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September 26, 2016, 10:51 AM

Another Thought on Strength...


Big Question:  If the promise of Heaven or the threat of Hell were stripped away… how would you live?  

Would your life continue to be defined by such concepts as integrity, or generosity?  Would your character change if you knew you weren't “storing up treasure?”  This answer, at least in one instance, was answered with the behavior of Moses after on of his brief forays into impatience with the stubbornness of Israel.  He is told he will not enter the Promised Land.  

The carrot was taken from the end of his stick, he was left to wander the remainder of the 40 years in the wilderness with no relief in sight.  Everyone else would eventually make it into Canaan… he would not.  He now dealt with the transgressions, complaining, and general whininess of the people for NOTHING!!!!  (yes, I’m speaking from a lower story perspective).

But he continues to lead.  He continues to stand between God and man.  He continues to walk Israel closer and closer to the promise he will never receive. Why? 

Because there is so much more to how we love God than just our words or songs.  There must be action, response, and movement involved.  Moses kept walking.  

How ‘bout us?  Would we continue?  

I think we’ve got the Heart and Soul of love well handled.  Well, to be honest, there are industries built upon our grasp of the heart and soul of love:  Christian Music, Worship groups, Christian Radio.  Every one of those resources gives us countless ways to connect with the emotional and internal aspects of God.  If that were enough, well, things would be a lot easier.  

James takes that issue on with his letter late in the New Testament — James 2: 14; 17  What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can't that kind of faith save anyone?… 17 So you see, faith by itself isn't enough.  Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 

We could explain away Moses’ actions as dedication or integrity… but that would not be giving him enough credit.  He added the strength into loving God.  Does your life exhibit strength in your walk?  Or are we content with singing a happy song and leaving the loving to emotional outpouring? The world needs us to serve.  It doesn't have to be leading a nation into freedom… it may be loving one person through a empty tank of gas.  One small movement at a time leads us to our own Mt. Nebo…… and peace.  But only if we add every ounce of our strength to worship and faith.  




September 19, 2016, 8:09 AM

Maybe John Lennon was right...


You may recall that in 1966 John Lennon of the Beatles made an infamous remark that had dire consequences here in the US.  He said:  "We're (the Beatles) more popular than Jesus, now."   There is much more to the quote, in which he is discussing the diminishing influence of Christianity in the UK which makes the statement less potent and controversial.  But the entire statement wasn't printed five months later here in the US, only the quote that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus.  

Lets look at the whole quote:  "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first—rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."  The London Evening Star - "How Does a Beatle Live?" -- March 4, 1966.

It was the response received in the United States that pushed the Beatles to extinction, no longer performing live shows and becoming a studio-only band.  Taken out of context, they deserved every bit of anger... it is an egotistical and arrogant statement to make.  Within its context, there should be a higher level of alarm... 

Because he's right... in a sense.  

The world wins in the popularity contest.  Sacrificial living is not the norm, nor does it get the press like living large, living the American dream.  This is not to say that the Church will ever fade, that is not going to happen.  But it needs said that we've let the world win our hearts, even if we count on Jesus handling our souls.  

The ordinary people around Jesus did make his message a little harder to hear.  Peter was denying him; John was declaring that Jesus loved him best; Thomas doubted...  Not to mention what disciples and followers of Jesus have done to his name in the centuries that have followed.  Why would the world, unbelievers choose the Church over money, or comfort?  We dont. 

Jesus is not worried about the results of a popularity contest, he never was or will be.  It seems like the Church has become satisfied with being Runner-Up though.  That only changes when we do, when we shift allegiance to this failing world onto the hope that lasts eternal.  

Luke 9: 23 - 26  23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. 

 




September 12, 2016, 8:13 AM

Hot or Cold isnt the same as Conservative or Liberal **


That's a mouthful.  Especially for a blog title that's supposed to grab our attention and quickly dispense a point.  But I'm sticking with it.  I read a social media post this past Saturday evening that refuses to let me be, so I'm using this format to discuss it a bit with you.  My political knowledge and leanings are minimal at best... mostly I'm annoyed at how the election high jacks the news for months and months on end.  In other words, I am not going to blow your mind with some political insight.  

I do want to talk about how it affects our faith though, or at least how it affects our behavior.  Its a hot topic for sure, and some buzz words come forward every four years that "help" us determine which side we stand on:  Liberal and Conservative.  At the very core, those are decent enough descriptors for political leanings... and I would say I lean definitely towards what is typically the conservative stance.  

However... However... the words are being abused greatly; With one being almost solely used to describe one political party or another.  Once you are labeled as one, there's no changing or going back without repercussions.  It like voting the party line, selecting the box for all Republicans or Democrats on the ballot.  There's no room for real action there.  

How about those labels when it comes to our belief systems?  It is inherently assumed that the conservative outlook is the biblical stance.  And liberal is the worldly or errant place to be.  To quote the article I've read:  "there is nothing Spiritual, in and of itself, of conservative or liberal position on anything." **  We want to prove ourselves literate and subject to scriptural doctrine....... but what if we've missed the point based on our concern more to be conservative than actually act like Jesus?

Let me explain that last thought:  Jesus and the Pharisees were quite similar, and had a lot in common.  I am guilty of making them the butt of a joke, or antagonists in a lesson.  Their contributions to faith and religion cannot be overlooked.  Without them, Christianity would not have had the foundation for growth, nor the political shelter to operate freely within the Roman occupation.  They were instrumental to the birth and growth of the Christian movement...... even if they fought it.  

One could establish (quite convincingly) that they were the conservative arm of the faith system.  They protected the Law, down to the letter.  Entering the scene was a man who challenged some of that system, pushing its limits at every turn.  Why?  Why did he do this?  Was it to enrage them to the point of playing their part in his crucifixion?  No.  Was it to play a political card, challenging the established order of things within Roman occupation?  No.  Was it simply to be different?  No.  

Jesus was labeled "liberal" because instead of pushing Law he pushed Love.  And that made him a raging liberal.  He challenged their system by including everyone.  He challenged their ideas of what purity meant by touching the untouchable, healing sinners, and dining with the outcasts.  Everything he did pushed his agenda:  Love.  Now lets not get confused here, he did not come to abolish the Law.  He held to the Temple rules for purity... he just didnt extend them beyond those walls.  (Washing hands, utensils, etc...).  

We need a new position, or party to stand with:  Jesus.  And we need a new agenda:  love.  

** inspired by thoughts from Bobby Valentine, 09/09




September 12, 2016, 8:12 AM

Hot or Cold isnt the same as Conservative or Liberal **


That's a mouthful.  Especially for a blog title that's supposed to grab our attention and quickly dispense a point.  But I'm sticking with it.  I read a social media post this past Saturday evening that refuses to let me be, so I'm using this format to discuss it a bit with you.  My political knowledge and leanings are minimal at best... mostly I'm annoyed at how the election high jacks the news for months and months on end.  In other words, I am not going to blow your mind with some political insight.  

I do want to talk about how it affects our faith though, or at least how it affects our behavior.  Its a hot topic for sure, and some buzz words come forward every four years that "help" us determine which side we stand on:  Liberal and Conservative.  At the very core, those are decent enough descriptors for political leanings... and I would say I lean definitely towards what is typically the conservative stance.  

However... However... the words are being abused greatly; With one being almost solely used to describe one political party or another.  Once you are labeled as one, there's no changing or going back without repercussions.  It like voting the party line, selecting the box for all Republicans or Democrats on the ballot.  There's no room for real action there.  

How about those labels when it comes to our belief systems?  It is inherently assumed that the conservative outlook is the biblical stance.  And liberal is the worldly or errant place to be.  To quote the article I've read:  "there is nothing Spiritual, in and of itself, of conservative or liberal position on anything." **  We want to prove ourselves literate and subject to scriptural doctrine....... but what if we've missed the point based on our concern more to be conservative than actually act like Jesus?

Let me explain that last thought:  Jesus and the Pharisees were quite similar, and had a lot in common.  I am guilty of making them the butt of a joke, or antagonists in a lesson.  Their contributions to faith and religion cannot be overlooked.  Without them, Christianity would not have had the foundation for growth, nor the political shelter to operate freely within the Roman occupation.  They were instrumental to the birth and growth of the Christian movement...... even if they fought it.  

One could establish (quite convincingly) that they were the conservative arm of the faith system.  They protected the Law, down to the letter.  Entering the scene was a man who challenged some of that system, pushing its limits at every turn.  Why?  Why did he do this?  Was it to enrage them to the point of playing their part in his crucifixion?  No.  Was it to play a political card, challenging the established order of things within Roman occupation?  No.  Was it simply to be different?  No.  

Jesus was labeled "liberal" because instead of pushing Law he pushed Love.  And that made him a raging liberal.  He challenged their system by including everyone.  He challenged their ideas of what purity meant by touching the untouchable, healing sinners, and dining with the outcasts.  Everything he did pushed his agenda:  Love.  Now lets not get confused here, he did not come to abolish the Law.  He held to the Temple rules for purity... he just didnt extend them beyond those walls.  (Washing hands, utensils, etc...).  

We need a new position, or party to stand with:  Jesus.  And we need a new agenda:  love.  

** inspired by thoughts from Bobby Valentine, 09/09




August 29, 2016, 8:47 AM

A Lost Artform


Encouragement.  

I'm in the office chewing on the thoughts presented excellently in yesterday's sermon by Dan Dozier (08/28).  Why is Barnabas so important to the story?  Because the art of encouragement has been nearly lost.  

How much easier is it to offer criticism or complaint?  So much so that we've created extra words to justify our complaints and criticisms: "Constructive Criticism."  When we add the extra to it, we feel like we're actually helping and not piling our own frustrations on our target. Nevermind the source of criticism, there are so many dark places we hold tightly too that breed negativity.  What is concerning is the lack of restraint and filter present in the lives and hearts of Christians that should catch those comments before they make their way to the vocal chords.   

I'm not pushing an environment in which complaints are never spoken, or concerns get left unattended to.  Every organization needs to face its failings and shortcomings.  What concerns me as I chew on the topic is the lack of concern shown towards individuals, the lack of restraint we show towards someone we disagree with.  I've created a new Rule for Life in the past few years:  Avoid the "Comments" section anywhere on the internet.  Within the anonymity of the internet, people unleash every hateful and spiteful word they can think of into any and every situation.  2016 has been a hotbed of attacks towards individuals both for both good and bad actions (and I'm not even thinking of the election yet!). 

How important does Barnabas become right here, right now?  We need him.  Desperately.  Instead of leading with "what I dont like about....", Barnabas lead with hope, loyalty, and love.  Without those we would not have the Gospel of Mark.  Without those, John Mark might have fallen to the wayside after Paul's rejection of him.  I'm not taking sides in that dispute, I'm simply pointing to the power of Barnabas' actions.  

Have you taken the role of Barnabas?  Or are we more comfortable putting people in their place and letting someone else mop up the mess?  We shouldnt even need to have this conversation at Church, or in the Christian realm at all.  But here we are.  The world needs encouragement, your family and friends need Barnabas.  Is that you?  

Acts 11: 22 - 26 22When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch.23When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.24Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

25Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul.26When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)

 


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