Blessed are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart.” – Matthew 5:8

Wash your hands. Wash your hands! So often we are reminded of the need to wash our hands. After using the restroom, before eating, after eating, before cooking, after cooking. It’s so hard to keep them clean.

And that’s just our hands! Try keeping our hearts clean, and we have an impossible task! How hard it is to have perfectly pure motives! When I cut that little section of grass between my neighbors’ house and mine, the good deed is spoiled with the self-serving intent that maybe he’ll let me borrow his edger. I give some money for a worthy charitable cause, but only because I don’t want to disappoint the sincere person asking.

We may be able to hide our impure motives from others, but not from God. The Bible says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). We can’t fool God. There is no covering false notions or hidden deception. God looks right through the outward act and inspects the inner motivation. He is looking for the pure in heart.

What is the measure for that kind of inner purity? God holds us up to his perfect will and measures us against it. The conclusion is that all of us have sinned and fall short of the sinless standard that God has set for us. Under God’s inspection, our hearts are not pure.

What’s the solution? Our hearts need to be washed. But how? We can’t wash them on our own, so Jesus did it for us. The Bible says, “The blood of Jesus, [God’s] Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). By his death for us, Jesus washed our hearts clean; he has cleansed us of sin’s stain. Through him all our sins are forgiven and our hearts are now pure in God’s sight.

The forgiveness of sins and purity of heart that we have received freely from Jesus powerfully motivates us to stay away from anything dirty. We’ll not want to dirty our hearts again with sinful things. Rather, we’ll be happy to strive to live according to the pure way that God teaches and thereby indicate our great appreciation for the sacrifice that Jesus made to wash our hearts clean.

Blessed are the Merciful

Mercy is certainly something we like to be on the receiving end of. A police officer pulls you over. You know you rolled through that stop sign. Will he show you mercy and not give you a ticket? You show up just a few minutes late for work. It doesn’t matter that you think you have a good reason – you are late. Will your boss show you mercy? You forgot your anniversary! There is no good excuse. Will your spouse show you mercy?

If I like to be on the receiving end so much, why is it that I often struggle to be merciful to others? Why do I have a hard time forgiving my spouse when I want her to be forgiving toward me? Why is that I have such a hard time showing kindness to my co-worker? Why do I resent my elderly neighbor when she asks me for a few minutes of help in her yard? Is it often because I feel like if I show kindness and mercy to others it will take away time and opportunities for me? Will the time I spend showing mercy to others rob me of time for myself and take away my happiness?

What is mercy really all about? For the answer we need look no further than God. He shows us what real mercy is all about. God looked at sinful people – a people that could offer him nothing, a people helpless to help themselves – and he showed mercy. In love and mercy that astounds us, he gave his son Jesus to take our place. Jesus was perfect where we could never be. Jesus paid for the sins we could never pay for. Jesus lived, died and rose again for us so we could live forever in heaven– a gift of mercy!

The opportunities that God places before us in our lives to show mercy and kindness to other people can serve as constant reminders of the mercy that God has shown to us, a mercy we certainly didn’t deserve. It is God’s mercy for us that empowers us to be merciful to others and to even find happiness in bringing kindness and love to other people.

And do you know what God promises? As we show mercy to others we will also be on the receiving end of mercy! As our verse for this month goes on to say: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Who really wants to be a peacemaker anyway? A peacemaker in a marriage is usually the one who has to swallow his or her pride. Who wants to say, “You’re right, and I’m wrong,” to keep the peace in a marriage? A peacemaker amongst neighbors is the one who has to rake more, shovel more, and put up with more. Who really wants to do that to keep the peace between neighbors? To be a peacemaker can be a headache!

And yet, Jesus attaches the blessing of happiness to those who are peacemakers. Jesus can say that from his own experience. He was happy to bring peace to this world. After all, he is the Prince of Peace. This title rightfully describes Jesus because he made peace between God and all the people of the world.

Talk about a headache! It wasn’t easy. He had to resist temptation, he had to resist the urge to strike back, he had to put others first, he had to go the extra mile, he had to suffer, and ultimately he had to die. But all of his sacrifices were necessary to establish peace between his Father and the world. Jesus was a successful peacemaker, and he was happy to do it. And you can be happy that he did it too!

To be a peacemaker is not easy. It wasn’t for Jesus, and it won’t be for you either. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker between quarreling siblings. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker between angry neighbors. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker in a contentious marriage. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker when grudges are involved. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker when that involves saying, “I’m sorry.” But Jesus never said it was going to be easy. He did say, though, that he will bless your peacemaking efforts. Just take one glance at all of the blessings attached to Jesus’ peacemaking—forgiveness, joy, and peace just to name a few.

How can I be happy if I don’t take sides? That’s the point. True happiness comes when you do take a side—God’s side. To be a peacemaker is to be a reflection of Jesus. To be a peacemaker is to take to the world the peace that Jesus has brought to you. And there is no greater joy than that!

Jesus is the World’s Savior

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Jesus is the World’s Savior

Have you ever loved someone so much that you would have done anything for them? You wanted what was best for them, even if it meant sacrificing what was best for you. Their happiness and joy was your chief concern.

That type of self-sacrificing love inspires us. It is featured in many of the novels we like to read and the movies we like to watch. How would you feel to have someone love you like that? How would it feel to have someone who is so head-over-heels in love with you, that they would do anything, anything at all, to keep you safe?

That’s exactly how Jesus describes the love of God. Jesus tells us that the heart of God beats for you! He loves you so much that he was willing to do everything necessary to keep you safe for all eternity.

From beginning to end, the Bible traces God’s plan to rescue the world from eternal danger. His Word demonstrates just how far God was willing to go to save you, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”

God the Father sent his Son, Jesus, to suffer the punishment for the sins of the entire world. Why would God do that? Why would he allow his Son to endure the tortures of the cross? Why would Jesus voluntarily go through with his Father’s plan? Why was Jesus willing to suffer the agony of hell itself?

God didn’t sit back and watch the people he loved so dearly perish forever. He cared too much to see that happen to you. So Jesus stepped into human history and suffered the punishment that was meant for you.

He didn’t want anything to stand in the way of spending an eternity with you in heaven. He wants you to know just how deeply he loves you. With a God who is willing to sacrifice himself for your rescue, is there any reason to doubt his love? “Whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” You can live confidently knowing that your God loves you and through faith in Jesus you have a place in heaven your Savior has prepared for you. His love truly is inspiring! He is the world’s Savior. He is your Savior.

Jesus is my Risen Savior

“Because I live, you also will live.” – John 14:19

EMPTY

Finding something empty can leave you feeling a wide variety of emotions. When you have a craving for something sweet, you reach into the cookie jar to satisfy yourself. However, when all you find are crumbs, you feel ________. When you let your teenager use the car for the weekend and on Monday morning, when you are late for work and you see the fuel gauge on empty, you feel ________! When you prepare to pay bills and find your saving account is empty, you feel ________! When death has emptied your life of mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, child or best friend, you feel ________!

Perhaps you filled in the blanks with words such as devastated, disappointed, frustrated, angry. Finding something empty is usually never good. I do not think anyone has ever been happy finding an empty treasure chest. I do not think anyone working in the hot sun has felt overjoyed having an empty water bottle. I do not think waitressing for a table of six and find the tip tray empty has ever caused anyone to cry tears of happiness. To be honest, finding something empty is all of these—devastating, disappointing, frustrating, anger provoking!

That is until we are led to Jesus’ tomb. It is here at Jesus’ tomb where we hear the angel proclaim, “He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). From reading the Bible, what do we find when we look into the tomb? We find it EMPTY!

Finding Jesus’ tomb empty can leave you feeling a wide variety of emotions. When your conscience condemns you because of your sins, knowing Jesus’ tomb is empty makes you feel ________! When you are bothered by the thought of dying and being placed in the ground, knowing Jesus’ tomb is empty gives you a feeling of ________! When you know that someday you will meet your Maker, knowing Jesus’ tomb is empty makes you feel ________!

Did you fill in those blanks with words such as at peace, comforted, content, reassured, overjoyed, jubilant, relieved?

To be honest, finding Jesus’ tomb empty brings to me all of the above! May Jesus’ empty tomb fill your heart with the same!

 

Jesus is my Savior by Faith

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 15:16

In many places, June ushers in warmer weather. Summer begins in earnest, and that means people like to be outside and enjoy the warm temperatures. One activity that many enjoy is swimming. It might be a backyard pool, a community pool or beach, or even a lawn sprinkler. Whatever the method, people love to get wet.

Followers of Jesus get wet too, when they are baptized. Baptism is a wonderful gift of God where water is applied and the words are spoken as Jesus commanded, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). When those words and the water are combined like this, according to Jesus’ promise, baptisms take place. Through this special means, God creates faith in people—infant or adult. Sins are washed away, and by faith in Jesus God makes them members of his family.

After baptism, learning continues so that people grow in their faith and grow closer to God for the confidence and joy of life with God both now and forever. There is much to learn and know in the Bible. It guides us. It refreshes us. And its message saves us! It is the “living water” (John 4:10) that Jesus gives us. Much more refreshing than any pool or beach or sprinkler! It quenches our thirst for belonging to God, for truth about God, and for true peace with God. The Word of God creates and strengthens faith in Jesus as our Savior.

Without faith in Jesus, people will be “condemned,” that is, lost forever in hell when they die. As Christians, we seek to invite everyone to hear Jesus’ message and be baptized, so hell is not their destiny. This is because Jesus told us to baptize and teach, so that people can have saving faith and will enjoy heaven when they die.

Many people think of summer as a gift, when we have rest and relaxation. But the real gift that lasts forever—no matter the weather—is the gift of faith in Jesus that comes through baptism and God’s Word!

I Am the Morning Star

“I am . . . the bright Morning Star” – Revelation 22:16

Your stomach hurts. You have spent most of the night in the bathroom with very little sleep. You feel miserable all over. The night seems to stretch on forever. You just want the darkness to be over. You keep waiting for a new day, a better day to dawn.

If you live far from the city, you look for the rising of the Morning Star—the planet Venus. When Venus rises over the night horizon, hope grows in your heart because the new day is not far behind!

From heaven Jesus was watching his people struggle through a dark “night” of persecution and suffering during the late 90’s AD under the Roman Empire. Jesus promised to rescue them and bring them to heaven—a new and better day. He referred to himself as the bright Morning Star who brought them hope and light.

We understand what it feels like to long for a new day, right?

Our family is broken apart because of my anger or my addiction or other sinful behavior. We long for a new day where things will be different.

My husband just died. I keep thinking over and over “Why didn’t I check on him sooner?” “I didn’t get to say goodbye and I love you.” The “what ifs” keep running through my mind, giving me no rest.

Jesus is the Morning Star. He brings the bright hope of his love and forgiveness into my heart. Whatever harm I have caused others or myself, Jesus gave his life on the cross to earn forgiveness for me. He comforts me with his unconditional love and promises to care for me every day.

Jesus is the Morning Star. He brings the bright hope of a new day coming. Because he gave his life for me, I am going to heaven by trusting him as my Savior. I am going to spend eternity in perfection, with no more sorrows or regrets, with no more “what ifs” or struggles. Jesus promises that I will live with God in joy that will never end.

So when struggling through a long night of illness, or a year filled with pain or guilt, I can look for the Morning Star. Jesus is with me to bring me a new day of his love and a new day of hope that I will live with him in heaven.

Jesus is my Savior from the World

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Do you struggle in life? Are there days when it seems like you’re under siege on all sides? Do you wish someone would save you from your family problems? From your health issues? From mistakes you’ve made and events you regret but can’t change? In this world, everyone needs a savior from something. What, or who, do you need a savior from?

Jesus tells us that he is the Savior: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Maybe at first glance that seems like a somewhat simplistic thing for Jesus to say. How could he possibly hope to cover all the potential issues that could come up in the lives of his disciples in their world, to say nothing of ours today? How can people today trust a promise that was made 2,000 years ago? The world has really changed since then!

But Jesus wasn’t talking about overcoming the world by healing diseases or mending broken relationships, although there were times in his ministry when he did just that. He was talking about something far more timeless than health issues, relationship problems, or regrets from the past. Jesus was talking about breaking the cause of all the suffering and wickedness we have in our world. Jesus was talking about his victory over sin. And whether it’s a sin you committed, a sin I’ve committed, or the sin of those in Bible times, Jesus defeated it. He accomplished a timeless victory, because sin is the root cause behind all pain and heartache, whether caused directly by human activities or indirectly as a consequence of the broken world we live in.

Jesus overcame all of that sin when he lived the perfect and sinless life that God demands. Jesus overcame all that sin when he laid down his perfect life at the cross and died—even though he didn’t deserve it. Now you and I can overcome the world too by putting ourselves aside and placing our trust and reliance in Jesus. He leads us through the hardest of times and finally will take us home to his world—the kingdom of heaven he has prepared for all who believe in him.

Promised beforehand

“Don’t take my word for it—check it out!” With the important things in life, that’s the approach we take, isn’t it? When we buy a home, we don’t just take the owner’s word that the house is in good shape; instead, we have the home inspected. There’s too much at stake, so we check it out!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could “inspect” Christianity, if you could check out Jesus to see if he’s the “real deal?”

We have that opportunity, because hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, God made a bunch of promises about Jesus. Now we can make an inspection—does Jesus match up? Does He “check out?” There are more than 50 such promises—here is a sample:

  • Promise: The Savior would be from the bloodline of Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3), Isaac (Genesis 21:12), and David (Jeremiah 23:5). Reality: Jesus’ lineage included each (cf. Matthew 1 and Luke 3).
  • Promise: The Savior would be severely punished and pierced through (Isaiah 53:5). Reality: Jesus was whipped, then crucified (Matthew 27:26).
  • Promise: The Savior would ride a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). Reality: When Jesus entered Jerusalem in a formal, final way, he rode a donkey (Matthew 21:1-9).

Interestingly, a number of promises concerned things over which Jesus had “no control.” For example, it was promised that he would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and he was (Luke 2:1). Again, it was promised that Jesus’ garments would be divided up along with a casting of lots (Psalm 22:18), and the soldiers who crucified him did just that (John 19:23-24). Could Jesus have controlled the actions of the soldiers? Not from a human perspective. So even in things Jesus “couldn’t control,” we see fulfillment after fulfillment.

Peter Stoner takes us into the science of probabilities, picking out just eight promises: “We find that the chance that any man might have…fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017.” Stoner then illustrates: “Take 1017″ [100,000,000,000,000,000] silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now, mark one of these silver dollars and stir up the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in one man” (Josh McDowell, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” Here’s Life Publishers Inc. 1979, p167).

All of which leads us to conclude what? Either, Jesus is THE most unbelievable, incredible coincidence ever. Or, much more plausibly, this Jesus—he’s the real deal. After all, he checks out!

I am the Living One

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” – Revelation 1:18

The Key to Life

Keys are small. Their importance is not. We don’t give keys much thought until we need them or lose them.

Have you ever misplaced your keys? There’s a feeling of frustration and fear when you lock yourself out of your car or house.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they lost the key to life. The result of their sin was a verdict of death. And we have been held prisoner under the same sentence.

We have tried, in vain, to escape death’s prison. We have searched for the Fountain of Youth and the Tree of Life. We have spent an enormous amount of money on anti-aging creams and medicines. In spite of all our scientific advancements, the worldwide average life-expectancy is about 30 years shy of a hundred. After thousands of years of searching and researching, we have not managed to find the key—we cannot break free from death.

Frustrating? Frightening? Yes.

But not hopeless.

Jesus is the key. He entered our prison through the womb of Mary. So he was human like us. Like a human being, he suffered. Like a human being, he died. And like a human being, he was buried.

But unlike us, he broke free. Because unlike us, he is sinless. He is the Son of God and death could not hold him prisoner, because Jesus had committed no sin.

By his resurrection, Jesus has opened a door that no one can shut. Death is no longer a final destination. It is a doorway to an unending life where sin and death have no authority. In heaven death is gone, crying is gone, pain is gone.

You might not give your house or car keys much thought throughout the day. But don’t make that mistake with Jesus. He may be small in the world’s estimation, but his importance is not.

Everyone who lives and believes in him, does not ultimately die. Follow him and he will lead you through death to life immortal.