Devotions

Author Archives: Josh Thayer

Persecuted • Devotion #3: I Want Heaven’s Blessings

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

We have been exploring the Beatitudes (beautiful attitudes!) this month, and throughout these readings, Jesus highlights eight unexpected situations in which you receive God’s favor and blessings. As we get to the end of the Beatitudes, we see here in verse 10 nothing different but it does not sound easy.

When you read through each verse of the Beatitudes you can see how to be blessed. The word “blessed” means happiness. The beatitudes do not promise laughter, pleasure, or earthly prosperity (Which is what we all want, right?). I love laughing and enjoying life with the people that are the closest to me, and I enjoy buying new toys to play with. I mean, I am human, but that is not what Jesus is talking about here. 

To Jesus, “blessed” means the experience of hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances. Basically, you will be able to be happy no matter what is happening around you. To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, follow Jesus no matter what the cost. In verse 10 there is a deep cost, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew is saying to expect nothing in return except persecution. Do not expect anything from the world in return except criticism. Now that sounds fun, does it not? That is all I want is to be criticized, persecuted, and get nothing in return (says the extremely sarcastic person). However, God is with the persecuted church as you read the second half of this verse, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Message paraphrase says, “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.We will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, that is our blessing for being attacked here on earth for what we believe. It would not be an instantaneous blessing, like we may want. It is a long term blessing, one that you can take to the bank when you get to Heaven!

So, to pose a question, do you believe in Jesus enough that it is evident to others around you to receive persecution and criticism? That really puts this into perspective. You may be thinking to yourself as you consider your walk with Jesus, “Do I even love Jesus?” Relax, of course, you do, or you would not be pursuing holiness by reading this devotion today. It is one step closer, it is one more level up in your walk with Jesus. 

I love that 1 Peter 3:14-15 confirms a blessing when we are suffering for Jesus, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

It all goes back to what I stated in the beginning as we defined blessing. The blessings we will receive are not earthly blessings – they are heavenly blessings. When we are persecuted and attacked for what we believe we need to not fear our enemies but rather trust in God as the Lord of all. We must believe that Jesus is truly in control of all events. When He rules our thoughts and emotions, we cannot be shaken by anything our enemies may do for we are inheriting the blessings of Heaven! One day we will be with God in Heaven with no pain, no sadness, no fear, and all His glory and wonder! That is what we are striving for.

Peacemakers • Devotion #1: Peace is Personal

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

Matthew 5:9

Being a peacemaker is very difficult for individuals who are competitive. If we are going to throw a specific person under the bus, “I will volunteer as tribute!” If you have seen the movie or read the books from the quote I just casually tossed out (The Hunger Games), then you also know that the concept of peace really does not apply to any of them either. That is except for the main character, but I digress. 

It says in the Scripture above that peacemakers shall be called “sons of God.” That is a pretty significant statement in my opinion. Basically, if you showcase the trait of a peacemaker, when people see you in action they will be able to tell that you are a “son of God.” I mean nobody actually thinks of that phrase, but they would most likely say, “Hmm, what is different about them.” They may ask themselves, “Didn’t they say they go to church?” It is true when you think about it. I mean anytime I see my wife (who is the peacemaker in our home) acting as a peacemaker, I sarcastically think, “Man, she is getting into Heaven before me.”  

When you think of Jesus and you read the stories about what He was like here on Earth, all I think about is how peaceful He was. This was evident even when the Pharisees or other groups of people questioned Him or attempted to trap Him. I know if I was in Jesus’ place at that time, there would be some type of crazy altercation (in my head I am envisioning explosions and something similar to an action movie trailer). Jesus was always very chill and wanted nothing more than peace. Even when He flipped the tables in the temple, He was in full control of His emotions as He told them to remove the birds. 

If in our lives we want what the Bible states, to live like Christ and strive to be like Him, then a peacemaking life is something we should attempt to do. I say “we” should attempt to do it because at the end of the day peace is personal. 

Romans 12:18 adds, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Here Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome and he just started an excerpt on how followers of Christ should behave. I love how he opens up this verse, “If possible.” I just envision Paul saying good luck and laughing but he probably did not do that. He goes on to say, “So far as it depends on you.” This key phrase in that verse is where I want to end. Peace is personal and it will always depend on us. At the end of the day, we have the ability to determine how we are going to act in a specific situation. We have the ability to determine how we are going to live our lives. We can all be peacemakers or hellraisers if you want a strong contrast. Now you choose, what do you want to be known for, and what will honor Christ the most?

Meek • Devotion #3: Silent Night

We are in the middle of a study on the Beatitudes, which is part of Jesus’ longest recorded sermon. It is in this sermon that Jesus begins to describe the traits He is looking for in His followers. He said that God blesses those who live out these traits. I do not know about you, but when Jesus is pretty clear on what He is looking for I want to listen. We pick up on the third Beatitude that He mentions in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” 

Now, I am very much a feeler. It is part of the way I was designed. I feel everything in life. It can be from music, the tone of someone’s voice, to the sudden death scene in a movie. I relate everything to how it makes me feel and I sometimes have a hard time expressing myself with words. My wife is very much the opposite. She is logical, put together, and the smartest woman I know. 

Therefore, I logically looked at the word “meek” and it was not sinking into my mind. So I asked the smartest woman I know. What do you know? She spit out the literal definition of “meek” from Google. Then she said it reminded her of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. It is the part where she gets to the end of the movie and describes herself to the man behind the curtain as small and meek. So naturally, I tried to remember when I saw that movie last and realized I had no idea. It was another dead end for me. Then a few moments later it all clicked. My wife started humming the song silent night because she thought the word meek was in the song. (She was mistaken. She is human!) All of the sudden, I could feel the word meek just by singing a few lines from that song.

Silent night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

I was able to feel the quiet, gentle spirit behind the song. It is a song reminiscent of church, Christmastime, and singing while we lit candles in church. The feeling of peace and stillness came over me. It was the feeling like almost everything was standing still in time. The defining feeling of meekness is just that: a quiet, gentle, and humble spirit. Meekness is a trait in which some of us possess naturally, and others, like my loud self, do not naturally possess but we can develop. Look at Matthew 11:27-30:

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We can develop a meek spirit through Jesus Himself. It says in verse 28 to come to Jesus and He will give us rest. When you think of the concept of rest, it often requires a quiet, peaceful moment. The rest that Jesus promises is love, healing, and peace with God. When you find rest in God, you are able to extend that same rest – the quiet, humble, and gentle spirit to other people. Being able to approach life with a calm faith, humility before God, and hope in His deliverance brings freedom. Then you will enjoy great peace as the Bible says! That, my friends, is a trait Jesus is looking for in his followers.

“But the meek shall inherit the land

and delight themselves in abundant peace.”

Psalm 37:11

Gather • Devotion #5: Break the Silence

Have you ever felt alone? It is like you are on an island, but not a tropical island. There is no sun and it is rainy, cold, and dark. You feel goosebumps crawling up your arms and the wet dense sand between your toes. The cold moist wind is blowing right up the sleeves of your shirt. There is a heavy weight right in the middle of your chest, not physically of course, but metaphorically because you have something in your life of which you are ashamed. It is something you feel that you can never crawl out from under and something that nobody could ever relate to. 

What I just described is sin. It is more than just a physical act against God. It is a lot more emotionally torturous than most people think because when you are in the midst of sin you cannot see clearly. You cannot think clearly, and you feel alone. This is exactly what the devil wants you to feel. His goal is to make you feel completely separated from God, your friends and family, and even yourself. Once you are separated, you feel helpless and you do not know what to do and you do not know what to say. You fear being judged and outcast from everyone you care about. 

What if I told you that there was a way out? What if there was a lifeboat coming to shore to save you and bring you home? What if there was a way to break the silence and bring joy back into your life? The key is that all you have to do is tell someone what you are going through. It sounds really easy when you read it. Believe me. I know for some of you when you read that you swallowed and gulped the biggest fear you have ever felt. It is terrifying to be completely vulnerable in front of a peer and let them know of all your shortcomings. It is important to know what we were called to as believers.

Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

If you read that as I did, you would notice one big line right in the middle of those verses, “should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” For those of you that are going through something in your life, we want to be there for you and walk with you through whatever it is. We want to restore you. Can you imagine what that feels like? Try to remember the feeling you had before this sin weighed heavily in your life. Remember what it was like to be free? It is like taking a giant weight off your chest and finally being able to take the biggest breath you have desired for so long. We want to be gentle in the way we handle any situation as a believer, as to make sure we do not look down on you and make you feel any less than you are. At the end of the day, we will all struggle with something in our lives. Nobody is perfect and we all have shortcomings. God has called us as believers to do good to everyone, especially those who believe in Jesus!

Galatians 6:10 adds, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

So, let someone in your life. The one thing we cannot do as believers is guess. We will never know the full extent of what you are going through unless you tell someone. We cannot help unless you shut down the silence and open up to the feelings of joy. Once you break the silence, you will be on your first step to joy and freedom and you will not be alone. You will have a community of people closest to you walking with you. This is what God wants for your life. He will always be for you and never against you. He wants the best for you every moment of every day. All it takes is breaking the silence. You can do it. You are not alone. God has empowered people in your life to restore you with gentleness and love. 



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