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February 29, 2016, 9:38 AM

Occupying Space


I have held on to the very first cell phone I ever purchased.  Today it serves as a toy for the girls, but its also a neat little reminder. Let me describe it to you:  Its blue, which is pretty cool.  Not that this makes it better, but its still pretty cool.  It is a variant on the "flip phone" idea.  There is a portion of it that flips down,  but all it does is cover the buttons when in your pocket.  The technology is outdated, and it was only good for one thing:  phone calls (what a waste, I know).  It is long dead, with no charger in sight that attaches.  It is either good for being a toy phone, or a paper weight, thats all.  

So why am I telling you about my first cell phone?  Simple.  Because it reminds me of James 2: 14 - 16.  I'll wait as you click on that link and read it.  

Is your faith like a cell phone with a dead battery?  
Is your faith like a kleenex box that is out of kleenex?
Is your faith like a stapler with no staples?
Is your faith like a pen without ink? 
Is your faith like a pencil with no lead?

James cuts right to the core of the matter by telling us that our faith must lead us to DO something.  

Are we acting like Christ-Followers?  Are we doing the things that will identify us as those looking forward to eternity in Heaven?  Can the world see anything different about us besides our Sunday morning habits?  If we aren’t showing the world who Jesus is through our actions, we might as well close the doors of the church, board up the windows, and turn the power off because it isn’t doing anybody any good if all we do is occupy space!!!  The beauty of what we need to show the world is this:  IT'S US!  Not us dressed up in superhero costumes that portray Christians as perfect, or overly righteous.  We need to show the world that we've been redeemed and saved, and that we're fighting off the temptations and sins we were chained to not so long ago.  

The point: we need to be showing the world SOMETHING.  We have the Holy Spirit.  That alone marks us as different, not of this world.  We spend time every week remembering the Cross and how far God went for us.  That must fuel the rest of our week to remember how far we will go in faith to share that love.  

My challenge is simple:  DO!!  No more acknowledging Jesus in our worship on Sunday and then going mute shortly thereafter.  No more paying special attention to the clothes we pick out for Sunday and ignoring the neighbors who are LOST.  No more showing generosity during the offering, but remaining compassion-less to the needs of missions and the poor.  

No more impractical, unpracticed faith.  Lets show ourselves more useful than a dead cell phone.  

James 2: 14 - 17  What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.




February 15, 2016, 9:46 AM

Your Own Personal Jericho


If you know a story well enough and have read the book more than once, its hard not to look ahead at what’s coming instead of concentrating on the right now.  I’ve fallen trap to this in books I like to reread, and come to realize I’ve “read” three pages but haven't really digested a single word.  

This blog is dedicated to doing just that, and instead of trying to go back, we’re going to let our imagination run a bit to what's ahead.  For The Story, what’s ahead is Jericho, and the obstacles that look similar in structure, manpower, and stability.  Israel, having now entered the Promised Land, has to wipe it clean… 

Into the scene comes Jericho.  A seemingly insurmountable obstacle to winning the day.  We're not going to spend much time on this moment in here, but look at the grander scale of what Israel was about to face.  Problems that were real, touchable, and right in front of them.  On the trip so far, most of the issues were from perceptions, or emotions, or just plain immaturity.  Canaan gave them a real, in your face problem to solve.  And, to finally give them some credit, they took the challenge and ran through it. (Mostly).  

Here's our point today:  Every one of us has a Jericho to face.  There are challenges put in front of us (sometimes by God, mostly by us) that are directly in our path to Heaven.  We have a choice:  tackle the issue, or change course and either run or avoid it.  It shouldn't NEED to be said, but I will:  Which approach do you think God prefers?  Obviously, the same tact that Israel had to take with their issues:  face it head on, with the strength and power of God on our side.  

Unfortunately, our Jericho looks very different than a city.  Most of the time it looks like forgiveness or reconciliation, or humility. Those sound (or type) as small things... but when we're standing nose to nose with a relationship that has gone sour, there are times we wish we were walking around a fortified and defended city 13 times instead.  

Face your Jericho, head on, with the promise of God behind you.  And just like Jericho, when we address things with God's character and strength, they will be reduced to a pile of forgotten rubble behind us.  

Want a cool epilogue to the story?  Once Canaan was mostly wiped clean, Caleb looked around and his eyes caught a region in the mountains that weren't scrubbed completely of inhabitants.  Instead of kicking his feet up and enjoying the spoils of the Promised Land and letting someone else (younger) take care of the issue, he demands Joshua assign him and his tribe to THAT region.  

Joshua 6: 2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.
Joshua 6: 27a So the Lord was with Joshua . . .




February 8, 2016, 9:12 AM

Dont Open That Cellar Door...


I watch movies.  A lot.  So it should come as no surprise that I quote them, think about them, and use them as illustrations often. This is one of those moments.  

There are a few movies that I love so much that I can watch them over and over again, and never get tired of stepping back into the stories they tell.  The best of those stories engage my imagination every time, and leave me wanting to step back into that world when the credits roll.  Unfortunately, not all of those movies that I love are happy, everybody wins in the end type stories.  And when I watch a movie for the hundredth time, knowing bad stuff is going to happen I have caught myself willing, pleading, wishing that the characters on screen would make a better choice.  

Seriously.  I'm hopeful that the story will change and offer suggestions (sometimes out loud).  "Don't try and take out that machine gun nest, Captain Miller."  "Gandalf, speak up about your relationship with the eagles."  

Today I'm saying this:  "Israel, don't forget what God did for you two months and 40 days ago!"  They're about to jump with both feet into 40 years of wilderness wandering.  And I wish the story would change.  Havent enough generations been lost in the captivity?  Do we need to watch another one perish in the desert, so close to Canaan?  

Unfortunately, we cant change their story.  The wilderness is coming.   We can, however, change our own story.  When you make a choice today, tomorrow, etc... you can choose your own adventure!  God gives us the freedom to do so, to choose.  It just so happens he makes it very clear which way he wants us to go (think: pillars of cloud and fire; or Fruit of the Spirit).  

Dont make everyone reading your story after you're gone sit and wish you'd not opened the cellar door.  Choose to follow where God leads.  

Joshua 24:15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."‚Äč (NIV)

 

 




February 1, 2016, 12:00 AM

A thought about the desert


This week we're foreshadowing the sermon for February 14th, chapter 6 of The Story.  

We're going to start walking with Israel in the desert this week though.  Bring your walking shoes and a shady hat.  

 Do you know what was in the desert while Israel wandered around for 40 years?  (Don't say: "sand").   Their hearts.   

Yes, I know their hearts were inside their chests when they walked, but we're obviously talking about deeper things than just internal organs.  Their hearts were in the desert, and not in the Promised Land.  Following this logic, or at least the premise of the statement, their treasure was also in the desert.   

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  Matthew 6:21 

We cant speak for everyone in the wandering band of Israelites, but we can speak for the ones who complained and made their grievances known to Moses and God.  They left their treasures in Egypt:  food, shelter, comfort.  The comforts they thought they had overshadowed the fact that they were slaves.  When they left those comforts in Egypt, finally "free" what became clear is that their hearts never made the trip.   

The complaints were tolerated for a while, and God provided a clearer image of himself and his desires on Mt. Sinai.  They pledged themselves to righteousness, and the Law.  But their hearts weren't in it.  Their treasures were in the wrong place, even on the side of a mountain inhabited by God himself!  

And for 40  years they had to live with the reality that they would never find peace and contentment because they treasured the wrong things.   

Which desert are you walking through right now?  




January 25, 2016, 10:50 AM

Finding Good at the Bottom of the Well


As we're progressing through The Story we find ourselves walking alongside Joseph this week.  And if we're honest with ourselves (always a good idea) walking in his path is difficult.  Sure he ends up in the best place possible.  But in order to get there he had to be betrayed, thrown in a well, sold into slavery, betrayed again, thrown in prison, then left to rot there for at least two years.

That's not a path I recommend anyone walking.  

What I want to focus on here is what happens in between these monumental, character shaping events in Joseph's journey from the bottom of a well to the top of Egypt's food chain:  Joseph learns and leans on his strengths.  He serves.   

Now, before we talk about that, I have to ask the question: "Do you think he knew his strength was service before he was thrown in the well and sold as a slave?"  Probably not.  When he was at home, being blessed by super colorful coats, he probably didnt have to do much on his own at all.  His dad used him as a messenger for the group of brothers who were out working hard in the fields with sheep.  But I digress...

He serves Potiphar so well that he is given as much freedom as the position could afford.  He does not reap the benefits of his tireless work, Potiphar does.  But he serves tirelessly.    In prison, after being put there wrongfully, he serves.  He gives everything he has to make the situation better, or as "better" as prison could be.  He serves so well that the warden doesn't have to worry about a thing.  Again, Joseph doesn't reap the rewards for his hard work, but he continues to serve.  

No matter where you or I find ourselves today, serve.  Find a place where you're good at something and DO IT!  Benefit someone else by your efforts, even if you don't see a single benefit from it.  If you're already doing that, keep it up!  We may never see the astronomical rise that Joseph did here on Earth.  But we are promised something great after our time here is done. 

Serve.  

 


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