The Beatitudes: Purity

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Matthew 5:8

I heard a story recently about the president of a Fortune 500 corporation who was so impressed by a book entitled “Men and Women of God” that he called a downtown Chicago bookstore and ordered 350 copies of it to give to all the executives of his company. The bookstore sent back a message by computer which read: “We cannot find 350 Men and Women of God in Chicago. Try Los Angeles.” I wonder if they had any better luck in L.A. than they did in Chicago. I know that in this world men and women of God are sometimes hard to find.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. What is it to be pure in heart? Those whose moral being is free from contamination with sin, without divided interests or loyalties. To the pure, belongs the unclouded vision of God, which will reach consummation when Christ returns. I remember the words of Mae West, “I used to be Snow White — but I drifted.”

The problems is we all drift! We are sincere about our faith and we really try to be pure. We want our minds, motives, and principles to be pure. We even seek to have the external actions correct, because it is our desire to be holy in heart. The problem? We look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

Here, we are on Old Testament ground. The difference between outward and inward purity, and the acceptability of the latter only in the sight of God, is taught everywhere. Moses wanted to see the face of God: Exodus 33:20-22 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. To look on the face of God was to behold judgement!

To be able to look upon the face of God called for a perfect individual. Very few are recorded in scripture and even fewer living. There are only two verses about Enoch in scripture; Gen 5:23-24 Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

Even though Moses couldn’t look upon the face of God he was changed by being in God’s presence. After he had gone to the top of the mountain many times, his face began to glow with the glory of God. His face glowed so bright that he had to wear a veil to keep from blinding people.

Jesus will conclude this fifth chapter of Matthew with a profound request of His listeners, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. How can we be perfect, how can we be pure in heart, when our nature is bent to sinning? If we are sinners, then is it implied that we will never see God? It is implied that all will see God, . That is, we will see God as a Judge, not as a Friend. Blessed are the pure in heart is an invitation to see God as a Friend.

All of us have the ability to rid ourselves of the dark and ugly side. 1 Cor 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? A farmer went each week to the Farmers’ Market to sell, among other things, the cottage cheese and apple butter made on his farm. He carried these in two large tubs, from which he ladled the cottage cheese or apple butter into smaller containers the customers brought. One day he got to the market and discovered he’d forgotten one ladle. He felt he had no choice but to use the one for both products. Before long he couldn’t tell which was which.

Pure in heart does not mean that we are perfect already. Pure in heart is the desire of our hearts to be pure. It is real and not fake. What type of diet do we have for Christ?

A man was driving through the country when he saw a sign in front of a country store: “Rabbit Burgers — 25 cents.” Intrigued by both the idea and the price, he stopped, went inside and purchased one. While he was eating, he spoke with the proprietor: “I stopped because I saw your sign and your price. Are these made completely from rabbit meat?” “They’re mostly rabbit,” the proprietor said. “What do you mean by ‘MOSTLY?'” “I put in a little mule, too.” “What do you mean by ‘A LITTLE’?” “Fifty – fifty,” replied the storekeeper. “What do you mean by ‘FIFTY – FIFTY’?” The storekeeper answered, “You know, you put in one rabbit and you put in one mule.”

Paul writes to the Church at Rome and says, For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. This issue is as simple as asking, “Are we even trying to be good?” A grandson asked to his grandfather: “In your day you didn’t have all these social diseases. What did you wear to have safe sex?” Grandfather answered, “A wedding ring.” To lie a little is not possible; whoever lies, lies a whole lie.

If you put a spoonful of wine in a barrel full of sewage you get sewage. If you put a spoonful of sewage in a barrel of wine, you get sewage. The food that enters the mind must be watched as closely as the food that enters the body.

If you want the heart to be pure, plant good seed. Christians should have more fun with their purity than the sinner does with sin. Reading the Bible is important. Being in the fellowship is important. Being accountable to the Church is important. Being in regular prayer is important. Being in service to one another is important. Because all of it is food for the Christian heart.

The Beatitudes: Reviled For God

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Matthew 5:11-12

The prophet Elijah came from a district that shared deeply in the miseries of the kingdom of the ten tribes. To better understand his history, let us briefly consider the condition of affairs when Elijah made his appearance. Ahab had taken Jezebel, a Canaanite woman for his wife. Of a weak and yielding character, he allowed Jezebel to establish the Phoenician worship on a grand scale. Priests and prophets of Baal were appointed everywhere. The prophets of Jehovah were persecuted and slain. Elijah suddenly appeared before Ahab and proclaimed the vengeance of Jehovah for the apostasy of the king. IKing 17:1 “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” He remained hidden from the king, supported by ravens, until the brook dried up. Then another refuge was provided for him at Zarephath .

The second appearance before Ahab took place three years and six months after the rain stopped. Elijah, found Ahab still alive and unreformed, Jezebel still worshiping her idols, and the prophets of Baal still deceiving the people. He then challenged Ahab to exercise his authority in summoning an assembly to Mt. Carmel that the controversy between them might be decided. Fire was the element over which Baal was supposed to preside so Elijah proposed that two oxen be slain and each laid upon a separate altar, whichever should be consumed by fire would proclaim whose the children of Israel were and whom it was their duty to serve.

The labors, anxieties, and excitement of the ministry had proved too much even for that iron frame and stern resolution. His spirit was broken, and, sitting beneath a juniper tree, Elijah wished for death. But sleep and food, miraculously furnished, refreshed the weary prophet, and he went forward in the strength of that food to Mt. Horeb, a journey of forty days. After he rested in a cave one night the voice of the Lord came to him in the morning, asking, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. He was directed to stand outside the cave, and “the Lord was passing by” in all the terror of His most appalling manifestations. The fierce wind tore the solid mountains and shivered the granite cliffs of Sinai; the earthquake crash reverberated through the defiles of those naked valleys; the fire burned in the incessant blaze of Eastern lightning. Elijah’s conviction was now forced upon him that in none of these was God to be known. Then came the whisper of the “still small voice”. I King 19:18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel– all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

It almost seems odd to hear these words from Jesus, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. How can anyone be blessed that is being persecuted and called names? Elijah had difficulty with it and I am sure we would as well. (But the company of the one that we would be like is Jesus.) They said of Jesus that he was a Samaritan and had a devil ; That he was mad ; Thus they reviled and mocked him all the way to the cross, .

The early Christians considered it a joy to be persecuted because to them it meant being like Jesus. An emphasis should be laid on the word falsely in this passage. It is not blessed to have evil spoken of us if we deserve it; but if we deserve it not, then we should not consider it as a calamity. We should take it patiently, and show how much the Christian, under the consciousness of innocence, can bear. Matthew 5:39-42 Jesus said, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

One morning a couple of cowpunchers went out on the range to bring in a wild steer from the mountains. They took along with them one of those shaggy little gray donkeys-a burro. Now a big three-year old steer that’s been running loose in the timber is a tough customer to handle. Nevertheless, these cowboys had a technique for handling this steer. They got a rope on the steer and then they tied him neck to neck, right up close, to the burro and let them go. At first, the burro had a bad time. The steer threw him all over the place. He banged him against trees, rocks, into bushes. Time after time they both went down. But there was one great difference between the burro and the steer. The burro had an idea. He wanted to go home. And no matter how often the steer threw him every time the burro got to his feet he took a step nearer the corral. After about a week, the burro showed up at the corral. He had with him the tamest and sorriest-looking steer you ever saw.

The thought of this little burro, being overpowered and abused can encourage us when we find ourselves struggling with difficult problems or people in our lives. We often feel tied “right up close”. If we could only have some slack! But our God has a purpose in tying us to our problem. He knows that our faith will enable us to hang in there. No matter how often we are thrown, our stubborn Christian attitude will enable us to get to our feet and take a step nearer to God’s solution! We may be abused and hurt. But just think of the tremendous outcome-that we might eventually stand before the throne of our Savior, tied to that special person who has now been brought to Christ! Maybe God’s techniques make sense after all!

A blacksmith, about eight years after he had given his heart to God, was approached by an intelligent unbeliever with the question: “Why is it you have so much trouble? Since you joined the church and began to ‘walk square’ and seem to love everybody, you have had twice as many trials and accidents as you had before. I thought that when a man gave himself to God his troubles were over. Isn’t that what the parsons tell us?” With a thoughtful but glowing face, the blacksmith replied: “Do you see this piece of iron? It is for the springs of a carriage. I have been ‘tempering’ it for some time. To do this I heat it red-hot, and then plunge it into a tub of ice-cold water. This I do many times. If I find it taking ‘temper’, I beat it with the hammer unmercifully. In getting the right piece of iron I found several that were too brittle.
So I threw them in the scrap-pile. Those scraps are worth about a cent a pound; this carriage spring is very valuable.”

He paused, and his listener nodded. The blacksmith continued: “God saves us for something more than to have a good time — that’s the way I see it. We have the good time all right, for God’s smile means heaven. And He has put the ‘temper’ of Christ in us by testing us with trial.

Paul writes, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day– and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Sharing Our Faith

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Philemon 1:4-7

Have your children stumped you lately with questions about faith? One of our Sunday School teachers was telling her pre-schoolers about Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion and had their undivided attention. When she finished the lesson and asked for questions, Michael’s hand shot into the air; the teacher was thrilled. “I just want to know one thing,” he said, “Where in the blue blazes were the State Police when all this was going on?

It is amazing where we sometimes find our hidden treasure! Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Have you already found your treasure? Sometimes it is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Philemon was a wealthy Christian of Colossae who hosted a church in his house. Philemon was converted under one of Paul’s trips to Asia. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back– not to mention that you owe me your very self. For Philemon, Paul was a pearl of great price. Now the message is very simple, Onesimus is a changed slave. Welcome him back as a buried treasure. Or a pearl that has become much more valuable. Paul asked Philemon to receive Onesimus, not as a slave but as a “beloved brother”.

I had just turned 18 and my mother died. My sister and brother were already married and out of the home. When I made the decision to go and live with the McConnell family, I had to do something with the furnishings. So we had an estate sale. What was I to keep from my mother and my family? Some of her jewelry that I passed on to Brooks. A gun that had been given to me by my father that I gave to Jonathan. All of the family photos, except for that one of me naked in the crib, never did know what happened to that one.

Brooks this past week asked if she could get out the old camera. One of the things that I kept was my mothers camera from the turn of the century. We remarked how different the camera was but at the same time how timeless it was to. It has a viewer that “reflects” the picture being taken. Very similar to many cameras and camcorders today. My mind went back to being a boy and holding that camera and viewing the world through its lens.

Much of who I am, my mother instilled in me. My love of Christ was a gift from her. It is so easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects–education, building, missions, holding services… The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, the whole universe was created for any other purpose.

The writer of Ecclesiastes writes, Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. There is a blessing in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. For Paul, the blessing was that he knew Philemon would take Onesimus back into his family. Remember, Paul and Onesimus were very good friends.

There is also a command to share the good news of Jesus. “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

Ever wonder why we require people to stand before the church and acknowledge, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God….”? Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

The church is like manure. Pile it up, and it stinks up the neighborhood; spread it out, and it enriches the world.

Set Onesimus Free

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Philemon 1:8-11

All of the Bible is a reversal of the unexpected. The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. The jailer put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved– you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

Jesus said, Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. There are a lot of people who are more in slavery than was Onesimus. They live their lives in extreme stress! Slaves to the pressures of everyday life and work. They are captive to the anger that is deep within! Past hurts that have never been resolved. Silence that has never been explained or answered. A slave to the inability to forgive and forget. They are captive to a life of loneliness! Isolated from family and friends. Feeling no one’s love or concern. A slave to grief.

A short time after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky woman who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her home. There she cried bitterly that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She waited for Lee to condemn the North or at least sympathize with her loss. Lee paused, and then said, “Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it.”

There are times when we need to let go of and forget the past, and face our todays and tomorrows. Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “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?”

“Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Who is the slave here? There are many people who live in the fear of death.
There are a lot of people who live in a fear of what is to come in the after life. There are a lot of Christians who live with little faith that God will work in today’s world. Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” LADZAROS DYOORO EXO The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

My question to you is, “Who is really set free that day?” Certainly Lazarus comes out of the grave. But Mary and Martha are set free that day!

I tell you the truth, Jesus said, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Different religious groups have understood this passage differently. The Catholics feel that this passage empowers the priest to forgive sin. Protestants have always generally viewed is as the power of the Church at prayer. To “bind” means to commit God in the act of grace in the life of the Church. But to “loose” means to accept forgiveness, in other words to be set free.

Corrie Ten Boom, who years after her concentration camp experiences in Germany, met face to face one of the most cruel and heartless German guards that she had ever encountered. Now he stood before her with hand out-stretched and said, “Will you forgive me?” She writes, “I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. I forgive you, brother, I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each others hands, the former guard, the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment!” To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, I appeal to you on the basis of love. It is an invitation to set Onesimus free. In setting Onesimus free, he becomes free as well.