Monday, May 31, 2010

THE REWARDS OF CARING


In the divisive distrust of breaking into ‘us and them’ we mistakenly believe that we are measuring by God’s quality control standards.  When we become less concerned about the splinter in our brother’s eye and acknowledge the plank of lumber sticking out of our own head, we begin to see a vision of God’s forthcoming Kingdom.

It is God at work when we learn to love and accept the ‘others’.  But, let us be honest.  It can be just as difficult to accept and share things in common with our own. 

When you are self-absorbed you measure people up and down from where you believe yourself to be.  Someone is always better than you and many are much worse.  I used to believe that there were only two kinds of drivers-- maniacs and jerks.  A maniac was anyone who drove faster than me.  A jerk was anyone who drove slower.  The problem with the standard is that it also applies to me.  I am somebody else’s maniac or jerk.

To grow in God’s grace is to let God be the one true judge.  I will stop comparing myself to others and behave with humility.  I am not better than others.  No-one is worse than I am.  We are all made in the image of God and need each other.
 
Mark 9:
41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

There are people who show you kindness and take care of the simplest of your needs because they love Jesus.  They understand that caring for you is an expression of how they care for Jesus.  Even if you are a jerk and show no gratitude, it has no bearing on what they get from it.

If you give in Jesus’ name to another follower, your reward is secure.  If the one you show love to misunderstands or rejects your kindness, Jesus does not change his mind about rewarding you.  Your brother or sister may be out of touch and wrong at times. 

Too many get hurt by brothers and sisters because they expect to be reciprocated or appreciated because of gifts of kindness or generosity.  When you give out cups of water, hold doors, put money in the plate or watch someone’s children, do it freely.  No strings. 

Learning to live a generous life without concern for returns yields a reward that cannot be robbed from you.   I’ve met too many people who only give money to the church and serve when they are happy.  If they are upset about something, they stop giving and serving.  They expect to be reciprocated with an agreeable experience.

Mature people realize that smelly diapers need to be changed, even though it will not be a pleasant experience for the serving one.  Babies do not buy their own diapers.  They do not change them.  They rarely say thank you or wait for your schedule to have an opening.  But we love babies and choose an attitude of freely giving to them. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

REAL FRUIT COMES FROM REAL TREES


Mark 9:
 38"Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."
 39"Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.


Jesus tells them to let the man carry on.  Do not interrupt the work of God going on through his life.  Jesus’ logic is intriguing.

You can’t perform a miracle in Jesus’ name and curse Him the next instant.  You don’t usually get a delicious apple from a lemon tree.  You can taste and see the source.

It is our shortsightedness that fails to make the connection.  Why are we so worried about protecting our reputation or the standards we live by?  Can the power of Jesus and the fruit of God’s Spirit be evident in the ones we are skeptical of?  Often it is.  What are we to do with a God who loves and accepts more people than we do?

Anyone who is not against us is for us.  Usually we think the other way around. 

If someone is for us, we want some proof.  Jesus says they’re on the team if they don’t protest against us.  How trusting and lacking in caution is that?  If it tastes like an apple, believe that it’s an apple.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

CLAIMING EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS


No-one articulated the biases and short-sightedness of Jesus’ society better than his own disciples.  More than once he seized their conversation as teaching moments.  Even their successes and protective instincts were called into question.

Mark 9:
 38"Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."
 39"Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

Jesus’ followers approached their authority to act on his behalf as an exclusive right.  They were not prepared for ‘others’ doing God’s work.  This man performing exorcism in Jesus’ name had to be stopped, since they did not know him.

The disciples could not understand how someone outside their elite, trained circle could facilitate the work of God’s Kingdom.  Did this other practitioner even know Jesus?  He acted on Jesus’ authority, but how could this be?

It is characteristic of most religious people to assume an elitist position based on their experience and understandings of God.  ‘True Catholics’ believe their system is the highest authority for governance and practice of Christian faith.  ‘Fundamentalists’ believe that doctrinal correctness is essential for salvation and have low tolerance for any view that varies.  ‘Big B Baptists’ are convinced that the only correct way to baptize a follower is by complete immersion in water. ‘Classic Pentecostals’ insist that the utterance of tongues is the initial, physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Do any of these distinctions give the whole picture of a group and its positions?  We are quick to summarize what the others are about based on their dissimilarity to us.  Does fear cause us to rush to judgment?  Is it intellectual or partisan pride that causes us to be dismissive of alternate views?  What motivated the disciples to stop the other guy from ministering?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

REDEFINING 'US AND THEM'


Gather people together around a common cause and you will create ‘us and them’.  What can be more familiar than the differences between ‘us and them’?


We first learned of this at home.  When you asked your mother why you could not stay out at the park until ten o’clock with your favourite neighbour Dale Peterson, she educated you to the fact that you were not a Peterson.  The rules of our house were different from the others.  There was ‘us’ and there was ‘them’‘We’ do not play in the park after eight o’clock on a school night.  There may have even been a question raised about the Peterson’s lack of structure or care for their children.

Children quickly learn to differentiate between the desirable kids and the undesirable-- the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.  They perpetuate what they see all around them.

A reading of Jesus’ words and action reveals a vision of humanity that redefines ‘us and them’.  As a Jewish man from an unimportant town, He taught a new way of looking at Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female, master and slave.  He did not obliterate cultural and gender distinctions, but redefined the rules according to God’s emerging Kingdom.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

2fish - PALM OF YOUR HAND


Kevin Saunders and I have a band called 2fish.  We are also both church planters.

Our District office is putting together a video piece about church planting and multiplication.  As part of that effort, they came to Windsor and recorded us doing my song 'Palm Of Your Hand'.  The song will be part of their upcoming promo piece.

Here it is as a stand alone music video.  It was filmed in the neighbourhood around the church I pastor.







We are available if you are looking for a band or worship leaders at your event.

Email me at revkevinrogers@hotmail.com for more details.

Friday, May 21, 2010

STAYING ON TRACK #5 - Have You Positioned For Peace?


It should be our goal to live at peace with others as much as possible. 

We are called to be peacemakers.

The Holy Spirit will give you an inner peace when you are on track. 

Peace by itself is not an accurate guide to keep you in the groove with God.  All the other guides need to be in place.

We need to live our lives in such a way that we are positioning for inward and outward peace.  The peace of God is supposed to guard our heart and mind.  How peaceful are you these days?  If you’ve lost the peace, go back to the Lord and find the direction that you need to move forward to a peaceful position.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

STAYING ON TRACK #4 - Have You Measured Your Motives?


What is inspiring you to pursue a particular plan or action?  Following God’s will in life can produce a joy which gives you great strength.  Following God also includes a measure of suffering and trials.  Feeling good is not the accurate measure for God’s Will.

The Bible speaks much of the heart.  What is really in your heart? 

When you look at your motives, there may be a desire to humbly see God’s Kingdom made real in your life and others.  Or, you may have the motive of satisfying your flesh with the disguise of doing something good.

God looks into your heart and measures your motives.  You should self-scan and see what moves you to pursue particular decisions and actions.  Filter out decisions that feed your cravings but run opposite to God’s direction.

You can race the car skilfully in the wrong direction and never win the race.

Monday, May 17, 2010

STAYING ON TRACK #3 - Who Is Your Coach And What Are They Asking Of You?

Who coaches you?  The Scriptures and the Holy Spirit are your personal trainers, but that’s not all.  God has had many others on the same track as you.  Other Christians have many things to teach you about staying on track and winning the race.  You need to learn to listen to others and be teachable.

Proud people think they can figure it all out themselves and don’t need any coaching or advice.  Humble winners are always learning from others and asking for evaluation of their track record.

Don’t surround yourself only with those who always agree with you.  Find people who can ask you the tough questions and challenge your assumptions.  If you are pursuing God’s Will, it makes sense to run it by others who have had to wrestle with doing the right thing.

Choose your coaches wisely.  They should be unbiased and spiritually sensitive.  They should know God and walk in love.  They should know and live God’s Word.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

STAYING ON TRACK #2 - What Are Your Current And Future Opportunities?


If God wants you to move ahead, an opportunity will be available to you.  If your dream is hopeless and every door is closed, let it go.  It is not God’s plan for you to bust down closed doors. 

When the Israelites followed Moses out of Egypt, they got bottle-necked at the Red Sea.  They had nowhere else to turn and the enemy was closing in fast.  So they did what many of us would do.  They complained to Moses, the man in charge.

Moses knew better how to think in this situation.  He prayed to God for guidance.  God opened an unusual opportunity by creating a dry path through the Red Sea.  It was a situation where no other solution existed.

The most sensible thing to do was to take the path that God opened up. God always has options, even when you can’t see them at first.  Learn to wait until the opportunity arrives.  Your life will be a series of unusual opportunities if you learn to trust God for guidance and obey when the opportunity presents itself.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

STAYING ON TRACK #1 - What Are You Thinking About?


Why did God give you a mind?  Was it just to confuse you?  No, God gave us the ability to think and reason about everything.


1 Corinthians 14:20
20 Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. NIV


We need to allow our thinking to grow up.  There are many who still think the same as they did when they were a child.  It’s a good thing to be na├»ve about evil.  Evil quickly darkens your thinking and hinders good thoughts from occurring.  But, unless you live alone in a cave you will be exposed to corrupt influences.  To live in the real world requires that we learn discretion and the mind of the Lord.  God wants us to be mature in our thinking.

God does not expect you to put your brain in neutral when looking for direction.  He wants to work cooperatively with your powers of reason.  The key is to submit our mind to God and be open to learning God’s thoughts.  Scriptures are intended to renew our thought processes and align our thinking with God’s.

God’s guidance may not always be reasonable to the human mind, but always makes sense in the long run.

Philippians 4:8
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. NIV

Did you catch it?  THINK!  Put the right things in your mind and your life will follow.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

STAYING ON TRACK - INTRODUCTION TO MAINTENANCE

Like many kids, I had a road race set comprised of a figure eight plastic track and two little electric cars that were controlled with hand triggers.  In order to get the cars to move, you had to make sure that the plastic guide was positioned in the groove of the track.  There were wire brushes alongside the plastic guide.  When these contacted the metal strips, power could be transferred to the little car and cause it to race around the track.


There were a few kinks involved in road race sets that required your attention.

  1. The track had to be properly put together so that the car could complete its course.
  2. You had to make sure all electrical connections were properly made.
  3. You had to slow down on curves to prevent the car from becoming airborne and leaving the track.
  4. You had to service the wire brushes to ensure that they made good contact with the metal strip and could transfer power to the car’s motor.
  5. You could not step on the road race set or it would break.

The Christian life is compared to a race.  Just as racers need to prepare, so we need to work on details that ensure we complete the course we set out on.

That little electric car needs to have a guide in the groove or else it will leave the track almost immediately after the power is given to it.

I want to give you five maintenance questions that will ensure that you get in the groove with God and win the race.


Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Saviour, and my hope is in You all day long (Psalm 25:5 NIV).



Sunday, May 9, 2010

PSYCHE ON A CROSS



Jesus speaks to the disciples about taking up a cross to follow him.

Luke 14:
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:  26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple.  27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

When we think of the cross, we think of a noble symbol of the greatest love in the Universe.  We think of the price of sin and how we have been reconciled to God.

But, at the time Jesus’ words were terrifying.  Imagine daily seeing the Romans torture and kill your neighbours by nailing them naked on a stake and leaving them exposed to die.  The cross was a symbol of oppression, power and making a spectacle of wrong-doers.  The criminal sentenced to death would carry his own cross to the place of death and face ridicule along the road from unsympathetic observers.

Jesus tells the disciples that this will be his destination.  If they want to follow Him, they need to wilfully carry their cross to the place of torturous death.  They must choose to have the false self crucified.  They must choose to be powerless and exposed.  We soften this to the word ‘vulnerable’.

Let’s begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their Christian lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” Such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”
“Take up your cross and follow Me” means willingness to die in order to follow Jesus. It’s a call to absolute surrender.
[i]

The most remarkable thing in Jesus’ call to die is its result.  Just as one dying seed can produce a huge harvest of fruit, one surrendered life will have a positive effect multiplied times over.  Jesus’ death was always about making life bigger, not smaller.  In His resurrection, two millennia of hope and love have flourished.  His church has continued to bear fruit and do greater things than He did singularly.

There is a dark death-wish produced in the barren womb of the false-self.  It is a universal scam finding new suckers every day.  There is an appetite that cannot be satisfied and a longing that ends in destruction. 

Jesus came to save us from ourselves.  Will you accept His call to be a Kamikaze saint?  Will you choose the road that leads to the end of your self-centeredness? 

God is looking for your willingness to embark on a mission that will cost you your life, but multiply into a harvest of new life. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

KAMIKAZE DISCIPLESHIP


The word ‘kamikaze’ translates as ‘divine wind’.  During the Second World War, Japanese pilots were trained to fly their planes into Allied war ships.  The planes were laden with explosives and had a devastating impact on the target.  The pilot left on his mission knowing that if he were successful, his life would be sacrificed.

In parts of the world today suicide bombers lay down their lives as an act of divine vengeance on their enemies.  These are people who will die for a cause they believe to be greater than their own life.

The call of Jesus to lay down our lives is distinctly different from these other suicide missions.  In acts of war and aggression a life is sacrificed in order to destroy other lives and property. 

In the suicide mission of Jesus, the disciple lays down their life in non-violence and lives again to empty themselves for the sake of God’s Kingdom.  This is our Kamikaze call.  We are Divine Wind Disciples.  And each time we die for the cause, we live to die another day.

John 12:
 23Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

What was Jesus calling us to?  Jesus knew more than we do about living and dying.  Many times his cryptic teachings answered deep questions in the heart of listeners.  Others were deeply offended and turned away.

‘Living to die’ and ‘dying to live’ is not the same thing.  You can selfishly take your life or selflessly give it away.  There is a difference between committing suicide and accepting a suicide mission. 

Jesus uses strong language to explain the cost of accepting His mission. 

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (v. 25).  The word for life (psyche) does not only refer to physical life; it is more comprehensive than that, taking in one's whole being, one's "self." The self was not created to be an autonomous center of being, but rather to be in union with God and receive life from him. The love of this self as such is at the heart of all sin, beginning with the rebellion in the Garden of Eden. That rebellion brought death and continues to bring death. When Jesus says the one who loves this self will lose it he does not mean "misplaces" it but rather "destroys" it.[i]

When Jesus says to hate yourself or hate your family, he is talking about your choices and attachments.  It is not choosing to despise and reject but to be devoted and obedient to Jesus in a single-minded way.  Do not let anyone or anything distract you from the greater love found in Jesus.  We choose to hate that which coddles our rebellion and detachment from God.

"Self must be displaced by another; the endless, shameless focus on self must be displaced by focus on Jesus Christ, who is the supreme revelation of God" (Carson 1991:439). This death to the false self is a form of suffering. Christ's call may also include actual physical suffering as well: like master, like disciple (cf. 15:18--16:4). "Christ draws men to fellowship with himself, alike in suffering and in the presence of God" (Beasley-Murray 1987:212).[ii]

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

STARING INTO SUICIDE



Three years ago, a friend of our church hung himself.  Bob had some difficulties and very few understood how much he was hurting.

Two years ago, Susan drove her motorized wheelchair into the Detroit River.  It was a couple months before her body washed up.  She had mental health issues, but no-one knew what she had planned to do. 

Last year, Paul’s health took a turn for the worse and he required oxygen to stay alive.  With his condition deteriorating, he made an informed choice to go off the oxygen in the hospital and be administered morphine to keep him comfortable while his body shut down.


Today, there are many who struggle in isolation with the reoccurring temptation to end their lives.  Perhaps that one is you and you need some help to live again.

There may have been half a dozen times in my life when I was greatly discouraged and yearned to be done with living, but those feelings were fleeting.  I want to live a long life.  Suicide has never been an option for me.  The thought of intentionally ending my life has never been a fixation.

I am more inclined to be anxious about how I might die.  Hardly a road trip goes by without flashing thoughts of experiencing an uncontrolled fatal crash.  Gas pains make me think about how quickly a heart attack could dramatically change my existence.  If I allow myself, I can think of horribly, painful ways to leave the living world.  But, I do not ever plan my own demise.  I plan on living.

Jesus was not suicidal.  He did have a growing awareness that the end was coming, but He preferred life.  If there were another way, He would have taken it, but not at the expense of what would be lost.  He could only face His death by looking at the good that would come from His sacrifice.  In the dark despair of Gethsemane-- sweating drops of blood before His arrest, He cherished His life.

Think about the word ‘disease’.  The prefix ‘dis’ indicates that there is a lack of that described.  There is a lack of ease.  Disease is not easy, but extremely challenging.  It is helpful to understand suicidal ideation as a state of ‘dis-ease’. 

Do you hate yourself?  It may not be self-hatred, but actually self-love in some cases.  Because you love yourself, you are overwhelmed by disconnect, depression and a sense that all is wrong.  Something inside you screams out that life is broken and you do not know how to fix it. 

The thought of this horrible state coming to an end brings a feeling of closure.  Life should not be like this and you will stop it from hurting.  You cannot control your circumstances or feelings, but will control this one final act.

What part does human will and the power of choice play in one’s decision to terminate their life?  In this regard, suicide can be the epitome of self-centeredness.  The ending of my pain is more important than the true feelings and perspective of those around me.  It is the mistaken belief that their lives will be incredibly improved if I end my life.  The depression will not hear another voice but isolate into its own.  That is why drastic steps must be taken to share your feelings and enter into helping relationships.

Historically many Christians have viewed suicide as an unpardonable sin because it cannot be repented of following its successful completion.

Augustine’s viewpoint on suicide has heavily influenced both Roman Catholics and Protestants.   Thomas Aquinas, the most outstanding of Catholic theologians, gave three succinct arguments why suicide is a sin against self, neighbor and God.  First, suicide is contrary to nature: every living organism naturally desires to preserve its life. Second, it is contrary to our social obligations: the whole human community is injured by self-killing. Third, suicide is contrary to our religious rights: God alone should decide when a person will live or die. Aquinas reasoned: "To bring death upon oneself in order to escape the other afflictions of this life is to adopt a greater evil in order to avoid a lesser. . . . Suicide is the most fatal of sins because it cannot be repented of" (Summa Theologica 2-2, q. 64,5).  The poet Dante, following Aquinas’s theology, placed those who take their own lives on the seventh level of hell, below the greedy and the murderous (Inferno 13).  For centuries those who committed the unconfessed and therefore unforgivable sin of suicide were not buried in cemeteries that Catholic priests had consecrated.[i]

It is easy to develop theological positions on suicide, but quite another to weigh in after it happens to a close family member or friend.  All of a sudden, the passionate argument for why it is wrong is tempered by a hope for the loved one’s eternal salvation.  If I am to err on this matter, I would like to be too generous in applying the mercy of God to my loved one.  I need a God who saves broken people who still possess a mustard seed of faith at the darkest, loneliest hour.  

Suicide is certainly a failure to live and less than God’s best for a person’s life.  But in its sinfulness, I do not believe it trumps a bleeding faith in the dark night of the soul.



[i] Christian Perspectives on Suicide by William E. Phipps.  Dr. Phipps is professor of religion and philosophy at Davis and Elkins College, Elkins, West Virginia. His forthcoming book Before and After Death (John Knox) contains a chapter on suicide. This article appeared in The Christian Century, October 30, 1985, pp. 970-972. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

MICAH SANG THE BLUES

The story of family in the Old Testament is one of heart-wrenching proportions.   The prophet Micah looked around at the condition of the nation-family and realized that his hope in God would surpass the limitations of Israel.  Micah sang the blues about his neighborhood.  Listen to the cry for something better than human failure and weakness.



Micah 7:
1 What misery is mine!  I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave.
 2 The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains.  All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net.
 3 Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire— they all conspire together.
 4 The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge.  The day of your watchmen has come, the day God visits you.  Now is the time of their confusion.
 5 Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend.  Even with her who lies in your embrace be careful of your words.
 6 For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man's enemies are the members of his own household.
 7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

In the broken and trustless realms of human disappointment, we watch and hope in Jesus.  He is the Savior who comes to bring justice and mercy to the loners and orphans with nowhere else to turn. 

We live in the promise of God to renew and restore.  We will go through the fire and all that is good will remain.  We will not be afraid because Jesus has gone ahead and opened the way.  He is able to keep us through the controlled burn.

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