Devotions

Author Archives: Ferdinand Sanders

Peacemakers • Devotion #6: Save the Lost

In Matthew 5:9, within the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” As all Scripture should, as I was reading and pondering this verse, especially in the greater context of the Sermon on the Mount, it forced me to take a closer look at myself and where my focus and priorities lie. I would argue that peace is obtained when we have Christ at the top of our list and allow Him to be the lens or filter through which we view and approach everything that we face. Knowing that we have the keys to true peace through Christ, what then does it mean for us to be peacemakers?

Not only is Christ our source of peace, but He is also the perfect example of what it means to be a peacemaker. If you had to sum up the purpose of Jesus’ life and ministry into one main concept I would say that Luke 19:10 might fit the bill, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”Through Jesus taking our sins upon His shoulders and dying the death we all deserved, we were reconciled and now have peace with God, through Christ. Jesus’ life and ministry were to be a peacemaker to all mankind.

Paul writes about this in his letter to the church at Ephesus, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”  (Ephesians 2:13-19).

Not only have we been given the direction of the Beatitudes found within Matthew chapter 5, but we are also called to be imitators of Christ. John puts it simply when he writes, “Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked”(1 John 2:6). Sometimes I think it is easy to fall into a trap of seeing others in a judgmental way when they do not walk or believe the same way that we do, or how we think they ought to be living. In order to be the peacemakers we are called to be, we need to go out of our way to listen, love, and serve those that we disagree with or differ from.

Philippians 2:3-7 adds, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

Hunger • Devotion #5: Spiritually Hangry

I find it equally interesting and humorous to see what happens to people when they get hungry. When our newborn baby starts to fuss or cry, my first thought is, “Is he hungry?” On most days, the first words out of the mouth of my four year old are, “Dad, you make me breakfast?” On a good day, she might say, “Dad, please you make me breakfast?” If you are anything like me, you may be familiar with the term “hangry” (anger as a result of hunger). In those moments, my emotional and mental well-being starts to come into question as if I transform into a completely different person if I go too long without eating (apologies to my family and those around me when I reach that point). The decisions surrounding how we approach hunger or eating (what, when, and how much) has huge implications on more than just our physical being, but our mental, and in some cases, our emotional state. Jesus alludes to the concept of hunger within His “Sermon on the Mount” as it pertains to our spirituality.

In Matthew 5:6, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). Be it from reading the Bible, growing up in church, or being raised in a Christian home, if you classify yourself as a Christian, I think it would be safe to say that we share a general awareness or idea of who we are called to be. We look to the Ten Commandments, the Fruit of the Spirit, even the Beatitudes here in Matthew chapter 5 for some descriptors of a Christ-follower. What is fascinating about this passage is the language that Jesus uses to convey His message. Rather than just saying, “Blessed are those who pursue righteousness,” He says, “hunger and thirst.” In typical Jesus fashion, Jesus takes a common idea or concept that everyone would understand, but presents it in a way that packs it to the brim with life-altering meaning.

When reading this passage, I was reminded of the Pharisees who were the experts of religious practices, law, and tradition of that time. If anyone were to know the way of righteousness it would be the Pharisees. Listen to how Jesus refers to the “religious elite” later in Matthew, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28). The Pharisees were full of spiritual knowledge, but they did not hunger or thirst for righteousness. Just like the Pharisees, we miss the mark unless our lives are changed through the acknowledgment that we ourselves are unrighteous apart from the redemption through Christ’s blood.

Having attention or awareness of righteousness is a good start (I certainly would not say that it is a bad thing), but Matthew 5:6 shows us that there is a lot more to it. This pursuit of righteousness is something for which we need to hunger and thirst. It needs to be the sustenance with which we regularly fill and fuel ourselves. Much like food and drink, it is a basic need – the essence of life.

Meek • Devotion #5: Be > Do

Within arguably the greatest sermon of all time, (The Sermon on the Mount), Jesus lays out the framework of the Christian faith through a handful of sayings, what we know as the Beatitudes. Though only twelve verses, these statements serve as the mission and vision of Christianity as a whole. By this point in Jesus’ ministry and teachings, we are familiar with Jesus dropping statements which counter how the “world” would think or act. In Matthew 5:5, Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

A quick google search defines meek as quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive. If I am being honest, when I hear the word “meek,” I find myself associating it with the word “weak.” However, the ancient Greek word (“praus”), where we get the word meek from, has a lot more meaning packed into it. The word “praus” was borrowed from the military and is related to the taming and training of a horse for battle. Here is an excerpt from a word study that was done on the word “meek” that is helpful: “The Greek army would find the wildest horses in the mountains and bring them to be broken in. After months of training, they sorted the horses into categories. When a horse passed the conditioning required for a war horse, its state was described as ‘praus,’ [that is, meek]. The war horse had ‘power under authority,’ ‘strength under control.’ A war horse never ceased to be determined, strong and passionate. However, it learned to bring its nature under discipline. It gave up being wild, unruly, out of control and rebellious. A war horse learned to bring that nature under control. It would now respond to the slightest touch of the rider, stand in the face of cannon fire, thunder into battle and stop at a whisper. It was now ‘meek.’”

Meekness shows up in the Bible on a number of occasions. James writes, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls(James 1:19-21). As a church, last year we spent months looking at the life of Moses. In Numbers 12:3, Moses is described as being, “Very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” David writes in Psalm 37:11, “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”

As I was taking a closer look at our call to be meek, I am reminded of the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). These all coincide with the call for us to be meek. Within the Sermon on the Mount and throughout many of the teachings in Scripture, we really are called to “be” more than we are called to “do.” A lot of times I think it is easy to get discouraged by what we have done in our past, or by the things that we are not doing today that we wish we were. Maybe we need to wake up each day and focus firstly on who God is calling us to be, rather than the work we feel we need to accomplish, even in the name of Jesus. Through being meek, may we be filled with the strength of God to stand and face the battle, but disciplined enough to hear the gentle whisper of God as He leads and guides from within.

Gather • Devotion #6: Decisions

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Romans 15:1

On any given day, it is estimated that the average adult makes approximately 35,000 remotely conscious decisions. Researchers at Cornell University estimate that we make 226.7 decisions each day on food alone.

The decisions we make in a given day vary on a scale of importance and impact. Choosing to set (or not set) your alarm, what we choose to eat, which route you take to work, and many more decisions impact us and carry varying levels of “consequences.” 

If you are anything like me, most of these decisions (quite possibly all) are run through a filter of, “How does this impact me?” It is helpful to peel back another layer; I would also venture to say that I (we) will favor whichever side of decisions that favors us more, or “costs” us less (and I am not just talking strictly about money). I am not here to say that this thought process is inherently evil, but I would say that it is human nature. 

If you think of yourself as a “nice, good or thoughtful” person, I would hope that a handful of your approximately 35,000 daily decisions are done for the good of others. I mean, Jesus did list “loving your neighbor as yourself” as the second greatest commandment. Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind makes for a great start (ok, the best start), but there is more that we are called to do.

Jesus got right to the point when He challenged the disciples (and us) with these words recorded by Luke and Matthew, also known as “The Great Commission.” “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23).

These words challenge our very human nature, the sometimes subconscious and sometimes conscious tendencies or instinct to put ourselves first. We are called to deny ourselves daily, tending to the neighbors at our right and our left. He continues in the next verse, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

This goes against the very framework of our flawed selfish nature. You mean I have to give up my life in order to save my soul? That is a little more than just a monetary cost! 

In closing, I would like to leave you with the idea that decisions are not made as a result of a process of the mind, but rather of the heart. When it comes to the decisions that we make each day, who is it that we are choosing to serve? Then if and when we do choose to serve our neighbors, what are our intentions? These might be tough questions to reflect on or to answer. Jesus is calling us to first love Him with everything we have, and secondly to love our neighbor as we would ourselves. In reality, these are the first two decisions that we face each and every day. 



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