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Showing posts from February, 2011

FATHER'S RULES

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“Listen carefully to me,” said the father to his children. “This bull is a dangerous animal. As long as it stays in the fenced area and you stay out, you will be safe. If you leave the gate open it will escape. This bull will harm you if it has the opportunity.”

The wide-eyed children nodded respectfully at their father’s instruction. They had no reason to doubt their father’s word or assume to know better than he. Still, the potential for disobedience and horrible consequence was an everyday reality for the children.

Consider the father’s perspective on the law he was giving to the children. He loves them deeply and knows the consequences of letting the bull have its way. The children listen to the father; perhaps with a mix of fear and curiosity. Disobeying their father would lead to certain consequence. An encounter with the bull could be deadly. And so, the children obey… until their Frisbee enters the bull’s fenced area.

Now the law is no longer a question of protection, but a…

A STRONG GOD FOR WEAK MEN

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What does your success fantasy look like? When you find yourself working too hard at God’s work, what is that you are striving for? From which planet did God bring you to save this one?

In 1989, Jim Bakker was sentenced to 45 years in prison on fraud related charges.  In the flyleaf of his book ‘I Was Wrong’, it describes how Bakker came to a deeper understanding of Jesus in prison.

‘And in his deepest need, he discovered that the upbeat slogans and pat solutions that he had so successfully offered on television were useless to sustain him through his unrelenting shame and grief.
Inmate Bakker, convicted felon, found in prison what Jim Bakker the preacher and television personality never could.  He found fellowship with a different sort of God—One who could identify with poverty and pain.
Stripped of all power and subjected to the daily humiliations of prison life, Bakker was compelled to embrace the whole of God’s message—not just the ‘feel good’ parts.  God showed Bakker that intimacy …

L-A-W-

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Why do we wrestle with the implications of God’s Law?What are we missing?
Theologically, we can explain that we do not need to observe the Ceremonial Law and many of the lifestyle laws from Moses’ time.But Jesus goes deeper into the heart of Law.
He presents God’s Law as good seed ready to impregnate hearts where it can grow into God’s Kingdom.Right at the gates of God’s Kingdom there is a terrible realization that we are incapable of personal righteousness.Only God can grow His goodness through us.It is a sorry surrender and a glorious passage into grace.
We do not need to make excuses any longer for the impossibility of keeping God’s Law.We surrender to God’s Law being written personally into our hearts.We cannot measure progress in this by comparing ourselves to the community.The Law of God is about something other than what we have thought.
We need to talk more about this, don’t we?Let me conclude this thought by suggesting an acronym that identifies what we may not have heard about G…

THERE'S A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN

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Movies about the Wild West often feature a new sheriff or Law man who comes to restore order and justice to the unruly town.Jesus entered the domain of Judaism where a group of townsmen called Pharisees had established their own style of justice and oppression.
If we are to make sense of Christian thought, we need to go back to our Teacher.Jesus was politically incorrect for much of the surrounding religion and culture.
The Pharisees accused him of being a lawbreaker and son of the Devil.At the same time, Jesus called people to live by a higher standard than the politically acceptable observance of Jewish law.Let us explore Jesus’ teaching about the Law of God.
Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
Israel lived in a paradigm of thought based …

THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT GOD

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We are arrogant to ever think that our philosophy and worldview are unchanging.  Everyone has politics—ideas that shape their choices and identify them with a larger community. 
So, how can an apolitical God ever be acceptable to a political people?  How can God followers hope to survive a world that changes its politics with regularity?  There are some critical ideas in Scripture that are unavoidably offensive to people; ideas that Paul said make the gospel a stumbling block or offense to the world. 
Here are a few hot spots in the values clarification of both saints and sinners.  (Oops!  Did I just use two words that do not fit in the p.c. lexicon?)·Sin·Blood sacrifice·Limiting God’s identity to the Godhead·Authority of our Scriptures·Israel as God’s chosen nation·The Law of God·Judgment·Punishment·Hell and damnation·Repentance ·Crucifixion·Christ has risen·Christ will come again

THE DILEMMA OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

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In weather patterns, storms occur at the meeting point of two air masses.A high pressure and a low pressure area collide with dramatic effects.
Two opposing tribes also experience border clashes or civil wars at the intersection of their lives.Do you ever wonder about the storms and border clashes occurring in your life?
The Christian faith has an influence in the culture.Jesus called us to be salt and light.But, I suppose the converse is also true—the culture shapes the Church.If there is a scale to measure influence, I wonder which party has more influence over the other.
In the age of political correctness, we are constantly learning a new vocabulary.We stop using words and ideas that may be offensive.The goal is to teach us greater sensitivity and tolerance by preferring language and public policies that give more dignity to commonly held ethics.
As a follower of Jesus, I have some thoughts about political correctness:
1.Jesus and the Scriptures must shape me more than the ideologies …

GOD'S PERFECT TIMING

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The years of Christ’s earthly ministry came at a strategic time.Judaism was ripe for an emphasis on the personal relationship that God desires to have with His People.Other religious revivals of that time tended to be elitist and required people to put on their best performance for God.

Jesus came with the good news for people who were incapable of a perfect performance.
The world of that day was uniquely prepared to spread the gospel.Alexander The Great’s conquests had given the ancient world Greek as a common language, thus breaking down the language barrier that kept communities separated.The gospel had a language to reach to the ends of the earth.Rome’s conquests had provided a road system which meant the early missionaries could get to far-off places and spread the good news.
As I reflect on the past year at NewSongChurch, I see God’s perfect timing at work.We have had several new people come to Christ and begin their shared journey with us.He has taught us the common language of lo…

LITTLE FOXES

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The devotion between Solomon and his lover is an epic romance filled with desperate longing and poetic tributes.We are reminded of the passion that bonds a man and woman.




Marriage can be a picture of Jesus and the Church.There is a delicate balance to maintaining a healthy marriage.
She said:
Song Of Solomon 2:14 My dove in the clefts of the rock,
       in the hiding places on the mountainside,
       show me your face,
       let me hear your voice;
       for your voice is sweet,
       and your face is lovely.15 Catch for us the foxes,
       the little foxes
       that ruin the vineyards,
       our vineyards that are in bloom.
The gentleness of Jesus is a hidden presence that must be sought out.She asks her lover to catch the little foxes that ruin the good things that are growing.In the life of a group of Christ followers, there are offenses and attitudes which will ruin the good things that God intends to grow.The Holy Spirit is at work to help us see the ‘little foxes’ and catch…

THE OBVIOUSNESS OF LIGHT

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On my cell phone there is a tiny light that pulses if I have a new email message.When my laptop is on standby with the lid down, there is a tiny blue light that pulses to remind me that the computer is on and ready to be awakened.
Either of these tiny lights can be a deterrent to sleep in our bedroom.Light sensitivity is enhanced in the darkness of the room.A simple little flicker is enough to catch the attention of half shut eyes.One of the extra cushions is placed over the phone or the laptop to block the soft glow and restore the darkness.
Luke 8:16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them…

SALT

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An inquirer reportedly asked a late first-century rabbi what to salt tasteless salt with; he responded, "The afterbirth of a mule". In that society everyone knew that mules are sterile; the point is, "You ask a stupid question, you get a stupid answer. Salt can't stop being salt!" But of course if it were to do so, it would no longer be of any value as salt.[i]
But, can we lose the good that God does in us?Can we lose the vital flavor of God’s presence?
Jesus said that a good reward would come from hardship and suffering when we are identified with Him.What does suffering with Jesus produce in us?John Piper said, “The saltiness is the taste of joy in hardship. This is unusual life that the world can taste as different.” [ii]
The taste of joy in hardship—have you experienced that?It is very rare.It is the flavor that a world in struggle needs.How can we find joy in the midst of struggle and sorrow?If we become like Jesus, we will bring the taste of Jesus to others.

ON THE COUCH IN JESUS' OFFICE

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Imagine the nation of Israel as a patient on the couch of the Mighty Counselor Jesus.The nation is in a state of identity crisis.They had not successfully transitioned from their previous stage of development.Israel was an oppressed people with four hundred years of silence from God.
To a nation deeply rooted in its past experience, Jesus spoke of a Kingdom being unveiled today and into their future.He spoke much of the old passing and the new coming.To a people who had lost their identity, Jesus gave hope for a new kind of future.The present and coming troubles would be rich in meaning as they opened a road to their destiny.
Who are you Israel?Who are you meant to be?
Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its s…

BEYOND THE IDENTITY CRISIS

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“You are just like your father.”
“That sounds like something your mother would say.”
Are there stronger words to tie your present behavior to your past history?Often on the counselor’s couch troubled souls have looked back into childhood to uncover how present behaviors and attitudes were formed.Why do we often look into childhood to explain our current difficulties?
Eric Erikson was a noted psychologist known for his theory on social development in human beings.He believed that we pass through nine stages of life from birth to death.To develop and mature normally we must complete the challenges of a stage before we enter the next.
Erikson coined the phrase ‘identity crisis’.It is defined as ‘distress and disorientation resulting from conflicting pressures and uncertainty about one’s self and one’s role in society.’[i]
Before we spend the money on psychoanalysis, let’s consider a startling perspective; what if you are defined more by your destiny than by your past?What if your future affec…