Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Image from The Upper Room: http://devotional.upperroom.org/blog/2013/03/tftd3913

We are reminded that, like the barnacles that attach to the sea turtle, weighing him down, that sin attaches to us and weighs us down. Eventually, the weight of sin will cause our death.

There is a cure, however. Confession. Repentance. And the chains are gone.



Saturday, March 14, 2009

Turning Tables

John 2 NRSV

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!"  17 His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." 18 The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" 19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Somewhere Only We Know

Somewhere Only We Know

is this the place we used to love?
is this the place that i've been dreaming of?

oh simple thing where have you gone? 
i'm getting old and i need something to rely on
so tell me when you're gonna let me in
i'm getting tired and i need somewhere to begin

this could be the end of everything
so why don't we go
somewhere only we know 

- Keane, Hopes and Dreams


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 33: Essential Characteristics


They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  Acts 2:42-43


Can you imagine what it would have been like to be a member of the first church?  According to Acts 2, sometimes in a single day, some three thousand people heard the gospel and were baptized.  This was the beginning of the mighty church of Jesus Christ that would turn the world upside down.


Maxie writes today about essential characteristics of the church.  To start with, a church must be able to learn.  “The early church was made up of people who had come to a sure knowledge of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection and had received the living presence of his Spirit.  Those first Christians were sure of who they were, because they were sure of Christ.”  They were willing and able to learn, to follow the doctrine of Christ.  Our faith must continually look forward and not remain static.  The riches of Christ grow going forward over time.


The next essential characteristic of the church is that it prays.  An Acts 2 church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers” (Acts 2:42).  The Pentecost church “had the vibrant, vital presence of the Holy Spirit, and it invested their prayers with even deeper meaning.”  Maxie is convinced that the church is not as effective today as it could be if we would spend more time on our knees.


The next essential characteristic of the church is that it shares.  The early church was a sharing church.  “All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need “(Acts 2:44-45).  They were radical people…”  As we know, the system they put in place didn’t work, and they gave it up before the end of the 1st century.  It failed, not because it wasn’t God’s way – but because of sin. 


The next essential characteristic of the church is that it is a fellowship.  “Almost everything that happened in the early church took place either within the fellowship or grew out of the direction and power received from the fellowship.”   They gathered in homes, they broke bread, they shared about their lives and prayed together.  We know it is true today: small group interactions change lives and change the way a church functions.  “We all need a support system; without it, we can’t stay alive spiritually.”


The Heart of the Matter

-         When you hear stories about the couples who gave up the comforts of their suburban neighborhoods for the challenges of poverty-stricken communities, how does that make you feel?  Inspired? Challenged?  Uneasy?  Why do you think that is?

-         Where do you personally find fellowship in the body of Christ?

-         How is your congregation like/unlike the early church?


Friday, November 7, 2008

Irresistible Invitation by Maxie Dunham - Day 32

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 32:  The People of God


Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.

1 Pet. 2:10



We have just considered the “body of Christ” as a New Testament image for the church.  “The people of God is also one of the prominent images in Scripture.  Listen to the words found in 1 Peter 2:9-10


“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”


We, the church are the people of God called especially to fulfill God’s purposes.  Peter applies all of the Old Testament images of the people of God to the New Testament church; “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”  These images ground the church in the history of Israel.  Having heard the promises of God and knowing full well both the discipline of God and the great mercy of God, the people of God knew that that they had received a distinct calling.  This calling, which we hear just as clearly today in the church, is to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”


According to Dunnam, “when this image is alive in our congregations, we know we are a part of God’s history.  When we are firmly grounded in that knowledge, our evangelism, mission, and worship become part of God’s working out his purpose in history.”  Then, we the local church become a kingdom community!


There are many important characteristics of “the people of God,” but the most important image is fellowship: “we belong.”  We belong to Christ and we belong to each other.  We are part of a kingdom people with roots that stretch back to creation and whose ancestors include Abraham and Sara, and our hope lens forward to a time when all of God’s people will be gathered in the kingdom for a heavenly banquet.  When this image comes alive in our congregations then we begin to look more like “the church.”  It takes more than hearing the Word and participating in the sacraments for Christians to grow.  A deep fellowship for mutual encouragement, examination, accountability and service is essential. 


Effective evangelism happens when the congregation becomes a living witness, when we are moving from seeing evangelism as a special program, inspired preaching or individual Christian testimony to the church and its fellowship being evangelism.  When the fellowship of the church comes alive by the presence of the Holy Spirit, inspiring and empowering people to care for one another, the fellowship is redemptive within itself, and it draws people in. 

Our witness is in word and deed, in our speaking and in our actins.  Our witness is also the quality of our fellowship.  The quality of our fellowship in the Christian community is a profound ingredient in proclaiming the wonderful deeds of the one who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.  There must be a quality about our life together that will reach out and invite –


The Heart of the Matter


--What has God taught you through the fellowship of other Christians?

--Why might congregational evangelism – the idea of the church itself being the witness – be as important as individual evangelism?

-- What does it mean to you to love your neighbor as yourself?




Thursday, November 6, 2008

Irresistible Invitation by Maxie Dunham - Day 31

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 31: What Defines Christian Community?


Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. 

1 John 4:7


What is it that makes a home be home for us? 


Maxie Dunnam, on Day 31 quotes poet Robert Frost: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”  So it is in our Christian churches, our families of faith.  We’ve already talked about church as being a home of grace, the place where wonder dwells.  The only requirement for joining a church is that you are not worthy to be a member.


God is gracious, in spite of our faults, and we have all been assigned a place in God’s family with a room in God’s home.  It’s been God’s plan all along, for we need to be together receiving God’s grace.  Once we are home, in our community, we find that we begin to trust people who are different from us.  Maxie likens this to the dynamic that occurs at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.  “In that setting, you’ll find people from many different ethnic groups: Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, Caucasians.  There will be rich and poor folks, men and women, young and old.  All have one thing in common: they are battling an addiction.  The primary dynamic of the meeting is humility and trust, expressed in statements like, “Hi, I’m Tom, and I’m an alcoholic.”  That beginning point of humility and trust breaks the grip of alcoholism.  If grace can happen in an arena like AA, it can certainly happen with the church, as well.”


Maxie goes on to talk about God Addiction.  He asks what it takes to become a true Christian community.  His answer: “First, I believe, is a complete obsession with God.  If we are not completely obsessed with God, we fall short of what should define us.”  Maxie knows some people will not appreciate that language, but he clarifies that “God should be so real to us that we pulsate with the unshakable conviction that in God we live and move and have our being; that in God lies all truth, love, goodness, and beauty. 


In talking about the prophet Jeremiah, Maxie wrote that he was so “God-driven that he couldn’t break his fixation even when he wanted to.”  Here is a verse from Jeremiah chapter 20: “But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (v. 9).


In addition to being obsessed with God, Maxie writes that he also thinks a Christian community should be happy and holy.  And holiness is not about rules and regulations.  “Holiness that centers on rigid rules and regulations turns us into ‘sour saints,’ .. constantly stressed out in seeking to keep the law.  Sour saints ain’t no saints at all.”


For holiness to be happy, it must be connected with the Holy Spirit.  Our strength comes from the Holy Spirit, and that holiness bring us happiness. 


Holiness should also be contagious, like C.S. Lewis’ phrase: “the good infection.”  Lewis used the phrase in his book Mere Christianity in talking about the Holy Spirit.  We should have a sense of the dance of the trinity, a dance that we participate in with them.


When we come together as church, as Christian community, the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the early Christians saw themselves as already part of a new creation.  Maxie says that “by coming together, they were shaping a new pattern for the human community, a pattern of love and sharing which reflected the very life of the Trinity.”


In his book Christian Wholeness, Tom Langford expressed it this way:


“Our strength, as Christians, comes from our relation to God and to the people of God.  We are directly related to God, and in that relationship we find our ability to move to action and to live for others.  Indirectly we receive the strength of God through sharing in Christian community.  This is a sharing which empowers, guides, corrects, and renews our ability to be and to serve.

Emphasis upon Christian strength is often neglected for fear of abuse, and the strength given by community is often neglected because it is so meagerly realized in contemporary experience.  Yet the church is the Body of Christ; it is the special embodiment of the Holy Spirit.  The church is the community graciously given by God to persons who need and who intensely seek community.  Into our solitary, isolated style of living there comes a concrete community of persons who are willing to bear one another’s burdens, enhance one another’s living, to be together in joy and in sorrow, in hope and in hurt, at ordinary moments and in critical junctures of human experience.

In the context of the church, strength comes from lives which are bound together.  The chief binding is not that of a desperate clinging to one another in a dangerous and frightening world. … The deeper truth, however, is that person in Christian community are bound together by a common love, by a common worship, and by a common mission.  The church is the community of persons who are in community with Jesus Christ.  It is a community of persons precisely because there is a common center for their lives.”


 The Heart of the Matter

-         On a scale of one to ten (ten being the highest), how “addicted’ would you say you are to God?  Why is that?

-         In what ways could holiness be contagious?  What about joy?

-         Is your congregation bound by common love, common worship and common mission?  In what ways can you individually improve – or detract from – the situation?


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Irresistible Invitation by Maxie Dunham - Day 30

Irresistible Invitation:  Responding to the Extravagant Heart of God                   

Day 30:  The Body of Christ

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Cor. 12:27



On this day Maxie encourages us our role not as the dwelling place of wonder but at Christ’s body in the world.  He writes; “As Christ is the Incarnation of God, so the church is to be the continuation of Christ’s presence in the world.”  The most prominent image of the church in the New Testament is the body of Christ.  We can think of Paul’s words to the church in Corinth, “you must show that you are a letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God…” (2Cor. 3:3)  We must remember who we are and whose we are, precisely the body of Christ through whom God intends to become the head over all there is, it is Christ whom every power in the universe must reckon.  Those of us who make up the church operate not out of human wisdom and strength but out of Christ’s wisdom and strength and in so doing we are a new creation, a fellowship of Resurrection Life. 


This image of the church as Christ’s body in the world then is one that speaks primarily of serving.  In order to be the body of Christ in the world is to truly be his presence in the world.  What does that mean, it means for instance that we are the eyes of Christ in the world, and through the eyes of Christ there is nothing that can cause division, no East or West, no black or white, slave, free or male or female.  Through Christ’s eyes we see the dignity and worth of every human being and the churches job is to respond lovingly to the needs those individuals may bring, in Christ’s eyes every person is one for whom Christ died, no matter what.


In addition when the church speaks it speaks with the voice of Christ, speaking to people in all manner of human condition.  War and peace, inflation and the national deficit, the spending of tax monies, where people live how they work, abortion, pornography, adultery, immigration, no matter the plight, it is of concern to the gospel.  Nothing is off limits for Christ.  The church must speak fearlessly and compassionately the Good News of God in Christ to every person, wherever he or she may be.  But that is not enough the church must also heal with the hands of Christ, the ministry of the Church is a ministry of redemption and healing, as was Christ’s.


The Heart of the Matter


--What does it mean to you to be a part of the body of Christ?

--In what ways has the church represented the body of Christ to you?

--If you were to be honest, how do you do at seeing others through the eyes of Christ?  Why do you think that is?