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The Gospel of Reconciliation.

Timely and important thoughts from my good friend, Don @ One Bondservant’s Diary.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthian 5:17-19).

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen…” (Luke 24:30-35).

Only Dr. Luke records this post-resurrection event. Two downcast disciples of Jesus are leaving Jerusalem and returning to their home in Emmaus. They share with their unrecognized Lord how great their crucified Master was. Yet they could not veil the disappointment that their hopes that He was “the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21) had vaporized. “After all,” they said, “it has been 3 days since His death.” Jesus’ response was loving but stern: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26). Then He patiently explained that these events were the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and that Scripture had pointed to Him from the beginning (v. 27). And when they understood, they rushed back to Jerusalem with a renewed sense of enablement.

These followers of Christ were still living in the past, choosing to dwell upon Friday’s seemingly tragic events. They had been told that he was alive (v. 22-24) but, with their faith shattered and their heads staring down at the dirt road, they solemnly trudged home to their former life back in Emmaus. But they weren’t alone. Peter, along with some of the other disciples, had essentially done the same thing. Jesus had called them to be “fisher’s of men” but where did He find them after He had come victoriously from the grave? Fishing! For fish (see John 21:1-14)! Defeated by their failure to be faithful during Christ’s suffering and hopeless and helpless without the leadership of their Captain, they had returned to the same purposeless way of life they knew before they met Jesus. But upon seeing their risen Lord they made a mad dash to greet Him (John 21:7-8).

This season we celebrate Easter and Jesus’ expression of His continued presence with us, power in us, peace for us, and purpose through us that is clearly demonstrated by His resurrection. In the 40 days (Acts 1:3) before He ascended to the right hand of the Father He continually reminded His followers of those 4 things and made clear statements regarding each (see Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:36-49; John 21:15-19; Acts 1:1-11). All of this became a reality for His disciples as they waited in Jerusalem (the very place many had left following His crucifixion) for these promises to be fulfilled by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In other words, it was after Easter that the full impact of His resurrection was most realized in His followers and they, moving forward, led lives that demonstrated His continued presence, power, peace, and purpose. Just read the book of Acts for the dramatic aftermath.

My point? Let us not lose the inertia of our Easter worship and festivities. Many of us will be stirred by exhilarating music, emotional “Passion Plays,” and motivating sermons. But our experience of the profundity of His resurrection is not meant to end there. The influence of His resurrection is to be something that propels us all year around, day by day, moment by moment. Let us not, like these disciples, return to the routine of a former, spiritually trivial life, but let us be continually transformed by the “fellowship of His sufferings and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). May His presence, power, peace and purpose in and through us not fade after the invigorating crescendo of our Easter activities and focus. Instead, may our hearts continue to “burn within us” with an all-consuming passion that can only come from the ongoing sufficiency that His resurrection guarantees.

Let Jesus’ truth resonate with us: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Do we? Then let us be transported by the truth that His resurrection is to be experienced not just on a holiday but every day before and after. Let us not live like He is still dead. Let us not revert to the old passionless, mundane ways that we rose above during this sacred season. Let us magnify Him through His presence, power, peace, and purpose…even after Easter!

*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-nine – Jesus: The Messenger and the Message

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29).

Both the message and the messenger of the Sermon on the Mount prove unique, distinctive, and powerful. The Lord’s discourse is unlike anything ever heard; it completely contrasts ancient teachings and threatened the theological powerbrokers of the time. Not before Christ’s earthly ministry or after it has the world witnessed teaching of such authority, received instruction to prompt such radical change, or found education that so thoroughly challenges and inspires.

Jesus holds the position of the ultimate communicator and was often referred to by the honorable title of “Teacher.” But that designation proves a tremendous understatement. Christ told His followers that as the Messiah, He should be their only teacher (Matthew 23:10). In other words, His message is the only one that truly matters. The Sermon on the Mount, therefore, stands not just as the greatest sermon ever delivered; instead, it serves as the prologue to the incredible sacrifice Christ made at Calvary. It sets the stage for God’s redemptive strategy, proving that God has a plan to change human interactions, to reintroduce selflessness, and to restore fellowship between Himself and man. Two thousand years ago, on a hill outside Jerusalem, Jesus unveils much about His role as King as well as the intricacies of His kingdom. He speaks with divine authority. His words hold life-transforming power!

The Sermon on the Mount reveals Jesus as the Savior of the world. The narrow gate leading to eternal life. Further, Christ fulfills Old Testament Law: only through Him do sinful humans find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. As they sincerely surrender to Jesus, people begin to live by “the law of Christ,” the New Covenant standard (Galatians 6:2). This law of love supersedes, enhances, and deepens the principles of the Old Covenant and sums up the law of the prophets without nullifying them (see Matthew 22:34-40).

To one outside the Christian faith, the standard of living Christ sets in His sermon seems outrageous and impossible. But we must remember that all things—including loving the unlovable, releasing anxiety, and walking in righteousness—are possible in His power (Philippians 4:13). Further, Jesus never asked us to do anything He was unwilling to do. For thirty-three years He lived a mortal life, loving the unlovable, releasing anxiety to the Father, and walking in perfect righteousness. Jesus embodied the message He taught.

As we learn and are empowered to walk in Christ, we live out the mountainside message He shared. What a privilege to follow Him! 

Author’s Note

Not long ago a thirty minute lunch encounter shook my world. On a brief visit to the Wycliffe Bible Translators Ministry in Texas, I met an eighty-year-old translator and missionary who—along with his wife of fifty years—planned a return to the deepest jungles of Africa. I do not remember the man’s name, but I’m certain that God does.

For over ten years the man and his devoted wife worked with a remote and primitive people-group. In that time they translated small portions of the Bible into the villagers’ native tongue—a language for which there were virtually no books. By endearing themselves to the people by giving insight on how to keep the tribe’s newborns alive and free from pestilence, the two earned acceptance and eventually befriended them. Over the years, as they translated the critical New Testament texts and placed them in the hands of those who could communicate biblical truth to the tribe, the missionaries lived in tents and their target audience in huts. Their lives were not easy.

All of this happened several years before I met this devout man. The couple had long ago returned to the States in pursuit of retirement. God, however, gave them a new vision for how to spend their last days: they’d return to that African country to continue their outreach.

“This time we will tell stories of Jesus,” the man explained with a gleam of joy in his eye. “That will be quicker and more effective. The people will pass these stories along to later generations who will never be able to read.”

I asked, as the old missionary rose from the table, when they’d return home to the States.

“Actually,” he quickly replied, “we are going home. We will never return to America. We plan on dying there, in Africa, with our tribe. We have the good news to spread and little time remaining to do so. We have a King to serve and a kingdom to share.”

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Nineteen – Kingdom Prayer

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:”

‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

 your kingdom come,

your will be done

 on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:7-15).

Countless volumes address the deep significance of the model prayer Christ shared in Matthew 6. The passage provides incredible insights into God’s character and the way He desires Christ-followers relate to Him. Perhaps more than any other section of Scripture, this passage demonstrates that our dialogue with God stands as an intimate yet reverential kingdom-centered privilege. It exalts God’s plans, purposes, and will while acknowledging our dependence on Him for daily provision and practical holiness. This simple prayer resoundingly captures the astonishing essence of the grace-wrought relationship we have with our Father. Unfortunately, many people still view the passage as a script meant for recitation. Thousands know it by memory, but few understand its depth.

I love that Jesus preceded the model prayer with advice on what not to do. He begins by acknowledging that even the godless pray, but their prayers are insincere and frivolous. The term translated as “babbling” here can also be understood as “empty repetitions.”[i] According to Jesus, uttering meaningless words and failing to approach God in focused sincerity ignores the inward realities necessary to truly dialogue with our King. Reciting clichés without backing them in heart-induced authenticity fails to honor the Lord.

My friend Robin beautifully summarized what many Christ-followers experience in their prayer life. She saw her prayers as sign-posts in her spiritual journey: “When I was just born-again I struggled to say anything that made sense. After a few years of being in church, I learned to use a bunch of tired, empty phrases that held little meaning to me. You know—the kind of stuff you mindlessly and hurriedly spit out before a meal? But as I grew in the Lord I began to experience the awesomeness of His presence during my quiet time. Then my words took on heart-felt meaning, and I found myself having a real, dynamic, life-transforming conversation with my Lord.”

At the heart of Jesus’ dialogue with His Father, come these words: “hallowed (revered) be your name.” God’s ultimate glorification defines the goal of every prayer. Magnifying the Heavenly Father and approaching Him with the intent to follow His plans and purposes is primary. Our King is transcendent, majestic, and separated from His creation. Even Christ—His own Son and the exact representation of His glory—approached God with awe and the humility of a servant, recognizing His magnitude. This posture stands in sharp contrast to the man-centered “vain repetitions” the pagans use in calling out to the divine.

Amazingly, Christ encouraged listeners to approach God as “Father.” In doing this He allows a glimpse into the supernatural grace that restores our fellowship with God; in spite of our failings, we are allowed to call Him “our Father.” The Apostle Paul used the term Abba, meaning “Daddy,” to capture the beautiful intimacy that we can have with our King (Romans 8:15). Authentic kingdom prayer shows the personal nature of our sovereign Lord without diminishing His deity. God, great and glorious, provides omniscient care for the needs of His royal children.

The centrality of God’s kingdom provides the basis for Christ’s prayer. We should offer all of our praise and everything we ask of Him with this in mind. We must constantly acknowledge His dominion over creation, allowing our prayers to reflect passion for the on-going revelation of His reign. Our hearts should surge with the attitude, “Your kingdom come, your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven”! As we approach the Lord with this mentality, we stop thinking about ourselves and begin to focus on Him. This allows us to find peace and confidence in God’s sovereignty and affirms within us that He will capably provide what we most need.

Our Lord acknowledges God’s promise of physical provision in this life for His children as a general principle (see Matthew 6:25-31). Interesting that He advises us to pray for things that God has already promised to provide (i.e. our daily bread) and about needs that He is already aware of (Matthew 6:8). Provider of all that we have, God imparts the necessities and often blesses us with nonessentials. By praying for what He has already promised to provide (and often times already gives) we humbly recognize Him as the only source of all good things (James 1:17). We recall God’s greatness as our Provider and recognize His caring and compassion in our lives.

The prayer clearly reveals that Jesus desires His disciples pursue righteousness. Holy living is predicated on our understanding of His gracious forgiveness. When we grasp the beautiful forgiveness Christ offers us, we will reveal that understanding by adopting lifestyles of forgiveness. In order to mirror God’s purity, we must passionately pursue godliness, an inherent attribute of His chosen people. Recognizing God’s holiness and falling in love with Him sparks within us a passion for purity. As we pursue blamelessness and extend forgiveness, we reflect Him.

Studying the model prayer always prompts my heart: Do my prayers come across as vain, selfish, empty, or shallow? Or does my communication with Him project an intimacy that compels me to glorify Him? Do I plead for His kingdom’s expansion? Do I exhibit a heart grateful for His underserved provision? How often do I yearn for a holy life that reflects His absolute purity? Jesus prompted us to pray kingdom-centered prayers to an incomprehensibly supreme King. Only when I give God the focus, reverence, and surrender He requires do my prayers match with the principles Christ laid out in Matthew.  

Apply It.

Jesus encourages us to find, as He did, a place of solitude to pray (see Mark 1:35; Matthew 6:6). Considering life’s busyness and distraction, we must consistently find a place and time that allows us intimate communion with our Father without interruption. Does this reflect your practice? Ask God to give you the discipline to daily fellowship with Him in a place of quiet.

[i] Robertson, A. T.  Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament (Broadman Press, 1960).

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Eighteen – The Rewards of Selfless Service

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-6).

Throughout Matthew 5 Jesus spoke on righteousness and the importance of a believer’s purity, devotion, and influence. As a new chapter opens, Christ encourages genuineness and the absence of hypocrisy, further expanding listeners’ understanding of kingdom character. He turns first to the nature of religious exercises, calling people to serve God authentically and insisting that they do so without show or self-promotion. Kingdom living requires that we stop going through the motions of giving, serving, and worshipping. Ostentatious religion proves unacceptable: the Lord desires that we live in sincerity, carefully honoring Him instead of elevating ourselves.

To understand the context of this passage, consider Luke 18:9-14. With a gloating attitude of self-righteousness, a Pharisee stood and prayed about himself! Bragging on his piety, moral superiority, and “good works,” he likely filled the temple with his voice, drowning out the soft but sincere cries of those—like the despised tax collector—who sought God’s attention and not the spotlight. This parable illustrates the dichotomy between those seeking to serve God out of a pure heart and those doing so for personal gain. One is accepted (justified) by God, and the other has received all the reward they will ever get; the praise of men.

In the first verses of Matthew 6, Jesus mentions three traditional and prominent practices commonly held by many religions: giving (Matthew 6:2-4), praying (Matthew 6:5-6), and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). In general, all are good and commended. If, however, the motives behind them are wrong, they morph into meaningless and empty activities void of spiritual substance or eternal reward. Why? Because when we do these things for attention or to make ourselves feel spiritual, we fail to glorify God.

To the church at Galatia, Paul posed this question: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?” (Galatians 1:10). Within this query he acknowledged the natural tendency all believers face. We generally seek approval in the tangible here and now as opposed to the spiritual and eternal. Should we succumb to temptation, we’ll soon exalt man’s opinion and our self-image over God.

I recall a painful lesson I learned during my early ministry. Soon after seminary I pastored a fairly large church that provided a deceptive ego boost for a young preacher in his twenties. With my appointment came the insidious growth of spiritual pride. I quickly began to operate as more of a professional pastor than a servant leader: I soaked up and began to believe the adulation and prestige that came with my new position. Thinking I’d arrived, I began to trust in my own abilities and education instead of depending on God to do His work through me. The church grew numerically, but my intimacy with God gradually declined. It didn’t take long before my arrogant house of cards toppled; “my” church was gone. God shook me out of my pretense, humbled me, and reminded me that “a haughty spirit goes before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Outward religious show versus God-centeredness defines the essence of hypocrisy. Even the most dedicated believer will sometimes fail to live up to God’s standards, but when we portray ourselves as something untrue, we deserve the label “hypocrite.” The term comes from the Greek word, hypokrites, and refers to acting. When we begin to replace heart-righteousness with empty practices, we fail to love the Lord. While our outward displays of piety—tossing an envelope of pocket change in the offering plate, singing in the choir after a night of arguing with family members, or serving on the hospitality committee though we complain about it for hours afterward— may look good to observers, God stands unimpressed. Jesus, addressing this tendency, referred to the Pharisees as cups “clean on the outside but dirty on the inside” (Luke 11:39). He saw them as “white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). Should we perform deeds meant to exalt ourselves and not to honor God, we’ll earn the same harsh comparisons.

Attitude and focus count! Only deeds done out of a sincere desire to honor God prove worthy of reward. Anything we do to gain points with onlookers will fail to honor Him. The Lord wants us to let go of our pride, that critical barrier between God and man. Since humanity disobeyed in the garden, we’ve struggled against self-centeredness, often opposing God and ignoring His perception of who we really are. But believers must remember Christ’s lesson in Luke 18: Only the broken “sinner,” who felt contrite and transparent in his pleadings before God “went home justified before God” (v. 14). Why? Jesus answers, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v.14).

In First Corinthians 3:13-14 Paul explained, “[our] work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.” One day each believer will stand before God. Those who’ve served with authentic faith and a desire to honor Him will receive the ultimate honor. From His mouth we’ll hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).

Apply It.

Read and mediate on First Timothy 6:18-19. List your good deeds and assess your motives. Are they selfless and propelled by your love of God and others? Do you think they deserve God’s “well done”? Pray that God would compel you to live in a way that seeks His eternal rewards and not earthly ones.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twelve – The Dangerous Consequences of Anger

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something
against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Settle matters quickly with
your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you
over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny”
(Matthew 5:21-26).

In Matthew 5:21 Jesus begins to systematically contradict secular wisdom with godly wisdom. Six times throughout the chapter He uses the preface, “you have heard that it was said … but…,” to introduce the new laws of His kingdom, laws revised to show the transforming power of the work He accomplished. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, believers receive not just the promise of Heaven but the ability to live abundantly and to love fully. In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ raises the bar on good behavior, showing us that we are responsible not for just our actions and words but for the thoughts
and motivations behind them.

I find it interesting that Christ chooses to first focus on the subject of anger. While Ephesians 4:26 suggests that anger alone is not a sin and the fact that Christ was sometimes angry supports the idea, wrath and its fallout encompass an all too common problem in our world. Even professing believers struggle with anger towards others. A friend, Tina, was eaten up by anger. She had endured numerous disappointing relationships with close friends, her ex-husband, co-workers, and even her parents. “My anger is killing me,” she admitted with tears in her eyes. Over the years her animosity festered until it affected every aspect of her life. She grew depressed, detached, and physically ill. After years of suppressed rage, she ended her own life. Each time Tina’s face comes to mind, I remember the importance of dealing with anger quickly and completely.

Jesus blessed those who promote peace, but He knew that conflict and persecution would come to those who follow Him. While Christ calls us to pursue
righteousness in a world filled with anger and even murder, the injustices heaped on us and those we love may tempt us to follow suit. But we must understand that while righteous indignation has a place, retaliation does not. The Bible does not prohibit killing of every kind: capital punishment, war, and self-defense are allowable. Murder, however, is never acceptable. From Christ’s perspective, anger nursed into unforgiveness equals murder.

Jesus took exception too with one tendency that often goes hand-in-hand with anger: casting doubt on someone’s value or inherent worth. The word raca, or “fool” often meant “empty.” It conveys the idea that someone is so worthless that they should get off the planet. Perhaps we understand this best through the modern phrase, “go to hell.” Taking this approach suggests that we desire an individual dead. Such an attitude, Christ taught, actually puts us in danger of the very thing we think they should face: the fire of hell. Hateful thoughts, attitudes, and insults put us in grave danger. Not just saying cruel, demeaning things but also thinking them puts us in jeopardy. God sees the attitude behind anger as tantamount to murder!

Out of control anger reflects a spiritual issue and a matter of the heart. Jesus indicates that it can create barriers between us and God as well as between us and others. These barriers pack severe consequences. For this reason, Jesus taught that anger should be resolved proactively and quickly. For example, issues with a brother must be settled before we worship and before they lead to unfortunate fallout. As we “settle matters quickly,” we remove the attitude behind anger and drain it of power. A believer must neither let anger dominate nor allow it room to damage relationships.

So often we allow anger towards others to smolder, shrinking and even killing our spiritual vitality. We often fail to heed Jesus’ cry for immediate action—an order that could restore relationships and put us in a better standing before God and man. Our great enemy in seeking to follow His will on the subject is pride. Kingdom living requires that we demonstrate character traits diametrically opposed to pride. Christ’s model of humility compels us to deal with our anger and to resolve lingering conflicts. We serve a righteous judge. He does not want us overly concerned with who is right or wrong in a matter; instead, He wants us to choose to do the right thing in every situation.

Unresolved animosity carries a steep price tag. The angry heart suffers more than the object of its fury. I have never met an angry person who I would consider “blessed” or content; in truth, living with a wrathful attitude proves its own kind of judgment and prison. We do not experience the fullness of God’s kingdom in us or live out the pure and profound principles of His kingdom with a heart filled with enmity. We must deal with anger quickly and completely through humility, repentance, and forgiveness. Only then will we find ourselves restored to a greater sense of favor with both our fellow man and our King.

Apply It.

Read Hebrews 12:15. Think about a time that your anger turned into bitterness. Journal about how you moved passed it to embrace the freedom Christ offers. If you currently struggle with anger, meditate on First Peter 5:6-11. Ask God to take away negative thoughts and feelings. Pray that He lifts you up and gives you the grace to cope.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

*Section 1 – Kingdom Character

Four – The Rich Inheritance of the Meek

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

In the third beatitude Jesus quotes the psalmist who said, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes … But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace … Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land” (Psalm 37:7, 11, 34). Christ, unlike the psalmist, spoke not just of a point when the Israelites would take possession of a certain property, but of a time when His Heavenly kingdom—the place where God dwells with man—would physically lower to the earth (see Revelation 3:12). On the day that happens, the meek will rule there with Him (see Revelation 20:6).

According to the Lord, the control of the wicked over this world is just a mirage. God allows godless people to sit on thrones, corrupt men and women to hold government positions, and wicked people to influence decisions; but the Lord still stands in charge. Ultimately, sin will die and He will visibly establish His dominion. When He does, the meek will inherit the planet—a new earth, renewed and transformed by its Creator.

We, like many listeners who heard Christ’s words uttered two thousand years ago, may recoil at the concept of meekness in this context because we do not understand its meaning. Often people equate meekness with weakness, but such is not the case. The Greek word for “meekness” brings to mind a person who is gentle, humble, and considerate in nature due to the exercising of self-control. The New English Bible translates this portion of Matthew 5:5 as “those of a gentle spirit.” Meekness, then, is not a lack of strength but harnessed and self-controlled strength. For example, a wild horse that has been “broken” was sometimes referred to as having been “meeked.”[i] The animal’s power had been gentled and harnessed. Likewise, when we learn to live in brokenness before God, His infinite power is unbridled in us (see 2 Corinthians 13:4). When we let go of our pride and self-promotion, God’s power is released in us, through us, and around us. We become more like Jesus, who described Himself with the term (Matthew 11:29).

Secular humanism encourages us to make much of ourselves while exalting the overall greatness, wisdom, and goodness of man. The philosophy essentially makes each person the ruler of his or her kingdom. I’m reminded of an acquaintance, an avowed humanist. “I can set my own rules,” he pompously barked one day. “I determine what is right and wrong and best for me. It’s all relative. It’s all about what makes me happy. Linden, you can do the same for yourself.”

As he paused for breath, I couldn’t help but interject, “It’s okay, then, if I steal your wallet? After all, I think that is what’s best for me and you’ve suggested that there are no real consequences.”

“Uh, uh,” he stammered, “I don’t think I’d take it that far.”

Thankfully, God later intervened in his life, humbled him, revealed the falseness of his ideology, and convinced him that he would eventually give an account to an authority higher than himself. But my friend’s old attitude that says, “It’s all about me,” represents a tragic and false view of life and eternity. While this line of thinking prevails in our culture, Jesus clearly teaches that those who will reign with Him in His kingdom do not busily build themselves up and sing their own praises. Only the meek will inherit His kingdom.

Living in meekness shows that a person holds an accurate estimation of himself in relation to others—most importantly, in relation to our King. This state allows us to rejoice in the mystery that the King of the universe considers us “miserable sinners” worthy of grace. It totally transforms the way we relate to God and others as we live in a posture of contentedness and joyful service.

Perhaps it doesn’t appear so in the present, but this earth is God’s gift to His people. In a very real but spiritual sense, the seemingly deprived and impoverished meek can enjoy all that is Christ’s: we can marvel at creation, thrive in relationships, grow in love, and work with purpose. Even though the Heavenly city has not yet descended, we can live in the contentment and blessedness of God’s spiritual kingdom as we “possess” all that is His. “All things are yours …,” Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthian Christians, “the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

Rudolf Stier sums up the blessed and counter-cultural power of meekness before God and others: “Self-renunciation is the way to world-dominion.”[ii] Only the plan of the sovereign King of Kings could devise such a kingdom and chosen grace as the means of entrance!

Apply It.

Read Zephaniah 3:11-12. Do an honest self-assessment. Do you often trust in your own abilities, act prideful, or consider yourself better than others? The trap of self-reliance entices all of us, so ask God to break you of any such attitudes, making you humble before Him and others. Daily choose to trust only in Him.

[i] Carter, J.W. “The Spiritual Integrity of a Holy Life” American Journal of Biblical Theology. November 23, 2003.

[ii] Stier, Rudolf. The Words of the Lord Jesus (T. and T. Clark, 1874), 105.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –     

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit, backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

“Yet there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him” (John 6:64, NIV). 

Recently we were praying in our community group. The focus of our prayers was specifically on each other. One family in particular has and is experiencing tremendous trial and tribulation. It seems as if they are being attacked on every front, from within and without. Bypassing all the details (and you would be astounded if I could list them all), I can’t even begin to imagine how they have struggled physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet it was the dear husband who uttered these words concerning those unbelievers God has placed in their circumstances: “God is sovereign and we know that even those who don’t believe are channels of His grace.”  Now how does that strike you? For me it was a resonating reminder! 

Yes, I believe in God’s sovereignty (although I don’t pretend to completely understand it, nor can fully explain it) but here was someone who, in the midst of great personal suffering, is truly believing God is in control. He understands that God uses whomever He wishes, in whatever way He desires, in order that His will (purposes) be accomplished. God will use even ‘unregenerate’ men to achieve His ends. Nothing can stop His will from being accomplished in the lives of His elect (see Isaiah 55. especially vs. 7-13). From history we can see that despite wickedness – and often outright heresy – God has designed all things so that His elect be set apart for His own glory. And this is true no matter what our perception of our circumstances may be. 

So, for the encouragement of my own faith and humility, I did a quick search on various verses that speak to God’s divine orchestration over the affairs of men. I recommend you do the same for yourself so that we all may more clearly see God for who He truly is – and who we aren’t – God! Of the many passages that speak to God’s absolute sovereignty, here are but a few to contemplate: 

  • Psalm 115:3: “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.”  
  • Psalm 135:6: “The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.”  
  • Isaiah 46:10: “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”  
  • Lamentations 3:37-38: “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?”

Scripture has many examples of God using unbelievers as channels of His grace. Just look at the life and, most importantly, death of Jesus. We see the Pharisees, Roman rulers and soldiers, those who supported the release of Barabbas, and even one of His own disciples facilitating His mission, “to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Each of these unbelievers played a role in the necessary crucifixion of Christ – which is the greatest of all demonstrations of grace. Judas’ wickedness, as we see in John 6:64, was noted over and over in Scripture. He is called a “betrayer” (Matthew 10:4), a “traitor” (Luke 6:16), a “devil” (John 6:70), and a “thief” (John 12:6). Judas is shown as one who was motivated and possessed by Satan (John 13:2, 27), and as “the son of destruction” (John 17:12). One biblical scholar commented, “It is as though the evangelists could not paint this man black enough in retrospect.” Herbert Lockyer writes, “There are 40 verses in the New Testament in which there is a reference to the betrayal of our Lord, and in each of them the dastardly sin of Judas is recorded.”

Yet God used Judas Iscariot. He used Him as a channel of grace. Jesus said that he was “lost” so that Scripture might be fulfilled (see John 17:12). I’m not debating here whether Judas chose his role or was chosen for it. I’m just saying God used this wicked man and his terrible deed to accomplish His purpose in Christ dying on that cross. So, in a unique sense, by this most heinous crime of betraying the son of God, Judas played a role in the salvation of God’s children. 

So what does this mean to me? If God used Judas in my own salvation (and He did), then I should feel an extraordinary sense of security and peace. For if God is so sovereign (and He is) as to use the likes of Judas as a channel of grace to all who surrender to Christ, then whom or what should I fear? For He is in total control – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“At the end of that time I…praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.  All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” Now I praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just…” (Daniel 4:34-35, 37, NIV).


March 29, 2011

We have two friends, both who model their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, with serious liver problems. Sheila and Barry are similar in many ways – about the same age, faithful to their families and their Lord. Sheila has been waiting on both a liver and kidney transplant. Barry is suffering from liver cancer and was hoping for a new liver as well. Providentially, they are even in the same hospital. But in the space of just a few hours their stories diverged. Today, on the very same day, they got “the call.”   

Sheila’s call was one of hopeful expectation. A donor had been found and she was rushed to Vanderbilt hospital to await the donor harvesting and a next day surgery. This organ donation could give her restored physical health after years of dialysis and debilitation. Because someone had died with such grace, donating their body parts that others might live, she had reason to rejoice, even though it was with understandable anxiety.

Barry’s call was quite different. He had fought and waited, praying to see his youngest son grow into maturity. There was no transplant for him and it was too late. He had less than one week to live. The last time I talked to Barry, just after a Sunday school class, he affirmed his faith in a sovereign God and said he prayed daily that he would remain firm in his faith no matter what was in store for him in this life. Today we found out Barry was being called home. 

April 1, 2011  

From Sheila’s journal: 

“I [Sheila’s husband, Don] just got a phone call from Sheila’s nephrologist (kidney specialist) at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. This doctor, one of the few experts in Sheila’s disease has been following and driving Sheila’s care since the original diagnosis in 2007. The outpouring of love this week for Sheila (& me) has been enormous. Thank you to all the doctors and nurses who have been involved in Sheila’s care and to you all for your love, prayers and support. We couldn’t get through this without it. Sheila has enjoyed a mostly restful day and might move out of the ICU this weekend.”  

From an email updating Barry’s condition: 

“Barry’s ex-wife just called. They were preparing to take Barry home this afternoon, but his blood pressure continues to drop. So they are going to keep him at Vanderbilt and remove his IV’s and let him pass there.  That could happen any time today.” 

April 2, 2011 

From Don, Sheila’s ever-faithful husband: 

“Great news! Sheila is no longer classified as critical care. She’s just another average patient in recovery from surgery now, albeit one with 2 new organs in her tummy. Thanks for your ongoing prayer support.” 

The latest on Barry: 

The countdown is now calculated in hours. His family, including his two sons, has gathered by his side. His funeral service has been planned. Barry’s call will soon be answered and he will have a glorious face-to-face meeting with His Jesus. And he will soon exchange his worn out earthly tent for his “house from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:2).


I know God is sovereign and I praise him for that, just like Nebuchadnezzar did in the 4th chapter of Daniel. It brings me great peace, hope, and joy that He is. But since I’m incapable of fully understanding or explaining Sheila and Barry’s story, may I be so bold as to take Paul’s words to the Philippian church and apply it to their situation? I hope this honors them and the sovereign God they serve – for to Him is all the glory forever and ever, Amen. 

[Sheila and Barry] – “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. [Sheila] – For to me to live is Christ, [Barry] –  and to die is gain. [Sheila]If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. [Barry]My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. [Sheila] But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Philippians 1:18-24).

Mac and Clara are our cats. Mac is a pure bred Siamese male and Clara is a “tortie” female. For their entire lives (nearly 10 years for Mac and nearly 15 for Clara) they had lived in a feline free environment. In other words, they lived in solitude and peace and had the undivided attention of their adoring masters. All of this changed when Rebekah and I married and I brought Mac to his new house. The 18 mile ride from our old house to our new one traumatized him. Which makes total sense; the last time he went for a car ride he was neutered and declawed (which hurts me to think about it – ouch). It took Mac several days to come out from under the bed and begin to make himself familiar with his new residence. Once he did, the conflict began. After all, he was determined to make it his house! 

Mac quickly became a serious irritant to Clara. Actually he terrorized her. She is crippled with arthritis and obesity, rendering her almost motionless. Her main slug-like journeys are but a few feet – to the food and water, to the litter box, and back to the couch where she spends 95% of her life. Mac is freakishly athletic, sneaky, and downright mean in his ambition of dominance. He moves very quickly, leaps great distances, and uses his physical prowess to trap her (usually when she is exiting the bathroom or eating). He hopes to catch her in a vulnerable position so he can get a sniff of her hind quarters or “box” her with his clawless front paws. He instigates some sort of conflict at least a few times a day in his quest to be the alpha cat. 

Mac is the predator and Clara is his prey. He is relentless in his pursuit and she is always peaceable and quiet unless antagonized. Mac plays the part of the sinister villain and she is the sweet, defenseless, disabled octogenarian. This is why I call him “Worthless” and her “Precious.” And no amount of cajoling or “punishment”  deters Mac from his maniacal, evil obsession to control her and his territory. But, I’m reminded, this is the way of the nature – these are animals and they behave based upon their instincts. We clearly see this in God’s creation – there is a food chain and survival of the fittest. Various animal species have an innate enmity. There is the hunter and the hunted. Just watch NatGeo sometime to get a glimpse of the cruel culture of the animal kingdom. 

And such is the way of homo sapiens as well. And it is not just in emerging or 3rd world countries we see this played out. Pure capitalism has its roots in this dynamic of win or lose, be victorious or be extinguished, and survival of the most ambitious and driven. Often times to “get ahead” in our culture we have wrongly learned that we must intentionally be the predator and not the prey. You know, we don’t want to be a “loser” in our battle for financial, social, and political power. That’s, after all, what separates the elite from the lower class. 

But such in not the case in the kingdom of God. Isaiah foreshadows this when he prophesied: 

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.  The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.  They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9). 

And how can this be? Just read the breathtaking description of the coming Messiah in the first 5 verses of this same chapter. He is a Branch of Jesse on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests. In supernatural wisdom and knowledge will He rule and reign. With righteousness and faithfulness He will lift up the poor and slay the wicked with the rod of His mouth. And He will cause a calm that defies the world’s brutality and contentiousness that we now see. Natural enemies will lie together in peace, He will vanquish the wicked, and His remnant will be preserved and exalted (see 11:10-16). And all this will happen so that He is seen and savored as both righteous judge and harmonizing ruler. So that He will be magnified as the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). 

This very same Messiah characterized those who will experience this kingdom of peace in Matthew 5:1-11. He called them broken, mourning, meek, desperate for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and the persecuted. In a sense, He called them “losers.” Losers, however, that are precious to this Branch of Jesse, this Prince of Peace. Peter describes those of us under His kingdom rule as “rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious [to Him]” (1 Peter 2:3). Those that may not end up “on top” in this life but will be glorified with Him throughout His eternal kingdom of undisturbed peace.

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