Seek Truth in the Word of THE Truth

"And so, since God in His mercy has given us this wonderful ministry, we never give up.  We reject all shameful and underhanded methods.  We do not try to trick anyone, and we do not distort the word of God.  We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know that."  [2 Corinthians 4:1-2]

How many wrongs can you think of going on in the world today?  We have children being mistreated for personal and political gain on our southern border, conflict in the Middle East, passenger planes being shot down by terrorists, and culture wars that remind us we are in what many call a post-Christian period of history, even within our own denomination and others.  In the midst of all this, and more, wouldn't it be easy to just say the heck with it all – thinking, "I'm just going to retreat into my shell, and me and God will get through this as the world implodes."

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Being the Church

"...Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith...
...Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess...
...Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds..."

In just three verses, there's more "let us" thrown around than at a Subway Deli!  Kind of makes you think the writer is serious about this Christianity thing being more about "us" than "I."  In this whole section of Hebrews 10, beginning at verse 19, there is an unmistakable call for those of us who claim to be the church to act like we are in it together, and not simply trying to get what we can out of it for ourselves.
...We draw near in faith (toward God).
...We hold to the hope (for ourselves).
...We consider love and good deeds (for others).

Any of this sound familiar?  Look back at I Corinthians 13:  "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."  You and I are encouraged by God in Scripture to have a right attitude about our lives in the midst of a pretty confused world.  It will honor God, bolster our own perspectives, and lift those around you.  And that is precisely the recipe for changing our community – loving God's people enough to live among them, worship and study together, and be creative in spurring one another on to good and godly lives.

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Traveling Together

The growth in Christ spans a lifetime: "Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own... Straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal"  (Philippians 3:12-14)  Faith moves, grows, changes, matures.  As we mature in Christ, God cultivates in us the fruit of His Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."  (Galatians 5:22-23)  These internal spiritual qualities are all radically relational, and we only learn them in the presence of others through the practice of love.  They are honed in the community, and not just by reading books and studying Scripture.  [Five Practices, David Schnase]

This quote comes from a book we used just last night in Bible Study.  The focus of the book is on how we can be more intentional in developing our faith in God.  The obvious answer comes in two parts:
1. It is a gradual thing that covers the lifetime of a person...It is a process.
2. For it to happen well (according to God's design), it happens in the midst of others.

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Jump, Forrest, Jump!

"Question: There were five frogs on a log.  Three decided to jump off.  How many were left?  Answer: Five.  Three decided, but never really jumped."

Now that Easter has come and gone, we need reminding of our new identity in Christ, focusing on our Christ-like nature which is free of the sins that have been crucified with Christ.  You may have decided that you now want to live according to this new nature.  But, how do you jump off into the new life?  And how do you swim once you've jumped?  The question is really this: Now that we have been made holy in Christ, how do we walk in that holiness?

Paul openly wrestled with the issue, and he was really honest about the struggle.  Throughout his letter to the Romans he talks about the tension between the law and sin.  "We know that the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual...So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me."  [Romans 7:14, 21-23]

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Wake Up! Don't Be a Governor Festus!

In Acts 26, Paul is in the Caesarean prison near the Sea of Galilee.  He's been called in by King Agrippa and Governor Festus to present his case for Christianity.  He ends up, in the end, turning the tables by putting the two accusers on trial.  Paul asks a critical question: "Why do you think it's so incredible that the Lord God raises people from the dead?  Why?  Tell me, Festus, why is that too incredible for you?"  And Festus answers, "You are going mad, Paul.  In spite of all your sophisticated learning, you are crazy."

The Lord God raising people from the dead...Incredible?  Absolutely!  Not impossible, but absolutely incredible!  It is incredible that God had created humans for eternity.  And when humans messed that up, the God who is capable of all we are amazed at in so many areas of life came up with a solution workable only by God: raise people from the dead...beginning with Christ Jesus.  (Festus, are you listening?)

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No More "Agony of Defeat"

"If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with You there is forgiveness."  [Psalm 130:3]

I've been considering what I might have learned from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  I've come to understand there is reality TV...and then there are the Olympics – real reality TV.  All the drama.  The triple axels on ice.  The amazing jumps on ski slopes.  The gravity-defying snowboarders.  Oh, yes, and the falls...the miscues...the bad starts...the crashes.  And then there are the replays...of wonderful performances...and all the mess-ups, too.  I'm fine with showing the good stuff again and again.  After two weeks, though, I was bothered by endless replays of what went wrong, probably because of my position as a Christian, and pastor to other Christians.  You see, over and over again I observe in my life and the lives of others the damage done when we choose to keep replaying the mistakes of people we should be caring greatly about.  Occasionally, (too seldom) I also get to witness the replays and reminders of what we all do right in this world.  As a result, there are way too many folks, young and old, who know very well what's wrong with them, but need help remembering what's right with them.

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Reflecting the Lord's Glory

Well, Christmas is past, the New Year has come in, and now finally, maybe, our schedules are beginning to normalize just a bit (although I'm reminded that Erma Bombeck said that normal is just a setting on your washing machine).

Regardless, I'd like to challenge you to make church a part of your normal setting in 2014.  With everything going on around us, there are many reasons to encourage you to come be involved with others in the church family.  For everything I could say about needing to be here for what you may get out of it (which is important), I'd rather suggest there's an even greater reason to show up and get involved: to simply give God His due glory.

We are here on this earth because God desires that we know Him and glorify Him.  According to Ephesians 1:12, we are here to praise our glorious God!  Worship is an important part of service.  God inhabits the praises of His people.  (Psalm 22:3).

Did you know that your worship is a witness?  Acts 2:47 says that the early church was "praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."  There was a direct connection between worship and witness.  We are being watched, both inside and outside the walls of our building.  When times are less than wonderful, the world marvels at our ability to continue rejoicing.

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