellion, our self-righteousness, and we can take up the cause of Christ. We can become peacemakers – those who work to bring this same peace to others.
Once you know the peace that Jesus offers, you will never be content to sit by and let those around you wage useless war against the Lord of Hosts.
If you don’t know this peace for yourself, you can find it today. Call upon the name of Jesus. These beatitudes we have been looking at paint a great picture of the way to enter a relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Talk to Jesus about it. (He can hear you wherever you are)
  • Admit your own poverty of spirit, and that you need God.
  • Confess and forsake all your sin. Tell Him about every sin you can remember doing, and ask Him for forgiveness.
  • Meekly submit your will – your desires, your plans – to Him.
  • Pursue righteousness and integrity in everything you do, again with His help.
  • Offer mercy and forgiveness to those who owe you or have hurt you.
  • Ask Jesus to purify your heart, and press into more and more purity, by meditating on His word. You are made clean through the God's Word, The Bible.
  • Then you will become a peacemaker too, and you experince His peace, you will want to draw others to His side as well.
Ben NelsonThanks for reading. If you have talked to Jesus about these things, tell me about it. You can message me on face book, or comment here, or tell a Christian you know. Get plugged into a church, and begin to live in His word the Bible. We live by the daily bread of His voice.
Ben

for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8)

Now in my last post I equated this promise for the most part to us going into the presence of God. Pure hearts allowed us to come close to Him. But today I want to suggest the other side of this coin.
Here is a question for you to ponder? When Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. Why? Was it to let man in, or the let God out? Surely we are told more than once in Hebrews to approach the throne of God, so clearly God intends for us to see our way clear to access His domain. But I think for centuries, men have been satisfied with a religion that told them exactly where to find God at all times, but now we have a God on the loose!
What I am getting at is that not only can the pure in heart approach the throne of God; I believe the pure in heart will see God show up in day to day life.Where we go, He is sure to follow (well, lead might be a better word). He will be in the workplace and schoolroom with us. When we pray for our family members, co-workers, classmates, employees and employers, God will show up and confirm His Word with signs following.
This is where I really get turned on. It is one thing for me to begin to look more spiritual, and walk through like a great saint. But when God starts walking through my life with me in tangible ways, that is real Christianity, the kind of Christianity that Christ died for. [Tweet This]
Thanks for reading today.
Ben

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God(Matt 5:8)
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:” Heb 12:14

“Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart,” Ps 24:3

We are called to have a pure heart, and to be holy. I am not sure if these two are interchangeable, however based on the scriptures above each has as its reward an audience with the King of Glory!
The paradox here is that in order to approach God we must be holy which means set apart. And God is so holy and so set apart as to seem unapproachable. It has long fascinated me that God actually created angelic beings whose entire purpose is to hover before the throne of God for all eternity crying “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Both Isaiah and John the beloved tell us of these creatures that act as an eternal warning beacon. In the same way, when God decided to interrupt Moses' afternoon by showing up in a bush, the first order of business was to alert Moses that he was on holy ground.
At first blush this seems like it is intended to keep us away, but the fact is, in all 3 cases God’s intent was to draw each of these men closer. As they prepared themselves, got a glimpse of God unmatched holiness, they were drawn into His irresistible presence. 
Approach the Lord! He calls us to His throne. He beckons the sons of man to come before Him. As we draw near, change will be required. The very journey toward His throne will work the heart purity required for entrance. As we approach, He will ensure that we don’t arrive in an impure state, and He will supply what is needed to allow us into His wonderful presence. He did it for Isaiah (check out Isaiah 6); He will do it for us.
Was there a time that God revealed a greater measure of His holiness to you? Tell me about it.
Thanks for visiting!
Ben



This is an article I wrote a couple years ago, but it fits in with what I have been blogging on lately. 

I am thinking about how important relationship is to the Lord. We as "born again" Christians are quick to say that Christianity is a relationship not a religion. This could not be more right! God is all about relationship. Jesus sums up God's whole law with two relationship sayings "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" and "love your neighbor as you love yourself." (Luke 10:27)

I know some Christians who feel like as long as they are doing OK with God, their relationship to other Christians is not so important. They can be at outright war with other brothers and sisters in Christ, not speaking to one another for years, and still consider themselves to be in a good spiritual place with the Lord.
Jesus said some things that militate against this idea. Consider this:
Mark 11:25-26  "And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Matthew 5:23-24 "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you; Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
These two scriptures take away any excuses we may have. In Mark Jesus said if you have anything against anyone, forgive them, or you can consider your forgiven status forfeit. Ok I can live with this because it is about me. If I have a problem with someone I get it, I need to make it right.
But what about this gem from the Sermon on the Mount? Now it is my problem if someone has something against me. WOW, it sounds like God is really serious about us getting our relationships right. In both of these cases Jesus has us in the posture of approaching God, with prayers and sacrifices, and Jesus would rather we stop the service, and fix the relationships. He did not say, Jot down a note to call so and so when you get home, but he said leave your gift, go be reconciled, and then do your business with God.
John said it this way: 1John 4:20-21 "If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loves God love his brother also."
It is time to do this relationship thing right. [Tweet This]
BenThanks for reading!
Ben



Peace wall, Belfast - photo credit - http://www.flickr.com/photos/a11sus/460787247/

How do I get what is in my heart into words? I have been pondering a question that I have heard posed by many for decades, believers and skeptics alike, and somewhere inside of me, the Lord is turning the tables on a huge lie that has derailed many a faith-walk. The question in question: Where was God? 

When I was hurting, where was God?
When I was abused, where was God?
When all my friends left me, where was God?
When my heart was breaking, where was God?

Have you ever thought any of these things? You are not alone! Are you one of the many who read the “Footprints” poem and think ‘Yeah, Right?’ Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love that, but I am not sure that everyone who has walked through the worst of circumstances felt ‘carried’ through those times when there was only one set of footprints. Sometimes you just feel alone!
I am not sure that my words here will be any better. But there are a few red letters that come to mind as I ponder those ‘one set of footstep moments.’ There are a couple things that Jesus said that I want you to consider next time you are wondering where God was in your darkest moment.

Imagine Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, going around doing amazing things, looking a lot like Jesus. He stands up to preach, and just when he is about to give an altar call, the first rock hits him. One after another, the men he was trying to persuade are hurling fist size stones in his direction. Where is Jesus? (Acts 7)
Imagine James, out there preaching on the street corner with one of his best friends and old fishing buddy Peter. They get arrested, thrown in prison, and Herod has a great idea. Let me make an example of this guy. Where was Jesus? (Acts 12:1-2)
The answer lies in what Jesus said to Paul on the road to Damascus and what He said to the multitudes in Matthew 25. Jesus asked Paul (whose Hebrew name was Saul) “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) Jesus takes the abuse we suffer very seriously. In fact as He said in Matthew 25 “whatever you did (or did not do) for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt 25:40 & 45) Paul thought he was killing people who hated God, and Jesus reveals Himself and lets Paul know he was actually persecuting the Lord Himself.
I think we read, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:20) and think that He will always come between me and trouble when His point is actually that He is suffering right there with you. He promised us trouble in this life. He tells us in John 16:2 people will think they're doing God a favor when the kill you.
So understand this, when you were betrayed or abused, He was betrayed and abused with you. He may not have been carrying you like the poem said – He may have been left bleeding and dying on the Jericho road with you as He watched the good folks walk by BOTH of you. [Tweet This]
My hope is that these red letters will dispel a lie that is keeping you stuck. If it helps, let me know. If it doesn’t, you can tell me that too. I certainly don’t want to make things worse.
BenThanks for taking a few minutes to ponder this with me.
Ben

Four times in Matthews telling of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us we can expect to be treated in direct relationship to the way we treat others.

The first shows up in the beatitudes. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." (Matthew 5:7 NASB)
The next is in the Lord’s prayer
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:12-15 NASB)
In the next chapter Jesus tells us: “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 NASB)
Finally Jesus tells us to live our lives by one simple rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NIV)
Oh and by the way, just for the record, in Luke's gospel it happens that this same principle is true with your time, talent and treasure. "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." Luke 6:38 NASB
What would happen if you actually treated your wife, sister, brother, husband, boss, neighbor, pastor, enemy… the way you want to be treated? What if when someone hurts you, you gave them the same amount of mercy you give yourself when you mess up? Did you get that question? If you are like me, when you screw up you cut yourself a lot of slack. You rationalize a thousand mitigations  and totally excuse yourself. But when others hurt you, will you even listen to their apology?
Many times we find ourselves with no mercy, no forgiveness, and full of judgment especially toward  those closest to us. Those who have paid the highest price of relational time with us get the least consideration and mercy.
God’s kingdom is upside-down, isn't it?
The lengths to which God expects us to go to protect relationships amazes me. But on the other hand God crucified His only son to restore His relationship with us! If I am ever to look like Jesus, I am going to have to put a much higher value on relationship.
What could you do today to improve a relationship that is not where you want it to be? [Tweet This] Ask the Lord for some ideas, if you don’t already know where to start. Even if it is only a baby step toward reconciliation, it will be worth it. Take a deep breath and go for it.
 
Thanks for reading!
Ben
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