quote: how is it God reaches out to us?

 

“God is holy and just. In all his deeds, God is true to himself and faithful to his promises. In contrast, we act in opposition to our true selves and break our covenant promises. Rather than acknowledging God’s gifts with grateful hearts, we take our lives for granted; or, even worse, we use them as if we had created ourselves. When we ought to honor God by conforming to his holiness and justice, we follow our own foolish inclinations and reject the divine wisdom embodied in God’s law.

“Even if we admit that God has bridged the gaps between being and nothingness, between meaning and meaninglessness, why should the righteous and holy God reach out to an arrogant and ungrateful sinner? That which is nothing might at least arouse pity, since its pitiful state is not its own doing. But the ungrateful lawbreaker who considers himself wiser than God clearly deserves the consequences of his actions. Divine righteousness on one side and human unrighteousness on the other, God’s holiness above and our unholiness beneath – how can God bridge such chasms? And why would he do so if he could?

“To our amazement, God wills to have fellowship with the unrighteous: he chooses to save sinners from the consequences of their actions. … Why does God forgive sinners and reconcile them to himself by taking on their sin? Because he loves us with a love that ‘surpasses knowledge’ (Eph. 3.19), and that provokes our wonder and amazement.”

(Ron Highfield, Great Is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God; pp. 175-176)

links: this went thru my mind

 

Application & moralizing: Moralizing Scripture…the Rush to Application and Misappropriating the Text

“…  let us be careful when we moralize scripture and rush to application that we don’t, in the process, undermine the text and the power of God to do greater things than make us nicer people.”

Capital punishment & death penalty5 Death Penalty Myths Debunked

“In advance of the release of our 2014 Global Death Penalty Report tomorrow, here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the death penalty.”

Children, church & parenting: Let the Children Come to Me…Unless They’re Too Loud, Distracting, or Difficult

“The church in America has raised a whole generation that has never really been spiritually formed by the larger church gathering.”

Cinema, film, movies & Noah: * To See or Not to See the Movie Noah? [required reading]; * What’s Really Behind Christians’ Rejection of Noah?

* “Art often needs to speak honestly about evil, and I hope we don’t sanitize the Bible to the point where we forget just how well it does that. I get the pushback about Noah going off script, and being concerned about disinformation. But I think our real problem is that, unlike Christians of earlier centuries, we no longer understand what art does or how it works.”

* “This week Christians will have the chance to see Noah. And in an ironic twist, Paramount Pictures and the director find themselves defending their film against strong criticism from Christians, the audience they assumed would be the first in line to see this biblically epic story. In what has become a reversal of roles, Hollywood has heard the cry of Christians for bible based films (and the allure of their money, no doubt) and produced an epic picture and now Christians are the ones rejecting it. And in this case, it’s Christians who may not be completely honest about their reasons for rejecting it as we’ve formerly accused Hollywood of being in rejecting bible based films in the past. And the only public leg we have to stand on is the presence of biblical errors in the movie.”

Friendship, Jesus & sinners: Setting the Record Straight on Jesus, ‘the Friend of Sinners’ [essential reading]

“… does it matter that we correctly understand Jesus’ social habits? It does actually. Because Christians believe they must “live as Jesus did.” If the faithful only build relational bridges with those who are open to converting, they will find it increasingly difficult to exist in a pluralistic, post-Christian culture.”

Ministry: * Dear Churchgoers …; * The Friendless Pastor

* “Now I understand you might think I should know all the things that are happening with you. I really do want to. Most of my fellow pastors would agree. We love to know the things that are going on in your life. We want to hear all about it. But there’s a good chance that we won’t know if you never tell us.”

* “It’s ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. … We have too many relationships and too few friends.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger, culture, morality, outrage & thinking: Addicted to Outrage

“I fear that outrage has become an addiction for many people of faith. I’m caused to wonder if certain endorphins are released when we feel anger over a just cause; an emotional, pseudo-spiritual ‘rush’ that just keeps us coming back for more. In order for us to feel ‘righteous,’ has it become essential that ‘indignation’ be an inseparable companion? ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers… twerkers.’ Reread the context of Luke 18:9-14 to be reminded of why Jesus told this parable.” The more I am consumed by moral outrage, the less time I have to dwell on those things that are ‘true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute; things that are excellent and worthy of praise,’ (Philippians 4:8).”

Community, generosity, greed, poverty, stinginess & wealth: As We Become Richer, Do We Become Stingier?

“…  the effects that wealth has on people: ‘We become more individualistic, less family and community oriented.’ … Greenfield’s findings and theories dovetail with a variety of other studies and research projects, including Robert Putnam’s 2000 book, Bowling Alone, which explores the decline in community relationships in the U.S.”

Faith, grace, law, OT, NT & works: Law and Grace, Faith and Works

“When we think that what Jesus did was substitute one written code for another, we fall into the trap that Paul condemned in the Galatian letter. When we depend on law, any kind of law, then we are no longer depending on grace.”

Fasting, peace, prayer this Saturday & Syria: A Fast for Peace September 7th [count me in, too; how about you?]

“… a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.”

Food stamps, poverty & the poor: On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps [required reading]

“No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires. Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in ‘food insecurity’ among Americans who … ‘look like we are fine,’ but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.”

Jesus, sin & sinners: * He Looked Like a Sinner; * Jesus is Not Mr. Rogers

* “Jesus didn’t look like a saint. Jesus didn’t look holy. He hung out with prostitutes and drank too much wine. He was a convicted criminal. He was given the death penalty. And he died under God’s curse. Jesus looked like a sinner.”

* “Jesus wasn’t always the nicest guy.”

Leadership, momentum & morale: 16 Practices that Reignite Momentum

“Working on positives more than negatives. Avoid taking the wind out of people’s sails.”

Singing: Love the Lord with All Your Voice

“Singing is a forgotten—but essential—spiritual discipline. … We might ask … why we could not simply speak the words of Scripture as if they were our own. What is gained by singing them? Just this: In song, we learn not just the content of the spiritual life, but something of its posture, inflection, and emotional disposition.”

Restoration Heritage & the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian History Magazine Puts a Focus on Stone-Campbell Movement

“Restoration scholars Richard Hughes and Doug Foster served as advisers on the project and ‘provided a fair amount of content, along with other well-known authors/scholars in the movement’ … Download the full issue for free.”

pondering prayer: it’s about your trajectory, not your track record

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Feb. 10). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning. This sermon is part two in the Pondering Prayer series and is entitled It’s About Your Trajectory, Not Your Track Record. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture texts reproduced below are from the CEB.

Aim

To explore some of the most commonly misunderstood or mystifying aspects of prayer.

Word

• Jonah … cried out, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes, from the greatest of them to the least significant. When word of it reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, stripped himself of his robe, covered himself with mourning clothes, and sat in ashes. Then he announced, “In Nineveh, by decree of the king and his officials: Neither human nor animal, cattle nor flock, will taste anything! No grazing and no drinking water! Let humans and animals alike put on mourning clothes, and let them call upon God forcefully! And let all persons stop their evil behavior and the violence that’s under their control!” He thought, Who knows? God may see this and turn from his wrath, so that we might not perish. God saw what they were doing—that they had ceased their evil behavior. So God stopped planning to destroy them, and he didn’t do it. (Jonah 3.4-10)

• When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him … One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus … said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23.33a,42-43)

• We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will. (John 9.31)

• There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius … He and his whole household were pious, Gentile God-worshippers. He gave generously to those in need among the Jewish people and prayed to God constantly. One day … he clearly saw an angel from God in a vision. The angel came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Startled, he … replied, “What is it, Lord?” The angel said, “Your prayers and your compassionate acts are like a memorial offering to God.” (Acts 10.1-4)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Which is better, your hearing or your listening? Explain.

2. I refuse to listen to anyone who ________.

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. “The people of Nineveh” (Jonah 4) weren’t Jewish? How is it God responded to them?

2. We’re all sinners so, what kind of sinners does God not hear (John 9.31)?

3. List what those in the texts above did (or stopped doing) that fortified their prayers.

4. Having read all of the texts above, what one word comes to mind that best describes what all the people mentioned in those texts that God heard had in common?

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. How does it make you feel to know God hears the prayers of all who seek him?

2. What can believers do to could encourage those yet to believe to talk to God?

3. What do believers do that discourages those yet to believe from talking to God?

4. Which would you rather God know you for: your track record or where you are now?

30 days with the Human One (8)

 

Is Jesus just a bit too “common” for you? Is the truly Human One too human for your taste?

Don’t answer too quickly.

Jesus once said:

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” Yet the Human One came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But wisdom is proved to be right by her works. (Matthew 11:18-19 CEB)

Jesus refers to himself as “the Human One” and with whom, we might ask, did he spend his humanity? Apparently he spent enough time with “tax collectors and sinners” that such got noticed and got tagged for it. Understand who we’re talking about Jesus hanging with here. The despised of society. The cultural outcasts. The misfits and square pegs.

I’ve been a Christian now since my teen years. Thirty-six years this coming February to be exact. What that means is that the overwhelming majority of my connections in life are with fellow long-time Christians. I have to go out of my way, far from my comfort zone, to spend any significant time with “tax collectors and sinners.”

Do I? Do you?

News flash: the Human One still hangs with the “tax collectors and sinners” today. And if I want to spend time with the Human One, I simply must spend some time with the “tax collectors and sinners.”

Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus may your common love for all, uncommonly good, flow freely through me to others. All others, I pray. Amen.