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Showing posts from February, 2013

Kairos Moments

One of my favorite passages (hint here - I use the phrase favorite passage all of the time, it's a bad habit)...one of my favorite passages is in Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV).  With apologies to the text, here's what Paul says:
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
4  ...he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ...
7  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.


There's much more...but I stop on purpose at t…

Forever Shifts

In 1521, a young priest named Martin Luther stood in front of a convocation of Priests, Bishops, and rulers of the Holy Roman Empire.  He was in a town called Worms (pronounced Voems) standing before a group who were asking him to recant of his writings - writings that challenged the authority of the Pope and the Roman church over the scripture.  For several years now Martin Luther had been writing, preaching, challenging the various decrees of the Papacy that ran counter to the clear teaching of scripture.  From the standpoint of the various representatives of the church, Luther was a renegade priest.  The official language from Rome was, "a wild boar has invaded the vineyard".
As Luther stood in front of the various representatives he was faced with accusations of heresy, and language of excommunication.  By all accounts, his foe was formidable.  Johann von Eck was a theologian of the church, and used by the church to hunt down and defeat those who deviated from the church…

We are Community

"Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community. What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ.  Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us." -  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Life Together"
I'm convinced that every human being longs for authentic community.  I know I love the community of fellowship in our church family at New Life.  But this is not an automatic thing, and not an easy thing to nurture and maintain.  Why? It's not automatic because of the nature of our culture.  We live in a fragmented world with many people coming from broken homes and fragmented relationships.  We know people on a acquaintance basis.  Friends are "on-line" with virtual relationships based on "updates" and "posts".   Social media is not a substitute for the longing of real community. What the bible says is that we were cr…

Listening - We Can

Matthew 13:1-17 (ESV)
1  That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.
2  And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.
3  And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.
4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.
5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,
6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.
7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
10
 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
11  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heave…

The Second Sunday in Lent

1 John 1:5-2:2 (ESV)
5  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
2  He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

The fact of the matter is that we ar…

The Cloister Spiritual Life

I fell in love with a cloister, the first time I ever had an opportunity to visit an Abbey and walk in one.
There's something very beautiful and peaceful about the cloister.  If you're not familiar with what I'm talking about, it is an enclosed walkway open to a center area that is usually a garden.  The building in the picture is always to the outside, and the central area is always open...the cloister is the walkway that transitions the two places and joins them as one.
It's like this, the outside is inside.  It's private, quiet and beautiful.  It's peaceful and serene, calming and full of awe.  I don't know for certain who invented them.  I've seen remnants 1000+ yrs old.
I was thinking about cloisters a couple of weeks ago.  I said then, if I had enough money, I'd buy enough land to build a cloistered retreat center.  I'd make one of the building a kitchen and large dining area; another end for relaxation, social gatherings, worship and st…

The Spiritual Life

1 Corinthians 2:9-12 (ESV)
9  But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,nor the heart of man imagined,what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
11  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
12  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  


1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV)
14  The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
15  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.
16  “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Chri…

We are Spiritual

I took a trip once to the isle of Iona, which is located off the isle of Mull in South-western Scotland. There's a ferry that crosses from Mull to the island in about 15 minutes time.  There are no cars, but island of Iona is only about 2.5 miles by 1.5 miles in dimension, so it's not too difficult to walk. When I landed there I was struck by the simplicity and beauty of the island.  But what struck me the most was how "spiritually" significant places I was ever going to visit.  I felt a sense of God's presence wherever my foot set down.  The sky above seemed to open up, the winds were whipping in from the ocean, and God chose this place hundreds of years before to launch a Kingdom invasion.
The history is that Patrick, that is St. Patrick, went back to Ireland to evangelize the Druids and Irish Celts.  He set up monastic communities before he died, and among them a young man named "Columba" grew.  Columba felt God telling him to carry the Gospel to ot…

With All Our Strength

Mark 12:30 (ESV)
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
When we think of strength, we think of exercise, the discipline of hard work, and a building of physical stamina.  Strength is something we measure.  I could do 30 situps last month, now I can do 40.  I could do 20 minutes on a treadmill, now I do 30 minutes.   We can not only "do" something, but we can "do more" than we did before.  "Look what I can do" is something our children use to say. 
To love God with all of our strength implies "doing", and to be sure there is an element of "doing" in our relationship with God. For years I've been guided by the passage Paul wrote to the Philippians.   Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)  12  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and tre…

On Giving God Our Minds

The mind is not something difficult to grasp.  Unlike the soul which is multi-faceted and sometime hard to describe, the mind is the place where we think, ponder, reflect, and understand what is going on in and around us.  Jesus went out of his way to make sure we understood the love of God must also become part of our thoughts.

Mark 12:30 (ESV)
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

It's interesting because in the Shema, which comes from Deuteronomy 6, Jesus includes the mind though the original did not.  Why?
It is either a place of truth, or a place of lies, which means that either God is the pre-eminent way in which we think, or we are being fed lies by God's enemy, Satan.
Jesus said it this way in talking to religious leaders who did not want to hear the truth:
John 8:44 (ESV)
44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer f…

Loving with the Soul

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (ESV)
4  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
5  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

The Greatest Commandment, Jesus tells us is the "Shema" - the commandment that directs our hearts and soul, with all of our being's strength of purpose to love God.  Jesus laters expands and adds that we must love our neighbor as our self also.   I talked a bit about loving God with all of our heart, but what do we mean when it is said to love him with all of our soul?  
The essence of the word "soul" is found in it's root word, which literally means "to breathe".  The Hebrew word expands on this meaning, and the Greek word for it in the New Testament is the word from which we get Psychology - "psuche".  It is "who we are" in our inner-most being.  It is the essence of who we are, the very life inside of us that makes us the person we are.  It is…

1st Sunday in Lent - Resurrection

In the church's Lenten season, the 40 days of Lent exclude Sundays.  While Lent focuses on the Suffering of Christ on the cross for our Sins; Sunday has always been considered a day of celebration for the resurrection of Christ from the dead. In my own opinion, they are not exclusive, but belong to each other.  As Christians we are people who proclaim that Christ Jesus has died on the cross for our sins, and has been risen from the grave for our justification.
It's interesting in reading the Gospels, that almost all of Jesus' comments on the resurrection of the dead was to respond to the unbelief of it coming from the group of Jewish leaders called the Sadducees.  They denied the idea of a resurrected body, but Jesus made it clear that the resurrection of the body to life was not debatable in God's word.
Remember when Lazarus, Jesus' friend, died.  John 11:17-27 (ESV)  17  Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
18  Bethan…

The Heart of the Matter

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (ESV)
4  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
5  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
6  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

I am sharing a bit about this process of coming to God.  Yesterday I shared a bit about the process of coming to him the first time - or at least at a time when one realizes the great need from separation from God.  Call it what you will - conversion, returning, repentance, confession - they have the similarity of realizing that a life without God at the center is being lived aimlessly, foolishly.

But, I ended with the way in which Christianity introduces us to Grace - where God gifts through his own goodness and righteousness a place for us to come to Him.  We have nothing to give him in return - except a place in our Hearts for him to come in and re-shape our selfish living.

Let's start with Heart.  If we are called to love him …

New Life

The name of the church that I fellowship with, and serve as it's Pastor, is called New Life Fellowship.  I like our name.  I'm sure that most, if not all, of the people who read this are Christians.  But humor me for a moment about what it means to become one.

I was born into a German Lutheran family.  Our family of 7 kids were all baptised as infants.  We were taken to church almost every Sunday, and I attended catechism and was confirmed into the Church around age 12.  I walked away from my faith, and the church, for most of my teen years.  I was bored, and frankly didn't see any connection between my life and the faith I was being told about for most of those years.

The only time I was interested in the church during those years was Lent.  I remember during one Lenten season our Lutheran church had a Wednesday evening service in which the Pastor taught the last 7 words of Jesus on the cross.  I didn't need to be forced to go to church during those weeks.  Still I str…

A Lenten Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day.  Which means a lot of Hallmark cards will be sold, along with flowers, candy, and assorted gifts - all in commemoration of Love. It's a good thing to love...God gave it to us as a gift.  Since we are made "in the image of God", we have the capacity to love, for after all God is Love. The words of scripture are well-known, but bear our remembrance on this day:
1 John 4:7-10 (NRSV)
7  Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God...
9  God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.
10  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:16-19 (NRSV)
16  So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them...
18  There is no fear in love, but perf…

Lent: A Journey of Remembrance

Today begins the 40 days of Lent.  I look at these days ahead as an opportunity to join with millions of Christians around the world in celebrating, and remembering, what our Lord Jesus has done in going to the cross.

Matthew 16:24 (ESV)
24  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.




By tradition in many of the mainline churches ashes are placed on the head of those who come to worship today.  The word "Lent"  comes from the word Lencten, which is an old Anglo-Saxon word for "Spring".  Lent begins a 40 day period that ends at Easter (Sundays are not counted in Lent because they are considered to be days of celebrating the Resurrection, not the cross).
Why Ashes?
The symbol of Ashes have always stood for mourning, for a repentant spirit.  The Old Testament world often depicted mourning as people tearing their clothes, or wearing sackcloth, and sitting in dust and ashes.  At a funeral serv…

In Honor of Athanasius

Today, Feb 8, is a memorable date in the Church's History.  On Feb 8, 356, while leading a worship service in Alexandria, Egypt, the Bishop of the church in Alexandria, Athanasius, had the service interrupted by armed troops of the emperor who sent them to arrest him for heresy. Athanasius was one of the early church's most important individuals.  He was a brilliant theologian who wrote the great masterpiece - "On the Incarnation" - which defines the important tension of Christ as both human and divine.  This was a direct attack upon the heresy of Arianism that had crept into the church and was becoming a popular alternative to what is true.
So What Was the Big Deal? 
Arius, whom Athanasius deposed, maintained that Jesus was "divine" but not fully God. Rather, he was a created being. Athanasius insisted that Jesus was fully God. Is all this idle theological speculation? Not according to Athanasius. At stake was nothing less than this: God so loved the world t…