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Creed – New Church-wide Study!

creed-1On Sunday, February 12, at 10 am, we will get a jump start on Lent by beginning our new “6-week” study of Adam Hamilton’s just-published examination of the Apostles’ Creed.

We’re used to answers popping up on a screen right in front of us. But when the questions examine the truths that give meaning and purpose to life, finding the answers takes more than simply typing a few words and pushing a button.

Adam Hamilton believes that powerful answers to many of our complicated questions are contained in the Apostles’ Creed, an early statement of foundational Christian beliefs.

In Creed, he explores not only what Christians believe, but also why they believe, and why it matters, which in turn leads readers to confront and examine their own core beliefs and go beyond reciting the Creed’s familiar words.

Chapters include:

  1.  God
  2.   Jesus Christ
  3.  The Holy Spirit
  4.  The Church and the Communion of Saints
  5.  The Forgiveness of Sins
  6.  The Resurrection of the Body

Join us starting Sunday, February 12  at 10 am as we look into one of the foundational creeds of the Christian Church!

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Live the Adventure – Gather Experiences

christian-life-2Key Bible Verse: “But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”  – Matthew 6:20, NET

Dig Deeper: Matthew 6:19-24

May 27, 2005, ranks as one of the most memorable days of my life, and I learned a lesson that has defined my life ever since. It was the last day of our mission trip to Ethiopia.

The date is stamped in my memory because it was one of the craziest days of my life. After a week of intense ministry, our team journeyed into the wilderness of the Ethiopian outback. We got held up at gunpoint by shepherds with AK-47s, went swimming in a natural spring heated by a volcano, and did a game drive through Awash National Park—all in a day’s adventure.

We ended the day worshiping God around a campfire. That night, tucked away in my pup tent, I was journaling about the amazing day I had just experienced and I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit say, “Mark, don’t accumulate possessions, accumulate experiences.” That moment, in the middle of an African game park, reshaped the way I viewed life.

That two-word mantra—accumulate experiences—is my modus operandi. It frames my life. It also frames our family. Lora and I want our kids to get in on the action, and it’s our job to engineer those experiences.

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What are the benefits of accumulating possessions? What are the benefits of accumulating experiences?

Thought to Apply: The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped—it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory.—Eugene Peterson (pastor, scholar, writer)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group (BakerPublishingGroup.com),

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

 

Live the Adventure – Designer Destinies

christian-life-2Key Bible Verse: Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way. Psalm 16:11, The Message

Dig Deeper: Psalm 16

I have come to believe that from the moment of conception, we are being formed with an adventure in mind. We were created to touch, taste, smell, see, and hear life. Our Creator has big plans for us. No settling for mediocrity. Rather, we have a high calling etched into our bones and written on our hearts.

God wants to engage us from first squall to last drawn breath and deliver us into a life he has dreamed for us. Whether our earliest memories are sailing the high seas in a steamship or walking in a kindergarten class by ourselves for the first time, the exploration of the world within us and around us is a drumbeat. And the beat goes on.

We were made to explore. For some of us that exploration is more outward than inward, like Admiral [Robert] Peary going to the North Pole. For others it is more inward than outward, like [Blaise] Pascal and his thoughts or Thomas Merton’s contemplations. Whichever it is, we were made for curiosity and more. That design drives us. It shapes our thinking and our dreams. It forms expectations of what life should be and lays the foundation of who we will become. It shapes our destiny.

I would submit it is our destiny.

—Richard Foth in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What specific experiences have shaped my life and faith?

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group (BakerPublishingGroup.com)

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

 

Live the Adventure – Defining Moments

christian-life-2Key Study Passage: Matthew 28:16-20

Who Said It … Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. He is The New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker and The Grave Robber. Mark lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and three children. Visit him at markbatterson.com.

Mark and his friend Richard Foth, minister-at-large in Washington, DC, coauthored A Trip Around the Sun—the source of this week’s readings.

What he Said … Defining Moments

Alfred Adler, the famed psychologist, is said to have begun every counseling session by asking his clients to tell him about their earliest memory. They would share those memories, and no matter what their answer was, Adler would say, “And so life is.”

If your earliest memory is flying in an airplane to visit your grandparents, life is a journey. If your first recollection is huddling under the covers on a summer’s night as thunder claps and lightning strikes, life is a storm.

I genuinely believe our outlook on life is determined by a few defining moments when God meets us and we meet God. It’s Jacob’s wrestling match with God. It’s Moses at the burning bush. It’s Peter walking on water. Those moments are more than memories. They are the lenses through which we perceive the present and dream of the future. Those are the moments when God helps us see ourselves for who we really are.

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group (BakerPublishingGroup.com),

Prayer for the Week:  Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

 

Healthy Fear – Clear Focus

fear-of-the-lordIt’s true that we are assured of access to God through Christ, but that doesn’t mean we have a tame God.

Even God “veiled” in human form produced moments of intense awe for Jesus’ disciples—as he multiplied the loaves and fish, calmed the storm, and raised the dead.

But the more direct encounter with God at Mt. Sinai created wholesale panic.

Interact with God’s Word:  Exodus 20:18-21; Deuteronomy 5:28-29

  1. Why (Exod. 20:18) do you think God linked the giving of the law with such a dramatic display of power and authority?
  2. Why do you think the people stood at a distance (Exod. 20:21) and asked Moses to serve as a “buffer” (v. 19) between them and God?
  3. When the people said they would listen to God’s words conveyed through Moses, were they committing to obey what they heard?
  4. How did God gauge the people’s response (Deut. 5:28-29)?
  5. Why do you think the biblical record of human encounters with God or angelic beings (Exod. 20:20) almost invariably begins with the words, “Don’t be afraid”?
  6. What might be included in treating your wife with understanding?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you hold in healthy tension a profound respect for his holy “otherness” with loving gratitude for the grace and mercy he has provided through his Son.

Exodus 20:18-21; Deuteronomy 5:28-29

18 When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.

19 And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!”

20 “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”

21 As the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.

28 “The Lord heard the request you made to me. And he said, ‘I have heard what the people said to you, and they are right. 29 Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.

Prayer for the Week: God, I confess that I’ve minimized your breathtaking holy otherness in my mind. Restore the fear that puts my sin and your salvation into focus.

Healthy Fear – High-Tension Line

fear-of-the-lordKey Bible Verse: Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Psalm 18:8

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:18-21, 25-29

Jann, a European who emigrated to the U.S. in his teens, dedicated himself to career success. Then a cousin gave him a copy of Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict. His analytical accountant mind grappled with what he read, and came to the logical conclusion that the Bible accurately recorded the life and claims of Jesus, and that as the Son of God only Jesus could provide access to God. Jann became a follower of Jesus and started to explore his new life with some deep study of the Old Testament.

When I asked what he’d learned about God, he pondered a moment and said, “God is one tough guy. You don’t mess around with him.” Too many of us have overlooked that truth. Just before presenting the Ten Commandments, Moses warned the people of the consequences of lightly entering into covenant with God, because, he said, “The Lord your God is a devouring fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). In effect he was saying, “If you don’t carry through, you’ll get burned.”

God’s nature surpasses ours. He’s 220 volts and we’re only wired for 12. Experiencing God in his fullness would blow our circuits. That’s why God told Moses that no one could look directly at his face and live (Exodus 33:20).

—Tim Riter in Not a Safe God

My Response: How Can I get close to this scary powerful God without getting “burned”? (See Hebrews 4:13-16.)

Thought to Apply: The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men. —C.S. Lewis (British scholar & author)

Adapted from Not a Safe God (B&H Publishers, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: God, I confess that I’ve minimized your breathtaking holy otherness in my mind. Restore the fear that puts my sin and your salvation into focus.

 

 

Healthy Fear – Why It’s Called Grand

fear-of-the-lordKey Bible Verse: “The Lord Almighty is the one … you are to dread.”  – Isaiah 8:13 NIV

Bonus Reading: Luke 12:4-5

Not long after our Toronto visit, we went to the Grand Canyon, where you can stand at the South Rim and peer 6,000 feet straight down. There you’re not separated from your doom by blocks of glass 2 1/2# inches thick. So every year an average of four or five visitors die. Some deaths happen because of (in one website’s words) “overly zealous photographic endeavors.” Still, the same awesome beauty of the Grand Canyon that caused me fear also drew me toward it.

When the Bible talks about “fearing God,” what is it talking about? Is it the kind of fear I felt at the CN Tower? Or is it more like the fear I felt at the Grand Canyon? Christian preachers and writers have maintained it’s like the fear I felt standing on the glass floor at the CN Tower—1,100 feet up but completely safe. Feeling any terror with God is unnecessary, maybe even irrational. But the Bible disagrees. Read Isaiah’s words [in today’s Key Bible Verse]. It’s not just awe, and not just reverence. It’s the kind of fear I felt at the Grand Canyon, where I was drawn to the amazing beauty, but also felt a realistic fear at the danger, because people who acted foolishly near it have died.

—Kevin Miller in PreachingToday.com

My Response: Since perfect love banishes panicky fear (1 John 4:16-18), what healthy fear should I retain?

Thought to Apply: The highest point a man can attain is not knowledge, or virtue, or goodness, or victory, but something even greater, more heroic, and more despairing: sacred awe! —Nikos Kazantzais (Greek author)

Adapted from PreachingToday.com.

Prayer for the Week: God, I confess that I’ve minimized your breathtaking holy otherness in my mind. Restore the fear that puts my sin and your salvation into focus.

 

 

Healthy Fear – Heightened Fear

fear-of-the-lordKey Bible Verse: “Remove your hand from me, and don’t terrify me with your awesome presence,”  – Job 13:21

Bonus Reading: Deuteronomy 5:23-29

A few summers ago, we took a family vacation to Toronto. The guidebooks said that the CN Tower, the world’s tallest freestanding structure, was a must-see. I have acrophobia, a fear of heights, but the kids said, “Aww, Dad, c’mon; we gotta go.”

I was last into the elevator. As I turned around and we started the rapid ascent, I realized that this elevator rides a track up the exterior of the CN Tower and that its walls are of glass. So I was only inches from the air outside—and freefall—as the city fell away at our feet. My throat got tight and I started breathing really fast. Just hang on, I told myself; soon you’ll be on the observation deck floor.

I stumbled out of the elevator, only to find that some sadist had installed a glass floor on the observation floor, so that people could walk on it, and look straight down to the surface 1,815 feet below. The kids were laughing as they walked onto the glass floor, jumped up and down, and even lay down.

“C’mon, Dad!” they yelled.

I didn’t care how thick those blocks of glass were; they were installed by the contractor with the lowest bid. I wasn’t going to chance it.   [continued tomorrow]

—Kevin Miller in Preaching Today

My Response: Is fear of God, like Kevin’s fear of heights, reasonable or imagined?

Thought to Apply: If Christianity has never frightened us, we have not yet learned what it is. —William Temple (English diplomat & author)

Prayer for the Week: God, I confess that I’ve minimized your breathtaking holy otherness in my mind. Restore the fear that puts my sin and your salvation into focus.

 

 

Healthy Fear – Awe-full!

fear-of-the-lordKey Bible Verse: The highest angelic powers stand in awe of God. Psalm 89:7

Bonus Reading: Matthew 8:23-27

I remember an animated discussion with my high school freshman English teacher over the word awful. I insisted on using awe-full to describe something so exalted as to arouse reverence. She preferred that I stick with the word’s common spelling and its usage to designate something dreadful.

We should have looked in the dictionary. My old Webster’s lists as its first definition “inspiring awe; highly impressive.” Not until its fourth entry does it supply the definition usually assumed in idiomatic English: “very bad, ugly, unpleasant.”

But the teacher had the final word that day in class. Even at age 14 I felt that a vital perception was being lost—the sense that something, someone, was higher than we. I longed to verbalize awe-full-ness; my teacher made class awful.

Today teenagers apply the related word awesome to clothes, food, music, and cinematic effects. The word is so overused that when people sing Rich Mullins’s “Awesome God,” they seem to trivialize the Awe-full One and put the Trinity on the same level as toothpaste and togs.

As our culture has worked hard to establish equality among persons, we’ve somehow put God into that parity and gradually reduced our sense that this is the breathtakingly transcendent GOD we’re talking about.

—Marva Dawn in Talking the Walk

My Response: What would help me recapture a sense of God’s breathtaking transcendence?

Thought to Apply:I have seen a fraction of God’s glory, and it is awesome. —Bernard of Clairveaux (French monk)

Adapted from Talking the Walk (Brazos, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: God, I confess that I’ve minimized your breathtaking holy otherness in my mind. Restore the fear that puts my sin and your salvation into focus.

 

Healthy Fear – A Time for Trembling

fear-of-the-lordKey Bible Verse: Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  – Proverbs 9:10

Bonus Reading: Exodus 20:18-21

Fear of the Lord, it seems to me, is like fear of firearms. Whenever the phrase “fear of the Lord” occurs in Scripture, Christians rush to hedge and qualify it: “It really means to reverence God, not to be afraid of him.” We easily dismiss the idea of truly fearing him because we don’t see ourselves as objects of his wrath. Yet God’s wrath is revealed against all unrighteousness, not just the unrighteousness of everybody else.

I suspect that the word “fear” captures precisely the attitude men should have when they approach the Holy One of Israel. The Old Testament priests approached God with literal fear. It wasn’t the kind of fear that a lone pedestrian feels when he walks down a dark alley; it was much worse! That’s because the approach to the Almighty is brilliantly lit and nothing is hidden from him. All the imperfections, base desires, and petty indulgences that we rationalize are open to God’s view; and he is a righteous judge. Only the innocent need not fear him, and none are without sin.

Reverence is part of a right relationship with God. But the fear that is the beginning of wisdom is a healthy fear that trembles at the power and unfathomable perfection of the Creator.

—J. Mark Bertrand in Rethinking Worldview

My Response: What so-called secret sins in my life should cause me to fear God?

Adapted from Rethinking Worldview (Crossway, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: God, I confess that I’ve minimized your breathtaking holy otherness in my mind. Restore the fear that puts my sin and your salvation into focus.

 

 

Healthy Fear – A Good Scare

fear-of-the-lordWho Said It … J. Mark Bertrand

While in college, Mark received a form rejection letter in response to his first attempt at writing a novel—about spies. He says he’s now grateful that it never saw the light of day! While obtaining a master’s degree in Houston, he was production editor of Gulf Coast magazine. Mark now lives with his wife Laurie in South Dakota. He’s the fiction editor at Relief Journal and teaches at Worldview Academy, an academic summer camp for high school students.

What He Said … A Good Scare

My lifelong interest in guns meant that, early on, I devoured everything I could read about weapons, studying how they work and what they’re capable of doing. I learned how to fire them safely and accurately, how to take them apart and clean them, and most importantly what you must never do with them. One thing I never did was fear them. I’ve never quite understood the genuine, deep-seated fear that some people experience at the sight of a pistol. Respect? Sure. But fear?

Then again, I’ve never had a gun pointed at me. It’s one thing to know and appreciate power in the abstract and quite another to be its object, to feel threatened by it. If someone points a gun at you, you’d be foolish not to be afraid. Understanding how the mechanism works (and how unlikely the mechanism is not to work) should give your fear a fullness that the fright of the ignorant never achieves. The more you know, the more afraid you should be.   [continued tomorrow]

Adapted from Rethinking Worldview (Crossway, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: God, I confess that I’ve minimized your breathtaking holy otherness in my mind. Restore the fear that puts my sin and your salvation into focus.

 

 

Try Liking Your Neighbor – Loving Your Neighbor

loving-your-neighbor-2The fright-inducing Son of Man whom John saw in his vision was flanked by seven lampstands.

These, he explained in a booming voice, represented the seven churches to which John would write commendations and warnings.

These congregations were commissioned to serve as a source of light to their surrounding communities. But Jesus warned that if their lights sputtered out, he’d remove them.

Interact with God’s Word:  Revelation 2:1-5

  1. How do you react to the realization that Jesus cares about the people and events in specific congregations and wants them to fulfill their potential?
  2. For what successes (vv. 2-3) in the midst of an immoral culture and religious persecution did Jesus praise his followers in Ephesus?
  3. What failure (v. 4) did he single out and urge the Ephesian believers to correct?
  4. For what (Ephesians 1:15) had Paul commended these same Christians a generation or so earlier? What may have happened over time?
  5. Why can battling to maintain sound teaching and moral and doctrinal purity have the unintended side effect of undermining a charitable spirit and weakening love for the unsaved ?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you relate to people around you in a manner that whets their appetite for your Savior and Lord.

Revelation 2:1-5

1″Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

2 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. 3 You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! 5 Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me build at least one friendship solid enough to create openness to your good news.

Try Liking Your Neighbor – Relationship Investing

loving-your-neighbor-2Key Bible Verse: Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:4

Bonus Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Recently I attended a ballet recital in which the 13-year-old daughter of a new friend danced in key scenes. Do I know a grand battement from a relevé? No. And to be honest, watching ballet isn’t one of my favorite pastimes. I went because my new friend and his wife invited my wife and me to participate with his family in something important to them. And I had a surprisingly good time.

It’s as if non-Christians are saying to us, “Show me that you really care about me! Invite me to go cycling with you. Show up at the hospital when my daughter has surgery. Lend me a book that has been special to you. Invite me to see a movie with you. Notice when I’m feeling down. Invite me to walk with you. Call me to say hello. Lend me a tool I need.”

God calls us to cultivate genuine, loving relationships with non-Christians. That does take time. And the spiritual reward may not come for many years—even during our lifetimes. A friend told me that for four years she walked an hour a day with a non-Christian woman who never became a Christian during that time. But she sure learned a lot about God and how he helped meet her needs.

—Stephen Sorenson in Like Your Neighbor?

My Response: A nonchurched acquaintance I’ll reach out to is ____.

Thought to Apply: Before you can convince a man of anything, you must first convince him that you are his true friend. —Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. president)

Adapted from Like Your Neighbor? (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me build at least one friendship solid enough to create openness to your good news.

 

 

Try Liking Your Neighbor – A Moving Experience

loving-your-neighbor-2Key Bible Verse: May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow …  – 1 Thessalonians 3:12

Bonus Reading: Romans 13:8-10

When my wife, Chrissy, asked me to rally the men of our couples group to help move a family, I reluctantly agreed (because I hate to help move). Who enjoys lugging heavy refrigerators and tons of boxes, especially when it’s somebody else’s junk? But Chrissy had become acquainted with Tina (the wife), and she saw an opportunity for us to meet a need.

Tina’s husband, Hans, was certainly grateful when so many helping hands showed up that Saturday morning. We moved everything, including their redwood Jacuzzi, to their new address just a mile away. While moving isn’t my first choice for male bonding (I’ll take a half-day mountain-bike trip any day), there’s something about carrying furniture and lifting boxes that bonds people. And the pepperoni pizza party afterward didn’t hurt either. Despite my bad attitude regarding the move, by the end of the day I felt that we were beginning a special friendship.

The next time I ran into Hans was a month later. I asked him how the move finished up and then mentioned how I thought God used the time to bring us together that day. When I said that, his eyes immediately filled with tears.

“Hans, are you okay?”

“Kenny,” he choked out, “I was so alone.”

—Kenny Luck in Every Man, God’s Man

My Response: How could I help another man break out of his isolation?

Thought to Apply: People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges. —Joseph Newton (pastor)

Adapted from Every Man, God’s Man (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me build at least one friendship solid enough to create openness to your good news.

 

 

Try Liking Your Neighbor – Divine Complaint

loving-your-neighbor-2Key Bible Verse: “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” Revelation 2:4

Bonus Reading: Revelation 2:1-5

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus praises the believers at Ephesus for their deeds, perseverance, knowledge, and endurance. He notes that they don’t tolerate evil and have not grown weary in the faith. Yet he has something against them for they “have forsaken [their] first love” (Revelation 2:4).

This is often interpreted to mean they have lost their initial spiritual passion toward God. Yet the text literally reads, “You first love you have left.” That is quite a charge for a group that is being obedient, persevering, suffering faithfully, and not tolerating evil.

Christian scholar D.A. Carson notes the “failure of these Christians was not primarily loss of love for God but loss of love for people.” These believers lost love and compassion for those who are far from God. The remedy is to turn around and do the things they did at first (Revelation 2:5).

Over 30 years earlier, Paul commended the believers at Ephesus for their love for one another. Now Jesus threatens to remove their light because they don’t love others. He literally threatens to step away from this church because they no longer love people. This is how serious Jesus is about us loving those from all walks of life and all corners of society.

—Jud Wilhite in Stripped

My Response: Why is loving my neighbor critical to the advance of Christ’s kingdom?

Thought to Apply: Be careful, lest in fighting the dragon you become the dragon. —Friedrich Nietzsche (German philosopher)

Adapted from Stripped (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me build at least one friendship solid enough to create openness to your good news.

Try Liking Your Neighbor – Ice Breaker

loving-your-neighbor-2Key Bible Verse: A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.  – 2 Timothy 2:24

Bonus Reading: Mark 12:28-31

We have two very unfriendly neighbors: a man who lives three doors down and a woman who lives half a block up our street. When we first moved into our home, they didn’t wave, smile, or in any way acknowledge our attempts to be neighborly. I figured I didn’t have time for mean people, so I basically ignored them. I wasn’t mean, but I wasn’t kind either.

Then I began to pray about taking this whole “Love thy neighbor” thing seriously. I decided to wave, honk, and smile any time I drove by them. This had nothing to do with getting them to wave back. It had everything to do with my willingness to love them even if they weren’t loving to me.

For weeks I did this. I even took my two-year-old over to introduce myself to one of them. (I figured the two-year-old might disarm some of the meanness.) We had a great talk, and my son picked up some new and colorful words. I just asked this guy how long he’d lived in the neighborhood. It was amazing to hear his life story.

And the mean woman up the street actually waved back at me three weeks ago. I couldn’t believe it.

—Mike Erre in The Jesus of Suburbia

My Response: Whom might God be prompting me to befriend?

Thought to Apply: We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor. —G.K. Chesterton (English journalist & writer)

Adapted from The Jesus of Suburbia (W Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me build at least one friendship solid enough to create openness to your good news.

 

 

Try Liking Your Neighbor – Whatever It Takes?

loving-your-neighbor-2Key Bible Verse: “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”Leviticus 19:18

Bonus Reading: 1 John 4:19-21

Not long after we moved into our first house in California, Janie and I picked up on tension between a couple of neighbors. One, an outspoken churchgoer, told me, “We’re committed to fulfilling the Great Commission. We go door to door … whatever it takes to win souls.”

The other neighbor was unchurched. As we were both working in our yards, he ventured, “Say, Steve, aren’t you a pastor?”

He then unfolded a history of numerous conflicts over small issues with this neighbor and his family, whom he’d never understood. He perceived them as “trying to make us feel bad because we aren’t like them.”

“We just got a letter from his attorney,” he continued, “threatening to sue if we don’t trim a tree that borders his yard. Why didn’t he just come over and ask me to take care of the tree? I was getting ready to trim that tree until this letter arrived. But now,” he said with a wink, “there’s no way I’m going to do anything until he forces me. I’ll gladly go to court just so I can have a story to tell about being sued by Christians over an orange tree.”

“I guess sometimes Christians love us,” he concluded, shaking his head, “—they just don’t like us.”

—Steve Sjogren in Changing the World Through Kindness

My Response: What opportunity to love has God placed in my own backyard?

Adapted from Changing the World Through Kindness (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me build at least one friendship solid enough to create openness to your good news.

 

 

Try Liking Your Neighbor – A Real Neighbor

loving-your-neighbor-2Who Said It … Terry Muck

Terry Muck first made a name in handball, winning the U.S. championship for that sport in 1973. He went on to edit a handball magazine.

He next transitioned to two publications, first as executive editor of Christianity Today and then as editor of Leadership.

Since then Dr. Muck has specialized in world religions, teaching first at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and now at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is also the editor of Missiology: An International Review.

What He Said … A Real Neighbor

A man with no interest in spiritual matters related casually to the Christian who lived next door—they talked over the back fence, borrowed lawnmowers, stuff like that. Then the non-Christian’s wife was stricken with cancer, and she died three months later. Here’s part of a letter he wrote afterward:

“I was in total despair. I went through the funeral preparations and the service like I was in a trance. After the service I went to the path along the river and walked all night. But I didn’t walk alone. My neighbor—afraid for me, I guess—stayed with me all night. He didn’t speak; he didn’t even walk beside me. He just followed me. When the sun finally came up over the river, he came over and said, ‘Let’s go get some breakfast.’

“I go to church now. My neighbor’s church. A religion that can produce the kind of caring and love my neighbor showed me is something I want to find out more about. I want to love and be loved like that for the rest of my life.”

Adapted from The Jesus of Suburbia (W Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me build at least one friendship solid enough to create openness to your good news.

 

 

A Bulletproof Faith – Heightened Faith

Central - Sanctuary - South 5-Lancet Stained Glass WindowThe Bible doesn’t tell us everything we’d like to know about our resurrected bodies, but it does assure us that we’ll still have personalities and recognizable characteristics.

And what it does describe stirs anticipation of a state perfect beyond anything we’ve experienced.

Some passages to whet your appetite for your future in Christ are 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Philippians 3:21, 1 John 3:2, and Revelation 21:4.

Interact with God’s Word:  Corinthians 5:1-8

  1. In what ways is your present body (v. 1) as temporary a home as a camping tent? How will your transformed body compare to it?
  2. How has your body made you grow weary, groan, and sigh (vv 2-3)?
  3. How does Paul make clear (v. 4) that heavenly existence isn’t, as was believed in Greek culture, a matter of souls without bodies?
  4. What hopes do you have for your heavenly existence? What fears?
  5. The Bible teaches that the body and the soul are not permanently separated. How will our “dying bodies” be “swallowed up by life”? (See 1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
  6. How (vv. 6-8) does Paul turn the saying “seeing is believing” on its head? What factors (in v. 5) bolster our confidence? (See also Ecclesiastes 3:11 & 2 Corinthians 1:22.)

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a solid confidence in your future with him that outweighs any hurt of separation from loved ones and anxiety about the unknown.

Corinthians 5:1-8

1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

 

 

What’s Keeping YOU from Coming to Church?

whats-on-your-weekend-agenda

Today, the primary activity for many people on Sundays is sports.

This is especially challenging for churches because many youth sports are on Sundays and if young people want to take part in sports, or watch and support friends and family members who do, they can’t attend church.

For others, their primary loyalty is to their team or teams, real or fantasy, ad attention to what is happening with them is their priority.  If there is any conflict or overlap with Sunday services, church loses out.

If a person isn’t involved in sports, and after a hectic week, often shopping, sleeping in, or “time for me” is far more appealing to many than going to church.  For many people, it isn’t a conscious decision to NOT go to church, they simply don’t care or know that they should.

Many people who attend church infrequently or who attended church as a child have no idea that Jesus expects them to grow in their Christian lives.  Many church members are unaware that the Great Commission Jesus gave his church was to “make disciples” and you need to be involved in a church to grow as one.

In contrast with those for whom attending church is a reluctant last choice, consider the example of our own Pastor Jan.

Pastor Jan celebrates communion from her wheelchair.

Pastor Jan celebrates communion from her wheelchair.

Pastor Jan was involved in a very serious automobile accident while she was returning from visiting some of our shut-ins on Thanksgiving morning.  The accident resulted in the fracturing of both femurs in her legs and the dislocation of both knees.

Several surgeries later, and she has been transferred from the hospital to an extended care facility to begin her rehabilitative therapy so she can eventually walk again.  She cannot yet stand on the broken bones as they heal and is just beginning to be able to bend her knees.

For most of us, the drill would be to stay in the rehab facility until we could transition home for an additional period of recovery before attempting to return to work and resume our day-to-day schedules.

Those of you who worshiped with us last week saw the return of Pastor Jan weeks (or months) ahead of schedule.  She arrived mid-morning via a wheelchair transport van and was brought into our Sanctuary.

Although our Church is fully accessible to anyone who may face mobility challenges, no one thought about making the pulpit area similarly accessible so Pastor Jan set up in the large space between the first pew and the communion rail  at the front of the Sanctuary and led us in worship, all while confined to her wheelchair.  We even celebrated communion by joining Pastor Jan in the front of the Sanctuary.

Now THAT’S a living example of a different spiritual priority from what is typical in society today.

This Sunday, while you are considering whether to come to worship or snooze, shop, or attend a sporting activity, where will your priorities be? 

Will you align yourself with God, or will you let yourself be drawn away by the many seductive siren calls of the world?

Pastor Jan is planning to be with us again in her wheelchair this Sunday.  Why not join us for worship at 11 am? 

 

 

 

A Bulletproof Faith – In-Your-Face Sermon

Central - Sanctuary - South 5-Lancet Stained Glass WindowKey Bible Verse: We want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.  – 2 Corinthians 5:4

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:1-8

I went to my first black funeral when I was 16. A friend of mine, Clarence, had died. From the pulpit the pastor talked about the resurrection in beautiful terms. Then he descended from the pulpit, went to the family, and comforted them from John 14: “Let not your heart be troubled … Clarence has gone to heavenly mansions.”

Then for the last 20 minutes he preached to the open casket. “Clarence! Clarence!” He yelled at the corpse with such authority, I wouldn’t have been surprised had there been an answer.

“Clarence,” he said, “there were a lot of things we should have said to you but never did. You got away too fast, Clarence.” He went down this litany of commendable things Clarence had done for people. When he finished, he said, “That’s it, Clarence. There’s nothing more to say. Goodnight, Clarence.” Grabbing the casket lid, he slammed it shut.

Lifting his head with a smile, he concluded, “Goodnight, Clarence, because I know that God is going to give you a good morning.” The choir started singing “On that great getting-up morning we shall rise.” We were dancing in the aisles and hugging each other with the joy of the Lord, because for us there was no sting to death.

—Tony Campolo in Preaching Today

My Response: Does sobs of pain over death being overwhelmed by cheers of victory strike you as plausible?

Thought to Apply: So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side. —John Bunyan

Adapted from Preaching Today (212).

Prayer for the Week: Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

 

 

A Bulletproof Faith – Accelerating Tempo

Central - Sanctuary - South 5-Lancet Stained Glass WindowKey Bible Verse: “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away.” Psalm 39:4

Bonus Reading: Psalm 39:5-7, 11-12

The death of a parent not only confronts us with the truth about death, but also with the truth about life. We mutter, “Where did the years go?” “It seems like just yesterday,” and other telling phrases.

The idea of a “long life” touches on a misconception of youth about the length of a year, a decade, or a life. For a child, a year seems very long; for an adult, it seems like an instant. That’s because as a person ages, a year represents an increasingly smaller portion of his life. If a junior-high history teacher says, “That happened only ten years ago,” the students think, Only ten years? That’s more than two thirds of my lifetime! But adults, especially those older than 50, feel as though the events of a decade ago occurred just yesterday.

As a child, you may have thought something like this: Let’s see, in 2010, I’ll be ___ years old, and in 2020, I’ll be ____. Most young children have trouble imagining themselves older than 25 or 30. And 40 seems ancient.

Well, you’re there now. It didn’t take very long did it?

—Dave Veerman & Bruce Barton in When Your Father Dies

My Response: How has grieving the loss of a loved one adjusted my perspective on life?

Thought to Apply: After 60 years, the stern sentence of the burial service seems to have a meaning that one did not notice in former years. There begins to be something personal about it. —Oliver Wendell Holmes (physician and author)

Adapted from When Your Father Dies (Nelson, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

 

 

A Bulletproof Faith – Rich Mullins’s Mortality Awareness

Central - Sanctuary - South 5-Lancet Stained Glass WindowKey Bible Verse: Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  – 2 Corinthians 4:16

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Singer/songwriter Rich Mullins spoke and sang so much about death that some of us thought he had a morbid streak. I once asked, of all the songs he wrote, which was his favorite. Without hesitation he replied, “Elijah”—a song about his own death.

Rich understood death not as something to be feared but as something to be mindful of as we live.

He said, “Once you come to understand that life is unbelievably brief, and that we really can’t do anything that’s gonna change anything, that we don’t really amount to a hill of beans—then all of a sudden you go, ‘So it doesn’t really matter if I’m not that great. And if I don’t have to be great, that means I can fail. And if I can fail, that means I can try. And if I can try, that means I’m gonna have a good time.'”

Rich believed that death isn’t the end, but the beginning of life. In one of his songs he wrote, “Live like you’ll die tomorrow; die knowin’ you’ll live forever.”

He demonstrated how to live well by making the most of one’s time—living hard, laughing hard, and departing this world, as predicted [see Thought to Apply] in his favorite song.

—James Bryan Smith in HomeLife

My Response: How does being mindful of death “teach us to make the most of our time” (Psalm 90:121)?

Thought to Apply: But when I leave, I want to go out like Elijah, with a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire. —Rich Mullins (in “Elijah”)

Adapted from HomeLife (8/00)

Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

 

 

A Bulletproof Faith – The Big One

Central - Sanctuary - South 5-Lancet Stained Glass WindowKey Bible Verse: “I am the First and the Last … and I hold the keys of death and the grave” – Revelation 1:17-18

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 11:6

For the twentieth anniversary of the Larry King Live television talk show in 2005, the well-known host sat in the guest chair, while Barbara Walters interviewed him. She hit Larry with her usual barrage of blunt questions. “Are you very rich?” “What living person do you most admire?” Eventually she arrived at “What is your greatest fear?”

Larry King’s prompt, serious one-word answer: “Death.” He didn’t say, “That my show might get canceled,” “That my ratings might drop,” or “That my broker might embezzle all my money.” No, to Larry, the thought of dying was worse than any of these.

Barbara quickly moved to the next question. “Do you be-lieve in God?”

Larry’s forthright answer: “Not sure. I’m an agnostic.”

As soon as I heard that, I thought, The two answers fit together, don’t they? To be uncertain about the reality of God leaves a big problem when it comes to death. It means being cast out into a void, unsure of what or whom to grasp. But if you know there’s a God, and you’ve come to terms with him by accepting his offer of forgiveness and salvation, you know what eternity holds. You know God is there already to welcome you as one of his family.

—Jeff Streucker in The Road to Unafraid

My Response: How has my God-confidence diminished my death-fear? To what extent?

Adapted from The Road to Unafraid (W Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

 

 

A Bulletproof Faith – Just in Case

Central - Sanctuary - South 5-Lancet Stained Glass WindowKey Bible Verse: No man can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave.  – Psalm 89:48

Bonus Reading: Psalm 90:3-6, 10

I was on an airplane and the flight attendant started going through the pre-flight spiel, instructing us on what to do “in case of a water landing.”

I looked around. We were on a 747 jet. This plane isn’t equipped with pontoons. A 747 doesn’t “land” on the water. It explodes on impact into pieces the size of my toenail.

The proper way to prepare for an event like this is not to stick your head between your knees (as if there were room to do that anyway) but to scream until your throat bleeds and pray in six languages at once.

I arrived home (without experiencing a water landing, thankfully) and turned on the TV, and a commercial came on for life insurance. This guy walks onto the set all somber-looking and explains the benefits of their policy. Then he says I should sign up so my family will be taken care of “in case the unthinkable should happen.” Of course, by “the unthinkable,” he means “In case you die.”

But the thing is, death isn’t unthinkable; it’s inevitable.

What kind of culture calls things that are inevitable un-thinkable? What kind of world refuses to think about what is certain but instead spends its time worrying about things that aren’t?

—Steven James in Sailing Between the Stars

My Response: Why does our culture consider this inevitable event unthinkable?

Adapted from Sailing Between the Stars (Revell, 2006)

Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

 

 

A Bulletproof Faith – Sober Reflection

Central - Sanctuary - South 5-Lancet Stained Glass WindowWho Said It … Max Lucado

Max’s beer-drinking, girl-chasing lifestyle was as barren as the West Texas land he grew up in. Then he encountered Jesus through a required Bible course at Abilene Christian University. He abruptly shifted from law studies to missions preparation.

After five years in Brazil with his wife, Denalyn, he returned to pastor in the U.S. A collection of storytelling columns written for a church newsletter formed his first book in a long string of best-sellers. Max is pulpit minister of the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio.

What He Said … Sober Reflection

On a dull, drizzly day I visited the wailing wall of a generation: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. With the Washington Monument to my left and the Lincoln Memorial to my back, it stretched before me. Black marble tablets carved with names that read like the roster of a high school football team more than a list of dead soldiers—Walter Faith, Richard Sala, Michael Andrews, Roy Burris, Emmet Stanton. Each name a young life. Behind each name a bereaved widow … an anguished mother … a fatherless child.

It was then that I stopped looking at the names and stared at the monument. I relaxed my focus from the lettering and looked at the tablet. What I saw was sobering. I saw myself, my own reflection. My face looked at me from the shiny marble.

It reminded me that I, too, have been dying as long as I’ve been living. I, too, will someday have my name carved in a granite stone. Someday I, too, will face death.

Adapted from Six Hours One Friday (Multnomah, 1989)

Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

 

 

The Return of Pastor Jan!

Pastor Janice M. Davis

Pastor Janice M. Davis

Pastor Jan has been in first a hospital and then in a rehab facility since her automobile accident while returning from visiting some of our shut-ins on  Thanksgiving  morning.

Pastor Jan will be transported from the Providence Care Center to Central around 9:30 am on Sunday, January 8, 2017 so she can lead our worship service (and communion) at 11:00. 

Since she cannot yet stand on her healing legs, she will preach from in front of the first pew in a wheelchair.

After the service, a wheelchair transport will return her to Providence where she will resume her rehab.

Our District Superintendent is also planning to be in attendance for our worship service tomorrow morning as a show of support for Jan.

See you then!

Otherworldly Window – Glimpses of the Divine

glimpses-of-the-divineOn the surface, Psalm 8, which the author of He-brews cites in this passage, is expressing wonder that God should appoint human beings to such a prominent and responsible position in his creation.

But building on the Greek translation of this psalm, and using the term “son of man” as Jesus did—appropriating it as a personal title—the writer takes a different tack.

Interact with God’s Word:  Hebrews 2:6-15

  1. What (v. 10) is God’s chosen outcome for the “many children” he created?
  2. What obstacles to this outcome are implied here (vv. 11, 14-15)?
  3. How (vv. 9-10) did God overcome these obstacles?
  4. Why (vv. 14-15) did the Son have to become human to achieve our salvation?
  5. When (v. 8) did the Father give the Son of Man authority over all things?
  6. Why does this authority sometimes appear to be successfully defied? When will it be fully realized?
  7. In what sense does being adopted into God’s family (v. 11) make Jesus your brother?
  8. Verse 11 notwithstanding, do you think this family tie is sometimes a cause for embarrassment to our Savior?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank the Son for “tasting death” for us, breaking its power, erasing its fear, and making us his adopted brothers.

Hebrews 2:6-15

6 For in one place the Scriptures say,

“What are mere mortals that you should think about them,
or a son of man that you should care for him?
7 Yet you made them only a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
8 You gave them authority over all things.”

Now when it says “all things,” it means nothing is left out. But we have not yet seen all things put under their authority. 9 What we do see is Jesus, who was given a position “a little lower than the angels”; and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. 10 God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. 12 For he said to God,

“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.
I will praise you among your assembled people.”

13 He also said,

“I will put my trust in him,”
that is, “I and the children God has given me.”

14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Jesus, for glimpses of your divinity, with markers of your humanity retained, that preview life eternal for us.

 

 

Otherworldly Window – Glimpse of Deity, Foretaste of Glory

glimpses-of-the-divineKey Bible Verse: Christ appeared in the flesh and was shown to be righteous by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and was announced to the nations. He was believed on in the world and was taken up into heaven.  1 Timothy 3:16

Bonus Reading: John 13:31-14:6

The time between the resurrection and the ascension was, in the words of McGill University professor Douglas Farrow in Ascension and Ecclesia, “a new coming of Jesus himself with his humanity intact and his divinity no longer veiled. It was the time in which God was clearly seen and known to live as this man, and this man as God.”

What do we actually know about the ascension? We know where Jesus went, for he told us that he was going to the Father from whom he had come (John 16:5-11). We know why he went: to prepare a place for us with his Father, to which he will bring us. How he went is through the entire route of the incarnation, culminating in the cross and the resurrection. “And the consequence of his going,” writes Farrow “is a mission of the Spirit aimed at the proclamation of the Father’s open house.”

Because Jesus ascended, Christians live in a unique place of both “waiting eagerly” and “groaning.” We are “the prophetic sign to the world” that at Jesus’ ascension God enthroned him at his right hand, at the center of all existence throughout space and time.

—Marva Dawn in Talking the Walk

My Response: I’ll thank Christ that he “has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again” (1 Cor. 15:20).

Thought to Apply: The one who judges us most finally will be the one who loves us most fully.    —Frederick Buechner

Adapted from Talking the Walk (Brazos, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Jesus, for glimpses of your divinity, with markers of your humanity retained, that preview life eternal for us.

 

Otherworldly Window – Departing in Broad Daylight

glimpses-of-the-divineKey Bible Verse: He was taken up into the sky while they were watching, and he disappeared into a cloud.  Acts 1:9

Bonus Reading: Acts 1:9-11

Attempts to discredit the literal, historical ascension of Jesus should be rejected for two main reasons.

First, Luke relies heavily on the testimony of eyewitnesses. Jesus was taken up “while they were watching” until a cloud hid him from their sight. As they “were straining their eyes to see him,” the two angels spoke of their having seen him go.

Second, the visible ascension had an easily understand-able purpose. In the transition from his earthly to his heavenly state, Jesus could have vanished, as on other occasions, and gone to the Father secretly and invisibly. The reason for a public, visible ascension is surely that he wanted the disciples to know that he was gone for good. During the 40 days, he’d kept appearing, disappearing, and reappearing. But now the interim period was over. This time his departure was final. So they weren’t to wait around for his next resurrection appearance. Instead, they were to wait for the Holy Spirit.

As the two white-robed messengers pointed out, prolonged gazing into the sky was out of place when they’d been commissioned to go to the ends of the earth. Their calling was to be witnesses, not stargazers.

—John Stott in Through the Bible Through the Year

My Response: How can I “eagerly look forward to his glorious return” (2 Timothy 4:8) without becoming a star-gazer?

Thought to Apply: At his ascension our Lord entered heaven, and he keeps the door open for humanity to enter. —Oswald Chambers (British teacher & chaplain)

Adapted from Through the Bible Through the Year (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Jesus, for glimpses of your divinity, with markers of your humanity retained, that preview life eternal for us.

 

 

Otherworldly Window – Turning Point

glimpses-of-the-divineKey Bible Verse: “I have been given complete authority … Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations.”  – Matthew 28:19-20

Bonus Reading: Philippians 2:9-11

In the Old Testament, Johannes Blauw pointed out in his book The Missionary Nature of the Church, the prophets’ vision of the last days was of a pilgrimage of the nations to Jerusalem. Mount Zion would be exalted above all mountains, and all nations would flow into it like a river. In the New Testament, however, the direction is reversed. The prophets’ “centripetal missionary consciousness” is now replaced by a “centrifugal missionary activity.” Instead of the nations flowing into the church, the church now goes out to the nations.

And what was the turning point? It was the resurrection. Only after Jesus had risen could he claim universal authority, and only then could he exercise that authority by sending his disciples into the world. “Mission,” Blauw concludes, “is the summons of the lordship of Christ.”

In [today’s Bonus Reading], we’re told that God has super-exalted Jesus and given him a rank above every other rank so that every knee should bow to him and every tongue confess him Lord. If God wants universal homage to be given to the risen Lord, we must want it too. So the Great Commission stems from the resurrection.

—John Stott in Through the Bible Through the Year

My Response: To seriously acknowledge the authority of the resurrected Son, I need to …

Thought to Apply: Who God means to invite to the feast isn’t ours to define. We’re not put in charge of the guest list. —Don Skinner (author)

Adapted from Through the Bible Through the Year (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Jesus, for glimpses of your divinity, with markers of your humanity retained, that preview life eternal for us.

 

 

Otherworldly Window – Fantastic Fish-Fry

Key Bible Verse: No one dared ask him if he really was the Lord because they were sure of it.  – John 21:12

Bonus Reading: John 21:1-14

Imagine you and your friends going on a pre-dawn fishing outing to the lake. You cast for hours by starlight, but catch nothing. Gradually the surrounding hills and woods become distinguishable as daybreak approaches. Then, as sun rays burst over the eastern horizon, you make out a man standing on the shore about 100 yards away. “Have you caught anything?” he shouts.

“Nothing!” you yell back in unison.

“Cast your lines near that stump and see what happens!” You do, and start hauling in one trophy-size fish after another, until your boat is in danger of sinking! Amazed, you realize it is Jesus standing on the shore. You start your motor and quickly come ashore to see him standing over a Weber grill with glowing charcoals. He’s grilling fish, with loaves of bread nearby.

“Come get some breakfast, and bring some fish so I can cook more.” Imagine the joy and exhilaration of sharing an early-morning breakfast with Jesus—God himself—on the water’s edge with a breeze coming off the lake.

Today’s Bonus Reading describes something like this happening to the disciples during Jesus’ third recorded post-resurrection appearance. For me, it’s a moving depiction of life with him now and forever.

—James Hilt in Wisconsin

My Response: I’ll picture myself as included in this encounter with the God-man.

Thought to Apply: Jesus is God with the skin on. —Source Unknown

 

 

Otherworldly Window – Wound Probe

glimpses-of-the-divineKey Bible Verse: “The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the beauty of the earthly bodies”  1 Corinthians 15:40

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 53:1-12

Paul explains about the earthly and heavenly forms of embodied humanity in today’s Key Bible Verse without dispelling the mystery. In both, we know from the “doubting Thomas” account, Jesus carried the scars of crucifixion and spearing.

Thomas had a broken heart from Jesus’ execution, but wouldn’t give himself to an illusion. “I won’t believe it,” he said, “unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side” (John 20:25). Eight days later Jesus met his demand.

The Italian Renaissance artist Caravaggio captured the meaning of this encounter in his The Incredulity of St. Thomas. Theologian Walter Hansen describes this painting: “Jesus places his hand on the arm of Thomas and gently, firmly guides that dirty hand into himself … The other two disciples … are looking with utter amazement [as] the hand of the risen Lord guides the search.”

To piously ignore his wounds is to neglect our own. Jesus invites us to thrust our hands into them. As we accept his dare, we experience his overwhelming love and grace. For, as Isaiah proclaimed, “by his wounds we are healed.”

—Dan Russ in Flesh-and-Blood Jesus

My Response: Why does a Lamb bearing the marks of slaughter figure prominently in John’s vision of heaven?

Adapted from Flesh-and-Blood Jesus (Baker, 2008)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Jesus, for glimpses of your divinity, with markers of your humanity retained, that preview life eternal for us.

 

 

Otherworldly Window – Smoltification

glimpses-of-the-divineWho Said It … Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey grew up in a strict, fundamentalist church in the Deep South. At one point he jettisoned his faith but then warily returned to it.

Now one of America’s most popular Christian authors, he cut his journalistic teeth onIgnite Your Faith (then Campus Life) magazine. He served on its staff for 19 years, 5 of them as its editor. Philip still writes regularly for Christianity Today.

What He Said … Smoltification

We occupy bodies of skin, bone, fat, and muscle on a material planet. But the apostle Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).

Standing by a series of concrete fish ladders in Seattle one raw day, I learned a new word, smoltification, from a placard describing the life stages of a young river salmon.

After several months of solitary contentment as a bottom-dweller and jealous patroller of its modest territory, the fish takes a sudden interest in the larger world. One day it embarks on a journey far downstream, where a vast new world awaits it—the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists are just beginning to understand a whole complex of bodily changes that accompany this strange behavior. The fish becomes more streamlined, the color of its scales changes to silver, endocrine activity increases, and its gills adjust to allow for a greater tolerance of sodium and potassium. The salmon, a freshwater creature, is preparing to do something exceedingly rare: switch to a saltwater environment.

Adapted from Rumors of Another World (Zondervan, 2003)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Jesus, for glimpses of your divinity, with markers of your humanity retained, that preview life eternal for us.