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June 5, 2017, 8:48 AM

Money, Money, Money


Where does the love of money come from? The same place prejudice comes from... It. Is. Taught. 

There is a scene in the first Toy Story movie that cements this idea (and yes, I know it's a movie... but stick with me). The opening scene is built by the imagination of a child, Andy, and the scenario he creates with his toys. "One Eyed Bart" (Mr. Potato Head) has a convoluted plan to rob the bank, and is ultimately exposed by Sheriff Woody. There's a line in there though that speaks to a lesson we've all taught our children. One Eyed Bart gets into the bank (a cardboard box and a piggy bank), sees the coins inside and yells jubilantly: "Money, Money, Money!!"

Even the imagination of children speaks to the love of money. To be clear, money is not the root of all evil. The Bible never says that. The Bible says: "The love of money is the root of all evil" -- 1 Timothy 6:10

We have to choose which master we will serve (Matthew 6:24). More importantly, we need to choose which master we will teach others to serve. Which master makes your decisions? Jesus teaches about money often, and his message is not to ignore money or choose abject poverty... his message is to let money be money here on earth but serve God first, seek His Kingdom first.  We should give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what is God's. 

What part of us belongs to God? All of us.

Mark 12: 13 - 17 13 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14“Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay them, or shouldn't we?” Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin,c and I’ll tell you.”16 When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
   “Caesar’s,” they replied.
17“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them.




May 22, 2017, 9:05 AM

A run on one particular Spiritual Gift


Comfort. Awe Yes! I like THAT spiritual gift.

Routines. Schedules. Familiarity. Same seat. Known songs. And no one asking us to work/give/teach/lead/serve/or move outside of where we're comfortable.

That's MY spiritual gift, and it is well used. The Western Church caters to this spiritual gift. (Catch the irony here: I'm a part of the system, therefore preachers are a big part of the problem... I'm talking to myself mostly here). There are opportunities to be involved with missions without lifting more than a pen. We have orderly rows of pews and chairs so everyone has a decent sight-line and can hear best. Parking is simplified, refreshments are readily available, and doors are wide open.  All the service opportunities and committees you might want are scheduled at convenient times. The entire system is set up to make being involved as comfortable as possible.

And I LOVE it. 

However, the heart of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God established by Christ and the Apostles is everything BUT comfortable. There is opposition (violent at times); There is heartache; Splinters abound when you carry your own Cross; and lets not even get into what the Church looked like the first time those historically firm cultural barriers were ripped down between Jew and Gentile. That is the kingdom we're called to work in. Those that were comfortable with religiosity were called OUT by Christ, ripped to shreds publicly. 

Every word Jesus spoke attacks our comfort zones. Every stretch and reach of the new Church attacked comfort zones. We cannot settle in and expect to serve in that Kingdom. The only kingdom in which comfort is a gift is the one we create around ourselves. 

Matthew 8:18 - 22 18When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake. 19Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” 21Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” 22But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”




May 15, 2017, 8:28 AM

Uh Oh.


I had a disturbing thought this morning whilst chewing on the Ananias and Sapphira story in Acts 5. We spent some time with them in the Adult Class, but the revelation I had today overshadows any thought I've had about them yet. I've tried to explain their story in a way that makes sense, justifying Peter's death sentence on them. Usually I link their behavior to the Pharisees (external holiness that hides internal sinfulness). 

However.... (and that is a BIG however) today's thought hurts a little more than calling them Pharisees.  You see, Ananias and Sapphira are us. 

Let that sink in.  They. Are. Us. 

How many times have we sung "I Surrender All" and then withheld something? How many times have we declared "My heart, my mind, my body. I give to you, Take Control."  And then use our heart, mind, and bodies for worldly pursuits??!! We make the same statements as Ananias and Sapphira: "We've given all we have." But then we withhold portions for ourselves, just like them. 

Here's the rub: The Apostles weren't asking for every penny they had. In fact, Peter allowed for them to keep whatever they wanted to keep, and give what they felt they needed to give. It was the deception of sacrifice that hurt them. This speaks to the heartbreaking moments God experienced throughout Israel's past. They offered sacrifices and praised God, but their hearts were far from him. Jesus speaks these very words as well about the religious and pious claims of his time. 

Peter wasnt fooled.  God will not be fooled.  We're the only ones who think we're getting away with it. 

Hosea 6: 4- 6  4“O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the Lord. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight. 5I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces— to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light. 6I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.




May 8, 2017, 8:57 AM

Broken


What do you do with a broken toy, tool, pencil, etc...?  Typically we just throw it away. With the convenience of convenience stores, we're never really that far away from a replacement. 

What do you do with a broken heart, soul, or mind? That's a harder question to answer, because no store carries replacements for those pieces of us. We could write a song that helps heal a broken heart (of if you're Adele/Taylor Swift you write ALBUMS about it). There are outputs for healing a broken heart.  Minds can be healed, but those are a bit trickier. Sometimes its medicine, other times its counseling, sometimes its simply recognizing a problem and learning to cope (I'm NOT trivializing disorders, they're serious and demand respect and attention). 

But what about the soul? What do we do with broken souls? Here's the solution: WE don't do anything with broken souls (other than maybe live with them). We are powerless. Only God fixes broken souls. And that is the heart of sinfulness, doubt, and detachment from the Spirit because too often we try and handle the repairs on our own. Like using scotch tape to seal a crack in the Hoover Dam. 

The topic for yesterday (05/07) was Surrender; which often elicits this response from me: "No Thanks."  We are trained to fight to the end, give it our all, don't give up!! Surrender sounds like we've done just that!  That is a broken soul talking. When we surrender, truly surrender, we are made FREE to fight to the end, truly give our all, and to persevere. God takes broken things and makes them new. God takes the cracks in our souls and shines a light through that doesn't just heal, it empowers. The world thinks surrender is weakness and defeat. Faith proves surrender to be victory, healing, and empowerment to serve like never before. 

There is a moment in the Gospel of John that shines a light into this idea. Peter had a broken soul. He was often in the repair shop with Jesus, showing those places that needed the most attention. Pride got in the way more than once (and with more than just Peter). Jesus needed to attend to that, and had to do something rather extreme to get his message across: he surrendered his status as divinity, removed his shirt, got to his knees, and washed Peter's feet. 

The language used in this story speaks to the power and totality of surrender: Jesus knew what was about to happen, and John acknowledges Christ's power in all things. Jesus laid ALL of that down alongside his cloak, surrendering himself to the role of lowest servant. And in that moment we don't see him as weak, we see a powerful lesson in what makes us great. The cleaning he does physically doesn't last (they walked to the garden), but the impact he has on their souls shows itself eternally. He worked on their souls by wiping down their feet. 

If you want to be healed, surrender your feet to Christ. Allow him to see the places we keep hidden, shining his light within. It may be painful, and might get awkward, but a broken soul can only be healed through such a process. 

John 13: 1 - 5  1Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas,[ son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

 




May 1, 2017, 8:55 AM

Authentic


First: If you're not in a small group... find one, create one, join one. 

Second: This thought came from an excellent Small Group conversation about our Believe topic this week: Single-Mindedness

There is a Buzz-Word out there these days that is highly desirable to find in a person: authenticity.  If you have authenticity, you are transparent and your personality is not hiding or disguised. Employers are looking for authenticity, millennials are looking for authenticity in authority figures. Authenticity is being valued over reputation. 

Are you authentic? Authentic sports memorabilia demands a HUGE price increase over the fake stuff. Authentic Christ-Followers are worth far more, as well. They are the ones that don't just survive the day, they thrive no matter the circumstances. Because what is on the outside matches what is inside. Their heart is tuned to God's heart. 

Are we authentic? 

Matthew 5:8  Blessed are the pure in heart. For they will see God. 

(Chris - Translation: Blessed is the Christ-Follower who does not wear a mask, Whose inner character completely matches their outward actions. They will, in turn, see the purity of God. )


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