He Preferred Them Dead

It isn’t that he didn’t like people; it’s just that he preferred them dead. The dead can’t hurt you. So Daniel spent his time in the library reading, listening to the wise and learned from better ages. They led him to better worlds. Worlds where adventures happened and always turned out well in the end; worlds where men were good and women loved them for their goodness. Worlds where good and evil were clear. Daniel went to the land of other men’s imaginations as often as he could. It was safer there.

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Say the Same Thing

1 John 1:9 reads “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The word ‘confess’ literally means to “speak the same thing.” To confess your sin is to call your sin what God calls it. We so often like to add adjectives and qualifiers to our sins. We rationalize our sins. We cover our disobedience with leaves and hide from God behind trees of self-justification like Adam in the Garden.But physically hiding from God in a well-manicured garden is as ineffective as hiding our sins behind well-manicured excuses. Continue reading

Born To Trouble

Do you ever feel persecuted by your circumstances? Like trouble finds you, when all you are trying to do is be good and do good?  Marriage trouble, money trouble, tax trouble, mortgage trouble, family trouble. Trouble with your car or the fridge or a neighbor? Have you have wondered why?

It’s what I imagine David asked himself at the beginning of  2nd Samuel 10. I’m sure it’s what Joab, the commander of Israel’s forces, asked himself once he was trapped by two armies far greater in number then his own. And I’m sure its what Eve asked herself the day she was walking in the garden and heard a strange serpentine voice. Continue reading

The Table of Love shapes Society

A Series on Love, part 10

Jesus sits at the head of a table that serves life. The symbol of Jesus’ table is the bread and wine of His sacrifice. Jesus defines a different set of table manners for His table and it’s not the selfish and self-interested culture of worldly society. Jesus openly calls and welcomes people society rejects. He provides access to himself, He’s not exclusive. His table manners are the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The nature of Jesus’ table is found at the conclusion of the Prodigal son story in Luke 15:23-24; “And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Jesus’ table is one of calling, repentance, redemption and rejoicing over the Grace of God. Jesus defined His society by His table fellowship. He shaped the manner of that society by His table manners.

Table fellowship shapes society and defines community. Loners cease to be alone when they come to the table. Outcasts become friends when they are invited to the table. Sitting down at a table declares peace between its occupants. Continue reading

The Table of Love is About More Than Food

Series on Love, Part 9

In Luke 4:4 Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word of God. But if so, why does Jesus go on to spend so much time at meals and talking about food?

We require something more fundamental to survive than just meat and drink. Man has deeper spiritual needs. Jesus uses food metaphorically. Jesus uses our need for food, symbolically. We are used to food metaphors like Jesus as the manna from heaven. But another Example is John 6:27 “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”

Food is a great metaphor because it represents a very instinctual need that every human has in common. Substitutionary atonement can be difficult for some people to grasp. But everyone understands “You’re hungry and I have food that will satisfy you forever and I give it to you gladly.”

Table fellowship is a way to get people involved in your day to day life. It’s a way to get involved in other people’s day to day life. But it’s not about the food, even though the food is a real tangible blessing. Ultimately it’s about building relationships.

Jesus chose the table and meals as the basis for His teaching ministry because it’s more intimate and people focused. Hospitality involves welcoming, creating time and space, listening, paying attention, and providing.

Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that. We like to get things done. But meals force us to be people oriented instead of task oriented. We have more important, more fundamental needs than food can satisfy but it was largely through poetical statements about food and through table fellowship that Jesus addressed the needs and developed opportunities to come along side people to teach and serve them. Continue reading

Farmer Nielson

Walks across the shorn feed

he’s bowed slightly

but not like a man hunched

like a man leaning into his work

like a man bowed in prayer.

 

With his woven sun hat

and tidy blue shirt

he looks like a man of leisure

heading to the links.

 

But he’s really heading to the back 40

to lift pipes as heavy as a mortgage

to feed the river into the field

to feed the stock

to feed his wife

 

“Use your water rights or lose them,

avista raises the rates per kilowatt every year.”

He spreads his hands like the Montana sky

“The water’s free but takes everything we got to pump it out.”

He says savoring the challenge in every syllable.

“But we know whose king and who’ll stand before who.”

 

Farmer Nielson hasn’t time to spare

but he gives it generously

to a city boy driving a hay stacker.

 

Farmer Nielson stand sin the door

gently guiding the feed from field to stacks.

 

He’s little time to rest

but watches grandkids bouncing in the haze of the truck

crossing finished work

to where he stands

smiling, giving thanks.

Love Came Eating and Drinking

Series on Love, part 8

Text: Luke 7:34The Son of Man has come eating and drinking”

Who do you eat most of your meals with? What topics are usually discussed around your table? Who does most of the serving? If you notice, the center piece of the sanctuary here is a table. Whose table? What’s served? What is discussed around this table?

Today we are going to consider what tables and meals have to do with how to love others like God loves us. Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus eating with people: In Luke 5 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi. In Luke 7 Jesus is anointed at the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal. In Luke 9 Jesus feeds the five thousand. In Luke 10 Jesus eats in the home of Martha and Mary. In Luke 11 Jesus condemns the Pharisees and teachers of the law at a meal. In Luke 14 Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals rather than their friends. In Luke 19 Jesus invites himself to dinner with Zacchaeus. In Luke 22 we have the account of the Last Supper.In Luke 24 the risen Christ has a meal with the two disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in Jerusalem. Continue reading

The Christian Life

The Christian life is a life lived by the grace of God, under Christ’s law, in God’s world, in the presence of God himself. We love because God first loved us (1st John 4:19). The Triune God instigated a relationship with us. He created us, redeemed us, sustains us and gives us hope for a future life with him without sin, pain or death (Romans 8:30). This is the work of the Father, Son and Spirit who are a community of love creating a community of love, on earth, to share in their eternal glory.

This self-revealing, instigating love of God shapes our lives. It shapes ethics, behavior, schedules, faith, science, study, vocation, the arts; our very understanding of the world and our place in it.

Our first Trimester will be focus on this amazing reality. You Are God’s children (John 1:12-13) and heirs of the promises of God (Eph. 2:12) who are called to devote yourselves to the glory of God in all you do (Matthew 22:36-40).

The Westminster shorter Catechism begins with this question;

Question. 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Living by the grace of God

Conversion (Titus 3:5)

Living under Christ’s law.

The Law of Christ (John 13:34) 

Repentance (Luke 13:3, 5:32)

Forgiveness (Luke 17:3, Col. 3:13)

The fruits of the spirit (Gal 5:25)

Living in God’s world.

Walking by the spirit (Gal 15:16-17)

Bible reading (1st Tim. 3:15, Rom. 15:4)

Living in the presence of God Himself.

Worship (Heb. 13:15)

Christian Fellowship (Rom. 12:5, Acts 2:42)

Prayer (Luke 11:1)

Jesus Overcame Un-lovliness to Love

Series on Love, Part 7

This point is pretty straightforward. Jesus did not avoid spiritually or physically unlovely people. He didn’t avoid the rude, crude or crippled. Jesus’ mission was to save people who did not love him. People who were fallen in sin. Who moaned under the yoke and tyranny of corruption.

Jesus loved people who were outsiders, that society rejected and ignored. He stooped and in stooping lifted people up with Grace, service and love. Think of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. She was coming to the well alone. Most women came out to get water together, which was the custom, to help each other. This woman comes by herself, she’s an outcast. Does Jesus avoid her? Does he berate her for being an outcast? Does he begin the conversation by confronting her sin? No, He addresses her need. He doesn’t focus right in on her sin, he sees His sister in want. He sees past her unattractiveness and immorality to see the image of God in her that’s marred and under bondage and ministers to her there.

Other examples abound. Children, women of ill repute, paralytics, people on the fringe; cast out, forgotten, overlooked. Jesus overcomes their brokenness, ugliness and loves them. Frees them. Lifts them up with Grace. You were fallen. You were ugly. You had nothing to offer God. There was and is no way to reciprocate the love he’s given you and yet He loved you anyway. This is love. Not loving people who can repay you. Not loving people who are easy to love. Christ-like love is seen most purely when it’s extended toward people who cannot reciprocate in any way is most like Jesus’ love.

The arrogant, the self-righteous, the boastful, broken, un-bathed. The sick, the old, senile invalids, drug addicts, the drunks, the liars. Unlovely people often lack propriety, kindness, patience, you know, the fruits of the spirit. They are rude, self-important, crass and proud. Or they’re locked in sin and need freedom. That’s usually a pretty ugly situation that’s hard to be around. Jesus didn’t accept the corruption but saw past it to the marred image beneath that needed love, respect and dignity. He overcame the sin to get the sinner. He overcame the un-lovliness to love.

best friend of man

best friend of man (Photo credit: ygurvitz)

Jesus doesn’t avoid the unlovely He seeks them out. Treating people with love is not about accepting people’s sin it’s about overcoming the sin of people who need our love. Would you moms avoid the trashy looking lady at the park who is yelling at her kid? Would you feel it’s your responsibility to instruct her in proper parenting or would you ignore her completely? Could you overcome your prejudices and her ugliness to love her. To extend to her friendship and kindness?

Furthermore, a common reaction to people trapped in sin is to stay away from them until they get free of it. But if no light ever comes into a dark situation how is the dark going to recede? I didn’t see the ugliness of my own sin until light came into my dark corner bearing the love of the Father. And the one who bore that love prayed for me. She respected the least respectable person who ever lived. She gave dignity where there was none. She saw past the marred fallen-ness to the image of God beneath and loved that image.

Think of your own story. It was compassion that taught you compassion. It was hope that others expressed for you that gave you hope. Remember the person or persons who came like the sun into a dark cave and overcame your ugliness with love.

Now look at the ugliness around you. The angry atheist, the crass redneck, the arrogant businessman, the prideful outdoorsman, the graceless green tree-hugger, the drug addict, the homeless guy who probably could work and see past all the sin and un-lovliness to the image of God beneath. Look at the ugliness and how little there is to love. Go and find the image of God beneath and love it.

To love people with few or no good qualities is putting yourself into a very vulnerable state. It can be very difficult and dangerous to love an angry drunk, drug addict, the self-righteous, the dark and moody. It’s sapping. It requires dying. It’s opening yourself up to be sinned against and hurt. And that often holds us back. Uncertainty, distrust, fear.

C.S. Lewis wrote in the The Four Loves “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

This is what happens to a lot of Christians. The seed of God’s word goes down and sprouts up but the cares and worries of the world choke it. Fears smother the love inside of them and they bear no fruit. We must turn outward in faith and hope. Believe in the sustaining power of God’s love for you and let it extend through you to the unlovely. Be vulnerable and open.

Loving is risky business, but it’s the serious business of the kingdom. Jesus kneeled in the garden afraid. He knew what it would cost Him to love the unlovely. But He bowed His head and looked for protection and provision from God, the Father. Jesus overcame His personal fears to love like His Father loved Him. We too must overcome un-lovliness and its risks. We have to overcome our fears to love like we have been loved.

This is My Body Broken for You

We have been called to arise; to enter the Holy of Holies and worship the Triune God. We have come by the sacrifice of another, by the leading of His Spirit to worship our Father in Heaven.

We have come to raise our voices and respond to the goodness of our Lord. We have come to be renewed and strengthened. Those you have ears to hear, let them hear.

Ephesians 5:15-17 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

That’s the challenge; understand the will of the Lord, and walk and act accordingly. But our flesh likes easy, safe, selfishness. We have our own desires. We have our own wills and they struggle against the Spirit and our faith every day. The mission of the Lord is others focused. The love of the Triune God faces out. The will of the Father is that His children will lay down their lives for others just like our older brother Jesus laid down is His life for you.

The calling of the Christian Faith is “This is my body broken for you….Husbands, Wives, Parents, Masters, servants, friends…this is your calling. Everyone, this is your calling. This is a calling so heavy only the humble can carry it. It will break the backs of the proud. This is my body broken for you…

Look around. Look around this church. Look around your neighborhood. Look around your family. You were not given bodies and redeemed for mere pleasure or selfish pursuits. Life was poured into you so that you could pour it out in the service of others.  This is my body, broken for you…

This requires walking by faith, fighting the easy safe selfishness that our flesh loves so much. It requires looking up and looking out. To the condition and welfare of others. It requires prayer, putting on the mind of Christ by daily submitting to His word and it requires repentance.

Now let us confess and ask God to forgive us for our selfishness and ask for the Spirit of God to reveal and lead us in understanding the will of our Lord.