title: James 5:13-20
teacher: Jacob Bender
Don't ever give up on people!!!
James ends his epistle by saying:
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
And I think that it is so significant that, like we have said the whole series, James is wisdom literature. It is practical stuff that shows us THIS IS WHAT YOUR LIFE LOOKS LIKE. and in Christian communities, we always are to gently, and lovingly restore one another when people get off track… but if there was no wisdom literature…
if there was no practical sense of how we apply the the gospel to our lives… then there would be no gage as to how people are even on or off course…
and so I think that it is so significant, that James lays out throughout the entire epistle what it means to PRACTICE living a life that has been transformed by Jesus… and he ends by telling us “sometimes people are going to stray from this… and when that happens… there is nothing of more value than you and I walking alongside of them, and helping bring them back.”
title: James 4:13-17
teacher: Jacob Bender
date: Thursday, November 16, 2017
I recently saw an episode of the humans of New York video series (the video is on this page under resources) they were interviewing this lady and what she said really struck me… it stayed in my head a long time…
She was saying that when she was younger, she was raised to believe that life was going to be a rose garden... she was a good kid, did good in school, listened to her parents, and from the sounds of it, was basically told that because of all of that…
because she did what she was told,
that life was hers... but then she said:
“But it wasn’t a rose garden. And it isn’t for anyone… and that is too much for some people to handle…”
The implication was that when people grow up, and life does go the way that they are lead to believe that it will when they were younger, that reality has the power to break people, and it destroyed some of the people she knew…
they didn’t know how to handle a life that didn’t end up the way they felt they were promised that it would.
Then she continues and speaks a question into the camera:
“how do I handle it?”
then she said:
“I remember that I was told that, by people who loved me... and who really wanted that for me.”
When the words of the people returned void, the heart behind them kept her out of the path of bitterness… which is an easy road to travel down when things aren't going your way, or the way that someone else made you believe that they would.
And as I read this passage over and over this week… her story kept coming to my mind. Those last words kept repeating…
“They really wanted that for me.”
Great intentions that lead to disappointment.
And I want us to understand that going into this… in chapter 3, James talks about the power of the tongue… your words create worlds… they create realities for people, and they can create delusions for people… which is why we, especially as leaders, need to be so careful with how we speak the words that we speak to others… we need to watch the promises that we make, while at the same time inspire people to do the work of the ministry.
Not because of where we are all going... but because we are called to go there, wherever it is, together.
Below is the commercial for the episode of Humans of New York that was referenced at the beginning of this teaching.
Below are other messages about the power of our words.
Though this EQUIP session is hard on "vision"because of the way that it can be used to manipulate people - we are a church that believes in vision, and in working toward what God puts on our hearts. The following teachings are Courage Church vision messages, and are provided here as a way to add balance to your study..
title: Drug & Alcohol Addiction: The Church's Response
date: October 31, 2017
teacher: Jeff Bonzelaar
Pastor Jeff Bonzelaar, the Metro Section Presbyter spent a Tuesday morning with us teaching about how drug and alcohol addiction and ways that the church can respond to this typically unspoken issue that exists in all of our neighborhoods, and likely in most of our churches.
Make sure that you also check out the Q&A session that we did at the end, where Pastor Jeff answered some of difficult questions about this epidemic.
The following resources were recommended by Pastor Jeff if you want to study this topic further.
scriptures: James 4:1-12
teacher: Chris Hooten
date: November 2, 1017
teacher: Jacob Bender
date: October 19, 2017
scriptures: James 3:1-12, Proverbs 6:16-19, Proverbs 26:17-26
“If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.”
I have seen the way that my words have been an instrument for good… an avenue for salvation and hope…
and I have used my words as weapons…
wrecking havoc where I go, and causing people more hurt and more problems than I ever imagined I was capable of.
Proverbs (12:18) says that “Reckless words pierce like sword.”
- in other words, words absolutely are weapons and they can be used to cause more destruction than you can ever even imagine…
So learning how to use that instrument… that is crucial.
Especially if you are teaching.
date: September 28, 2017
teacher: James Centeno
passage: James 1:19-27
date: September 21, 2017
teacher: Drew Borowsky
passage: James 1:2-18
title: James 1:1-4
teacher: Jacob Bender
date: September 14, 2017
scriptures: James 1:1-4
We aren’t given the luxury of hindsight when it comes to our dreams, unless we are living in the past.
a lot of us still dream about the way things used to be, because it was good… and God was in it…
but sometimes we miss what God is doing NOW,
because it doesn’t look like what he was doing, THEN.
Jesus says (Matthew 9:17):
you can’t put old wine into new wineskins.
He says that when you do that, the skins burst, and the wine spills…
and just this morning, as I thought about this verse… I realized something so simple about it... its not profound at all, but it shook me a little, because I have a lot of great stories... I have had a LOT of fun over the years... and a lot of times I look back wondering how do I create something “like that” again?
but Jesus says that if you put new wine into old wine skins, the skins burst, AND the wine spills.
which would mean that BOTH ARE WASTED.
both are ruined… both are useless.
You see, if you live in the past, you are destroying it… you are actually damaging those memories and you are destroying its power… because it wasn’t meant to be relived over and over, the Bible says that “God is doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) - and if you spend your whole life trying to relive what was, missing out on what is… I would argue that it in many instances it would have been better had you NEVER HAD THAT ORIGINAL EXPERIENCE in the first place… it is debilitating to always look backwards. It robs you of your future when you long for the past…
and when you do that, you aren’t honoring the past, you are letting it distort your hope for a future.
if the past doesn’t spring board you into what is next, then I DARE SAY THAT those moments can be counted as lost.
So here is to a future that is shining its own light, no matter how bright the light of our past used to be.
Pastors Brad and Stella Reed are the lead Pastors of the New York Dream Center, and are pastors/overseers to Pastors Jacob & Dawn here at Courage. They joined us in Detroit the last week of July (2017) where Pastor Brad did two teachings (Sunday Morning, midweek service for the 4 days mission trip) and Brad and Stella did a private Q&A with us that is all included here.
a note from Pastor Jacob:
I was absolutely thrilled that we had the opportunity to have Pastor Brad here in Detroit with us teaching about discipleship... because I learned just about everything that I know about Discipleship from Brad Reed. His life is dedicated to this one subject... it is who he is, he is a disciple maker. There are countless stories of lives who have been changed through his ministry, and I believe that He will raise up more pastors and world changers than he will ever be able to count or even give himself credit for.
Pastors Brad and Stella Reed are the lead Pastors of the New York Dream Center, and are pastors/overseers to Pastors Jacob & Dawn here at Courage. They joined us in Detroit the last week of July (2017) where Pastor Brad did two teachings (Sunday Morning, midweek service for the 4 days mission trip) and Brad and Stella did a private Q&A with us that is all included here.
In this Sunday evening session on the top floor of a downtown Detroit apartment complex, Pastor Brad and Stella answered a variety of questions from our team about leadership, church planting, city life, Dream Centers, and much more.
Part 3 of our series "Hebrew Word Pictures"
Hebrew word pictures, part two
Part one of our Equip series "Hebrew Word Pictures"
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
To some I feel like this one may be the hardest one.
Because nobody wants to be persecuted. But there are a few things we have to know going into this… first of all, lets begin just focusing on verse 10. Notice the reward.
Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now, look back in your bibles to Matthew 5:3. The first beatitude says:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Same reward for being persecuted, as for being poor in spirit. Some would say we have reached the end of the line, but others might say that we have come full circle.
and here is why.
The first four beatitudes, as we have said over and over and over, are salvation.
The last four address the way that our lives look like now that we have been transferred from the Kingdom of darkness, to the kingdom of light.
What happens when you are merciful?
You receive mercy.
What happens when you have a pure heart?
You get to see God.
what happens when you are a peace maker?
People begin calling you a son of God… because they see something in you… and maybe they can’t put their finger on it… maybe they don’t know what God is like, but when they see you bringing order out of chaotic situations, what happens? they start calling you son’s of God.
and other people aren’t going to like that.
No matter how much good you are doing. The word righteousness, its Greek meaning is very similar to the Hebrew word SHALOM that we studied last week.
Shalom means “completeness.” -
the Greek word dikaiosynē (pronounced de-kay-osk-sune-ay) is what we translate as righteousness… and as we learned a few weeks ago, it means “the state of him who is as he ought to be.”
So when people do what is right… when they do what they are supposed to do, they work to restore order to a world that is in chaos… and for that they are persecuted, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
They are right back at the beginning. With the same reward you get for being poor in spirit.
It could be said that, as you have journeyed through this process, making some friends but maybe even more people who would call themselves your enemies…
but after all of that… you have found yourself in the end in the same place that you began. Reminded that in all of the pain that our world may invoke on us, yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.
and that is not the easiest lot in life to accept. That you get this kingdom that Jesus speaks of at the cost of people reviling you in this one.
Matthew chapter 10 is one of those chapters that, if you aren’t careful in the way you apply it to your life, can just be so disheartening. Because Jesus basically tells us that he is throwing us into a den of lions and they are going to tear us apart but to not be afraid because some of us are going to endure them and then in the end we will leave with a bunch of our limbs chewed off but at least some of us will survive.
Okay, that is not exactly what it says.
That is my metaphorical translation. He actually says:
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
He says that they are going to drag us until courts, and they are going to come into the synagogues and flog us and they are going to chase us town to town persecuting us and we are all going to want to quit every single day but the ones who are able to endure to the end are the ones who will be saved.
and most people read that, and it sounds just as brutal as my lion analogy, and they know that he actually said that… and if there is any sense in them at all they would say
“Why would anybody want that?”
and you don’t. You don’t want that. But whatever it is that the world may try and do to you, and whatever it is that the world may even succeed in doing to you…
it is worth it.
Sometimes you are going to be trying to help a person and the very person you are trying to help is going to persecute you. Sometimes you are going to try and help a community and that community is going to force you out. It is what happened to Jesus, and it is what he said is going to happen to us.
I remember years ago, it was probably almost seven years ago now because Dawn was pregnant with Milly. And we worked for the LA Dream Center and the LA Dream Center had just moved our pastors, Pastor Brad and Stella, to New York City and as part of sending them their, the LA church agreed to at least for a while, send Dawn and I periodically back and forth to help them with the plant. This was a couple of years before we moved to New York full time.
and I remember, the dream of course, for the NY Dream Center was to have a dream center… an actual building dedicated to turning lives around 24/7… and coming from the largest dream center in the world, all we knew was huge buildings that got restored and what followed was a whole bunch of lives getting restored. and I remember this one day, so clearly.
Dawn and I were with Pastor Brad and a couple of others in Harlem, and we were walking around, dreaming, praying, looking block to block at what was out there…
and there was this amazing theater sitting there that looked like it had been empty for a decade… but it was amazing… and right across the street from the theater was an old, abandoned high school that looked like it had been empty for 30 years. There were huge trees growing out of this building. It was nuts. And yet of course, all we all saw was the potential. And we were just out standing in front of this building dreaming together and talking about what we could do with it…
and for a moment, we felt like our dream for New York was really going to come together. A theater, across from a potential Dream Center… empty… we figured we just had to make a few calls and we would be renovating them within the month.
and as we were just out there dreaming together, this angry, angry lady came out screaming at us. She was really mad, like, it was scary.
And she kept saying “Don’t even think about buying that building.” talking about about the school. She said, “That building is going to be used for the community.”
which of course, you would think would have been an open door to a conversation about a dream center… because that was what we were in the business of… doing things for the community.
But she would have nothing of it. She said that she owned the neighborhood and would make 100% sure that we never got that building.
She said “don’t don’t even bother.” She would make it impossible.
Now, our pastor is an incredibly gracious man, and he handled himself as such in that moment. But the incredible hostility that our totally loving dream was met with that day, left him, and all of us, with some really hard to navigate, discouraging feelings. Being told that it didn’t matter what it was we wanted to do, she would fight and would win, to make sure that we never accomplished it on her street. And though they were just words, it felt, truthfully, as if she had the authority to speak them in that moment.
I know in my heart that she didn’t. But it felt like she did.
That was what made it so hard to hear. I don’t know if that was a spiritual thing, or just because we were told so clearly that she has been there from the beginning and had earned the right to run the block… I can’t describe it.
She wanted to make us feel like we were there to exploit her and the people in her neighborhood and that all we wanted to do was gentrify the area.
and it worked.
And suddenly, a handful of us who in our hearts only wanted to do something good walked away from the scene questioning our own motives.
Dawn and I were willing to give up all of our pay to move to New York and help with that plant… we just wanted to see peoples lives changed… but suddenly we felt like we were the selfish ones, to think we could go in there and try to make a change like that.
Questioning if what we wanted to be done could be done, or if it was even the right thing, after all.
and feeling like there was no way our dreams were going to come true here.
Because not only is there the incredible financial hurdle of what property cost in New York City, but there is also a political, racial, religious tension that exists and we were on the wrong side of all three, as far as New York was concerned.
and I know that compared to what is happening to Christians in the middle east, and other parts of the world, thats a pretty mild view of what it means to be persecuted.
You only have to go on kindle and download a free copy of Foxes book of martyrs to see that persecution for some goes far beyond anything that we can even begin to imagine… and I believe that every Christian has to be ready and willing to face that type of persecution if that be the price necessary to speak the name of Jesus.
But to limit persecution only to people who are crucified upside down and burned at the stake would be a grave mistake…
“persecuted” It is the Greek word diōkō (dē-ō’-kō)…
and the word means a whole slew of things, and one of them is “to drive away.”
That was certainly the way that we felt that day in Harlem.
another is: “to pursue in a hostile manner.”
and another is to “prosecute.”
And its important to remember that we will never reach a point in our Christian walk, when suddenly we no longer will get resistance. And if in fact we do reach that point, then we immediately need to check ourselves and figure out why.
Because if everybody loves you all the time and nobody resists you or anything that you say, then you probably aren’t standing for much. One of the hardest things about being a Christian is that you have to make a hard stand on the side of the red letters of Jesus.
Lukes gospel includes this beatitude and a woe to go along with it and the woe says:
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)
So blessed are you when you are persecuted, because the prophets before you were persecuted. The real prophets.
But woe to you when you are never persecuted but instead everyone loves you because all you do is please everyone with your words… because that is what the false prophets did. They tickled ears. They told people what they wanted to hear, and so everyone spoke well of them.
1 Timothy 4:3 puts it this way: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.”
Jesus says, YOU MUST NOT DO THAT. Don’t be one of those teachers. Don’t be the kind of person who never offends anybody because you have set out to not offend anybody.
and I know that some of you may say, “I am not a teacher…” but you are. We are all ministers of the gospel. We are all carriers of hope. and as long as your hope is attached to Jesus, there will be people who will want to shut you down. It has been like that from the beginning.
When you stand for something, anything, you will get resistance. You will get persecution of some sort. And when you stand for Jesus, then blessed are you when it comes.
But let it come to you.
Don’t go looking for trouble.
the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most offensive message on the planet. if you speak it, they will come!
We are talking about a message that is essentially a declaration that the first will be last. It is a declaration that everything that everyone works their whole lives for on this earth essentially will amount to nothing if they climb the ladder of their own life.
It is a declaration that everything we have always known is getting turned upside down.
It is not the way you get ahead in this life.
And that is a big reason why so many reject it.
We are talking about a message that says “blessed are you who you are persecuted… and when you mourn, and when you restrain your strength, and when you are poor and when you don’t chose a side in a battle but instead stand next to Jesus.
Christians should not ever go around looking for trouble… they should try their best to live peaceably with everyone and be a peace maker in all circumstances…
but the reality is that Christians don’t need to go around looking for trouble… it will always find them.
And it is fitting that we are on this beatitude the same week that we are doing retaliation because that is the message we are giving this Sunday… this week is “an eye for an eye” and next week is “love your enemies.”
and those are really hard teachings… and the truth is that when you stand on the side of love… love for your friends and love for your enemies… when you stand in that place… you are going to make enemies.
We know, our battle is not against flesh and blood. A person may persecute us, but it doesn’t mean that they are our enemy.
But we can’t help who sets themselves against us. We can’t help if someone decides that they want to be our enemy or if they view us as their enemy. and when that happens, all we can help, is the way in which we respond to their persecution.
That lady in Harlem was not our enemy. But we can’t change the way that she saw us… everything she spoke to us was built off of a foundation that was built years and years ago and a wall that slowly got put up around her heart. And if we argue, it would just put another brick on that wall. Every word of opposition would just put another brick on that wall.
We can only love her and show her, and show her what is right. We can only go the extra mile for her and turn the other cheek and see if by the grace of God we can slowly find ways to begin to tear down the wall. and unfortunately in that case, we never found that way.
But we never fought. We only loved. We responded to full blasted attacks by merely expressing our desire to love people.
The bible tells us that we must speak the truth to people in love… but truth is not relative, it is concrete.
and the idea that this concrete truth is found in a never changing book written over 2000 years ago tends to repel people these days. Even in America.
But the problem with having a concrete truth at the core of our convictions, is if we are not careful with that, we can find ourselves on the other side of the persecution.
BECAUSE WE KNOW WE ARE RIGHT.
and I want to address this for a couple of minutes. Because one of the worst places you can find yourself is on the wrong side of persecution.
This is an upside down Kingdom. and the wrong side of persecution is the side that is casting it.
Let me first say it like this:
If you persecute someone else for the way that they are, and in turn you get persecuted… that is not what Jesus is talking about when he says “blessed are you when you are persecuted.”
but you see this all of the time with Christians on their soap boxes throwing condemnation around left and right… but the problem with that message is typically it revolves around the sinner rather than the savior.
but the true gospel message says that the man on that box is just as guilty as the man walking down the street.
and when you see it that way, it is a “we” problem, not a “them” problem.
He is not saying “blessed are you when you hound others about the way that they are and then they retaliate and defend themselves, and in turn you feel that your beliefs are being persecuted…”
He is not saying “blessed are you when you post hateful things on Facebook and in turn get 500 comments calling you a bigot and a religious freak.”
He is not saying that!
So even if we aren’t intentionally “persecuting” others, sometimes we at least make people feel as if we are persecuting them. and truthfully, if someone feels like we are persecuting them, whether it is our heart to do so or not, there must be a certain level of truth to their feelings.
Granted, often it can be born out of a misconception.
but misconceptions typically have a level of truth to them.
One of the biggest misconceptions about christianity is that it is a religion that hates those who are different from us, but the problem is that it is a misconception that was brought our ourselves by people who bear the name of Jesus and don’t act like him… and their display of Jesus was hateful.
Often we are accused of prejudice or of "discriminating" against a person or people group.
The word discriminate is one of the worst represented words on the planet. This may surprise you, but The word actually comes from the word discern, and in many cases (well, many, MANY CASES) it has been used for very wrong purposes, singling out people by their race or gender or culture, treating them differently because of a situation or showing partiality for or against someone, but the word does not always represent something bad. and it certainly is not the same as hate though they appear from the outside to go hand in hand.
We must as Christians be able to live lives that are lead by the Holy Spirit and we have this amazing roadmap called the bible, and with these amazing tools we have the ability to discern. To know right from wrong, truth from lies.
But don’t think that just because you discern something to be wrong, that you have every right to obliterate the person either, and then pretend like you are the martyr. You can find yourself on the wrong side of persecution if you begin to believe that you are better than anybody else for any reason.
and that may sound crazy… the reality that the wrong side of persecution is the one who is doing the persecuting… and it will almost certainly bring persecution back upon you and it is not the kind that you will be blessed for.
But I am telling you this for sure… you are much better off being the one who gets persecuted…
but let it be for righteousness.
Let it be for the name of Jesus, and his amazing grace that meets people in the broken places of their hearts and loves them in the middle of their mistakes.
Just love Jesus.
Don’t go looking for trouble.
But know that it will come.
because Jesus says it will come.
You have to have the first seven beatitudes first. If you have those, and the fruit of your life causes people to persecute you because of your righteousness… then don’t fear. Be blessed.
But that is different than you trying to diagnose someone else with a sin problem, just straight up being a jerk, and then having people not like you for it.
Your life should look like Jesus.
but the other thing that we have to be careful of, is developing a martyr complex… and when everything that you think should go one way goes another… or when you do something that probably was stupid you did and then you get in trouble for it, you can’t just say that because you are a Christian that is why you are facing what you are facing or why someone is persecuting you.
There is a guy I know who goes to church here sometimes… I haven’t seen him in a while… but he always tells me these crazy stories of the things that happen to him and he always chalks it up to being persecuted for Jesus. But when I hear what he is saying to people, I just can’t help but think…
you are just being a jerk to them. Of course that is going to happen to you.
of course someone else who doesn’t have Jesus in their life would want to beat you up… part of me wants to beat you up for the way you misrepresent my savior.
You have to have it first.
You have to be poor in spirit and realize that you are just as broken as everyone else. You have to acknowledge that first or else you will find yourself facing a persecution that has no promise or reward.
Remember, it is the same reward as being poor in Spirit. A person who is poor in spirit would never think that they are better than anyone else. So if you are getting persecuted for your ego…
maybe you need to go back to part one.
The first half of this beatitude says that you are blessed WHEN you are persecuted FOR righteousness.
That means that you are persecuted for doing the right thing.
and the second half of it says:
persecuted for MY ACCOUNT. not just for whatever.
Now lastly, I want to focus on the last thing that Jesus says here. Now remember, he is just about to get into the meat of the sermon. He is just about to show us what all of this will look like here on earth as the Kingdom of heaven invades it…
but up until this moment, what has he done?
He has blessed.
He has told people they are blessed, over, and over, and over.
and each time, how does he word it?
Blessed are the.
Blessed are those.
Blessed are the.
Blessed are those…
it is not until after giving eight beatitudes that he even says “blessed are you WHEN YOU” and even when he says that, the “when you” has nothing to do with anything that you yourself do.
Jesus begins the sermon on the mount without a single rule. Without a single law. Without anything more to weigh people down, and instead he tells the people who were already weighed down by the weight of their own sin, and their own guilt, and their own circumstances, of being walked on by Rome and of having everything taken away from them and of being sick and reviled themselves… He tells them… you guys are blessed.
The first time that Jesus actually tells us TO DO anything, is verse 12. and this is what it says:
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Rejoice is the Greek word: chairō (Kiro)
it means to be “happy” or well off… it means “to thrive.” and it comes from the word “charis” which means grace.
Unmerited favor. A gift that you don’t deserve. But isn’t that the heart of the beatitudes? A gift. A blessing to those who thought they lived on the bottom.
Then he says: Be Glad.
Be glad is the Greek word:
agalliaō (ä-gäl-lē-ä’-ō) - the King James says “be exceeding glad” and the literal is “to jump for joy.”
So Jesus goes from telling us to be “happy” togo so far as to “jump for joy.” Proclaim your excitement. Put it into action. Let there be a demonstration. Because you get to share in the cross of Jesus Christ and nothing could be a greater reflection of him than loving the world through the pain that it inflicts on you.
No beatitude more closely resembles Jesus.
Jesus was persecuted for righteousness sake. He only did the right thing.
and it cost him everything.
Okay, one last look at verse 12: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
R.T. Kendall pointed out something really interesting in his book about the sermon on the mount… and I am going to expound on it a little.
The observation is this… Jesus ends by saying “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
so He ends by talking about the prophets and how they were persecuted.
Now, we all know that there reward must be very great… they were prophets… Moses lead a million + people out of captivity… Daniel overcame the lions den after standing up for God against the highest of authorities.
These men all had a lot that they had go through, but none of them had a promise like this to get them through it.
Yet they still rejoiced.
Jesus brought us something that the world who followed him before they even knew that they were following him never had…
It is almost as if Jesus knew something going into this whole thing that maybe we don’t know. Its like he sees something that maybe we don’t see.
We see a world that is broken. That hurts each other……….
but he sees a world in which his Father is seated on the throne, and he is seated next him…
He see’s a Kingdom that has no end…
He sees the reality, that when the world we know now here on this earth ends… this Kingdom, HIS KINGDOM, will just keep on going. He sees a world where evil has no authority and it has no future… He came with the good news that we should leap for joy no matter how bad things may seem in this dark world that is only fleeting… because ultimately, we are blessed. We favored. and because ultimately,
and we will be with him when it happens.
Blessed are you when you are persecuted. For yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.
We have, for the last couple of months here at EQUIP, been going over the beatitudes alongside the series we are doing on Sunday’s on the sermon on the mount. We are now in the tail end of our beatitudes series, and our “Red Letter City” series on the sermon on the mount will continue over the summer. I hope that you guys have been blessed by the series, I have been getting some really really encouraging reports from people of the ways that the various topics have brought reconciliation to past wounds, as we have dug into the issues that Jesus addressed, some of which have not been easy. The last three messages on Sunday’s were: Anger, Lust, and then Divorce. and I am happy to be on the other side of that trilogy now.
It was definitely the longest stretch of really hard things to talk about I have done yet.
Today’s beatitude has a similar complexity to it that some of those topics we have been addressing lately have had, and the concept as a whole has been one that there are definitely two very opposite sides and understandings of. This verse itself has caused in many people, the opposite of what it has called us to…
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt 5:9)
Which, to Jesus’ hearers must have come as a bit of a surprise because, as we talked about several other times throughout this series, everything in that day had been taken over by Rome. Their ways were being forced on other cultures, and essentially they had taken over the entire known world… which is why the first four beatitudes seemed so upside down…
who inherits the earth? The meek?
Wait a minute, it would have appeared that Rome already inherited the earth by being the opposite of meek. They had taken everything over through force. So to the Jewish audience that Jesus was addressing here, if anything, they would get the earth back by building up a military that could withstand Rome and eventually overthrow it.
Peace was not something on their minds.
If anything, they wanted justice.
and understandably so.
and it is not like we can simply say, “Oh, Jesus came to bring peace.”
Because in Matthew 10 Jesus says that he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. He said that he would set brother against brother. and he says whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me… and that whoever finds his life will lose but but whoever loses his life for my names sake, will find it.”
and a lot of people use that to say that we shouldn’t work for peace but when I read it, what I get out of it is that working for peace could ultimately cost you, yours.
It cost Jesus’ his.
Jesus in John 16:33 says:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
He is telling them, in me… you have peace.
But what I am doing and what I have come to do is not going to cause there to be peace on earth right now…
you have to have peace in your heart knowing that the work of the cross has already been done in you.
Out there, you will have trouble.
Because the world is screwed up… and its not going to receive well the people who work to restore it because the unfortunate truth is, the whole thing runs on disorder.
The whole world runs on “this side” vs.”this side.” and one overcoming the other… and someone rising above someone else.
But blessed are the ones who throw themselves in the center of it all and help people work together. Help mend brokenness and end wars…
they make peace on a small scale, and they make peace on a large scale.
Blessed are the ones who help people see that at the end of the day we are all human, we all all flawed, and we all need Jesus.
There is a moment in the book of Joshua, it is probably the best example you will find, when this angel of the Lord appears, and Joshua asks him, “are you for us, or are you for our adversaries”
and the angel says… I am on neither side. I am the commander of the Lord’s army.
And then he tells Joshua to take off his shoes for he is standing on Holy Ground.
The angel tells Joshua, in this moment, what matters is where you are standing, not which side you are on.
You are standing in the presence of Jesus.
Sometimes in our wars and in our fights and in our preferences, we miss out of the truth of where it is we are standing.
and in Jesus what does the bible say? We are neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female. (Galatians 3:28)
Can you put your war on pause for a moment, and acknowledge that Jesus is bigger than all of it!
Not everything is us vs. them.
sometimes there is another way.
actually, always, there is another way. That doesn’t mean that everyone will chose it, but it does exist.
Now, we have been saying that each beatitude builds off of the last… the first four essentially show us what salvation is like… it is how God meets us in our brokenness, and then the last four shift into, in a way, what our lives in this Kingdom should look like…
this is how we should treat people in our city…
these are things in us that show others who God is.
and being a peacemaker and being pure in heart are definitely coupled together.
You have to, in your heart, have an understanding of what God has done for you if you are going to begin to bring his perfect peace into our world.
You have to see God, before you can be called a son of God.
And then, from there, the question becomes, “how do I do this in other situations?”
Because there is a very big difference between being a peace keeper, and peace maker.
There is a very big difference between a person who keeps peace, and a person who makes peace. There is a difference between someone who can keep order in a difficult situation, and someone who can throw themselves in the center of a seemingly unsolvable conflict and figure out a way to solve it.
Dawn will tell you this. She can tell you many stories of times that I have been a peace keeper, when I should have been a peace maker.
Sometimes in my home my objective merely rests on being a peace keeper… if I can just keep everyone happy then their will be peace and quiet and there will be no stress.
But a peace maker doesn’t do that. A peace maker knows that sometimes you have to go through the crucible and then separate the dross from the silver, like we talked about last week.
A.W. Argyle says this of peacemakers, they are“not appeasers, but those who actively overcome evil with good.”
They overcome fear with love. They overcome hate with compassion.
They figure out solutions to problems that are bigger than themselves.
They are willing to do whatever it takes.
Peace makers are very rare.
A peace keeper, they may have the ability to see a problem arise and even be able to diffuse it before it explodes. It can be a good trait to have (not always). But a peace maker can enter a war zone where the bombs have already gone off, and be able to stand in the middle of a war and be able to show both sides that they are wrong… and show both sides that the other is right.
They are both right. and they are both wrong.
Because most of the time, our differences aren’t as off balanced as we think.
there is a quote I want to give to you, I read it in the book by R.T. Kendall but the quote is from a man named Clyde Narramore, and he says this:
“Every person is worth understanding.”
and I think that is really important as we work to even just engage our community in better and more practical ways. They are not all going to be the same as us, they are not going to have the same upbringing necessarily… they may not have the same needs, or the same beliefs.
But what our community here at Courage must be about, is throwing ourselves into other peoples worlds and learning what it is that is going on… why do they do the things that we don’t understand?
Because maybe there is some good in there that we can’t see from the outside, and if we stay away, and distant, and inside this building with the doors closed all the time, only spending time with people who are just like us, and who can remind us of how right we are all the time because they think the same way that we do…
we will never reconcile the people who think differently.
And we will never learn from them either.
The moment you think you know it all is the moment your life begins to end because there is always more to learn, and God has us, in the places that he has us so that we can grow together with the people he has put us in community with.
Last summer, in “the fruit of the Spirit” series, we did a whole teaching on the word “peace.” I made Emily and the worship team play “White Flag.” They were mad.
Peace is one of the most fascinating words of the fruit of the Spirit, especially in Hebrew.
It is the Hebrew word “Shalom,” and the big idea behind this word is the “completeness.” It means that all things are “whole” or are in their fullest state, what they should be.
So a person who makes peace would be someone who can enter into a situation where things are “not as they should be,” and you can bring some restoration to that situation.
It could be a conflict. It could just be a lack of wholeness. It could be that something has fallen short of what it should be.
Now, in Hebrew, as we have talked about on numerous occasions, the letters are read backwards, and each letter originally was a picture.. it was basically a stick figure type of image, which later became known as “Hebrew word pictures” or “Hebrew picture graphs.” Or if you are looking it up online you could search the “Paleo Hebrew alphabet” I love doing these but always want to acknowledge that word pictures NEVER take the place of the bible.
Sometimes they can really illuminate a concept, and I wouldn’t show you them if I didn’t think that they helped explain something that otherwise is more difficult to understand… but I find it absolutely fascinating that before we had the word Shalom in Hebrew written out the way we know it to be now…
those same letters were stick figures and stencil type of images:
They don’t look terribly different do they?
from the right the first letter is:
“Sheen” and the picture is of Teeth, which symbolizes to consume or destroy. The second letter is Lamed (la-med), it is a shepherds staff which represents authority. So if you were to look just at the first to letters of the word peace, it says “destroy the authority”
The third letter is the letter “vav” and it is a nail or hook, it connects things... It means To hook to, connect to or to establish, and the last letter is “mem” and the image represents crashing waves of water. In the book of Genesis “mem” is actually translated as the word “chaos.” - Think about a Hurricane, or a Noreaster… and just the unbelievable chaos that large waves can cause to people in the water and on boats.
What the word picture is saying is this, to find shalom… to find peace, you must first “destroy the authority that is establishing chaos.”
Now I am not talking about a war.…
though at the heart of most peace movements is the concept of anarchy, or some sort of revolt against a system that is being abused and does need to be brought down.
But I want us to see this from a bigger perspective.
I am not talking about destroying people. I am talking about diagnosing what it is, first of all, in you, and in your life, that is robbing you of your peace… what is it in your life that is making it so feel like nothing is as it should be.
You have to pinpoint it.
You will always have chaos, until you identify the areas of your life that are causing the chaos. That are keeping you from peace.
But what does that mean for a peacemaker?
One of of the really sad truths about our world is that there are always two sides. We said it earlier.
War would be impossible without sides.
everybody seems to take a side, but what we miss is that somewhere in the middle, between us and our sides that we think are totally different, there is an authority that is establishing chaos between us.
There is. There is a oneness that has been divided. The bible says in Genesis that in the image of God we were all created… But somewhere along the line one person went one way, and another went another way, and one thought that their way was right, and the other thought that their way was right…
and pride became so consuming that it became worth killing over.
So now we have people killing other people made in the same image of God.
There is a story not often told in 1 Samuel 25 about a woman named Abigail and her husband Nabal.
And Nabal is a jerk. The bible says “he was harsh and badly behaved.” (1 Sam. 25:3)…. but his wife was discerning and beautiful.
So Nabal is very wealthy… and David, who at this time is still on the run, because King Saul wants to kill him… he hears that Nabal and his men were out shearing sheep and so David sends ten men to greet Nabal.
They are very friendly in their approach.
and they tell Nabal “Peace be with you…” and then they ask for favor from Nabal and ask that he provide a feast for them.
They asked for his help, and of course, Nabal, whose name by definition means “fool” and who is described as “badly behaved” in the bible… behaves badly.
And he tells the men, “Who is David the son of Jesse?”
“Why would I give you guys who I don’t know, any of my food. Absolutely not.”
So David and his army greeted him kindly, and he responded in harshness. And when the men get back to David and report what had happened, David apparently gets a little bit upset about this, and he says “Every man strap on his sword!” (v. 13)
and so David and 400 men essentially went to take what they wanted by force and to wipe out Nabal and his people.
Now, you don’t have to read all that much about David, to know that you do not want his army coming after you. It makes for a very bad last day of your life.
But the word gets back to Nabal’s wife, Abigail.
and they tell her, “David’s men were so kind… they were respectful, we suffered no harm at their hands and they took nothing of ours.”
“They were kind, but Nabal railed them! and sent them away.”
And basically what the servants told Abigail was, that because of the way her husband acted, it could cause a whole lot of harm for their family and everyone nearby..… something needed to be done.
and a peace keeping wife who just wants to keep the peace in her home would have just went along with what her husband had done, and remained peaceful and not gone around him and rather, let him take care of the entire thing. But she didn’t have peace keeping in mind, she had peace making in mind.
So she goes out and she greets David and his men, and David says some things that make it pretty clear that the army was on its way to wipe out everyone…
And Abigail falls at David’s feet and says “On me alone be the guilt.”
We all know that NONE of the guilt belonged to her.
But not only is she willing to take the fall for the entire thing… but she pleads with David, saying that there is only one in this entire situation who has done evil and there is no reason to take it out on everyone else.
Without saying it, and totally respectfully, she showed David, that both sides were wrong.
There is no sense in destroying other people for one man’s mistake. and that was the path David was currently walking toward.
The same thing happened in the book of Esther, a man named Haman gets mad at a Jewish man named Mordecai for disrespecting him, and then Haman decides that he is going to commit genocide against all of the Jews because of it, and the King naively signs off on it.
But Esther, who was married to the King, found a way to make peace from a central place… She was a Jew, not wanting her people to be killed,
yet she was married to the King who had signed off on the plan for genocide.
If you have never read the book of Esther, read it. It is such a fascinating account of what it means to make peace. and we don’t have time to get into her story any more today…
but Esther was a peace maker.
Abilgail was a peace maker.
Abigail pleaded with David, and even said to him“that had she known what they wanted she would have given it all to them.” And so David turns around.
He is moved by her intervention and he acts favorably toward her.
She was a peace maker.
And in her case, in order to be a peace maker she had to give up being a peace keeper.
Because she jeopardized the peace in her home for the sake of the greater good.
Jesus never kept the peace. That is not what he did. In fact his entire ministry was about turning the world and its religious belief system on its head… because it was about all the wrong things.
but what he did will ultimately make peace and reconcile the broken back to him.
and, as we have said over and over and over, reconciliation is our goal as Christians.
I love this quote in Simon Tugwell’s book on the beatitudes… he says this:
“To be a peacemaker is not, then, to come and patch things up, to arrange a settlement with balanced concessions all round, to try to find a compromise. It is to declare the truth of God and the truth of creation; it is to announce that a fallen world can be remade. It is to proclaim that the oneness of God has taken possession of the fragmented world of sin.”
Blessed are those who live their lives as a reflection of Jesus, who the bible refers to as “The Prince of peace.” but who we all know during his time on earth stirred up just as much as he brought together.
Because in order to destroy the authority that is establishing chaos in our world he had to call it out.
Sometimes to ultimately bring peace you have to stand up to both sides and remind them that there is a third way, a better way, and his name is Jesus.
There is this song by the band “Gungor" that came out a little while ago, and it really powerful. The concept of the song is that God’s judgment is love…
Which so often is the opposite of what the churches judgment tends to be… but it is God’s judgment.
if it wasn’t, then why would he send Jesus? If Jesus didn’t love us, he wouldn’t have let himself be judged for us.
Jesus ultimately said, I will make peace between the two sides by taking the fall for both of them.
and as scary as this can be to live up to, as followers of the way… Jesus’ is our King but he is also our example for the way that we reconcile the world back to God. Sometimes peace will come at the expense of ourselves.
Abigail was willing to take the fall for her husband’s stupidity if it meant the rest of her people would have peace.
and in this song, One of the lines says this, “if it is us or them, it is us for them.”
and the first time I heard that, I just felt something in my spirit… it was just this conviction, of what it actually takes to live like that. To live in such a way that if life comes down to you or someone else, you make the call that it will be you losing it, on behalf of someone else. and most days I don’t know that I could honestly say I would honestly make that call.
But nothing else could possibly look more like Jesus.
What does Jesus say? Anyone who loses his life for me, will gain it. (Matthew 16:25)
It is so so so upside down.
and it made me wonder this when it comes to the beatitudes… and maybe you have had a similar thought before…
Have you ever wondered, who is calling them sons of God?
It is just a little food for thought… I think that the automatic assumption is that it is God who is calling them his sons. And it could be that… I am sure there are plenty of arguments that would say that… and that is fine. But if that is the case, then it is definitely not the only way in which God would call us his child…
Paul says in Romans 8:14 that “For all who are led by the Spirit are sons of God”
John 1:12 says that “all who receive Jesus, and believed his name, he gave the right to become children of God”
Being a peace maker is certainly not the only way to become a son of God.
Merely receiving Jesus… merely having the first beatitude gives you the right to become a child of God…
But remember, the beatitudes are about the Kingdom of heaven just utterly and completely invading this earth. and could it be that when you are a peacemaker, at least from the perspective of everyone standing on the outside, looking in… that this is what makes you look the most like God? Could it be, that from the perspective of man, whom we are supposed to be a reflection of God too, that us being a peacemaker is the clearest way that they will see that God is in us?
Could it maybe be that it is other people who will call us children of God?
Because as far as they can tell, we are doing the work of the Lord even though they have no idea what the work really even is?
They see Margie and David out there cutting down trees and leveling the land across the street so that a soccer field can go there and kids can all come together and share in what they have in common, instead of always standing on opposite sides and fighting over what makes them different.
and then what do they think when they hear that they are Christians, who they don’t even know… but that are doing that for them?
If I had to guess I would guess that they think something like this:
“I don’t know what Jesus looks like… but I bet it is something like that.”
When the team goes out and feeds the homeless, and Justin notices that one of them doesn’t have any shoes on… and he thinks to himself, “how is this man going to have any peace in his life if he is always walking around these streets filled with broken glass everywhere in his bare feet… and Justin shakes his head and says “no no no no no” and he takes off his shoes and gives them to the man right there in that moment…
When he identifies it. Shoes. Lack of shoes. It is causing chaos… “and I can fix it!”
“I don’t know what Jesus looks like… but I bet it is something like that.”
We aren’t going to solve all of the world’s problems. But we can declare Jesus everywhere we go through our words, and our deeds because he is the only one in whom true peace can be found.
and so Jesus arrives on the scene, and stands in front of an enormous crowd of people who were thirsty for vengeance, and who wanted their land back, and who wanted their rights back, and who would do anything it took, if they had the power to fight back against what Rome was doing… and he tells them:
Blessed are the peacemakers.
For the shall be called sons of God.