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A Commandment, A Commission, and Sandwiches

Matt. 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Right now it seems that we are surprising each other with how different our perspectives can be on political and spiritual/moral issues. It can be shocking and uncomfortable to realize how differently others view the same things. I fear it drives us apart because we crave commonality. But sometimes we’re mistaken if we assume that our faith is more genuine because we came to a conclusion with which we’re more culturally comfortable. Others may be diminished in our eyes if we find we don’t agree. We assume that the way we processed a question is “the Christian way”. Different conclusions must come from false or worldly methods. But is that really always true? I’m not suggesting there’s no right or wrong. But maybe the good news can’t fit into one political perspective. Maybe it’s bigger than that.
In the case of the Chicken controversy we’ve split things even more. It’s not your view on marriage, it’s whether you totally support or strongly oppose the political activities of a restaurant chain. This is now the litmus test for both “sides”. “Eat mor Chikin” vs boycott the chicken. As I said in an earlier post, I’m putting the chicken on probation. Ate there a few days ago, but not on the big chicken day. Probably gonna wait a bit now to see how they handle the new attention. Dan Cathy and I agree on the definition of marriage. I support what I’ve seen of his interview. But I don’t support absolutely everything about what he’s done. And I’m not going to be pressured into doing so.
Matt. 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I for one wish the Christian community was half as organized for the Great Commandment and Great Commission as we are for culture war responses. I’m glad we care about something. Do we care enough about the most important things? Have we reconsidered “who is our neighbor”, lately? How do we live truth before them? What’s the BEST way to show the world what we value? The goal is not a world with more fried sandwiches and fewer comfortable gays. The goal is more truly transformed Christ-followers serving up the good news to their neighbors. It may seem more fun to eat mor Chikin to make a statement. It takes a lot more than that to make a disciple. We have one commission. We are under one holy commandment to love. Truly, it’s not about the chicken. Let’s please not make it about the chicken. There’s so much more to be and to do.

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World Water Day

This link is worth checking out! Learn more about the problem and how to help. Thanks NCM! (Nazarene Compassionate Ministries)

The Reward of Sharing in the Gospel

Today’s Ashes to Fire reading continued in 1 Corinthians. Paul has established the value of the gospel and the honor due those who proclaim it. But now he gets more personal. He says his great privilege as an apostle is to forego his right to be compensated. He wants to offer the gospel free of charge. This is his reward! There is a secret among mature believers. It is better to give than to receive. Paul was blessed, probably through his Father’s tent-making trade, to supply his needs elsewhere. We don’t know for sure, but if Paul was single this is a little easier to comprehend. But either way it’s a beautiful way of being in the world.
Then he goes on to his larger point. For him, ministry isn’t a career, it’s a way of being in the world. And everyone he meets is someone for whom Christ was raised. He wants everyone, literally “all men”, to walk with Christ. And he’s willing to do anything moral to connect with them. He’s not even worried about the percentages! “That by all means I might save some.” (1 Cor 9:22b) it’s worth it to him to give his life to all that some might be saved. And he’s doing this as a believer, not as a clergyman. So it’s a way of living available to us all…
How precious is the gospel to you? How far would you go to see someone experience it? How far out of your comfort zone would you travel to help it be more real and relevant to someone who needs it? Do you see others who are going astray with compassion or judgment? Do you act with gospel compassion every time? Do you believe the same God could help you live that way? Since I do, I’m asking myself these same questions this Ashes to Fire season…
Paul goes on…

I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings

1 Corinthians 9:23 NRSV

Matt Redman and LZ7 – Twenty Seven Million (Official Music Video) – Music Videos

A song is not enough, but it can be a beginning…

Matt Redman and LZ7 – Twenty Seven Million (Official Music Video) from emimusic on GodTube.

Matt Redman and LZ7 – Twenty Seven Million (Official Music Video) – Music Videos.

Richard Dawkins: I can’t be sure God does not exist – Telegraph

Richard Dawkins: I can’t be sure God does not exist – Telegraph.

Well I’m definitely sick this evening, but that didn’t keep me from noticing this tidbit of intellectual honesty. Say what you will about Rowan Williams, I think his approach with this type of debate promotes better thinking in his opponents. I will say that he is taking Peter’s advice to heart…

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience

(1 Peter 3:15–16 NIV)

 

 

 

Recommended devotional guide

After Day 1 & 2 feedback from users I would encourage any Christian who wants to explore the Lenten and Easter seasons to pick up this daily devotional guide. It’s well-written. Takes you through the Daily Office plan for reading through the Bible, pulls highlights from these readings, and offers brief guides to prayer for each day. With your Bible in hand, you can go as deep as you want. On days you’re seriously pressed for time you can keep the discipline going by pulling from the highlights and praying. Along the way you have several opportunities to journal your progress and prayers. Inspirational Art. Prayers from past spiritual giants. A very complete portable guide to Spiritual Growth!
“like button”

Ashes to Fire Year B Devotional Guide

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Ash Wednesday

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Today begins a 14 week journey of faith called Ashes to Fire. It begins in the ashes of repentance and reflection. Ashes are an ancient symbol of death. The ancients had a much closer relationship with death than we do today. Hospitals, nursing homes, and funeral homes keep us separated strangely from our mortality. One thing we can’t separate ourselves from is grief. As Coldplay reminds us: sometimes you “lose something you can’t replace.” It became a tradition to make a physical statement of loss and reflection by covering oneself with ashes and even tearing garments or putting on obviously uncomfortable ones. No need to pretend or save face. Something or someone important has been lost. It’ll be a while before we’re restored to normal. Sackcloth and Ashes.
Physical death and grief are devastating realities. But so is spiritual death caused by sin. When we realize we’ve been on a wrong path sometimes we need a powerful symbol to validate a definite u-turn. Sin is anything that gets in-between us and God.
It could be just about anything: Disobedience to known commands from Scripture. Disobedience to the guiding voice of the Spirit or our conscience. Preoccupation with things of the world (entertainments, material goods, career advancement, even family) which keeps us consistently from being close to God. Unforgiveness toward the sins and imperfections of others. Lustful thoughts, overly sensual attitudes or dress, allowing are eyes to wander are also examples of sins. Pride of life or dress. Spiritual pride toward the outward sins of others. Spiritual hypocrisy of hiding our true motives. Half-hearted devotion or service to God. Unbridled anger. The list could be endless. But the results are similar. Spiritual death. Scripture warns us as soon as we become aware of sin we should confess it and deal with it before God and others.
But there is value in regularly and intentionally bringing both of these realities together in a public way. All of us will die someday and therefore must live sober lives. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. None of us are so holy as to not have areas of life which need renewal. So Ash Wednesday is like a big family meeting where everybody checks in with their commitment to God above all. It’s a solemn assembly that reminds us all that repentance is the only path to forgiveness. God is our only hope for eternal life. We admit that we are prone to drift away from Him if we just leave it in default mode.
And so we come. Apart from work and family and chores and entertainments. We come to God. We acknowledge we were born in sin and will die forever unless we receive God’s grace. Sin is serious business and we are having a going-out-of-business sale. Ashes on the forehead symbolize that we know we are dust and desire to have spiritual life, given by God. We kneel, we are marked with a cross. We rise in repentance. We pray for newness of life. We rehearse the great forgiveness that is ours. And we wipe away the ashes, anticipating a renewed walk with God. Just a simple ceremony. We could totally phone it in or fake it. Absolutely. Nothing magical about it. But for a few moments each year there is a fresh reminder of how deadly sin is and how amazing grace is. Why not do it for real? And should we stumble again before next year, we’ll remember how big a deal it is and know exactly what to do: repent, take it seriously, and be assured of forgiveness before sin swallows us up. We lose things we can’t replace. We break things we can’t fix ourselves. But God can. Ash Wednesday.
We begin in the ashes of repentance. By the grace of God we rise to seek Him more and grow in grace between now and Pentecost at the end of May. So let’s begin the journey with Jesus together.

Fat Tuesday?

Well, today is a famous date on the Christian calendar. Unfortunately it’s highly misunderstood. Typically, people say this is the day Christians are supposed to act like pagans and lose themselves in fleshly indulgences. Seriously? While it may be an awesome excuse for a party, it couldn’t be further from the truth. These “festivals” are not really in line with Scripture in any way. The most likely Christian origin of Fat Tuesday was that rich or fatty foods were not to be in the homes of Christians during Lent, a season of fasting and special devotion. So any rich foods that couldn’t survive for 40 days had to be consumed in order to not be wasted. So people would feast, usually at home, clearing out the pantry for Lent.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”
(Romans 14:17 ESV)
But for biblical Christians our focus shouldn’t be on food. Today, as everyday, our focus should be on life in the Spirit. Shrove (repentance/absolution) Tuesday is a more fruitful path. Take a moral and spiritual inventory. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of any areas where closer obedience is required. Commit these areas to God and prepare to focus on spiritual growth for the Lenten season beginning to tomorrow. We all need renewal. Don’t just give up vices for Lent. Be done with them. Period. From the ashes of defeat could rise a burning fire of devotion to God above all.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, reminding us we came from dust and we have an appointment with death. This life is not about fleshly indulgences. Whenever we lean on fleshly pleasures or human will, we fail. God’s grace (love, forgiveness, spiritual power) alone can save us. God’s grace alone (through prayer, Bible, worship, communion, holy hanging out, sharing your faith, serving others, etc…) can fuel a Christian life that overcomes.
Tomorrow we’re beginning a journey called Ashes to Fire. Today, identify those places of disobedience and defeat. We’ll be asking God to breathe on these ashes, that we may rise in the power of the Spirit. Apart from God we have only death. With God true life is given. Real change. Deep joy. Peace. That’s what God will bring to those who seek him.
Join us at 7pm Feb 22, 2012 at NewHope Community Church of the Nazarene

So what areas of life need attention? Where is Jesus calling you to “cut the fat” in your spiritual journey? Are you headed toward righteousness, peace, and joy or is a detour necessary? Let God supply the power. Give it all to God and learn how to obey all the way from Ashes (Feb 22) to Fire! (May 27) Join thousands of Christians on a journey of transformation!

What love is this?

Today is called Maundy Thursday in the Christian tradition. It commemorates Jesus’ last meal with his closest followers before his death. From this meal we have the Eucharist (thanksgiving) or Communion as the way to both commemorate Jesus’ sacrificial death and to experience the power of it in the present. It is considered by all or nearly all Christians to be a sacrament, a way that we intersect directly with the grace of God in our time. In our tradition (Church of the Nazarene) we call it a means of grace. So it’s not just an outward ritual. It’s a way to commune with God. We don’t emphasize anything magical happening with the elements of communion (bread & cup), but rather the act of obedience to Jesus’ command (do this…) puts us in a position where God can bless us in a special way. God uses the bread and the cup to draw us near to the center of our faith and Christian experience. It reminds us that it’s a relationship with God (expressed here in a meal) and not just a set of beliefs.
But in John’s Gospel the Last Supper commemorates the act of love where Jesus washed the feet of his followers. (John covers the Eucharist mainly in John 6). He wanted his community to understand that Jesus’ community was to be a community of servant-leaders who love and serve. You can read about it in John 13. Peter demonstrates that for some, the hardest part is being served. And so this keeps our communities of faith communities of Grace. Salvation is a gift and a calling. If we don’t keep these in balance, we lose our way.
So both traditions have been a part of celebrating Maundy Thursday. (The name probably comes from the Latin , Mandatum, which is the first word in John 13:34 “A new COMMAND I give you…, that you love one another.”) Celebrating the Eucharist/Communion and foot washing.
This year, our church is not having a Maundy Thursday service. But one could spend some time today reflecting on the meaning and significance of both of these traditions. Perhaps you’ll commemorate the powerful love of Jesus on Good Friday and receive communion on Easter Sunday. Spend time today preparing yourself for these events. Then think about how you live in community with others. If you’re not part of a worshipping community, consider connecting with one this weekend. We can’t really love one another if we’re isolated on our journey of faith. It’s in serving others that we really find fulfillment. And once we drop our guard, it feels great to be served. Let love not take advantage of others-those who are served are empowered to return the gift of life. It not only feels good, it feels right.
So there it is- Maundy Thursday. A chance in the middle of Holy Week to consider the awesome gift of love that we can share with others, if we would.

Good Friday service 7pm
NewHope Community Church

Who is This?

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This Sunday, Christian believers and seekers will gather in churches around the world to celebrate Jesus’ final arrival in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Many will be asking the same question that was heard on the streets that day—”Who is this?”
Crowds of people came to meet him! They welcomed him into the city, believing he might just be the answer to their prayers. Many were holding palm branches. Others laid their coats down for him. A scene fit for the arrival of a king. But Jesus didn’t look like a king. He looked like someone they’d never seen before, but had always been seeking. Still the question remained. Who is this?
It’s a question we should all answer. Who is Jesus? But make sure you don’t answer from your easy chair.
This Sunday, go to church. Hear the story. Experience the people who follow him. Get caught up in the moment. Come see for yourself. Many have testified to experiencing Jesus, directly, in worship. Most have told a story of transformation and hope. At NewHope Community Church we welcome you to come just as you are to experience Jesus just as he is. If you’re in Chicagoland, come check us out in NW Indiana. 10:30am (You’ll find directions by clicking on link) Good Friday (7pm) and Easter Sunday (10:30am) are additional opportunities to discover faith and and check out the church experience. Who is Jesus? Wherever you are keep seeking until you discover a life changing answer! Grace and Peace to you!

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