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]

Read more: Jump, Forrest, Jump!

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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The Harvest is Now

"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'?  Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for the harvest."  [John 4:35]

Here is an interesting fact about American church history you may not know.  Years ago, when the first New England churches were designed, they were built with clear windows instead of the stained glass we see so often today – and the graveyard was usually in the church yard, placed so it would be visible from the pulpit.  Why?  So the pastor would see the graveyard while he preached and could be reminded of the urgency of his message!  It was so he could be reminded that everyone who sat in the pews before him as he spoke, would eventually take their place in that cemetery beyond the windows...and ultimately stand before God's judgment.  Can you imagine?

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Christmas - Episode 1 of "Justified"

Have you ever sat down and really considered why Christmas happened?  Have you ever searched the Scriptures beyond the Luke 2 story of His birth, to find out why that birth happened?  A lot of folks would say that Christmas happened so that Jesus would live on earth and teach us by His words and His actions how we should live our lives.  Take a minute, though, and really think that through.

Read more: Christmas - Episode 1 of "Justified"