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February 13, 2017, 9:29 AM

I Am Because We Are


I was introduced to a philosophy not too long ago that finds itself running to the forefront of my mind as I think about our series: Ubuntu.  Loosely this can be translated: "I am because WE are."  It is a philosophy that gives us our identity because of our humanity, together we are... alone I am not.  

When we talk about faith and belief, the concept of Ubuntu works in this realm.  Christianity, at its core is not something that is meant to be done alone.  One of the first things Jesus did when taking those steps in ministry was to gather people to him.  If anyone, ever has not needed help it was Jesus.  He had a direct line and connection with God, all the companionship anyone ever really needs.  But he did not walk alone; He surrounded himself with....  people like us.  

It is repeated often that the larger gathering those who follow Christ is labeled: "The Body of Christ."  Paul calls us "one body with many parts."  This is a group effort.  Our bodies are a system of systems, organs, and cells that work together to keep us alive.  My favorite thing to hear from someone who does not attend a Church is: "I love God, but not the Church."  Or: "I'm a spiritual person, I dont need a church body to worship."  So on and so forth with the excuses for not attending a weekly gathering.  

The truth is, you cant have the Head without the Body.  This whole idea was not set up to be separate. We're in this together.  Like it or not, we need each other.   

We can also flip that concept on its head: We are because HE is.  Without the head, there is no body.  We exist to serve the one who formed us, to worship the one who saves us.  We are hopeful because HE IS HOPE.  

We're diving deeper into this idea this week........ when we gather as the Church!  See you there! 

1 Corinthians 12: 14 - 17 14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?




February 13, 2017, 9:27 AM

I Am Because We Are


I was introduced to a philosophy not too long ago that finds itself running to the forefront of my mind as I think about our series: Ubuntu.  Loosely this can be translated: "I am because WE are."  It is a philosophy that gives us our identity because of our humanity, together we are... alone I am not.  

When we talk about faith and belief, the concept of Ubuntu works in this realm.  Christianity, at its core is not something that is meant to be done alone.  One of the first things Jesus did when taking those steps in ministry was to gather people to him.  If anyone, ever has not needed help it was Jesus.  He had a direct line and connection with God, all the companionship anyone ever really needs.  But he did not walk alone; He surrounded himself with....  people like us.  

It is repeated often that the larger gathering those who follow Christ is labeled: "The Body of Christ."  Paul calls us "one body with many parts."  This is a group effort.  Our bodies are a system of systems, organs, and cells that work together to keep us alive.  My favorite thing to hear from someone who does not attend a Church is: "I love God, but not the Church."  Or: "I'm a spiritual person, I dont need a church body to worship."  So on and so forth with the excuses for not attending a weekly gathering.  

The truth is, you cant have the Head without the Body.  This whole idea was not set up to be separate. We're in this together.  Like it or not, we need each other.   

We can also flip that concept on its head: We are because HE is.  Without the head, there is no body.  We exist to serve the one who formed us, to worship the one who saves us.  We are hopeful because HE IS HOPE.  

We're diving deeper into this idea this week........ when we gather as the Church!  See you there! 

1 Corinthians 12: 14 - 17 14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?




February 6, 2017, 8:02 AM

Who Am I? I'm 24601


This blog entry is going to bridge between two lessons in the Believe series, The Bible and Identity in Christ.  

I start with our topic this past week (2/5/17), The Bible, which spoke into the pointed need for a Christ-Follower to be immersed in the Word of God.  The text and scriptures WILL guide us and shape us and enlighten us.  We can find ourselves with paths made straight, and discovering God's character completely by digesting the Word of God.  The heart of the sermon and lesson was the oft-repeated mantra: Read Your Bible. 

If you wander in the undiscovered or unmapped places of the world, you better have a compass that points true North.  When we wander this world of undiscovered temptations and unmapped paths, we better carry something trustworthy and true with us.  We cant find our way home without the Story.  No amount of spiritualization of our lives will overcome the need for a biblical center.  

Which leads us to our second point:  Who am I? We have many identifying features we pull out when asked that question: "I'm a ______ (occupation); I'm _______'s child; etc... etc...  We keep these labels handy so we can quickly disseminate enough information to another to either find common ground or explain why we're qualified for a specific task.  

What identity do we fall to when we're asked a moral question?  The "24601" number is a reference to Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.  He is faced with just such a moral question.  He is a wanted man, having been paroled from a jail sentence, he is marked with the stigma of being a criminal.  Pursued by a relentless force bent on imprisoning him again (criminals never change in his eyes), Jean has created a new identity.  On to his quandry:  He is told that a Jean Valjean has been captured in Paris and will face trial.  The real Jean Valjean has the choice:  be free, finally, OR do not let an innocent man face the wrath of his poor choices.  

The scene from the book/play/movie is amazing and powerful and enlightening.  Which would you choose?  Is your identity shaped by Christ and his Story?  Or are we carving our own paths of moral ambiguity?  

I'm 24601.  




January 30, 2017, 8:56 AM

The Oddity that is Heaven


In our adult class yesterday (1/29/17, and yes this is a shameless plug for you to attend), we spent some time simply talking about the places that are Heaven and Hell.  It was an excellent discussion that went down many paths, and sparked a lively hour of learning from each other.  Enough advertising, as I have another thought about Heaven that I want to explore here. 

-- Heaven is going to be.... odd... for many of us.  

Let me explain further:  We all have visions of what an eternal place of joy and comfort looks like.  We've heard talk of mansions, streets of gold, and harps galore.  But I'm not sure that's where our focus should be at all.  Sure, it will be nice to escape the depravity and pain this world has to offer in abundance.  Sure, we will finally get to reap the benefits of sacrificial generosity and compassion.  However, those should not be our focus (Yes, that includes wanting more "jewels in your crown").  

Heaven will be about relationship.  Even more so than our (finally) perfectly intimate relationship we get to have with God, our Father and Creator.  Heaven will give us a chance to explore relationships we never considered having here on earth.  For example:  David and Uriah will be in Heaven together...........eternally.   The man that David had murdered AFTER impregnating his wife will reside in the same ethereal plane for all eternity.  And because of what I know about God and his promises, you won't hear a word of dissent from either.  

Which relationship will surprise you the most when we get there?  I'm afraid we've dismissed so many people from being granted that ultimate expression of God's grace that finally being set free from our worldly judgments and exclusions will make Heaven a very odd experience indeed. 

I'm okay with that.  Are you?  If you answered YES to being okay with Heaven being odd, what relationships down here do we need to address before we even get to that point?  Heaven is eternal, our time here is much shorter.  Don't waste any more moments excluding someone from your own graces, when God's grace is already reaching into the darkest places.  Let us serve the "least of these" while we still have the chance.  No law will ever allow us to ignore the marginalized, disenfranchised, or lost.  We are the vessels in which God's grace is manifest here, lets make the most of our short time. 

Matthew 5: 17 - 20   17“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.19So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

20“But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

 




January 23, 2017, 8:33 AM

So What?


The book of James was very present in the sermon yesterday, we just didn't talk about it!  So lets do that here.  

Our big question was "So What?"  Since we've established our belief in God, what are we going to do about it?  Orderly attendance and a routine Sunday schedule is not enough evidence in our lives to prove our lives are really, really changed by our belief system.  If we follow the formula that James presents to us in the New Testament, then we are either convinced we're doing enough to exhibit our level of belief or we choose to ignore both sides of James' good works/faith equation.  

Over and over again James presents his equation, 'If you claim to be religious, have faith THEN you will display it OUT LOUD."  

God's presence in our lives is a game changer.  (Understatement of the Day).  We are changed by the Creator of the Universe in us.  He is our God, our Father, our Personal God.   So what? 

Does it change anything other than Sunday morning?  That is not sufficient enough of faith expression to prove anything other than a slightly guilty conscious or the need for routine/habitual Church attendance based on a flawed belief system that has been beaten into us that attendance is enough.  

Is attendance and participation important?  YES, ABSOLUTELY!  You cant have the Head (Jesus) without the Body (the Church).  But living your faith for one or two hours a week only leaves another 166 hours devoted to __________.  

James 2: 14 - 17  14What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have cfaith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of cfaith save anyone?15Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,16and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.


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