Loving Rather Than Lording

As we unwrap the gift, we find God willing to overshadow us to work in us, Christ’s humility despite his royal identity, but the to fully grasp God’s gift, we find that:

Christmas was never about just leading us, but always about loving us!

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Have you ever questioned someone’s love for you?  A lady in Spain made the news when she chose a unique way of testing her husband’s love. With the help of a friend, she manipulated her own kidnapping and sent a ransom notice to her husband. When the police discovered the kidnapping was a hoax, they asked the lady why she did it. “I wanted to find out what my husband would do for me,” she replied. Source: AFP News

Look at how God reveals his love:  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Continue reading “Loving Rather Than Lording”

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Dirty Jobs: Planning with People in Mind

Joseph doesn’t just stop with getting to know the issues facing the people or traveling the land, he takes the proactive step of…

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Planning With the People in Mind (Gen. 41:47-49) 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.

We have a tendency as Americans to plan with the short-term in mind. College students on average change their major seven times. People over 60 years old in the United States now hold 43 billion dollars in student loans. No real long-term plan. Continue reading “Dirty Jobs: Planning with People in Mind”

Church Shopping: Forsaking First Love

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As we finish up our visit to our first church, Ephesus in many ways captured the very heart of the book of Revelation, a call to endure for the eternal promises to be fulfilled rather than given our earthly lives to promises which end at death. They had embraced Christ’s teaching, endured the earthly consequences, but the letter reveals a deeper issue, in the process of being obedient they had lost the object of their affection.

Do you remember what it was like to be in love for the first time? Every word was poetry, every moment together precious, every note was history to be chronicled. Yet sometimes we can end up…

Forsaking their first love (2:4-5) Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Paul had spent over two years living in Ephesus, teaching daily, building up leaders who could answer all the questions of the day, who understood scripture, theology, and orthodox, but somewhere along the way, they had forgotten that they had first been loved by Christ, before they were lovable. They were in a habit, doing a project, fulfilling a duty, getting work done not because of their love for Christ but because of their sense of obligation—“wonder less work” and a “loveless labor.” Continue reading “Church Shopping: Forsaking First Love”

Mark My Words- Compound Faith

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Carton-faith, Fridge-faith, what kind of faith do you have? (Check out earlier posts) Jesus has revealed faith that shines bright, faith that allows God to do more with us than we can do by ourselves but as we move forward wondering if there is enough evidence to be found guilty of following Christ—we find as Jesus tells us about a small seed

Compound Faith (Mark 4:30-34) 30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” 33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Jesus tells us about the mustard seed, growing quietly and persistently, starting off as something that is easily missed or passed by into something that is impossible to ignore. From something the birds might eat if they found it on the ground to something which allows the birds to have a home. It is faith which grows by compounding, growing off what came before it! Think of compound interest, even a small amount over the years can grow into a huge sum, because what you built before is added to what is about to come!

Some time ago “Reader’s Digest” told the story about a company who mailed out some special advertising business post cards with a mustard seed glued to it with the following caption that went something like this: “If you have faith as small as this mustard seed in our (particular product), you are guaranteed to get excellent results and be totally satisfied.” — Signed, The Management Continue reading “Mark My Words- Compound Faith”

Mark My Words- Digging Down

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From time to time disease spreads across the world, from Ebola which ravaged African nations, influenza which killed millions, and now to the Zika virus which is invading South America. Evangelist Billy Sunday used to tell the story of a great plague that swept Paris and killed thousands of people. It baffled the skill of the doctors of that day. After a consultation, several doctors agreed that the only way to diagnose and eventually end the plague was for one of them to examine thoroughly the body of one who had died. This, however, would mean certain death for the examining physician. At first no one seemed eager to volunteer, until a famous French surgeon arose and said, “Gentleman, I will make the examination.” He wrote out his will, stepped into the room of a patient who had just died from the plague, and made the diagnosis. He recorded the results on a piece of paper, which he placed in a jar of vinegar for all to read. Within six hours, the doctor himself was dead, but the lives of thousands were spared through his sacrifice.

Today in our walk through the Gospel of Mark, we come across a story of great compassion, great need, and eventually great perseverance. Our text comes from Mark 2:1-12, where Jesus ministry is really getting off the ground, his reputation and feats of the miraculous are continuing to spread, we find a story of a group of men living near and around Jesus, and see their lives drop right in on Jesus:

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum (This was Jesus main station for operating his ministry), the people heard that he had come home (most likely he is using the home of Simon Peter and his wife). They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. (Remember leading up to Chapter 2, Jesus had a series of miraculous healings, and people are responding!) Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. These four men in order to get to Jesus started Move #1: Digging Down Deep (Mark 2:1-4) Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.

You could almost feel the excitement, the electric atmosphere as more and more people jammed the few small rooms and courtyard, all to see Jesus. Continue reading “Mark My Words- Digging Down”

Blessed to Reveal WHAT??? Introduction Part 3

Not only have we been crafted and created to be bearers of blessings, not only does blessing others allow us to build for eternity, but we find…

Blessing Others Reveals God’s Love (Matthew 10:24/ John 3:16) The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master…A disciple in the most basic sense learns what the Teacher knows and lives as the Teacher lives—As growing disciples of Jesus Christ, his focus becomes our focus—John 3:16 reminds us- This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

The church is supposed to be in the business of changing lives, of bringing people to repentance and new birth, and accepting then back as prodigal sons and daughters when they do repent and turn things around. The church is to be a place of refuge, brothers and sister united together in service, a beacon of hope in the stormy world we live in, an agape love when they cannot find love anywhere else. We have the mission of bearing the mark of Christ. Loving who our master loves and serving who our master serves.

Continue reading “Blessed to Reveal WHAT??? Introduction Part 3”

BECOME #3- New Harvest

If you are just joining us, welcome! We are in the midst of a look at the building blocks of discipleship. The first week, we looked at what we believe but also how we believe. An identity more than fleeting idea.  Now we are shifting gears to look at the transformation process concluding today in a new harvest.  So far we have seen the process of receiving the Holy Spirit as belief prods us to baptism, and seen how the Holy Spirit works as he cuts through the hardness of heart—counseling us when we are teachable, but as we look at the second building block of a disciple BECOME—we find the beauty of…

Counseling Leads to New Harvest (Galatians 5:22-25) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  These elements lived out to the full are the very essence of Jesus Christ. He demonstrated God’s love for us. We proclaim “Joy to the World” since we have found the “Prince of Peace.” On and on it goes, in living out the fruit of the Spirit we are actually taking on Christ-likeness. It isn’t a coincidence that God puts application at the heart of each element that goes into a disciple. Relationship with the Spirit of God, leads to relationship with those around us. Against such things there is no law. In fact, where our spiritual ancestors failed to follow God wholeheartedly, that the law’s very essence is fulfilled—loving God and loving the people around us as if they were ourselves. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. When we live by the Spirit we are able to walk in cadence to the symphony of Scripture.

When is this new harvest coming? Where is self-control when I open my mouth and insert my foot? Where is love when I am consumed by anger? Peace when prone to march to war? It reminds me of a conversation between an older Christian woman in her 80’s and a 21 year old that recently had been baptized in her church. For a month after his baptism he was elated, on fire, and excited. Yet, on this Sunday the woman found the 21 year old in the sanctuary praying before service obviously upset and she asked him what was wrong. He told her that he didn’t know what was wrong with him—he was frustrated that he had fallen short of his new life, sinned again, and wasn’t sure of what to make of it—The woman smiled a knowing smile and replied, “Young man, keep in mind that crucifixion is always a slow death!” Jesus had called us to follow him to Calvary—take up your cross and follow me—and yet the process isn’t overnight but on-going. Here is the beauty that unfolds in faithfully and intentionally becoming like Christ!

Lee Strobel, in his book, Case for Christmas shared a story from his early journalism days. He was tapped with writing a story on the poorest family he could find in Chicago. The family (a mother and her two daughters) had nothing on their walls, one cup of rice, one bed, and daughters shared a sweater on their cold early morning walk to school. After publishing his piece, he decided to check in on the family, it was Christmas Eve after all. When he walked into the house it had been transformed. Readers had generously sent the family clothes, gift cards, and toys. Lee was surprised though to find the family boxing up some of the items. He asked if they were disappointed in what they got. The mother replied that they were so grateful for all they had received. She added that she couldn’t keep all that stuff knowing that her neighbors had nothing. “After all, these gifts are great, but the greatest gift comes tomorrow in Jesus Christ.” The comments left Lee shook, as an atheist, he was wondering what is it about this Jesus that caused a family with nothing to give away stuff when they got something. The fruit of the Spirit allowed him to see a picture of Christ.

If you read John Grisham or like law dramas, think of what happens as double jeopardy, Double jeopardy is the law that it is illegal or unjust to try and/or punish a person for a crime that they have already been convicted of. We find that Jesus Christ has already been crucified on the cross for the sins of the world—and that as we receive the Spirit, embrace the counseling and live out the fulfillment of the law—we take on the Image of Christ—meaning that we no longer can be tried or convicted of what Christ bared on our behalf.

I like the quote by John Owen who builds off the foundation of belief: Every time we say we believe in the Holy Spirit, we mean we believe that there is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it. Nowhere along the way were you meant to stay exactly the same through relationship with Jesus Christ. Stagnation has no place when the Holy Spirit is given space. Growth isn’t an option, it is an outlet. Relationship isn’t a responsibility it is a natural response. If you aren’t being changed, it isn’t because God doesn’t have the power to change you, it isn’t because God doesn’t have the desire to change you, it isn’t because you don’t have excess to what can change you, for the disciple of Jesus Christ—we have to embrace the Holy Spirit and put the second building block in place.