We hope you enjoy our 8-week summer series, #blessed.
If you’d like to continue the conversation about how God can free us from our hurts, habits, and hang-ups to become truly happy – please plan to join us for special Celebrate Recovery small groups that will be launching in the Fall.
If you’d like more information, please contact Rev. Jack Hinnen at 879-1737 or by email.
REALIZE by Rev. David Thompson
The theme of this sermon is the tendency that we have to make ourselves our own God – when really what we need is to realize who we are in light of God’s saving grace.
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The word “blessed” is translated as happy. The phrase “poor in spirit” means to have a humble opinion of oneself, to understand that we are sinners and we have “life” only by the grace and mercy of God.
The phrase “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” refers to the belief that the love of God has not only reached one’s ears, but penetrated one’s heart.
The first words that Jesus spoke in His first recorded sermon are powerful and countercultural. Jesus asserts (paraphrased) that people who are humble in attitude, in spirit and in riches are truly happy because when they hear about the love of God, they will be able to fully embrace this gift of grace like no other. Why did Jesus start his sermon with this message? What would the first listeners have thought about this bold declaration? What do you think about this message? We all want to be happy, but so often we turn to things, people or power to find our happiness when true joy comes through humility. I think Jesus is explaining that we will truly understand the love of God when we are happy without power or possession and find our joy in the Lord.
We must realize that we are NOT God. Our first step to happiness is admitting that we are powerless to control the world and even our own lives. What are you holding on to that is actually controlling you? What hurts are in your life? What negative habits are you unable to break? What hang-ups seem to continually rule your life? Where do you look for happiness?
God, so often we look to anything and everything in this world to find happiness when we know we should be looking only to you. Help us to humble ourselves so that we can truly experience your amazing grace. Bring to mind the hurts, habits and hang-ups that are controlling our lives that we need to turn over to you, and then give us the courage to seek help. Amen.
EARNESTLY by Rev. Reid Crotty
This sermon focuses on who we are to God, or how we matter to God and how God has the power to change our present situation.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
This may be the most difficult to understand of all the Beatitudes. What in the world did Jesus mean? To be in mourning would seem to be about as far from being blessed as we can imagine. But Jesus was being utterly realistic.
Mourning – grief, sorrow, pain, tears – is a part of life. The only way to avoid it is not to love and not to care. Sometimes mourning is the price of love. The kind of mourning He was talking about comes when our hearts are broken by the things that break the heart of God. We hurt because we love as God loves. And Jesus assures us that God stands with us, beside us. And in a remarkable and surprising way, God’s grace brings comfort when our hearts are broken because we love and because we care. To insulate ourselves in a closet of indifference, isolation, and unconcern is to miss out on just how wonderful that divine comfort really is.
Gracious Lord, let our hearts be broken by the things that break Your heart. Teach us to love as You love. And when love brings pain, give us the comfort that You supply to those who risk loving others and caring about the world around them. Amen.
CONSCIOUSLY by Rev. Robert Sturdivant
Humility – it’s that virtue we love to teach but hardly ever display. We love the concept yet often unknowingly, we praise self-serving pride. We work toward total autonomy, relying on no one else but our own will and determination. The truth is that none of us were ever meant to go at it alone. Throughout the Bible, we find accounts of people who first reject this notion of handing over their life to God, only to realize that there is a better, more genuine path with God, one that is grace-filled.
Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
When we give ourselves over to God, we admit, humbly, that we can’t do it alone, so we accept God’s saving grace as best we can.
We say that it is because we do not want to be controlled by anyone, but let’s be honest. Each of us every day are controlled. Whether by others, societal pressures or the life we think we should have thanks to social media, each of us are constantly listening to so many other voices to determine our next best step.
Here in Matthew 5:5, Jesus reminds us that the best step is the one toward God: the one that says I can’t do it on my own anymore. What are you holding on to that you think, “I can’t let go of this in order to give my life to God.” A relationship, an ambition, a habit, a lifestyle, a possession. Today, choose grace. Give whatever is holding you back to God and see what new thing God will work into your life.
Loving God, so often we try to go at it alone. We think that our way is the best way. Today, we thank you that even when we turn away from you, your loving arms are open always to us. Your grace is unfailing. Help us to see the places in our lives that are keeping us from giving our lives fully to you. Give us the courage to consciously take the necessary steps to build a more honest relationship with you. Amen.
OPENLY by Rev. Bobby Scales
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
St. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 2:9, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
There are pointed out in this scripture three kinds of sight. The sight of the natural eye which can see the morning sun and the evening sunset and the words printed on this page – that is physical vision.
A teacher may explain to a student the solution to a problem in mathematics and as the teacher lays out the steps to the answer, the students mind takes hold of what they hear to the point of understanding and says, “I see it.” That is mental sight.
But there is this God-given third sight, when truth enters the human heart. How we see God depends on the condition of the heart. To some he is a vague mystery, to others a stern judge, but to the pure in heart, he is a friend with answers to life’s problems bringing meaning and purpose for the present and a certain hope for the future – a glorious hope! When we experience Christ in our heart, then God is being revealed to us.
What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart. I have light in my soul for which long I have sought, since Jesus came into my heart.
When the heart sees Christ, then we see God. To see God is to realize him, to feel him, to turn our hearts to him and center the complete affection of our hearts in him as he becomes the center of our life.
One of the most beautiful stories in all scripture is that of Mary Magdalene, a vile and vulgar woman of the street trapped in the clutches of addictive sin.
But one day, she came in contact with the man whose soul was pure yet understood her impurity and with no reservation, she opened her heart, confessed her sin and with no reservation, he forgave her. She so completely took Him to heart that she overcame her evil desires – they left her. Being filled with the purity of Christ, she became pure.
What is the last scene in scripture we have of Mary Magdalene? She is standing at the foot of the Cross, and who is it that stands beside her? It is Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Lord’s mother, the blessed virgin.
If Mary Magdalene’s heart could be washed clean and made pure again by the Savior, then there is hope for every one of us. She saw Christ with her heart.
Help us, loving God, to see that the place to begin in overcoming every sinful addiction is to open our hearts to you in complete honesty and confess that we need your help. This humble act of admitting our need and confessing our sin is a giant step toward the new life we long for. Amen.
VOLUNTARILY by Rev. Brian Erickson
Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
I used to ask students in my classes, “Why are you in college?” Now keep in mind, some of these kids had been in school already for four years. These were not fresh-from-the-oven first year students. These were young men and women who had chosen majors, thought about a career path, and spent several thousand dollars of their parents’ retirement funds.
So you would think that being asked such a simple question, they would be able to rattle off an easy answer.
But almost every time I asked, there was silence. No one had ever asked them directly. They had gone to high schools where the norm for good students was to head off to college or the military or a job, and they didn’t think much about it. They could answer any complex question about quantum physics, they could write you a paper on Renaissance France, but they weren’t ready for the simple question: What are you doing here? What are you after?
But when we don’t know why we’re doing something, how do we know when we’re doing it well? How do we know when we’re getting out of it what we’re meant to get out of it?
A favorite preacher of mine was asked to come and speak at a church in south Alabama, and when she asked the pastor of the church what he wanted her to talk about, he said, “Just talk about what is saving your life right now.”
What is it that is saving your life right now? What is keeping you sane?
What is giving you joy? What is keeping you afloat?
Jesus tells us that what we chase after, what we hunger and thirst for, will be the measure of our lives. Of all the things you can chase after, of all the things you might rearrange your life to receive, the thing your heart was meant to seek is righteousness. Nothing else will save your life. Nothing else will leave you full.
Spend some time today asking yourself, “What am I really after?”
Gracious and Holy God, we pray to you today for the wisdom to know what gives life and what takes it away. Help our hearts to turn toward you in all things, that in every moment of this precious life we might seek after your righteousness alone. We pray these things in the name of the One whose righteousness is our hope and salvation, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
EVALUATE by Rev. Amy DeWitte
We can look within our own relationships for how we can give mercy and peace in an age filled with division.
Matthew 5:7 & 9 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
“Peacemaking” may bring up for us notions of political alliances, international treaties, or negotiations. Places like the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula need peacemaking. Warring tribes and nation-states need peacemaking. We often think of peacemakers brokering difficult resolutions in far-off lands.
It’s true that there are myriad conflicts in the world where the Peace of Christ is essential and the work of people committed to peace is so needed. But we have a great need for peace much closer to home — and not just between rival teams, political parties, or ideological positions. Deep and lasting peace must begin within our own hearts, which involves a posture of humility and the work of forgiveness. As long as we pit ourselves over and against someone else, as long as we hold on to resentment or hostility toward others, and as long our hearts are consumed with animosity or even hatred, we cannot be at peace within ourselves. Peacemaking begins with the willingness to let go of grudges, admit when we are wrong, and see things from others’ perspectives. When there is peace in our own hearts, God can use us to make far-reaching peace.
Holy God, Prince of Peace, allow me to see the ways my heart is resentful, uncompromising, or restless. Help me to make peace in my own life so that I can help make the way of peace for others. Amen.
RESERVE by Rev. Jack Hinnen
This sermon is about taking time to do the things we know will bring us closer to God and others so we won’t relapse.
Matthew 5:13-14 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.”
These passages aren’t technically Beatitudes. But without them, the preceding verses would have no weight. God’s people are to be blessed! But like Abraham who came before us, we are blessed to be a blessing. Hence, those blessed by the paradoxical nature of the Kingdom of God should pass this blessing along. Jesus says we are the salt and light of the world. Anyone who has ever had the power go out at night or been given a salt-free diet will tell you just how much we take for granted these important parts of our lives. Of course, salt that is not tasted and light that is not seen might as well not exist.
The contrast should not be lost on us – there is “what is” and “what ought to be” and what Jesus seems to think is that those redeemed by God can be both.
If we aren’t, then what’s the point? We so often move between “on fire” for Christ and “wet blanket” that Christians feel schizophrenic. The solution for that is to reserve space for God in our lives. We proactively avoid relapsing into our comfortable selves by filling our hearts with the living water, the bread of life, and the spice that makes life worth living. We can only do that together. With Jesus and with each other.
God, grant me the wisdom to avoid relapsing into old hurts, habits, and hang ups by reserving time for you. May your presence in my life help me replace my sins and hurts with the life-giving power of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for how you love me. Amen.
YIELD by Rev. Christian Cheairs
Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Using our experiences and process of salvation to bring others into the same place with God. Yielding to the will of God with the understanding we will face some push back.
Jesus has gathered an eclectic group of people to a place on a mountainside. The impoverished. The grief stricken. The persecuted. People who were traveling on a road to recovery through the coaching of Jesus, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I can only imagine how these original listeners had to fight. Fighting to be heard. Fighting to be seen. Fighting to be healed. Gospel narratives of the woman with the issue of blood and the two blind men demonstrate the fight it took just to have an encounter with Jesus.
However, in this short sermonic transcript, Jesus says to give up the fight. In other words, He is calling for us to yield. So often times on our road of recovery we feel the need to fight. To defend. To explain why we made the choices we made and constantly justify ourselves to people who serve as opponents or distractions to our healing.
Today, we yield to those that persecute us as we walk the sacred path to recovery. We surrender to and acknowledge the power of Christ’s activity of healing and transformation happening in our lives – so that we may be used by God to bring good news to others both by our example and by our words. Amen.