Singing at Midnight

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From last week we learned that Paul and Silas did what God told them to do and ended up beaten and in jail. That’s in the Book of Acts, chapter 16, Now they are in jail. It’s about midnight. What would you be doing? Wishing you had never come here? Mad at God? Mad at yourself? Mad at the friend who came with you? Depressed?

Not for Paul and Silas. They were praying and singing songs to God. Singing at midnight. How could they do that?

They knew God was still in control. They knew they were blessed if they were punished for doing the right thing. Yes their bodies hurt, but they put their focus on God, not the jail and not their injuries.

We all have ‘midnights’. Those are dark times in our lives where everything seems to be wrong. Paul and Silas kept their focus on God. They remembered how powerful and faithful God is. They trusted Jesus.

Paul and Silas sang at midnight. What about you?

Obey God and It Blows Up?

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Sometimes we make mistakes and things blow up. Sometimes we don’t do what God wants and things blow up. When that happens, we need to be mature. We need to admit the mistake and ask forgiveness if appropriate. We need to at least try to fix the mistake. Then we need to move on.

But can you truly obey God and it blows up? If you have enough faith, do you always win?

In Acts 16 we find this story: Not long after Jesus died, rose again and went to heaven, two Christians, Paul and Silas, were told by God to go tell others about Jesus. Off they went. They wanted to tell people in one town about Jesus.. God said not that one. They wanted to go to another town. God said not that one. Finally God told Paul to go to Macedonia. Today Macedonia is called Greece. Paul and Silas obeyed God and went there and told people about Jesus.

Two men got mad at Paul for kicking a demon out of their slave girl. The men went to the city leaders and made trouble for Paul and Silas. Paul and Silas were beaten with rods and put into jail for the night.

Did Paul and Silas do anything wrong? No. They obeyed God. It blew up. Why? Because other people weren’t obeying God.

They are blessed who are persecuted for doing good, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Matthew 5:10.

Understand Christian, that you can do everything exactly they way God tells you to do and still fail. You can obey God and it still blows up. Don’t feel guilty about that. Don’t feel ashamed. What should you do? Tha't’s next.

Two Teams

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“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: A servant is not greater than his master. If people did wrong to me, they will do wrong to you, too. And if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours, too. They will do all this to you on account of me, because they do not know the One who sent me. John 15:18-21

Suppose you go to a LA Rams playoff game in San Francisco. 65,000 fans are screaming love for their team. One problem. You support the Seahawks. You open your jacket and people can see the Seahawk colors. Will the Rams fans love you?

Some people love God. Some hate Him. Two teams. That’s what Jesus is saying here. If you are on “Team Jesus”, people who hate Jesus will hate you too. That’s just the way it is. Don’t be surprised.

Remember two things. First, if people do bad things to you because you do the right thing, you are blessed. See what I wrote below. Second, the world may hate us because of Jesus, but we do not hate them. They are not the enemy. They are future brothers and sisters in Christ. We love them the same way Jesus loves them.

Go shine!

Persecuted for doing good? Blessed!

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They are blessed who realize their spiritual poverty, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Matthew 5:3

They are blessed who are persecuted for doing good, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Matthew 5:10

Jesus is teaching what kinds of people are blessed by God. The top verse starts the section. The bottom verse ends the section. See the same words?

Persecution means being punished or attacked for who you are or what you believe. Have you ever been punished or attacked for doing something right and good?

The Bible describes a fight between good and evil; between God’s ways and everything else. Sometimes when you do good things people thank you and praise you. But sometimes they fight you because they don’t like people doing good things. They don’t like God’s ways, so they will fight you.

So what happens when someone fights and hurts you because you did good? Don’t feel sad or bad. Understand that you are on God’s team, doing God’s work. God blesses you for doing that! Be happy for that.

Peacemaker

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How many jobs can you think of? Construction worker. Doctor. Parent. Child. Cook. Electrician. Child care. Many, many more. Each has some importance. In Matthew 5:9 we read about a very special job. This job is very close to God’s heart: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

What’s a peacemaker? The word means to join things together. Tying two pieces of rope together. Gluing pieces of wood together. Here it means bringing enemies together so they don’t hate each other anymore. Peace means more than “no war”. It means open sharing and caring for each other.

Making peace is so important to God that peacemakers are called His children.

Look at Jesus. People dishonor and fight against God. They are enemies and God will punish them. Jesus made peace between God and people. Jesus took our punishment. Jesus takes away our dishonor. He make peace. God then gives us honor.

Are you a peacemaker?

Pure 2

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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:9.

When Moses spent time with God, his face would shine, Exodus 34:29.. When Moses went back to the people, the shine was faded, II Corinthians 3:13. Back to God? Shine again. Time away? Shine goes away. It came from being with God.

When we spend time with God, our heart, our ‘insides’ shine. No time with God? No inside shine.

The question was, “Describe yourself when you were really following Jesus closely.” Many said peaceful, some said wise, courageous, joyful, patient. Then, Christian, what were you like when you weren’t paying attention to Jesus? Less joy, less patience, no peace, feel dry inside.

So how do you get closer to God. How to think more of His thoughts? People said worship, obey what He tells you to do, read His word, pray, hold onto His promises.

How closely are you following Jesus? How much do your ‘insides shine’? Want to think more like God? What do you need to do this week?

Pure

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They are blessed whose thoughts are pure, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

How often do we do the right thing for the wrong reason? Some examples from our people on Sunday? A man opens a door for a woman so he can check her out. A woman agrees to go out on a date for the free meal. We give a gift so we can both use it. We do something nice for someone so they will owe us.

Most times we think we can fool other people. They won’t see our real reason. Does this work with God? Can we fool God?

How to get that pure heart? It starts with Jesus cleaning you. Then we depend on His Spirit in us to live right. We know ‘one face’ is important. We spend time in God’s word. We spend time with God’s people who can build us up, give us good examples and who love us enough to correct us when we go wrong.

The blessing from a pure heart? Seeing God.

What are your thoughts this week?

Mercy and forgiveness

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“Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy,” Matthew 5:7.

Mercy and forgiveness. Same or different?

Forgiveness means to cancel or erase a debit. Suppose you owe somebody money. That person then tells you he or she has cancelled your debt. You now owe nothing. That’s forgiveness. You go from negative to OK. Jesus forgives our sins. He cancels the debt. We owe nothing. We are not guilty. We are forgiven.

Mercy is different. You help the person. Maybe you make their day easier, or remove pain or fear. Mercy is active, you’re doing something to help that other person. When Jesus healed people He showed them mercy.

It’s very important to understand that all this starts with God. He shows us mercy. He forgives us. Now we are free to live His way. We are now free to show mercy to others. We do not show mercy to buy mercy from God. We do mercy because God was merciful to us. We live Jesus’ way. We have mercy on others.

The blessing? Because of Jesus in our hearts, we are free to show mercy. When we show mercy, sometimes others are merciful to us. More importantly, God is merciful to us.

This week, how much mercy can you show?

Heads and Tails

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Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (NCV)
They are blessed who hunger and thirst after justice, for they will be satisfied. (NIV)

Both are Matthew 5:6. See the big difference? One says, “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” and the other, “hunger and thirst after justice.” Huh? The Greek word is “dikaiosúnē.” It means both righteousness and justice. How does that work?

Two sides of the same coin, heads and tails. Righteousness is the person doing the right thing. Justice is the community, the society doing the right things.

The problem today is this: The conservative, right wing, of the church focuses on righteousness and not so much on justice. The liberal, left wing, of the church focuses on the justice and not so much on righteousness. In God’s eyes, both are important. Two sides of the same coin.

The challenge today for us is to hunger and thirst for both. And remember, true righteousness, true justice is only going to truly happen through Jesus. We work for it now. We hunger and thirst for it now. And we know it truly happens only when Jesus comes again.

Stay hungry. Stay thirsty!

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We continue learning about “righteousness”. Think of a high jump bar. If you get over the bar, you’re good. You’re “righteous”. If you don’t, you’ve failed.

“But be holy in all you do, just as God, the One who called you, is holy. It is written in the Scriptures: “You must be holy, because I am holy.” I Peter 1:15,16. That is the “high jump bar” God gives us. God never sins. We must not.

The problem is, we do things we know we shouldn’t do. We don’t do things we should do. Both are sins. We all do these things.

Which means we’re stuck. None of us are as good as God requires. Now what?

Jesus. Jesus was not a “good man”. He is 100% God and 100% human. The Son of God became a human. He experienced the same things you and I experience. Only one thing was different. Jesus never did anything wrong. Jesus always did the right thing. Jesus was holy. Jesus was righteous.

And then Jesus died on the cross for us. He took our punishment. With Jesus in your heart, God does not see your sins. God see Jesus. And then God accepts you, adopts you into His family.

We don’t try hard to be righteous because we want to buy God’s love. That’s impossible. We know we are forgiven because of Jesus. Because we are forgiven, we want to please God. That’s a big difference.

What about you? Trying to buy God’s love? Do you have God’s love through Jesus and now are trying to live God’s way?

Righteousness?

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Jesus is teaching people how to live God’s way. It’s called the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:5. What does righteousness mean?

High jumpers have to get completely over the bar. Going under the bar is no good. Jumping into the bar is no good. If every part gets over the bar but the heel just knocks the bar off, the jump is no good.

God doesn’t accept 70% good from us. Or 85%. Or 95%. God Himself is 100% perfect. He expects that from all of us. That is the bar for everyone. 100% perfect. Every day. All our lives.

Ouch! I’m not close to 100%. Neither are you. So what do we do?

That’s for next week!

1-2-3

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“They are blessed who realize their spiritual poverty,  for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
 They are blessed who grieve,  for God will comfort them.
 They are blessed who are humble,  for the whole earth will be theirs. Matthew 5:3-5

Making a cake? 1: mix ingredients in the bowl. 2. Bake in the oven. 3. Frost the cake! Building a house? 1. Put in the foundation. 2. Put up walls and roof. 3. Paint! That’s the way it works.

Following Jesus? We understand we are wrong, Jesus is right. We are weak, Jesus is strong. We can’t. He can. We are spiritually poor. That’s 1.

Then we understand more and more just how shameful our actions have been. Jesus’ ways and our ways are so different. We feel badly for what we’ve done. That’s step 2.

Next is how we treat others. We were wrong, we were shameful. How do we treat others? Are we proud and cruel? Are we humble? Do we act better than others? Are we humble because we know Jesus so kindly and graciously forgave us?

1-2-3.

Easter

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Jesus said to her, Mary Magdalene, “Don’t hold on to me, because I have not yet gone up to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going back to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:17

Take a moment and think about all the bad things people do to each other. Think about the bad things you’ve done to people. Or wanted to do to people. That’s the reason for the cross. Evil must be punished. Jesus took all our evil to the cross. He paid the price for us.

Now take a moment and think of all the good things a loving father does for his child. Think of the good things that good father signs or says to his child. Think of the love that good father has for his child. Jesus told Mary Magdalene that He was going back to God. But things have changed! God was Jesus’ Father, yes. But now God is our Father too. That’s the reason for Easter.

If you have Jesus, you have the Father’s love. Don’t have Jesus? Now you know what Jesus did for you. Thank Jesus for that. Ask Jesus to forgive you. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and lead you. Then know the Father’s love for you.

Think about that!

Why?

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When the time came, Jesus and the apostles were sitting at the table.  He said to them, “I wanted very much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer. I will not eat another Passover meal until it is given its true meaning in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:14-15.

Over 1,200 years before Jesus, God’s people, the Jews, were slaves in Egypt. God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh, the Egyptian king, to let God’s people go. Pharaoh kept changing his mind. Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. Finally God said he would punish the king and judge the country by killing all the first born males in that country. But God also gave a way out. Sacrifice a lamb or a young goat, take its blood and put it around the door of your house, and the destroying angel would “pass over” your house. Your first born males would be safe. That was Passover.

Here Jesus says He really wanted to eat Passover with His closest followers before He suffered and died. He didn’t say the Jewish Passover was wrong, but He did say Passover would get its true meaning.

So two questions: What is that true meaning of Passover, and why would Jesus want to do this?

Questions to think about this week!

Two Trips

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Some 2,000 years ago, Wise Men saw a new star. They travelled for months to Jerusalem. They wanted to see a new king; they wanted to see the savior.

The young child was Jesus. Jesus grew up, started telling people about God and doing miracles. Then, in Matthew 16:21, Jesus says, “From that time on Jesus began telling his followers that he must go to Jerusalem, where the Jewish elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of the law would make him suffer many things. He told them he must be killed and then be raised from the dead on the third day.”

Two trips. One to see a savior. Another to become that Savior. Both trips went to Jerusalem. Both trips didn’t stop in Jerusalem. One went to a stable. The other to the cross, to the grave, to heaven.

Why did the Wise Men go? Why did Jesus go? Where are you going?

What means 'humble', pt 4

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We live in an ‘outrage culture’. Outrage over being disrespected. Outrage over a cultural insult. Outrage over losing honor or losing face.

What about Jesus?

Jesus came from heaven. He made the sun, moon, stars and earth. He was rightfully king. Almost no one gave Jesus honor for that. Many questioned Him. Some openly insulted him. Some tried again and again to shame Him in front of others. Some planned to kill Him. He was wrongly arrested, wrongly tried, wrongly killed. Some even mocked Jesus when He was dying.

How many big insults? How many microaggressions?

Most people get their face, their honor, from other people. Jesus got His from God. People could not take what God gave Him. Jesus’ big desire was to honor God. That meant loving people. Even when they were evil to him. Humble.

Where does your honor, your face, come from? What do you get outraged about?

Would Jesus do that?

What means "humble", pt 3

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Jesus told His followers in Matthew 5:5, “They are blessed who are humble, for the whole earth will be theirs.” But what does humble mean?

The last two weeks we looked at “humble” with Moses. He was a strong leader and the most humble person on earth. Strong and humble? Moses was strong serving God. He didn’t fight for his own honor.

What about Jesus? Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Did Jesus ever get mad? Yes. He got mad at Jewish leaders who made it harder for people to come to God. He got mad at people who made the Temple a place of business. He got mad at demons who hurt people. But when Jesus was put on trial and people attacked Him, Jesus didn’t fight back. Jesus didn’t fight to save His own honor. Jesus fought evil with good. Jesus fought hate with love. But Jesus didn’t fight for his honor.

Questions?
Whose face, whose honor, was Jesus concerned for? His or Father God’s?

What about today? How many people fight for their face, for their honor?

Would Jesus have good reason to complain about ‘microaggressions’? Did He? Should we?

What means "humble", pt 2

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They were an amazing family. Over 3,300 years ago, God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Aaron became their first High Priest. Miriam was a prophet. But they weren’t always a happy family.

Moses married a second time. Probably his first wife died. Moses married a woman from a country called Cush. Cush was in Africa. The wife was probably black and not born an Israelite. Miriam led Aaron and they started talking against Moses. They said God honored them the same as Moses, and they should have the same authority as Moses. Honestly, maybe more. They were dishonoring Moses and trying to take power.

Numbers 12:3 says, “Now Moses was very humble. He was the least proud person on earth.” So what did Moses do about this challenge? Nothing.

God called all three to the Tent of Meeting. God told Miriam and Aaron that He, God, communicated through dreams and visions to prophets. He talked face to face with Moses. God said He trusted Moses to lead His people. He said Miriam and Aaron were wrong to attack Moses, and that they should be “very afraid”.

God left the tent. Aaron looked at his sister, Miriam. Her skin turned white! It was probably leprosy. That meant Miriam could no longer live with the Israelites. She would have to live outside the community. Aaron told Moses they had foolishly sinned. Please, Moses, ask God to heal her! Moses prayed, and God healed her.

Some questions to think about:

Was Moses doing his own plan or God’s plan?

Miriam and Aaron were dishonoring Moses. They were trying to take his power. Did Moses fight back? What did he do?

Who defended Moses’ honor and authority?

When God punished Miriam, Aaron asked Moses to pray for her. Moses did and God healed her. Would you do the same for someone attacking you?

What means "humble:"? part 1

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We all know hot headed people. We’ve seen other people who are scared or believe they have no power. Often they accept anything and do anything they are told. What is humble? Clearly not the first. Is it the second?

We’re going to look at 2 humble people in the Bible. Moses in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament. We’ll look at their lives and find what humble means.

First, some background on Moses. You can find this story in the Bible book named Exodus, chapters 1-14. Moses was born about 2.350 years ago in Egypt. Pharaoh, what Egyptians called their kings, wanted all boys born to be killed. Moses’ older sister, Miriam, helped save Moses from death by floating him in a basket so he would be found by an Egyptian princess. The princess took Moses as her child and raised Moses as an Egyptian prince. Prince of Egypt! All that power. All the authority to tell people what to do. How proud would you be?

Later Moses would understand he was born of slaves. One day, when Moses was about 40 years old, he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Jewish slave. The next day he tried to stop a fight between Jews- one asked if Moses would kill him too! Moses ran away into the desert. For 40 years the mighty prince of Egypt lived as a shepherd caring for sheep. What happened to pride in those 40 years?

Now 80 years old, God appears to Moses and tells him to return to Egypt and tell Pharaoh, “Let My (God’s) people go.” After many struggles and much pain, Pharaoh gives up, and Moses leads God’s people into freedom.

But then one day…

Got Sorrow?

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The kind of sorrow God wants makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that. But the kind of sorrow the world has brings death. II Corinthians 7:10

Sorrow or grieving is feeling bad or shame for something you’ve done. There are two kinds of sorrow. One kind of sorrow comes from the world, from people who don’t know God. Often they will ignore your pain or make it worse. Because you did something wrong, you’re shameful, you’re bad. You get labeled.

Godly sorrow is different. We realize how we dishonored God and hurt people. We feel bad. We grieve, We have sorrow about that. But instead of just feeling bad, we turn to God. We trust He made us clean because of Jesus. We believe God has adopted us. He loves us. He forgives us. He has given us honor and taken away shame. Yes, the sorrow hurts too. But then we have true peace. No need to look back. No regrets for turning to God.

Have you been adopted into God’s family?