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To follow Jesus is the true meaning of the Sabbath. When you are stressed you can rest in His care. When you are worried, you can rest in His power. When you feel rejected you can rest in His acceptance. When you feel overlooked you can rest in His presence. When you feel overwhelmed you can rest in His provision. When you are hurt, you can rest in His comfort. When you are confused, you can rest in His plans. When you’re at the end of your rope, you can take His hand, and He will save you. Keep company with Jesus. Learn how to be free.

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All of us have stuff from our past we would like to forget. Like if our life was a movie, there are whole parts we’d like to edit out. Let’s just skip over that month, that year, or that decade. Sections of our life feel pointless. They weigh us down with shame and bitterness. We want to forget them. We’re tempted to think that the dark parts of our story don’t matter. Or that our whole story is bad because of all of the dark seasons it contains. But God is using your whole life to tell His story. All of your story matters, because God’s story matters. And as you look back on those dark spots with the eyes of faith, you start to see God’s light was there even in the darkness. God was working in your life even though you couldn’t see Him.

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One reason people sometimes resist community, especially a faith community or a small group, is because they are worried about ending up with people who are different. What if they are on the opposite end of the political spectrum? What if they have different interests? Different beliefs. Different incomes. Different ages. Different ethics. Here's what I think Jesus would say to people who close their hearts to community:  “You were called into a personal relationship with God, but also a shared faith.” No matter what separates you from another person, the desire to meet Jesus and follow Him has tremendous unifying power—power that is released into our lives when two or more gather in His name. Power to help you learn, grow and experience joy.

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It’s a powerful thing to pray for another’s dream. Now, here’s my question to you: don’t you want something like that in your life? Wouldn’t you love to have someone praying on your behalf for what matters most? Wouldn’t you like to be alert to what your friends and family feel? The word for alert literally means “to keep oneself awake,” but it was used as an expression to mean “to be alert, to be on the lookout for, to be vigilant.” We don’t just look out for ourselves but others. Check out how the Message Bible translates this verse: “God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out” (Ephesians 6:17-18). Who can you be praying for today?

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When you’re frustrated, or feel guilty or unworthy, remember your rescuer. When you feel like you can never measure up and never get it right, remember your rescuer. When you feel nervous talking about the Ten Commandments, remember your rescuer. When you think you have it all together, you know best, and that the rules don’t matter, remember your rescuer. God rescued you from slavery. He does not rescue you into slavery. We are on the way to a greater blessing, so God has given us some rules—some statements of reality—to guard all the blessings He is giving us. You don’t have to live with constant emptiness and disappointment. The Ten Commandments are not about getting in good with God, they are about keeping the good life He has already giving us through grace. We can find the happiest place on earth by putting God first in our hearts.

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When you’re frustrated, or feel guilty or unworthy, remember your rescuer. When you feel like you can never measure up and never get it right, remember your rescuer. When you feel nervous talking about the Ten Commandments, remember your rescuer. When you think you have it all together, you know best, and that the rules don’t matter, remember your rescuer. God rescued you from slavery. He does not rescue you into slavery. We are on the way to a greater blessing, so God has given us some rules—some statements of reality—to guard all the blessings He is giving us. You don’t have to live with constant emptiness and disappointment. The Ten Commandments are not about getting in good with God, they are about keeping the good life He has already giving us through grace. We can find the happiest place on earth by putting God first in our hearts.

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Success and accomplishment are good things. But when you make them the ultimate thing, and failure is not an option, you can never miss a practice, never let someone down, never get anything less than an A, never get passed over for promotion, never let a ball drop…you’re now enslaved to success. The main problem with this idol is that it makes people very busy. They are always running so hard and hustling to feel like they matter that many times they’re too busy for church. ‘I’d love to be there, but we have soccer, I gotta work late, gotta study, gotta get the house clean, gotta hit the gym.’ When you make achievement an idol, it can’t save you. You will never be able to do enough. Jesus is the only one who can save. 

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My friend Judy is in her 80’s and used to be a nun. Then she was a corrections officer after that. Through that whole journey she talked about how after 75 years of searching for love and acceptance, God grabbed a hold of her one weekend. She happened to be sitting at Central Church. She began to experience His love in her heart for the first time. This is how she put it: “I can finally rest in the fact that I know I’m not good enough for God but He is absolutely good enough for me. It is a gift I hope everyone will receive. I just hope it doesn’t take you 75 years to figure out.” Judy is kind. She is gentle. She is good. She is joyful. But it did not happen because she kept the Ten commandments. I think she’d tell you that led to guilt. But that day she learned that God is good. Good enough for her. That goodness saved her and transformed her. She saw that God is the only one who can rule in her heart. The only one who can rule in her life. The only one who can save. After that, she kept the Ten Commandments without even thinking about it much. She was too busy thinking about how good God is.

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Jesus said that whoever comes to Him, trusts Him and follows Him will never be hungry. Why? Because when spiritual hunger strikes, you will get the bread that satisfies and enough will finally be enough. Don’t try to feed spiritual hunger with non-spiritual things. The result is not satisfaction, but depletion. The result is worry, anxiety and a constant drive for the more that is never enough. Worldly excesses can never make up for spiritual malnutrition. Turn to Jesus for security. Turn to Him for adventure. Turn to Him for intimacy, true riches, true glory and true significance. Your satisfaction in Him will become the baseline for your life. You will finally be able to enjoy what you have because your spiritual hunger is satisfied. You won’t need the extra attention, the endless affirmation, or the constant acquisition--enough will finally be enough. Jesus will be enough. 

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When we begin to live our lives filled with rage, malice, greed and impurity, do you know what it does? It drains the life and the energy out of you. You can’t get ahead because you are too busy putting people down, or letting them put you down. You need a new power from which to love and relate to others. That’s why Paul says, “Begin to put these different things on – mercy, kindness, patience, gentleness.” What do these powers look like? Mercy means compassion. It’s the power to let the needs of another person move you. Jesus was always responding with mercy and compassion. He offers that power to you. Another power is kindness. This is an attitude that we take towards other people. We don’t see a lot of kindness in our world. We see cruelty and indifference. Those are defaults. But god’s power makes you kind. Humility. This is the power that does not think less of itself, but thinks of itself less. It’s the power to be free of your ego (which is always competing with others). You can see that others are important without feeling less important yourself. Last is patience, which literally mean big-souled. The idea is that there is so much of you, there is plenty of room for others nonsense. You have fewer and fewer buttons to push. You have been chosen to be the holy people God loves, so put on your new power.

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We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. No matter how much we may feel hunted—by the past, by our sin, by creditors, or by the enemy…we are not deserted. God doesn’t abandon His kids. He doesn’t abuse His kids. He doesn’t turn His back on His kids. God is still working. The final chapter hasn’t been written. We haven’t missed the miracle. Our destiny has not been derailed, because we serve God whose hand stretches across the expanse of the universe and He has not left us.

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We often assume that if God’s power is within us to strengthen us, then we shouldn’t feel so much pressure. Yet pressure is what we feel every day—from work, family, emotions, and life pressures. Sometimes we’re tempted to think, “Maybe it’s me and I’m just not able to access God’s power.” Yet when we look at Paul we see this incredibly devout person, arguably the greatest missionary the church has ever produced, but he is pressed by troubles everywhere. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7–9 (NLT): “Our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” Pressure doesn’t diminish our faith…it refines it. Paul says the difference God’s power makes is simply, “We are not crushed.” God’s power gives us the ability to endure and persevere, to feel the weight of our troubles, but to not be crushed by them. Pressure produces a more perfected faith.

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The recovery chip I carry in my pocket has the words engraved on it, “My grace is sufficient.” It is a powerful reminder that God’s grace is always present, that we need to rely on it every day, and that grace is not just for salvation, but for every struggle we face. It is a reference to Paul when he writes about asking God to take away some affliction or struggle. God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV). It is when we are weak that we can be strong in faith. In that weakness God’s power gives us what we need to push forward. This is a more realistic picture of how God’s power works in us to strengthen us in trouble, confusion, and struggle. God in us gives us the ability to move forward in spite of the obstacles. He rarely gives you the power to climb the whole mountain, but he’ll give you the power to take the next step. You can take on the world because Jesus has overcome the world. 

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Here is the truth about worry: we choose it by what we seek. If you seek to store up treasures for yourself, you will worry, because you can't find permanent security in this temporary world. If you desperately seek the things you need, you will worry because the world makes no guarantees. But if you earnestly seek God, He will be your certainty. You will send that treasure ahead by burying good in other people's lives. You’ll be faithful and rich toward God, you'll see life as more of an adventure, and you will embrace the tangled path before you. You will know God better. Feel His love. Feel His joy.

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When you have the weight of the world bearing down on your shoulders, Jesus says, seek me first and God will give you everything you need. When you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from, or how you will pay the rent, Jesus says, seek me first and God will give you everything you need. When you have no idea how to face the problems at work, or in your family, or with your body…Jesus says, seek me first and God will provide everything you need. When you feel like there is not enough time in the day, or gas in the tank, or strength in your body to be the parent you want to be, the son or daughter you want to be, the employee or employer you want to be, the spouse you want to be, the student you want to be, the Christian you want to be…Jesus says, don’t seek more sleep first, don’t seek caffeine first, don’t seek advice first, don’t seek alcohol first, don’t seek time management first, don’t even seek self-improvement first…seek me first. Seek Jesus. And His righteousness. And GOD will provide you with EVERYTHING you need!

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One of the biggest obstacles to freedom is our blind spots. Chances are the habits and attitudes that hold you back are buried beneath layers of busyness and distraction. The first step to getting free from the inside out is to slow down, look at your life and ask Jesus for the help that only He can give.

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We can get weary from the fight and at times we can be tempted to give up. Some of you may feel like throwing in the towel today. You may feel weary. You may feel like the odds are against you. You may feel like you’re done and it’s all over, but God is in your corner. God doesn’t ever throw in the towel on you. The measure of a person is never how many times you’re knocked down, but how many times you get back up! Don’t throw in the towel, throw on the armor. Ephesians 6:10-11 (NLT): “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” 

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There is often a testing after a triumph. When Jesus was baptized God spoke, heaven opened, it was a huge public triumph and immediately after he was tempted by the devil for 40 days in the wilderness. A testing often follows a triumph. Some of you have made spiritual decisions recently; you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus or made a huge step in your spiritual life. You’ve forgiven a grudge you have held for years. You have started to trust God financially; you have started activating your faith. Don’t be surprised if things feel harder before they feel easier. When you push back the darkness, the darkness pushes back. Difficulty teaches humility which empowers future victory. We learn to rely on God and stand firm in the difficulty, we learn life isn’t about us, and this opens our heart for God to use us more in the future. If a testing is following a triumph in your life, it just means God is getting you ready to be used more fully by Him. Jesus would go on after being tempted to engage in his public ministry and show us the entire path to victory. Stand firm in the testing. The testing that follows the triumph prepares you for your purpose.

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You may feel like the bad things in your life are winning. Stand firm. They aren’t. You may feel like it’s too late for you. Stand firm. It isn’t. You may feel weak. Stand firm, you are stronger than you think. You may feel like a nobody. Stand firm. You aren’t. You may feel useless. Stand firm. You aren’t. You may think you’re powerless. Stand firm. You’re not. You may think you’ve been knocked out for good. Stand firm. You haven’t been. You may be ready to throw in the towel. Stand firm! You may want to tap out. Stand firm. You may think the match is over. Stand firm. It isn’t. You may feel like it is a TKO. Stand firm. It isn’t. The TKO happened when Jesus died and rose again and delivered the knock out blow to the devil. Jesus has won this fight and He is in your corner. He is the undisputed heavyweight champion of life and our role is to stand firm in the fight, stand firm in what Jesus has done for you. Stand firm in your forgiveness, stand firm in the hope of eternal life. Stand firm in your faith that with God all things are possible. Stand firm in your belief that God is working in your life. Stand firm in the faith that God can change hearts. Stand firm in your faith that He can bring about forgiveness. Stand firm in the belief that God will help you face that addiction. Stand firm in the belief that God has incredibly great power for those who believe! Stand firm in faith when you want to stand down. You can be knocked down, but never knocked out. You have to fight, but Jesus will never lose the fight and He will not lose you. Don’t throw in the towel, throw on the armor.

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Today, put on the body armor of God’s righteousness. First, it’s the idea that God imputes the righteousness of Jesus onto your life, so in God’s eyes, you are morally perfect. You may think you’re a mess but as a believer in Jesus you wear His righteousness. When you put on His righteousness, you are new. The past is the past. It doesn’t own you. Shame does not define you. Don’t let the devil tell you, ‘you’re just an addict so you may as well give in.” You are not an addict. You are a child of God. The other way this body armor of righteousness works is that as you learn more and more of what it means to live out your faith, loving God and loving others, the more you can see these temptations for what they are. The more you see that God’s way really is the best way. And you aim for what gives life, not just what gives pleasure or gives relief.

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