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Showing posts from October, 2009

LEARNING MERCY

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Matthew 9:11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
12On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Jesus tells the Pharisees to learn the meaning of the phrase, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” He is quoting from Hosea, one of their prophets.
Pharisees desired sacrifice. Their self-measurement was often based on how much they gave up to please God. Their history of sacrifice included many offerings to pay the price for their sin. The blood of animals, the first fruits of their harvest and tithes of all their increase marked their obligations to Jehovah.
Every generation of Christendom has also had followers who measure their godliness by their sacrifice. Separation from the world, dedication to the church and…

PAGING DOCTOR JESUS

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There are plenty of Old and New Testament passages that tell God’s followers to avoid bad company. Wrong associations can corrupt good morals and lead to all sorts of temptation. The problem has often been with Christians who make this their social code and only hang out with believers who are living right. It made sense to the Pharisees and also to many Christians. Many churches do not know what to do with sinners—both believing and unbelieving sinners.
Beyond obvious reasons to avoid corrupting influence and temptation, there are ten thousand opportunities for faithful followers to go with Jesus to the table of sinners. Apparently Jesus felt perfectly comfortable to teach his disciples to do the same and then encourage all believers to go into the world with the good news about the Kingdom.
Luke 5:31Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
At one level, this sounds li…

DINING WITH MATTHEW

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Matthew 9:
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.
11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

We must never forget that Jesus has a mind of his own when picking associates. He rarely chooses people on the basis of their popularity, righteousness or skills. In fact, one might be hard-pressed to explain why Jesus doesn’t show a little discretion when calling people to follow Him. It is equally d…

DINING WITH JESUS

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For the past eleven years, New Song Church has served a meal on Friday nights. It began when Windsor Christian Fellowship[i] approached us about coming alongside to help in our mission to reach the urban poor. They brought people, funds and food and mentored us in the organizational detail to provide this ministry.
Currently, an average night feeds 150 people. The food is excellent and there is a noisy atmosphere of saints and sinners sharing the same space. Occasionally, hostilities erupt as outside feuds or overly-sensitive types bristle in the crowded room. But usually, the room is filled with laughter, gratitude, gossip and the limp of grace. Our ministry manager Kim Kostescu is doing an outstanding job.
For some churchgoers, the attitude towards this ministry may be one of distanced appreciation. It’s great that you are serving ‘those people’. It may be great in the eyes of some because they cannot imagine themselves sitting at the table.
Could it be that the ministry clos…

OF FISH AND MEN

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Luke 5: 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Simon did what all humble sinners do in the presence of God. He realized that Jesus was a different sort of man from himself and that it was time to decline involvement.
Sin separates us from God and it separates us from the good guys. Simon realized that he didn’t belong with Jesus and chose to bow out.
Here was the best fishing tip of their lives and Simon tells Jesus to go away.
How prepared are you for God’s blessings? God wants to take your history and use it to shape your future with Him. But, it is here that we encounter a pers…

PAYBACK IS A BLESSING

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Luke 5:4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." 5 Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
So finally, the sermon is over. Now the preacher is telling the fisherman how to catch fish. Simon could have scoffed at the request and told Jesus ‘Enough is enough! I’m going home to get some sleep.’
Maybe it was out of religious respect… maybe Simon was just overtired and not ready to put up a fight… maybe he was curious at the request…
Setting good reasons aside, he humors Jesus and drops the nets into the water.
The next scene is one of holy chaos. The biggest …

AQUA PULPIT

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When Jesus was starting his ministry, he gathered some fishermen to join his expedition. Luke tells the story of a day with a convincing effect on Simon Peter, James and John.
Luke 5:1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
Jesus began his public ministry by speaking in the synagogues. He was a practicing Jew and the synagogue was the appropriate place for religious talks and discussions.
Jesus knew that the good news of God’s Kingdom would include more than the people who were already religious and busy in the synagogues. He carried the message with him into the community. He was becoming well known and recognized in public, so His preaching mini…

THE LIFE CHANGING 'YES'

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All over the world people complain about their lot in life. They wish for more money, more excitement, more rest, a better job, a better marriage, better skills – as if there is more to life than is presently experienced.
But what will you do if God offers to improve the quality of your life by making changes to it? Will you have the guts to follow His lead wherever it may take you? Will you answer with the life-changing ‘yes’?
Faith is risky business. We choose to say ‘yes’ to God based on a little bit of knowledge. Faith takes a daring step and responds with willingness to the God who offers Himself.
Some never take the risk of faith. They choose instead to stay back and rely on the security of what they know for certain. The fear of change and the fear of failure keep many comfortably numb to the exciting promises of God.

THE VIRTUAL REALITY OF DREAMS, VISIONS AND VIVID MESSAGES

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Through the Holy Spirit, we can sometimes be given certain pictures, visions, dreams or words. Sometimes a simple picture says more to you than a thousand words of explanation. God understands the multi-complex ways in which we come to understanding. Don't be surprised when a startling dream makes you think about something deeper in your life.

Sometimes people sense that God is saying something to another or to shed light on a situation. As we learn to share these impressions and humbly explore their significance we find that truth reveals itself in surprising ways.
Sometimes we will immediately understand a symbolic message. Other times we will have to share it with others to discern its meaning. If there is no clarity or understanding to come from it, then we let it go. Some things may not be clear to you for a long time, but one day you will understand.
I Thessalonians 5:19 says "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everythi…

TURN UP YOUR HEARING AID

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Sin has done a good job of destroying our ability to hear God clearly. Sin causes us to hear what we want to hear and not necessarily what was spoken to us. Part of the way God restores us and opens communication is through our conscience. The Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell in us like a hearing aid in our ear. Muffled messages can be amplified by God to speak to our conscience. We are able to determine right, wrong, best and worst as God’s Spirit interacts with our conscience and our free will.
Jesus said that the sheep recognize the Shepherd’s voice. RCA Victor’s logo of a dog listening to a gramophone in entitled ‘His Master’s Voice’. The idea was that this dog could hear the voice of its owner through the technology.
God’s technology for us is a hearing aid called ‘the conscience’. His Spirit is the battery which empowers our conscience to hear God’s voice clearly.
You can hear God speak to you through new thoughts, formation of convictions, clear directions and amplificati…

THE INTERNET THAT EXISTED BEFORE COMPUTERS

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From the Scriptures we find that humanity is interconnected. There were no people who hid in a cave for 40 years and then left behind their writings as wisdom for us to follow. God always used people who knew people. Every prophet, priest, king or commoner used by God had influence and connection with others. Even in captivity, the Hebrew slaves had each other to lean on and keep a remnant of faith alive.
Your relationship with God depends on your interconnection with others who share the faith. Not even Adam got to be left alone. God said it wasn’t good and created Eve so they could form community and family.
You are too small to get the whole message by yourself. You need other people to talk to, pray with, problem-solve and worship with.
There are times when we need solitude. We need to be alone and quiet to hear God. Those times may be profound and very personal. Much more often, we will hear God through the words and actions of others. We are surrounded by a great cloud o…

THE ONLY BOOK TO TAKE TO A DESERT ISLAND

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The Bible is a collection of God’s messages, the history of God’s followers and inspired teachings. Most Christians believe that these writings give us the basic teaching and knowledge on which to pattern our values and understand what God’s purposes are.
Martin Luther was a Catholic monk who emphasized that the Scriptures had more authority than the traditions of the church and its interpretations. The phrase ‘sola scriptura’ means ‘scripture alone’. He maintained that scripture is the best tool for interpretating of scripture. It speaks for itself.
He said, “a simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest pope without it".
In your life, God’s words from the Bible are enough to communicate God’s love and truth to you. If a group of you had to have one book on a desert island and this was it, explorers could come back hundreds of years later and find that generations of followers consistently knew God. Their values and beliefs w…

GOD SPEAKS YOUR LANGUAGE

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Version #1—Scintillate, scintillate, globule vivific, Fain would I fathom thy nature specific. Loftily poised in the ether capacious, Strongly resembling a gem carbonaceous.
Version #2— en francaisScintillement, scintillement, peu ├ętoile, comment je me demande ce que vous ├¬tes, vers le haut de au-dessus du monde tellement haut, comme un diamant dans le ciel.
Version #3 –Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are, Up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky.
There are literally hundreds of languages that this message could be translated into.When it is told in your language in a way that you are used to hearing, it becomes a part of you.
The creator of the Universe is continually engaged in communication with us.Throughout every generation, culture and language group there is One God who speaks and listens to each of us.
God’s Spirit is described as a mighty rushing wind and as a gentle breeze.As we learn to respond to God, we are empowered like a windmill respo…

CONVERSATION WITH THE CAT

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In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, there is a conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat. Alice asked, "Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the cat.
"I don't much care where," said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the cat.
This is sometimes the state of Jesus’ followers. Without a sense of where we want to go, there is a lack of direction.
Jesus knew that to be faithful to his purpose required a succession plan. He calls his followers to take over the Father’s business and to do greater things together than he could do alone. If you are to live with a mission in your life, you will get direction in the seasons of prayer.
Like Henry Ford trotting around the house to clear his head, the Christian gets alone with God to clear their heart. Without the consultations of the Spirit in our life, we do the will of the greatest need. D…

PURPOSE DRIVEN JESUS

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Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"38 Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."
Jesus got up extra early some days. Before the sun rose he left the house and found a quiet place to pray. In separating himself from other people he was able to pray with perspective. Other times, it was after-hours prayer time. A solitary place following a busy day was essential to be recharged and intimate with His Father.
Being the leader in demand that he was, it didn’t take long for the disciples to come find him. The disciples started their day with a knock on the door. Already there were people coming to see Jesus and he wasn’t there! They left in a panic searching for Jes…