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HYDRATE –WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 16 (Mt.5:29-30) “Sin”

29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Matthew 5:29-30

DRINK IT IN:
When you and I chose to sin, it broke our relationship with God. God had to pull back from us. God will not be around sin. He had to distance Himself from us, because we sinned. Oh…please don’t’ misunderstand, it didn’t change how much God loves us. It did not change the fact that nothing can separate us from His love. But, it did change our ability to join Him in Heaven for eternity. When God created us, He simply had Heaven and Earth as the same place. Then we sinned, and Heaven and Earth had to become separate places. That’s why in the prayer Jesus taught the Apostles to pray, “The Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus taught us to pray to the Father this, “Thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.” To repeat myself, they used to be the same place. This teaching of Jesus that is recorded in Matthew 5, is what I call a “Salvation Issue.” Jesus is being very direct in this teaching.

When we chose to sin and go against God, we joined the curse that was placed on the world, when Adam and Eve chose to sin. When we chose to join that curse, even unknowingly, we opened the door to Hell for us. It was closed to us prior to this sin thing. The Bible actually says that Hell was created for Satan and the angels that followed him and disobeyed God.(Matthew 25:41) I wish people understood this better. So many people don’t want to believe in God because they say they can’t believe in a God that would send people to Hell. God never intended for people to go to Hell and He doesn’t “send” people there either. I think the following thoughts will explain this fact.

The Bible says, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, thus God separated Himself from us in our sin. You and I have sinned, and if the sin isn’t paid for, we will remain separated from God.

This is why Jesus was sent to earth from Heaven. God the Father, made Jesus leave their “gated community” in Heaven to become one of us. To come and live “on the other side of the tracks” with us, among us, and in us.” When we sinned, God was forced to make a choice. You see, if God is a God of integrity, then He must follow His own rules. God created two rules soon after He created everything. You can find the rules recorded in Genesis 9:4-5 and Leviticus 17:11. The two rules, are 1.) “Life is in the Blood.” 2. “The blood makes atonement by the life.” Hang in here with me as I explain this a little bit. Put on your thinking caps.

God is the one who created the rules/laws that are referenced in the Bible. These rules/laws are meant for us to follow. Have you thought about the following question? “Does God have to follow the rules? I mean, He is God, and He can do anything He wants, right? Here’s the answer. The very nature of God is perfection and Holiness. Perfection and Holiness ARE Integrity. For God, not to follow His own rules/laws, it would make God a Hypocrite, because He would be asking us to do something that He doesn’t do Himself. A hypocrite lacks integrity. If God lacks integrity, then He is not God at all. God must follow His own rules. It’s the only real guarantees we have in life. God is integrity and God is the same yesterday, today and forever!

So God has these two “strange” rules that He created. One, Life is in the blood, and two, the blood makes atonement by the life.

So, when God’s prized possession, which is mankind(that means You), broke His rules… we sinned. When we sinned, we separated ourselves from God, who is pure holiness and perfection. This is where Rule #2 of God’s, comes into play. “Blood makes atonement.” This word, “atonement,” can be best understood when broken up into three words. “At-One-Ment.” When we all chose to sin, God had to remove Himself from us. But God loves us and wants us to be with Him for eternity. This put God in a situation where He had to appeal to His own law. God says that a life must be taken, in order for a sin to be forgiven. God knew at this point that we needed to be made pure in order for Himself to be with us again. So, God has a major dilemma. The Bible explains God as being two parts. God is JUSTICE. And, God is MERCY. God knows that blood must be taken, which means somebody dies, in order for “at-one-ment” to happen. Atonement means forgiveness. For JUSTICE to be served, a life has to be taken. For MERCY to be served, a life must be spared. Do you see the dilemma that God is facing at this point in time?

So, it makes sense that God chose for animals to be the “life-blood” that is taken to pay for the sins of mankind. This is the way of the Old Testament. A man/woman who had sinned and separated themselves from God, would choose a perfect animal and take it to Jerusalem to the priests of the Temple, and the priests would sacrifice the animal, by taking all its blood from its body, and putting some of the blood on the person who sinned, and then took some of the blood and sprinkled it on the altar of the Temple to show God that blood was shed to pay for the sin. Any left over blood would be burnt as an offering to God. When the blood was shed and placed on the person and then offered to God, God forgave that person for their sins. This was done once a year, every year and had to be done in Jerusalem. By doing this, God’s justice was fulfilled because a life was taken to pay for the sin, and God’s mercy was fulfilled because He was able to spare the life of his most beloved of Creation, and instead took the life of an animal. (To you animal lovers out there…God does love all animals, but not as much as people.) In this plan of God’s…. Justice and Mercy are both fulfilled. That’s a good plan.

However, over time, and for reasons I can’t fully explain, the animal sacrifices became insufficient for mankind as an offering. My opinion is that the offering and killing of an animal was supposed to be a way to prevent people from sinning. I think God was wishing that we as mankind would have enough compassion towards animals that we would want to stop sinning to spare the life of the animal. However, I think, it turned out to be a form of a free ride for people. People became apathetic towards the animal sacrifices and began doing the sacrifices for the purpose of fulfilling religious laws instead of doing the sacrifice as a way of sorrowful regret and repentance. To say it more succinctly, people kept on sinning and did even more sin, knowing that a simple killing of an animal would pay for the sin. It became an easy out for people.

God determines that this Old Testament payment for sins was not sufficient anymore. He needed to “up the stakes.” This is a serious dilemma for God. If animal sacrifices weren’t working, then what sacrifice, in all of creation, would work? There isn’t much more to choose from. It basically left US to be the ones who needed to die, to pay for sin, so we could be “at-one-ment” again with God. This dilemma is intense, because if God chooses to kill us, to pay for our own sins, then He kills us…thus loses us and our relationship with him. You can’t have a relationship with dead people. In this scenario, Justice would be served because the sin would be paid for, but mercy would be left unfulfilled, because we would be dead. The opposite idea of this doesn’t work either. The opposite would leave Justice undone. The opposite would be to let you and me off the hook for our sins by simply forgiving us and letting mercy rule the day…but then Justice would be unfulfilled. God is Justice AND Mercy. God is the same Yesterday, today and forever. He can’t just change His very nature. God is who He is. He is the great “I Am.” Anyway, that would mean that God broke His own rules, thus He would not be integrity anymore and thus would not be God. Big dilemma. Right?

So, God comes up with the perfect solution to this grand dilemma. God, the Father, while in Heaven, looks to His right, and there sits Jesus, the only Son of God. Jesus is the one whom God created everything with and through. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the “Us” in the very beginning of the Bible when God said, “Let US create mankind in OUR image, to be like US.” Jesus is the ONLY SON OF GOD and has always existed with God.

Can you imagine how much God must love us in order for Him to look at His only Son and choose Him to be the one who is killed, so the Life-Blood would be shed and our sins forgiven, thus fulfilling His Justice. But, because Jesus is the Only Son of God, God knew that He could raise Him from the dead and also fulfill His Mercy. And…its gets better! Since this is such an incredible Sacrifice. God would only do it once for all time and for all sins. This IS what is called Grace. Grace is nothing more than this but it is everything. The fact that Jesus came to earth and had His life blood shed for us…IS GRACE. Grace is a free gift. You couldn’t make Jesus not give His blood. You couldn’t make Jesus give His blood. He chose to go and give His blood because He wanted to please and honor His Father. This is a free gift! This IS Grace.

How hard must it have been to be the Father in Heaven and for Him to ask His only Son to leave the comforts of Heaven, be born as a vulnerable baby, live a perfect life, be beaten, scourged, humiliated, and crucified?…………….So you and I could have our sins washed clean? So God could have you and me back? What a price!

Don’t tell me, or anyone else, that God doesn’t love you. Don’t tell me, or anyone else that God sends you to Hell. He only honors our choices after paying such a huge price for us.

God did EVERYTHING He could do for you. To do anything else…to make it easier for you…would make God break His own rules and thus not be integrity, thus not be God. Please do not tell me that you actually wished God would have done more for you? What a price. For me. For you.

All that…to pay for our sins. We are loved.

So when Jesus says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell,” you and I can understand why, right?

So here is the big question…Jesus didn’t mean this literally did He? Because, if He meant this teaching literally the Apostles would have plucked their eyes out on the spot. The Apostles would have been walking around with no hands. If this were literal, can you imagine what the Church services each weekend, around the world would, look like? We wouldn’t need multi-media presentations because none of us would have eyes to see it. We would have to sing our worship songs a cappella because all our musicians wouldn’t have any hands. None of us would have eyes or hands.

So what was Jesus teaching here if He didn’t mean it literally?

Jesus loved to get our attention. He used some pretty cool and amazing illustrations to make us ponder, as long as possible, about His ways. All Jesus is saying here is this….”Do everything you can in your power and with me helping you, to not sin.” If every time you get on the computer, you sin, then wouldn’t it be better to get rid of the computer than to continue in your sin and eternally be separated from God the Father?

The computer is just one example of a million things that we use when we choose to sin. What Jesus is saying here is simply this, “Stop CHOOSING to sin!”

If there is anything in your life that helps you choose to sin and you keep using it as an excuse as to why you sin….then put it away until you can have the self-discipline and the strength to resist the sin. Throw it away forever, if that is what it takes for you to quit using it as an example to continue to live in sin. Jesus is saying…”Please…after all the crap I went through to show you how much My Father in Heaven loves you…please don’t keep on sinning….Please don’t make My pain and sacrifice a waste of your eternal life….please.”

SWEAT IT OUT:
Is there anything in your life that you are using as an excuse to continue sinning?
What are you continuing as sin?
What does God have to do in His relationship with you if you choose to keep on sinning? (If you don’t know that answer, please go back above and read about what God has to do when we sin.)
What sin or sins do you HAVE to keep on doing? _________________________________________________ (fill in the blank…and seriously think about whether or not you HAVE to keep on committing it.) Remember, when Jesus died, He broke the power of sin and its curse over you. By giving your life to Jesus you “can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”
Be a conqueror! Not an excuse maker!

This is tough stuff!
You can do it!

Remember these two passages and it will help you conquer all sin in your life.

1 Corinthians 10:13, “13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

1 John 1:9, 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Live Holy! A huge price was paid so that Justice would be served to pay for your sins and Mercy was served so that God could keep you in a relationship with Him.

Don’t keep Crucifying Jesus because you choose to live in sin. You and I are not perfect and we will make mistakes. But there is a big difference between making mistakes and CHOOSING to sin.

Choose Holiness.
You will be eternally grateful.
The Father in Heaven will be too.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 7 (Mt.5:9) “Peacemaker”


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
Matthew 5:9

DRINK IT IN:
If you have children, what would you actually do for them in a time of crisis? If you are like me, then you would do anything to protect them, help them, encourage them, shape them. I think its instinctual. If God created the bear and the lion and He also created you. He’s only one artist. He created you with some similarities as the bear and the lion. Have you ever heard any stories about a person coming across a momma bear or lioness when their “kids” are around? They mean business. Its the same for you. You could be one of the most gentle and quiet people on the planet. But put your kids around you and then introduce a little danger in the form of other people or a criminal and its like you jumped into a phone booth, stripped off your regular clothes to expose a super hero ready to do some serious damage in the name of protecting your children.

God is a parent. If God made you in His image to be like Him, then you and God have similar qualities. God designed it that way. I think that God is willing to do just about anything to honor, and do what is very best for His children.

So, the question is; Are you a son or daughter of God?

Some may say, “yes, Trent…I prayed a prayer back when I was in Jr. High and gave my life to God.” My reply to that is, show me in the Bible where someone prayed a prayer and then, from that point on, is considered a child of God. I don’t want to be to cynical here, but please let me save you some time by telling you that, such a Bible verse/story is not in the Bible.

How do I know I am a son or daughter of God?

According to Jesus in this fist sermon He ever preached, He says that you need to be a PEACEMAKER to be considered a son or daughter of God. How serious is this? This is what is called a “salvation issue.” You have to agree with me that in order to go to Heaven you have to be a son or daughter of God. Agree? Jesus then says, that in order to be s son or daughter of God, you have to be a peacemaker. Agree? Then to summarize this line of thinking, we must be peacemakers in order to go to Heaven. You must be a peacemaker to be saved. Agree?

Jesus’ brother has something to say about this. James wrote, in James 3:18, “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

I want to be more of a peacemaker. I have found this to be a personal challenge that is difficult. I am an intense person of passion and I most definitely don’t like the status quo. I like to get to the underlying issue of things instead of talk about the surface level of life. So many people, when I speak with them, feel that I am prying a little to hard into their lives. This causes walls to go up. It doesn’t help that I’m 6′ 3″ and 220 pounds. I do boxing workouts. I run 5 miles every other day. I speak the truth and like to be direct. I enjoy making the bully “sweat.” Does that make me a bully to the bullies? Does this disqualify me from being a peacemaker? What a dangerous situation. I must guard all this more carefully. I wish Jesus would have never said this thing about peacemaking. But He did.

So, what about you? Are you a peacemaker? Before we get too discouraged at our answers, let’s make sure we are defining peace the right way. Jesus says that there are different kinds of peace. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

But hold on! Jesus also said in Matthew 10:34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.”

Is Jesus arguing with Himself? Is this what some call a “biblical contradiction?” The answer is a very clear, “No.” The answer is that there are different kinds of PEACE. As I write this, last Sunday was the Superbowl. We watched the underdog New York Giants beat the New England Patriots. At Half time of the Superbowl, Madonna performed and at the very end of a pretty good performance she had the floor light up with a great big flash of production and it said, “WORLD PEACE.”

Is this what Jesus is talking about when he says, ‘Blessed are the Peace Makers?” It would be impossible for Him to mean this. Because he also said that He did not come to the world to bring Peace but a sword. And I would say…”He did a good job of that.” Every since Jesus arrived and left this planet, there has been division and chaos. Want proof…march into your local public school and start talking about Jesus to the students. I’ll bet your circumstances won’t end in what could be called a peaceful ending. As Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 10:35-36, “I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be in your own household.” Jesus meant it, didn’t he?

How can Jesus say, “Blessed are the Peace-Makers,” when He says He didn’t even come to bring Peace, but a sword?”

He can only say that if there are two kinds of peace. 1. What Madonna calls “World-Peace.” 2. What Jesus calls, “Peace of Heart.”

I think, according to Jesus’ personality and style, the peace He refers to has nothing to do with tranquility, as in no war because every human being just loves one another. That is the dream of mankind. Its a worthy dream. Michael Jackson rounded up pretty much every music celebrity back in his day and they performed a song together that went like this. (I’ll be you can’t read it without singing it in your head!) “We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving…When you’re down and out, there seems no hope at all. But if you just believe there’s no way we can fall, Let us realize that a change can only come, When we stand together as one” (You started singing it didn’t you!?) In order for this kind of peace to become a reality in the world…then evil would have to be completely removed from the planet. As long as evil is real there will never be the kind of Peace that Madonna or Michael was hoping for.

So, that leaves us the kind of Peace that Jesus gives. Simply put, His kind of peace is best defined this way. “The ability to be calm and confident because you trust that God is in control even in the middle of total chaos.”

We, on occasion come across people like this. We see them in the news. They have stories of Heroism and selflessness. In the middle of absolute chaos they somehow remained strong and confident and calm. Now…I don’t know if Jesus is the one that provided them with this kind of confidence or not. Jesus is not the only one who can provide this kind of peace. You can train for it and not include Jesus in it. You could be naturally confident and ready for action in any situation and be seen as a peaceful person, without Jesus. You could be missing some common sense in your life and therefore not naturally think about dangerous consequences and thus seem to be able to stay calm in scary situations. None of those have anything to do with Jesus, yet you are a person of “peace.”

What I’m trying to say here is that there are all kinds of people who have the Peace that Jesus is referring to and many of them do not have it because of a relationship with Jesus. What I’m saying here is that if you want to be considered a son or daughter of God then you have to let Jesus live inside of your heart and mind and when chaos is ripping all around you, you rely on His peace and calm that He provides because you know He is in control.

When you let Jesus have total control over every detail of your life, then whatever you encounter that isn’t peaceful, that is dangerous, that is scary, you have the ability to remain at peace and in self-control. You are at peace even in the middle of tragedy and chaos. You are able to stay “peaceful” even when your own death might be staring you in the face. Because God is in control. You don’t let the fears of the world control you. God controls you. In the face of insecurity, when someone is verbally attacking you or mistreating you, you don’t have to lash back, because your security is in God and what God says about you.

Peace…Jesus’ style…is the ability to remain calm and collected in the middle of Chaos because you acknowledge that Jesus is in control, no matter the results of the situation. Peace…Jesus’ style…doesn’t mean you just lay over and never challenge back or stand up for what is right. Don’t forget that Jesus is a peacemaker and yet He made a whip and whipped people out of the temple, and He called the Pharisees horrible names. Being a peacemaker…Jesus style…doesn’t mean that you have to be a wimp. It means there is a steadfast strength about you. Being a peacemaker means you are a well-rounded balanced person. Just like Jesus. Strong and gentle. Tough and kind. Offensive and defensive. Sly and innocent. Aggressive and peaceful. Truth and Love. Justice and Mercy. Get it? If you still want a strong picture of the kind of peace that I’m referring to here, then read the Bible story of the crucifixion of Jesus. I can’t think of a more horrible thing to go through than a Roman Crucifixion. So, read the Bible’s account and pay special attention to the attitude and demeanor of Jesus while this horrible thing is being done to him. You will see a man at peace with WHO is in control.

There are stories of women who have been raped and abused over and over but they survived it all and have been saved from that situation and they talk about the peace they were able to have in the middle of all the horrific things that were happening to them. They give credit to Jesus and the Bible. One lady tells the story of how she wrote a powerful Bible verse on her ceiling above the bed. And day after day, she would read the Bible verse above her bed while being raped and trusted that God was real and that she would be okay through all this. What a story of strength and victory. This lady tells of her story, as a story of victory today and about the goodness of God compared to the evil of mankind. There are stories of “tragedy” all over the world where Christians had unbelievable atrocities happen to them, yet they tell the stories as if they are stories of victory! How inspiring! What a witness to the power of God. What a witness to the PEACE of Jesus Christ being lived out by His sons and daughters.

SWEAT IT OUT:
What’s your worst nightmare? What could happen to you that makes you think you couldn’t handle it? I encourage you to think about it and prepare for it to happen in your mind and determine that you would be okay through it all. What is the alternative here? Worry, Stress, Fear, Doubt, Control problems, Nervousness, Anger, Hurtful reactions, etc.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you must be prepared for anything and therefore never be caught off guard. If you are caught off guard and in a moment of weakness do something really stupid, then you harm the witness of Jesus Christ. The Bible is full of teachings about the sons and daughters of God needing to always have their wits about them. We are always one decision or one reaction away from blowing our credibility with God and with other people. Every decision we make…matters. So…

Be prepared.
Be a Peace-Maker.
You will be considered a son or daughter of God.
There is no greater title.

“Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS for they will be sons/daughters of God.”


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 6 (Mt.5:8) “The Pure”

The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God.
Matthew 5:8

DRINK IT IN:
Do you want to SEE God?

Can you imagine seeing God? I have so many questions for Him. I have so many ideas of what God looks like. Again, I have so many questions. To see God, would change so many things wouldn’t it? Or am I just speaking for myself?

Some people say, “Seeing is believing.” Well…I believe and I have not “seen” God. I think my faith is strong now and I haven’t seen God. I wonder how much stronger my faith would be if I actually saw God? I wish God would just show up and let me see Him. I’m guessing you wish that too. I wonder if I would fall flat on my face in fear if God showed up, physically. Bottom line though…Is…I WANT to see God.

Jesus tells, in this passage I am referencing today, how I can see God. He says, BE PURE. Jesus gets even more specific. He says, ‘Pure In Heart.” The pure in heart will see God. Let’s face it, the heart is where everything comes from. Now scientifically some would argue that everything starts in the brain. I’m okay with that. But are you positively-absolutely-for sure that everything starts in the brain. I like to think that the heart is where something spiritual resides and medicine and science will never be able to explain it. 1 Corinthians chapter 1 talks about how all the wisdom/knowledge of the world will never be able to explain how God works. God actually calls all that knowledge, foolishness.

So…I say…everything starts in the heart. Want an example? If you have what is typically called a “foul-mouth, potty-mouth, or simply a bad-mouth,” I don’t think you do…I think you have a foul-heart, potty-heart or simply a bad-heart.” Jesus actually backs that thought up by saying in Matthew 15:18, “But the words you speak come from the heart–that’s what defiles you.” I don’t want to go into detail on this now, because this is a teaching coming up soon in this Hydrate Series.

But, there it is. Jesus says, what comes out of your mouth actually originated in your heart.

BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART FOR THEY WILL SEE GOD! And so…I am working on “The Pure Heart” thing.

I wish there was this great formula or a 3 point sermon for Purifying Hearts. There is not. Well…I’m sure there’s a 3 point sermon about it…but it will be laughable. Some people say naively, “Just read the Bible more and your heart will become more and more pure. I want to believe that, but that would be like saying, “You want to have a really sharp sword, just read the manual on how to sharpen swords more often and it’ll get sharper!” In my not so humble opinion, purifying your heart is like sharpening a sword, purifying gold or having a perfect diamond.

Swords get sharper when they go through heat, and friction.
Gold becomes more pure when it goes through the smelter, over and over and the impurities slowly get burned out.
Diamonds are in their most desirable state after they have been cut and polished.

So…How do I get a pure heart?

First, give your life, your thoughts, your actions, your words, your mind, your ideas, your everything to Jesus Christ as Lord of your life. Read and study what Jesus commands of us and practice living it all daily. Then…LIVE ON! Now…Introducing…LIFE! It will come at you hard and it doesn’t care if you make it or not. Life will work you over and spit you out. This is called refining, smelting, cutting, polishing. So, its gut check time.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus’ brother in the book of James writes, “Consider it pure joy when you go through trials and suffering.” (James 1) Was James nuts? Or…did James understand how purity happens? Trials and Suffering are friction. Trials and suffering are smelters. Trials and suffering are where you get cut and polished. The book of Job chapter 23 verse 10, it is written, “I shall come out as GOLD after He tries me.”

Sounds simple enough, right? NOT! Whoever said that Christianity is a crutch for the weak, is a clueless-wonder to what Jesus really asks of His followers. A person who says that Christianity is a crutch, is a person who has obviously been hurt deeply by somebody who declares themselves to be a Christian and continues to let that “christian” cause them to stumble. I won’t apologize for that person. If you think that Christianity is for the weak, then I want to tell you to stop using people as your example. Stop following people. Start following Jesus. He’s not weak. He’s not a Hypocrite. Quit putting so much reliance on how others treat you, become responsible for your own study of truth and make a decision. People will always get in the way. If someone in your life keeps getting in the way of your heart being pure, then remove yourself from the person. Quit following that person. Quit blaming that person. Here’s our tough reality. The people who were supposed to be following Jesus are the ones who actually killed Jesus on the cross. Now, don’t forget…Jesus chose to go to the Cross. If Jesus didn’t want to die for you, He would have walked from the cross and nobody could have stopped Him. But…the ones who were supposed to follow Jesus were the ones who drove the nails that fastened Jesus onto the cross. Quit following people. Quit letting people cause you to stumble. Toughen up, follow Jesus and quit using people as your scapegoat as to why you don’t want to face the truth. I have personally found that most people who think Christianity is a crutch for the weak, have never even read the Holy Bible. Read it first…then…we’ll chat.

Since I am mentioning imperfect people getting in our way of us following Jesus. I’m choosing to do a Confession time. I have, many times in my life, found some very real and dark corners in my heart. All you need to have happen, to discover these dark corners of your heart, is a little hurt. Or a lot of hurt. That hurt turns into anger and before you know it, you have thoughts coming from your “heart” that would make a criminal sweat. Or am I just speaking for myself here? I’ll just try to speak for myself. I’m pretty sure…I could be a sniper. I think I could put a bullet through an enemies head and not lose one ounce of sleep over it. So many people think that all pastors are just lovey, dovey wonderful and kind, nearly perfect people. You know what I think about that? I think…NOPE!
The men and women God used to lead His people back in the Bible times were a rough and tumble bunch. One of Jesus’ Apostles was from an order of people that are called the Sicari. They were known as a group of assassins. I don’t have time to go into that detail, but just google it. Peter, tried to kill a man with his sword when the group showed up to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas was just bad in so many ways. Let’s go way back. Elijah killed 800 prophets of Baal back in his day, and God took Elijah straight to Heaven without having him die first. There are a lot of “not-so-goody-twoshoes” kind of people that God used and uses to lead His people. I admit that I can be one of those…in my heart.

Now…I know…I know…I feel you wanting to preach to me right now. The fruit of the spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. You don’t have to preach to me about how much love I’m supposed to have for all people. I agree. I love all people. I wouldn’t be a pastor if I didn’t love people. I am just tempted…at times…to be a sniper! LOL

The POINT?

SWEAT IT OUT:

Purity of heart. It seems that some people are just born with a pure heart. Its not true…people are not born with pure hearts. I have personally found that people who have pure hearts are people who have payed a large price of pain for that pure heart. It always seems like the pure in heart are gentle and kind and loving. I have found, when I asked those who are pure in heart about their life story, that their story is one that breaks my heart. These people, with refined, smelted, and polished pure hearts, now look back on their lives and can thank God….NOT FOR THE PAIN…but thank God that He helped them THROUGH THE PAIN. These people have now, “Come out PURE AS GOLD.”

Do you really want a pure heart?
Knowing how much pain is involved in getting a pure heart…I’m tempted to say no.
But if I don’t have a pure heart, then I know that I will never see God.
I want to see God.
So I will pray this prayer to God. Maybe you would pray it with me right now too? “Lord…I want to have a pure heart. But…Lord….PLEASE…as you turn up the heat on my life to refine me, smelt me, sharpen me and make me PURE…PLEASE DO NOT TAKE YOUR HAND OFF OF THE THERMOSTAT.” In Jesus name, AMEN.

I will end this post now…and as you step out today to continue your refining, smelting, sharpening, polishing and PURIFYING…take great confidence in 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure!”

I love that passage. So…bring life on! Whatever it takes for you and me to see God…bring it on! Right?
And when we have lived our lives through this life process of purifying our hearts…then…with pure hearts… you and I will go together into the presence of Almighty God.
And SEE HIM…yes…SEE GOD.
What a cool day that is going to be.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 5 (Mt.5:7) “Merciful”

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

DRINK IT IN:
Do you believe the phrase, ‘What goes around comes around?” Its obvious that Jesus believes in it. Read His phrase above again. It may as well say, “What goes around comes around.” Jesus also is the one who preached The Golden Rule; “Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you.”

But here is my fear. Jesus showed Mercy…pretty much…to everybody, and it landed Him on the cross. But before He ended up on the cross, He was rejected, spit upon, beaten, humiliated and ultimately murdered…as an innocent, merciful man. How did all His “mercy” work for Him? Not so well.

So, is Jesus out of His mind when He teaches this stuff? Was this phrase that Jesus taught, in the very first message He preached, just a rookie mistake. The answer is clearly, “No!”

The big question is…if you and I live a life of giving others mercy, who is going to give it back to us? Because the reality is, many people, if you give them mercy, will shove it back in your face in an unmerciful way. So what is Jesus talking about?

If you think about Jesus’ life, He showed mercy to everybody, through the action of dying on the cross, to pay for everybody’s sins. However, prior to Jesus’ merciful action of dying on the cross, Jesus didn’t always show mercy. The people He didn’t show instant mercy to, were the religious-arrogant ones…the bullies. Jesus promoted the progress and purpose of others…unless you were a bully. Jesus publicly humiliated the bully of His day. The Pharisees, the Religious leaders, they were serious power-mongers over others. Jesus had some choice words for these kinds of people. He called them “Sons of Vipers, White-washed tombs, hypocrites.” (The snake/viper was the ultimate derogatory term, it was a cuss word. Adam and Eve were deceived by a “snake.” To be called a “son of a viper”…was to be called a devil.) And He did it publicly. So…hear me out. Jesus tells people that they will be blessed if they show mercy. However, Jesus is NOT telling them that they HAVE TO be merciful. He is simply saying that if you are merciful you will also get some mercy back. He really is saying, “What goes around comes around.” Think about it….Jesus didn’t show mercy to the hypocritical religious leaders…and sure enough…those hypocritical religious leaders were the ones who instigated killing Him. “What goes around, comes around.” He didn’t show public mercy to the religious leaders and they are the ones who put Him on the Cross. “What goes around, comes around.” Another look at this…Jesus did show mercy to Judas, but Judas ultimately didn’t give mercy back to Him. Judas betrayed Jesus in return for all of Jesus’ mercy. I don’t think Jesus was talking about any guarantees of receiving mercy in return for giving mercy, when He said, “Blessed are the merciful for they will be given mercy.” So what the heck did Jesus mean by saying this?

I think Jesus’ statement of “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy,” is talking about God being the one who will eventually show you mercy. I think you will agree with me, that merciful actions today, do not guarantee merciful actions in return. Its a beautiful thing when it does happen, but its also not the end of your world, if it doesn’t. Isn’t it better to go ahead and show mercy anyway? Jesus doesn’t say you HAVE TO show mercy. Jesus didn’t always show mercy Himself. But isn’t it better to show mercy anyway? Isn’t that the high road? It’s, most definitely, not the easy road.
So it’s fair to say that ultimately, by the time the cross had done its lethal Job, Jesus had shown mercy to everybody. His act of giving His life on the Cross in replacement for the death of each of us, is the ultimate act of MERCY. We call it Grace. Grace and Mercy are close relatives. However, its also fair to say, that in Jesus’ 33 year life span, He didn’t always show mercy to those He encountered.

So when Jesus says, “Blessed are the Merciful for they will be shown Mercy,” I think He’s guaranteeing something in our future. By future, I mean Eternal. Heaven! Remember in this first message that Jesus preached that “Blessed” does not mean happy. Blessed means “Accepted.” So we could read the teaching this way, “Accepted are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” He could have simply said, “The merciful will go to Heaven.” Jesus isn’t saying just because you are merciful today, that you will receive immediate mercy now. It sure didn’t work that way for Himself. Think about this…

If you are a person of Mercy in our world today, you are going to be taken advantage of. You have to agree with me that merciful people are nice people. In our world today, “Nice people tend to finish last.” Nice people are also known as naive people. Nice people are known as pushovers. Nice people get gossiped about for being soft and lacking business savvy.

Do you think Jesus cares when you get grouped in with those stereotypes? You Bet He Does! And when He returns, you will receive the advantage. You will be the leader. You will be first. You will be seen as wise. You will be known as the persevering one. You will be the one who will be known as brilliant, and as having incredible “business savvy.”

THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST…THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST!

SWEAT IT OUT:

So what are you living for? Are you “putting all your eggs in the basket of living your best life right now here on earth, without any focus on your eternal life? Your eternal life will be just as real to you as your current life, except it will be eternal. Which one is more important?

Don’t get me wrong. This life is deeply…deeply important. How you live your life today is a choice of how you want to spend your eternity. Remember this…God does not send anyone to Hell. God only honors your choice of how you lived on earth. If you want to live your life on earth with the characteristics and actions of Hell….Greed…un-forgiveness…being a bully…being a jackass…being selfish…power hungry…etc, then God will simply honor your choice and when you die, He will simply extend your life choices into eternity.

However, if you choose to to live your current life and so choose to live as a person who brings the elements of Heaven to earth, like showing mercy…giving forgiveness…peace…patience…kindness…faithfulness…love…etc, then God, when you die, will extend your life choices into eternity and thus you will live in Heaven forever.

When you think of it that way, who cares how you get treated today simply because you choose “good” behavior! Bring it on! Right?

Today, no matter how you get treated, choose to be the one who brings the elements of Heaven to earth.

Be prepared for today. Think right now about who you are getting ready to encounter in the next 8 hours or so. You know most of the people you are going to encounter. So prepare yourself, right now, for the negative encounters. Choose to show mercy, even if its not given to you. Its only the negative encounters you need to prepare for. If you prepare for them now and make a choice to give mercy even when its not given to you, then your day will be one of power and love and serving.

That sounds a lot like the life of Jesus.
I think its going to be a good day.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Maybe He doesn’t mean you’ll get mercy today.
But I guarantee that He means you’ll get mercy in Eternity.

Show Mercy…sooner or later…it will all “pay off!”

What a great day ahead of you.
Be merciful.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 2 (Mt.5:4) “Mourn”

“Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4 (HCSB)

DRINK IT IN:

Have you ever truly mourned? It usually takes the loss of something in our lives to cause us to mourn. So, it’s fair for me to say that EVERYBODY at one point or another has mourned, right? I do not think this is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Those who mourn are blessed.” If that is the case, Jesus would have just said…”Blessed is Everybody!” Because everybody, sooner or later mourns. So what did Jesus mean when He said, “Those who mourn are blessed?”
Put on your thinking caps with me here.

Remember that BLESSED, in this instance, does not mean happy. It means, ACCEPTED. This passage could be translated, “God accepts into Heaven those who mourn…for they will be comforted.” The hard truth in this teaching of Jesus is the fact that God LOVES everyone, but He only ACCEPTS into Heaven those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior into their personal lives AND mourn. Big difference.

So what does Jesus mean in this passage? “Those who Mourn will be blessed, for they will be comforted.”

I think the best way to fully grasp what Jesus meant here, is to understand what I like to call, origins. In order to understand the origins of God, then we need to reexamine the very beginning of time. We do this by asking this question…what did God intend for mankind from the very beginning? When I say beginning, I mean, Adam and Eve. The Beginning! What did God intend for the world to be like? Let’s go to the beginning.

And so, God created Adam. He put Adam in charge over everything on the planet to manage and steward. Adam got to spend “face-time” with The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God’s intent from the very beginning is for mankind to be up-close and personal with God all the time! Adam got to do some pretty cool things under the leadership of God. Adam actually got to name all the animals. I like to have fun thinking about how Adam started naming all the animals…one by one he got started on naming the animals with great creativity and energy. This early and energetic start allowed Adam to come up with names like, Hippopotamus, Duck-billed platypus, Giraffe, Elephant, Tyrannosaurus, Barracuda, Flamingo, Orangutang, Alligator, chimpanzee, and salamander. My opinion…about this naming task that Adam was given to do…it began to tire him, and much like any person, his patience grew thin as he looked down the long line of animals yet to be named. So instead of being creative, because creativity takes a lot of energy, Adam turned into, “Mr. Obvious.” He started naming the animals based off what they obviously did or at least what they looked like. Hummingbird, Road Runner, Grasshopper, Jellyfish, Red Deer, Stinkbug, and Woodpecker. So as the day wore on, and it is obvious that Adam got tired and grouchy and names began to shorten and we ended up with dog, pig, cat, rat, yak, Bee, Ant, Ox and in a grouchy last minute decision he named one an Ass! LOL

But…as the story moves forward…Adam, after naming all the creatures is still alone. God said at this moment, “Its not good for man to be alone!” And so he put Adam to sleep and in a miraculous move of creation, God creates someone just like Adam, but “better.” This new “creature” is a total compliment to Adam and is very similar but also different. She has “curves” that he doesn’t have. He is immediately very “impressed” and says out-loud to God…”WO–Man!” And God said…that works! Let’s call her Woman!

Sorry. Can we get back to the point please?

What I’m really trying to point out here is this. God was with Adam and Eve, face to face! Adam and Eve had no shame or embarrassment of any kind. There was no competition, no comparisons, no jealousy, no revenge, no hurt, no anger, etc. Animals and people were not afraid of each other. Perfect Community. No, greed, weeds, dirty deeds, or plastic surgeries.

God meant for it all to be perfect. Perfect community. Perfect relationships. Perfect life! That was God’s intent for the origin.

AND THEN CAME SIN. Freedom of choice turned selfish. Deception grew, jealousy and scarcity began to breed. Hurt…anger…murder…revenge. People taking advantage of each other. Sharing began to dissipate. Greed. In the lost face-time and community with God, people began to “re-group.” Racism formed, superiority complexes, gangs formed, cliques. Instead of share and love it became take and separate. Instead of give and share, it turned to keep and protect. Instead of work together, it became monopolize and dominate.

Every year that has passed since that first sin, it grows worse. Nearly 2000 years ago, the Apostle Paul warned of what times would be like as it grows closer to Jesus returning to break this world’s curse. Paul wrote in the letter of the Bible called 2 Timothy 2:3-4, “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.”

As Christians, we understand what God intended our lives to be, starting with creation. We also know what has happened to our world. We understand that each of us have contributed to the problem. All this causes us to MOURN. We long for the day that Jesus will return and make all things new. He will RE-new all things to the original intent when He returns. Until then, we watch the 10 O’clock News and it causes us to Mourn. We see infants born with unbelievable mal-formities and we see the curse of sin growing through disease and disorders of every kind…and it causes us to MOURN. We see a child being bullied because he is different, and it causes us to MOURN. We study our history and read about people who, under the name of Christianity, marched forth to rape, kill and murder muslims in the Crusades of old…and it causes us to MOURN. We see Muslims Extremists fly airplanes into buildings…and it causes us to MOURN. Lying, cheating, stealing, sexual deviation, and every other form of self-serving action…growing, and growing out of control and it all causes true understanders of the origins of God to MOURN.

Its almost maddening to simply read the paragraph we just read above. Its really out of control. How long will Jesus wait?

If you want to read a passage in scripture, only 11 verses long, that perfectly talks about what I mean by, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted,” then read Ezekiel Chapter 9 in the Old Testament. Notice what happens to those who are in the city who are “mourning.” How do the angels know which ones are mourning? It says they are the ones, “weeping and sighing because of all the detestable sins that are happening in their city.” The Lord commands the angels to put a mark on these people’s heads. Go and read what happens to the people who DO NOT have the “mark.” What happens to the people with the “mark?” (Grab a Bible and read it.)

There is something deeply inspiring about this story of Ezekiel 9. The “Mark” that is given to those who are “MOURNING” is written on their foreheads. The people with the mark written on their foreheads are promised that they will be saved/comforted while everybody else is annihilated. The cool part of this story is the actual “mark.” The mark is the Hebrew alphabet letter called the Tav. The Tav…in Ezekiel’s time…when drawn on the foreheads of the people who were mourning…is this. Here is the “Tav” as it was written on the foreheads of the people in Ezekiel’s time. Today we know this symbol to be the sign of the CROSS!! This story happened nearly 600 years before Jesus dies on the cross. The sign of the cross that was written on the people’s heads, because they were mourning, “saves” them and comforts them from the wrath. (Do you see the prophecy in this story?)

So…eventually Jesus shows up on the scene and teaches about those who mourn and how they will be blessed. The people who mourn today, do it because they know what the world SHOULD be if it weren’t for sin. Those who mourn have a deep desire to live in the “God intended world.” Those who mourn understand this. Those who mourn will be comforted. Those who mourn will be the ones accepted into God’s Kingdom of Heaven where they will live just as physically as we do today, but in a renewed world. The world renewed as God had originally planned it to be. That is something worth mourning for!

“Blessed are those who Mourn, for they will be comforted.”

SWEAT IT OUT:
As you dwell on the depth of this one sentence that Jesus said, I hope you will focus on what ultimately has caused those who do mourn, to mourn. It is sin. So in this short devotion, I hope you will do some practical things to help you be in a better “up-close and personal” relationship with God, right now. We don’t have to wait until Heaven to have some up close and personal time with God. Your relationship with God won’t fully be what you would like it to be until eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven begins. Don’t forget, though, that God wants us to bring some Heaven to earth right now. If He didn’t, He would not have taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH…AS it is in Heaven! So here are a few things to do, to bring a taste of Heaven to earth right now.

First of all…are there any sins that you are continually practicing that are causing you extra pain and regret in your life? 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Are you being Greedy, arrogant, rude, selfish, drunk, sexual deviation, continual overeating, jealous, revengeful, judgmental, etc? If so, confess them and stop committing them.

You should be mourning this world right now, and wishing it were what it is supposed to be. So why don’t you contribute to the “what it is supposed to be?” There are a lot of people who suffer extra because of this “fallen” world. Jesus tells us what to do for these people. Feed them, clothe them, visit them, give water to the thirsty, care for the orphan, etc. Join a local church that is actively doing these things and participate yourself. Find somebody in your circle of influence who is struggling because of our world’s condition. Help them in anyway they need help.

If you have secrets in your life…those secrets are the beginning to sin and destruction. Admit the truth and accept the consequences and be free in the eyes of God. Forgiveness is real. Its not easy, but it is real.

Something to think about…Do you MOURN the current status of our earthly condition? If you do not…are you okay with that? Have you become hardened and cynical and sarcastic? I struggle with having a hard heart sometimes and also with sarcasm and cynicism. Those are not traits we should be proud of. Practice what Philippians 4:4-8 says. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Think about those things that are lovely, admirable and worthy of praise. Then the God of peace will be with you.” This world SHOULD make you mourn. If you do not, something is not right with you and your walk with Christ. Until Jesus returns there should be at least a little mourning going on in your life…an ache for what life is supposed to be.

The world we live in right now…was not meant to be this way. Someday Jesus will return to restore it to its intended condition. Make sure you are ready. What a world its going to be! I am hoping to see you there and spend eternity with you. If you don’t know for sure that you are going to spend eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven, then we need to talk. Contact me and we’ll get this all straightened out. It will be more than worth it.

“Those who Mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted.”