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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. )




April 24, 2017, 9:27 AM

Stealing is Bad


There's a no-brainer statement for you.  We've been brought up knowing "Do Not Steal."  Its right up there with "Do Not Murder." 

We're not going to spend time on petty theft, or even grand larceny in this blog entry... Instead, we're going to hit on something much, much worse than the theft of something physical.  Our topic is the theft of "Joy." 

Now, I'm pretty sure you're thinking: "I don't even know what he's talking about... Joy Theft?" Yes, I'm talking about stealing another's Joy. So now I hope you're thinking: "I don't even know HOW to steal Joy."  Yes, you do.  We ALL do. 

Complain.  Criticize.  Judge.  

Use those as a weapon or tool to get your way or tell someone else exactly how you feel and you are guilty in the first degree. Am I saying that we should put a fake smile on our face and say "Fine" every time someone asks us how we're doing and we're not "Fine" but falling apart inside?  Nope. 

Am I saying that there are better ways to communicate to someone a displeasure or something we're not content with? Yep. 

Too often (WAAAAYYYY too often) we fall into a routine of just blurting out what we don't like and throwing that weight on someone else's shoulders. We may think we're being helpful, even improving a situation by letting someone know we're not happy. At no point does sharing the weight of complaint, criticism, or judgment on another person lighten ANYONE's burden.  NEVER. EVER. 

Complaining, Criticizing, and Judgment doubles the burden.  

Instead of making yourself feel better, the burden is still yours to carry AND someone else's. So what am I proposing? Do something to change the situation BEFORE it's too late. Don't sit back passively waiting for something to go wrong, jump on the opportunity to discuss options in advance.  If something happens that you don't like, work towards making a change. Crossing one's arms and telling anyone within earshot that you didn't like something helps no one, especially yourself. 

The environment I'm writing this from is (ideally) the one place in which ALL other options are tried before complaints are levied. In fact, we operate in the one place in which judgment should be withheld because we all know exactly where we stand in the grand scheme of things: for ALL have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23).  

Today, make it your goal to lighten someone's burden... Don't double down on the weight they are already carrying. 

Philippians 2: 12b - 16   Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.13For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. 14Do everything without complaining and arguing,15so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.16Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

 




April 17, 2017, 8:57 AM

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes...


Change is only hard when it leads to growth.  Everything changes around us with little to no input from us. We don't get to have a say in the weather, the headlines, the traffic signals, etc...  Life moves ahead whether we're ready or not... and we adapt. 

Sometimes we adapt by changing our routine.  Don't like the traffic on one route? Try another. But sometimes we're powerless to affect any real change and we must either then resign or carry on. Rain can dampen most plans, even just walking to or from your car, but an umbrella helps us adapt. 

All that being said: when is the last time our faith caused us to change......anything? We've got our Sunday morning routine which we hold tightly to. No change there. Is that the limit of the effect of our belief system?  One or two hours a week? That is hardly worth writing home about. 

The Resurrection, which most of the Christian world celebrated yesterday with Easter, has to have a bigger effect on us than just another Sunday within the 52 total Sundays we go to church in a year. 52 days... Actually, 52 - 104 HOURS within those 52 days. There are 8760 minutes in one year (365 days).  When 104 hours is spent in faith-filled pursuits... that's just over 1% of the hours we are given each year.  

He has risen... and it changes Everything.  Everything.  Not just 1% of everything.  Everything.  How we wake up.  How we go to sleep.  And every moment in between. 

He has risen.  He has risen indeed.  What has it changed in you? 

John 20: 19 - 23 19That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.20As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!21Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”22Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.23If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”


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