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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, PART 2

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Jesus calls us to follow him as King.

When we follow him, Jesus transforms our lives by the Holy Spirit into his image so we look more and more like him as part of his Kingdom community.

The Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount describe what this life in King Jesus and his upside-down kingdom revolution looks like.

True happiness is found in Jesus and in becoming like him.

God’s liberating reign comes to those who have nothing.

Comfort is provided for those who mourn.

Inheriting the earth is promised to those who are humble.

Restorative justice will be accomplished for those seek it.

Mercy will overflow for those who demonstrate mercy.

Seeing God will be granted to those who trust in him.

God’s children are revealed as those who live to make peace, not war.

All these kingdom virtues were lived out and fulfilled through Jesus. In the way he served. How he loved. And in how he sacrificially gave his life.  Jesus suffered and died to love and bless the very enemies who persecuted and crucified him.

Jesus gave his life in love to rescue sinners like us and to bring us into the joyfully-blessed kingdom life received in union with him.

As we live each day by embracing and expressing the life of King Jesus in the Beatitudes, we also – like Jesus – will receive ridicule, scorn, and hatred from the world.

Yet, this is all part of the blessed Kingdom life, Jesus says!

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  (Matthew 5:11-12)

Our worldly thinking struggles to make any sense of this.

How can we be blessed and happy if we’re persecuted? Who, in their right mind, would think of responding with joy after being insulted as a Christian? Who would feel happy when hearing that slanderous gossip is being spread about their faith?

What Jesus describes is a supernatural joy and happiness the Spirit gives to those who face hardship and persecution because of righteousness – when they live like Jesus.

In October 2008, I had the opportunity to travel with another pastor to Jiangmen, China, for a 21-day mission trip. Over the course of a week, my partner and I worked with two different Chinese translators for a class to teach Chinese pastors and evangelists.

One of our translators was a young 24-year-old Chinese woman, whose English name was Judy.

On Wednesday, we had spent the whole morning teaching with Judy translating for us. I was exhausted. I was also frustrated.

Judy wasn’t as good of a translator as the one we had on Monday and Tuesday. It made teaching all that much harder. After class I was struggling with my frustration until I had a chance to talk with Judy and she shared her story with me.

Her words melted my heart. And I found myself struggling to keep the tears from bursting out.

Judy had grown up in an atheistic, Chinese family – like so many Chinese young people. She didn’t believe in God.

She went to college, got a good job in accounting, and then met a great Chinese young man. She moved in together with him. Judy dearly loved him and looked forward to marrying him.

But she felt empty. She knew that there was more to life than what she was experiencing.

A friend of Judy’s had recently become a believer in Jesus and one day she shared her faith with Judy. Over the course of months she talked with her friend about her faith. She asked a million questions. She probed and wrestled with all these new ideas about a Creator God who came to earth as a man named Jesus.

Finally, it happened. The Good News of this Jesus-looking God who loves her reached her heart and transformed her. Judy experienced God’s love in a very real and tangible way. Jesus was now the center of her life. Jesus filled the void in her heart with a newfound joy.

Judy was a follower of Jesus and she was excited to know him more and live for him!

In her excitement to embrace and express the love of Jesus, Judy hit a wall of resistance and rejection.

Her Chinese boyfriend had grown up in Australia within a Christian family. Later, he moved to China, renounced his Christian faith, and became an atheist. He ridiculed and became hostile to Judy.

When Judy took the step of faith to be baptized by a small house-church community of Jesus followers, the dam of persecution broke loose. Judy’s allegiance was now to Jesus as Lord.

Judy’s family disowned her and refused any communication with her. Her boss fired her and worked to make her life hell so she couldn’t find another job. Finally, her boyfriend, in his hostility toward her faith, laid down an ultimatum: “You must choose. Either me or Jesus! You can’t have us both!!”

As Judy told her story, her face beamed with the joy of a Jesus follower, while tears began to run down her cheeks in the anguished pain of what it cost her.

Judy boldly responded to her boyfriend. “Jesus is my love and my life. I love you, but I love Jesus more. Jesus will always be faithful to me. He will never stop loving me. I choose Jesus.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”

(Next week we will start a new series of blog posts)

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Meet Pastor Chris

  • Hi! My name is Chris Boehnke (a good German name pronounced “Bane-key”). Tracy, my wife, and I have been married for 21 years and God has blessed us with four beautiful children: Joshua (18), Lauren (16), Nathaniel (13), and Mikayla (9). I treasure my wife and family among the greatest gifts God has given me in life. I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska – the heartland of the Midwest – by two loving parents, Don and Linda. I grew up attending a conservative but vibrant Lutheran congregation, while also experiencing excursions into other evangelical and charismatic church environments. This exposed me to a breadth of Christian practice and teaching that has incited me over the years to ask a ton of questions and to seek deeper understanding regarding what “the church” is and what it’s central message, “the Gospel,” is all about. While my interests were in art…

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