Category Archives: Christlikeness

“Mark My Word!” (Jesus)

16-10-30-ccbe-matthew-jesus-master-teacher-009Matthew’s Gospel is filled with the challenge and promise of taking Jesus’ word seriously! To live as if Christ has inaugurated the Kingdom on earth (because he HAS!). In this sermon, we looked at one of the many radical sayings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He calls us to be “Unoffendable!” (to borrow a word from a recent book title.)  Click here to listen to the sermon.

 


Enjoy this wonderful sonnet  by Malcolm Guite called As If.

Matthew 5:42  –  Give to the one who asks you, and from the one who would borrow from you, turn not away. 

The Giver of all gifts asks me to give!

The Fountain from which every good thing flows,

The Life who spends himself that all might live,

The Root whence every bud and blossom grows,

Calls me, as if I knew no limitation,

As if I focused all his hidden force,

To be creative with his new creation,

To find my flow in him, my living source,

To live as if I had no fear of losing,

To spend as if I had no need to earn,

To turn my cheek as if it felt no bruising,

To lend as if I needed no return,

As if my debts and sins were all forgiven,

As if I too could body forth his Heaven.

(Guite’s blog site is a treasure. Check it out)

What makes Jesus Angry?

MakeDisciplesLogoWe know Jesus often felt sad. He wept over Lazarus and over unresponsive Jerusalem. But what made Jesus ‘mad?’ We may think only of turning the tables in the Temple, but Jesus had some extremely angry words for the Pharisees and ‘experts’ in the Law. In Luke 11:37-12:3, we see Jesus ‘in the face’ of his religious adversaries. The challenges are powerful and relevant for our day when many claim to speak for God without the integrity of the inner and outer life. The sermon audio is available here.

You will discover at least 4 things that make Jesus angry and poison the church:
1. Spiritual Hypocrisy around the good disciplines like tithing and prayer
2. Spiritual Pride and showmanship
3. Legalism – trusting in man-made rules and imposing them on people
4. Hindering the faith of others by misrepresenting the heart of God

 

Do you and I take seriously what Jesus is seriously angry about?

 

Is Jesus Vision really OUR vision?

logoIMG_8474Beginning at Advent, we are preaching through the Gospel of Luke this year at Christ Church. We are taking the first 3 weeks of the new year to explore the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry recorded in Luke, chapters 3-5. We’re asking the challenging question, “Is Jesus’ vision OUR vision?” Listen to the first sermon, If Jesus Came to Town, here. 

Our statement of vision goes like this:

Christ Church will be a diverse community that lives the
Good News of Jesus Christ for the flourishing of all people
throughout our region and around the world.

In this first teaching, we discover:
/ The vital ministry of John the Baptist as the “hinge” figure between the Old and New Testaments; pointing to Jesus through whom “ALL humanity will see the salvation of God!”

/ The importance and hope that comes from true repentance and asking the Lord, “What shall we do?”

/ Why discipleship is for everyday. “Faith at Work” matters to God! (One of our Mission Priorities is to become and make committed disciples of Christ who glorify God and embody our faith in every area of life.

/ How the baptism of Jesus reveals the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and foreshadows Christ’s death and resurrection.

/ How the genealogy in Luke proclaims Jesus as the New Adam!


Jesus has indeed “moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14) Does He find us turning to God? Eager to follow him as a true disciple? Living the Good News of Jesus’ reign? Working for the flourishing of ALL the people God loves?

Part 2 will come from Luke, ch. 4, “If Jesus Came to Church!”

Living the Good News with Conviction, Civility, & Compassion

15-10-05 F:W Convictions-Civility.012How do we engage the culture in which we find ourselves in a Christ-honoring way? This is a crucial and sometimes complex question for Christians everywhere. There are three essential ingredients from the Scriptures that put ‘flesh’ on being ‘salt and light’ in the culture. God calls us to be people of CONVICTION, CIVILITY, and COMPASSION.  The sermon from Oct. 4th is linked here. I’ve added some additional notes that expand the discussion below.


Civility is becoming recognized as a public virtue far superior to an often mushy Tolerance – which does not even require love for the other as ‘neighbor!’

The central principle from the ever-relevant Scripture in Peter’s first letter:

…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (Greek: apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect… (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)

Let me take this a step further explaining why I believe God calls us to all three of these essentials… (you can ponder the question of, “what will be missing if all three are not part of our lives.”)

14-06-01 Flourish5-civility-conviction-comp.024Without CONVICTION, we can be aimless or even compromising, not pointing people to ‘the Good, the True, and the Beautiful’ which come from God.

 

 

 

 

 

14-06-01 Flourish5-civility-conviction-comp.025Without COMPASSION, we can be impractical and just ‘live in our head’; or worse – be people without embodied love in action, and ultimately become invisible or irrelevant to the culture in need around us!

 

 

 

 

 

14-06-01 Flourish5-civility-conviction-comp.026 Without CIVILITY, we can become a limited Christian ‘ghetto’ that doesn’t engage the culture. Or, we can be only a marginalized subculture – unpersuasive and the opposite of the Good News aroma of God!

[On the wider level of our culture and the world, the absence or imbalance of these three virtues leads to lack of any respectful dialogue on one hand – or even violence and terrorism on the extreme end.]

(Richard Mouw’s Uncommon Decency is a must read on the subject of civility with convictions.)

So, let’s continue grow in our biblical convictions of truth while embodying and proclaiming the Gospel of hope in Christ – all with a grace and respect among the sacred humans we live with every day!

“Be One Person!” Faith at Work – part 2

IntegrityWe all struggle with what the Psalmist calls a “divided heart.” (Psalm 86:11-13) The second teaching in our series, Faith at Work is about INTEGRITY: Being One Person! Listen to it here.
It includes a personal story by Jim O’Donnell that inspired this emphasis for The Center for Faith at Work.

The word, integrity, has a long, meaninful history. And, as  it turns out, to be one person, is exactly what integrity is about. The implications are huge for integrating faith and work.

“The oneness of integrity can be spoken of as a lack of duplicity or double – dealing; the person of integrity is never two-faced. The character of the person of integrity is not virtuous in some aspects of life, a little shady in others, downright vicious in yet others! To possess integrity is to be all of a piece: ONE, whole; perfect in the sense of unbreached completeness….The other point is that integrity, this oneness of heart, is consistent and enduring – not a one-time decision…a virtue that characterizes a person over time!”
            (Margaret Moorman, Journal of Society of Christian Ethics, Vol. 24/2, 2004)

In the Greek world, the word was translated as chastity, discretion, moderation, sanity, and self-control. Ephraim, the Syrian says in one of his sacred poems, “Let such a man (or woman) who is divided / collect himself together and become one before You!”

Let’s ask the Lord daily to empower us to Be One Person – all the time – in every arena of life!

Why we have to learn how to Ruminate!

15-07-19 PRAXIS- Ruminate! copy.005
When I started blogging several years ago, I chose the title Ruminations. It’s still in the subtitle. It’s not just a graphic term for bovine digestion. It was adopted early in the church as a metaphor for the essential discipline of meditation. It means internalizing and assimilating the truth of God (specifically from Holy Scripture) into our spiritual bloodstreams. It runs counter to our frenzied culture but it’s the only way we flourish and mature in Christ-likeness! You can listen to the sermon here and I’ll include more below on the WHY and HOW of biblical meditation.


What is Biblical Meditation and why is it so important?

::  It has a vocal component: “to talk; mutter; whisper; muse; ponder; moan; sigh. It’s talking with God about His Word and your life.

::  It’s getting God’s truth from the ‘head’ to the ‘heart.’

::  It’s “the sister of reading, the nurse of prayer, and the guide of action;”  “the beginning of all good!”

::  It’s internalization God’s Word so as to transform our way of life. It’s not about emptying the mind as in some religions and spiritualities. Biblical meditation opens us to the “mind of Christ” and to God’s presence in the world.

::  It’s listening to God; giving attention (someone has said, “Inattention is the greatest obstacle to the life of faith!”)

::  It’s tuning into God with all the “antennae of the soul” (mind, emotions, imagination, and will.)

::  It’s spiritual digestion – or rumination! “Words and truths of God “eaten, chewed, received in unhurried delight” (Eugene Peterson)


So HOW do we Practice Meditation? Some suggestions:

Choose a verse, chapter, or story in the Bible – perhaps from your overall reading or a sermon or Bible Study. (You can also meditate on an attribute of God, like God’s justice; or a name of Christ, like the Good Shepherd or the Bread of Life)

1. “a.e.i.o.u.” is a way of “chewing” on the passage you are reflecting on. The vowels stand for:
Ask questions (Kipling’s “6 honest serving men” who taught him all he knew: What and Why and When; and How and Where and Who!)
Emphasize different words
In your own words, or paraphrasing
Other verses that relate and inform
Use, i.e. “Lord, how do you want me to apply this truth?”

2. Martin Luther taught a simple and practical way to meditate and pray:
Luther took for example, The Lord’s Prayer and using each petition, he wove “a garland of four twisted strands. That is, I take each (petition) first as a teaching, which is what it actually is, and I reflect upon what our Lord God so earnestly requires of me here. Secondly, I make out of it a reason for thanksgiving. Thirdly, a confession and fourthly, a prayer petition.” You can read more about his practice here from a past blogpost.


However you and I come to “ingest” the Word of God, let our prayer be with the hymn writer: “Beyond the sacred page – I seek YOU Lord!” *

Let’s be people who Ruminate on God and His truth!

(*from “Break Now the Bread of Life” – Covenant Hymnal, A. Groves, alt.)

Do our lives have Authority?

-cloud-syncIn our series, Ordinary People, Radical Kingdom, we examined Mark 1:21-28 and asked the question, “By what authority?” Why was Jesus’ authority so obvious – and what, if any, authority do we have as his modern day disciples?

Jesus demonstrated his authority, not only in his teaching, but also in calling the 12, casting out demons, healing the infirm, eating with ‘sinners,’ and more! He also delegated his authority to his disciples and we today have authority when we speak and pray and embody the Kingdom ‘in His Name.’

The personal challenge for us is whether our lives have integrity. Does what I say I believe sync with how I live? Do my principles and my practice match up? Do I embody (like Jesus) what I announce?

You can listen to sermon here.

Ask yourself: “What is one place where the authority of my life is being compromised?” Let God’s Spirit bring you into step with Himself! (Galatians 5:22-25)

Content “like a weaned child…”

content lambAs a sequel to Sunday’s sermon, Enough, and  our last post on Contentment, I share this reflection from Psalm 131. It is a beautiful picture of our satisfaction being rooted more and more in Christ.

O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.  Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.  (Psalm 131:1,2)

Like A Weaned Child – Ed Miller

 

As a weaned child rests upon mother

Is content, on her bosom, to lie,

Has abandoned the tears and the tantrums,

Over things that could not satisfy;

So, my soul is reposing on Jesus,

Without thoughts of the gift or reward.

What a glorious foretaste of Heaven–

Being weaned from this world, to the LORD!

 

There were times when I questioned His purpose;

And His patience was put to the test;

When I harbored hard thoughts of His wisdom;

And mistakenly thought I knew best.

But His love wore away my resistance,

I was drawn by invincible grace

From the blessings that held my affections,

To Himself, and His tender embrace!

 

I don’t bother myself with great matters;

I’m at rest, and my heart is not proud.

I’m content with whatever He gives me,

And I’m thankful for what is allowed.

God is getting me ready for Heaven,

As He draws me from this world apart;

I’m awaiting, with joy, for the weaning

That shall bring me at last to His heart!

 


I heard the author of this poem ask an important question:
Q – Is there anything better than Mother’s Milk?
A – Mother!

Beyond Tolerance: Being the Church in our Culture

14-06-01 Flourish5-civility-conviction-comp.027How Christ-followers engage with the culture they are a part of is a crucial and sometimes complex question. I have been working over the last two years on three essential ingredients from the Scriptures that put ‘flesh’ on being ‘salt and light’ in the culture. (Matthew 5:13-16) God calls us to be people of CONVICTION, CIVILITY, and COMPASSION.  The audio of the teaching is here, and I’m adding the illustrations I use below. I’ve made some changes which I trust will be helpful. I welcome your comments.

Civility is becoming recognized as a public virtue far superior to an often mushy Tolerance – which does not even require love for the other as ‘neighbor!’

The apostle Peter put it this way:

…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.  (1 Peter 3:15-17, ESV)

Let me take this a step further explaining why I believe God calls us to all three of these essentials…

14-06-01 Flourish5-civility-conviction-comp.024Without CONVICTION, we can be aimless or even compromising, not pointing people to ‘the Good, the True, and the Beautiful’ which come from God.

 

 

 

 

 

14-06-01 Flourish5-civility-conviction-comp.025Without COMPASSION, we can be impractical and just ‘live in our head’; or worse – be people without embodied love in action, and ultimately become invisible to the culture in need around us!

 

 

 

 

 

14-06-01 Flourish5-civility-conviction-comp.026 Without CIVILITY, we can become a limited Christian ‘ghetto’ that doesn’t engage the culture. Or, we can be only a marginalized subculture – unpersuasive and the opposite of the Good News aroma of God!

(Richard Mouw’s Uncommon Decency is a must read on the subject of civility with convictions.)

So, let’s grow in our biblical convictions of truth while embodying and proclaiming the Gospel of hope in Christ – all with a grace and respect among the sacred humans we live with every day!

Transformation and Hope – learning from an icon

TRANSF ICON
Theophanes, 15th cent. Tretykaov Gallery, Moscow

The transfiguration of the Christ, described in Mark 9, Luke 9 and Matthew 17, is depicted in this icon from the 16th cent. There is so much of the biblical story and so much powerful theology packed into it. An iconographic picture truly “worth a thousand words!”

Many have asked about the meaning and use of icons. I want to point you to this article by Patrick Comerford, that compares icons of the Transfiguration from several places and time periods. He explains each detail and the meaning behind the forms and colors. This will be helpful if you listen to the sermon which used the icon: More Than Meets The Eye.

The ancient hymn that goes along with the Transfiguration is also instructive:

You were transfigured upon the mount, O Christ our God, and Your disciples beheld Your glory,
as far as they could comprehend it.
Thus, when they would behold You crucified,
they would understand that Your suffering was voluntary,
and would proclaim to the world
that You are truly the radiance of the Father.

Are we cooperating with the Holy Spirit so that Christ can “paint us” – transform us – into his glorious image! (2 Cor. 3:18)