Nick at Night

It’s one of the most famous stories from the Gospels – the story of a religious leader who has a nighttime meeting with Jesus – where Jesus cryptically conveys the scope and power of his plan – where those famous words were uttered: “For God so loved the world…”.

We’ll be reading John 3:1-21 this Sunday.

While v16 of this section is probably very familiar – much of what surrounds that text is pretty mysterious stuff. Nick wasn’t the only one who got confused – scholars have had multiple interpretations about some of the things Jesus says here for more than a thousand years.

It says that Nick is a ruler of the Judeans – which means he’s on the Sanhedrin. That being the case, he must have been well older than Jesus, a respected man in the community as well as the temple, and he must have been a person from a wealthy family. What do you think was going through his mind as he met with this young, homeless Rabbi from the sticks?

Based on what he says, does he seem friendly or hostile to you? By the end of the gospel, he certainly shows signs of being a follower of Jesus, but how do you imagine him this night as he meets Jesus for the first time?

Jesus’ answers certainly don’t fit the paradigm that Nick tries to set up. Jesus talks spiritual rebirth and Nick talks obstetrics…it’s sort of a mess.

In trying to make sense of Jesus’ statements about being born of water and spirit, think about the creation account and the Spirit hovering over the face of the waters – what insight, if any, does this give you about what Jesus may be referring to?

What condition does Jesus put on receiving eternal life? What does this condition mean to you?

Read v17. Read it again. If God’s purpose is not to condemn the world, how do you understand v18-21?

God’s purpose is not to condemn – how well do you think the church has presented that truth? How can we better embody what the gospel message is?

Hope you can join us this Sunday!

Dressing the Part

Just a reminder that next Wednesday, Aug 26th, we won’t be having a meeting that night.  Pass the word to anyone who might need to know, and who doesn’t always read this stuff or get announcements.

Also, I read an interesting blog post about how Christians interface with new technologies like Facebook.  It’s really worth the read.  For any of you Facebook users out there…we started an Eastgate group…go join it!


This Sunday, we’ll be looking at Colossians 3:12-17.  Read it here in the Message.

Paul began this discussion by telling us what attitudes and motives we shouldn’t be guided by.  In the next few verses, he describes the kind of life we should wear.  In v12, Paul again hearkens back to the “because of this, then this should happen” premise.  Because we are included, safe and loved by God, he describes how we should handle our “self-life”…that is, the kind of attitudes we want to cultivate as individuals.  All of the things Paul mentions are only possible to operate from when we feel secure about ourselves. 

If we don’t feel secure about ourselves when it comes to our outer appearance…it effects the way we dress, doesn’t it?  If we feel overweight, we don’t usually like to wear tight clothes.  But if we feel good about how we look, we are more bold in our clothing choices…even willing to show off more of who we are.

That’s what Paul is getting at…when it comes to our inner person, we are in GOOD shape.  We are loved, accepted, set aside like a favorite by God.  If we could really come to grips with that, how would it effect the way we pursue life? 

In v13-14, Paul extends beyond the individual, and describes how we want to interact with other people in general.  Obviously, he repeats Jesus’ command to be forgiving…and then he talks about love.  To quote Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?”.  What is Paul saying about love in connection with human interfacing?

Finally, he gets specific in terms of community, and addresses how the church should dress…not in clothing styles…but in LIFEstyles.  What attitudes should we wear, according to v15-16, when we gather as a church community?  What seems to be the most important thing in this description?  Does it fit your experience with church?

Wrapping it up, Paul sweeps his hands and encompasses all of life in v17.  Everything…everything we do, he says should be done in the “name of Jesus”.  What does this mean?  Does this mean when I go to the bank, and ask for a deposit slip I should say “I need to deposit funds, in the name of Jee-yah-zus!”   Seriously…what is it to do life in Jesus’ name?

Stuff to ponder-fy.

See ya’ Sundee.

What Not to Wear

wntwWhooops.  I was so sick this week, this thing slipped right past me.  I’m feeling better now…so let’s think about our text for this Sunday…shall we?

This week we’ll be starting chapter 3 of Colossians, and reading the first 11 verses.  (Message version)

In the last chapter, Paul talked about taking care not to let other people become religious judges of our spirituality based on religious codes and rules.  But that’s not to say that no changes will be evident in our journey with God.  In fact, as we look at how Paul begins this segment in ch 3, we notice that he’s adamantly challenging us to gain a different perspective on who we are.  Who are we, according to verses 1-4?

Once we remember who we are…Paul then encourages us to specific action.  He wants to challenge us about the way we live…the choices we make, the way we think, the things we do.  

If it’s not a code of conduct or a set of rules that he’s setting forth in v5-9…then what is it?  What is Paul saying about the way we used to live, and the way we should live now, because of Christ?  Why does it matter how we live, if all has been forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice?

We seem to like dividing ourselves into camps…insiders and outsiders.  Paul even addresses that concept in v 10-11.  All the ways in which we try to define ourselves fall short of God’s original inentions…what is the one definition Paul puts on life in v11? 

Putting it all together, our hearts are changed by Christ…which challenges us to accommodate that change of heart by the way we live…yet even the way we live isn’t the means of giving us our identity, it’s just the “way we dress” the real us inside.

What are your thoughts on these verses?

Avoiding Extremes (part two)

holier_than_thounutsAs we come back to our study in Colossians this weekend, we’ll be reading vs 11-23.  Of course, here it is in the Message

As we started chapter two, we looked at the extremes we want to avoid when it comes to our efforts to live out the teachings of Christ.  We want to avoid the extremism of isolation…our maturity is developed in the context of community.  We want to avoid learning for the sake of learning…our goal is to live what we learn.  And we want to avoid the extreme of turning Christianity into a cause…God revealed Himself through Jesus, that’s the core of our message and mission.

OK, in vs 11-12, Paul talks to the Colossians about circumcision.  Circumcision was the primary evidence of a man’s identity with the Jewish people, the people of God.  It was a ritual that was required under Mosaic law in order for a person to be sure he was a part of God’s team (which, when choosing teams, gives a whole new meaning to “shirts and skins”….heh heh…but I digress).

Paul says that the means by which we are now made God’s people has nothing to do with rituals we perform with our abilities…but then he goes right on to describe baptism…which is a ritual that we perform in the church.  What’s the difference between these two rituals?  What comes out as the focus in baptism?  So then, what is it that makes us right with God, according to Paul?

Then in v13-15 Paul shows that the law as actually against us (v14)_…that is, because we couldn’t keep it, it was always evidence that we were sinful.  It’s Jesus’ death on our behalf that takes away our sin and gives us a clean slate.  So, if we have a clean slate…what more do we have to do to be right with God?  Go to church more?  Get our doctrine straight and compatible with accepted orthodoxy?  What is required of us in order to be part of God’s family?

In v16-19 Paul says some strong stuff.  Has anyone ever put you under pressure to tithe?  Anyone ever given you the stink-eye because you went fishing instead of to a church service?  Have you ever felt condemned by people who brag about their times of prayer or ecstatic experiences?  Do you ever feel totally inadequate in your faith when you hear someone rant about what a Christian should wear or drink or who a Christian should vote for?  What does Paul say about that stuff?  If we allow those outward things to control our sense of value and worth…what happens to us?  Don’t get distracted by shadow puppets…look for the real thing.

Then in v 20-23 Paul identifies the biggest folly of all these extremes.  A false notion that was perpetuated then and is still prevalent today.  What is the best we can hope for if we live our lives in conformity to strict outward regulations?  What will it result in?  What good does it do?

I love this passage.  It was one that I “grazed” on for months after coming out of the legalistic system I’d been involved in.  If you’ve struggled with feeling like you can’t keep all the rules right…if you’ve felt condemned by people or preachers who seem to have it all together and look so holy…this passage is for you.  Take it in in deep lungfuls…breathe the sweet air of freedom.  Once you start breathing that air, you can remember how to really live.

Avoiding Extremes (part one)

One of the things that I think is fascinating about the New Testament is the ease in which it deals with antinomies.  On one hand, we are encouraged to sell out completely when it comes to our allegiance and love for Christ; and on the other hand we are cautioned about become extremists in the pursuit of our faith.  It’s such a delicate balance that from my observation, the church has had a great deal of difficulty finding it.  We usually seem to be swaying from one extreme to the other, more like a drunk than a tight rope walker.

Paul is going to address extremes in the passage we’ll be looking at this Sunday.  You can read it here: Colossians 2:1-10.  And you should read this in the Message version also.

While he’s never actually met the Christians he’s talking to, Paul feels a great deal of concern for them.  He wants them to stay on course…and again, remain simplified in their priorities.  As we read these verses, we see it all comes down to Jesus.  Nothing more, and defiantly nothing less.

As you read vs 6-7, what does it seem like Paul is trying to encourage these Christians to do? 

His warning in v 8 is another interesting paradox.  Paul himself was a man of great education.  He even quotes popular Greek philosophers and playwrights at different times.  It’s hard to believe he’s taking some sort of anti-intellectual stance here.  What would be the “key qualifier” in v8?  In other words, what is it about these philosophies and traditions that make them untrustworthy?

What extremes do we need to avoid in our culture that are similar to the ones Paul warns about?

Anyway….stuff to ponder ’till Sunday.

Moonrocket to Mars is leading worship…so you may want to show up late.  😉

Colossians 1:24-29 – Good to Grow!

Hey Everybody!  Sorry to bail out on you so suddenly last week.  My daughter (Jessica) was given tickets to the Bears/Falcons game…and wonder of wonder, she asked her old man to go with her.  How can a guy pass up quality time with his daughter, AND great NFL tickets to boot?  We were on the 50 yard line, 8 rows back, right behind the Bear’s bench.  Sweeeeeet!!

I’m actually in Jacksonville right now, visiting my two youngest who are in college out here, on my way to a Calvary Chapel Pastor’s day down in Merit Island.  Just between us (and seriously, don’t tell anyone), I really dread these events.  The guys who attend are all great, it’s not that.  It’s that I feel so awkward and out of place because unlike them, I have no clue what I’m doing.  Pray for me…I’m such a goon.

Anyway, we’re going to continue our study in Colossians…we’ll be looking at verses 24-29 this Sunday.

Actually, you should read it in the Message as well.

Paul is defending his ministry to people that he hasn’t met face to face.  As the chapter wraps up, he explains that his main motivation to to lead people to maturity in their lives in God.  As we look at what Paul says about himself, we realize he’s modeling the kind of maturity he wants to see develop in these other believers.

What does maturing in a life with God look like to you?  What do you see in Paul’s description of himself and experiences that reveal maturity?

What do you want to look like when you grow up more in God?

Stuff to think about.  See yer’ Sundee!

The Great Convergence

First, before we talk about the passage we’ll be looking at this Sunday, I need to offer an apology.  I was confronted about the Jib Jab video I showed at the beginning of my teaching, and was advised that it really wasn’t appropriate for public viewing.  For at least one person, and maybe more, the subject matter and presentation of that particular satire was offensive and crass.  It was something they wouldn’t have viewed voluntarily…and yet I showed it publicly and without warning.  That was an abuse of my role in our community, and I’m very sorry.

If you took offense, please accept my sincere apologies, I didn’t set out to hurt anyone.  I’ve stated more than once, I’m not very good at this…but that doesn’t excuse me.  I will determine to be more cautious in the future.  The last thing I want to do is cause us to lose sight of what’s important just for the sake of a laugh.  I hope you’ll forgive me.

Ok…so, this Sunday we’ll be looking at vs 15-23 of Colossians 1 ( I highly recomend you read it in the Message as well).  Here is where Paul transitions from his opening remarks and moves toward his main point.  Remember, the Colossians had begun to drift away from the Message that they had been planted with, and were embracing errant teachings that minimized Jesus’ role in their spiritual lives.

As you read these verses, you’ll see that Paul is pretty excited about Jesus, and who He is. He makes statements about Jesus and His relationship to God.  What does the text say that Jesus is in relationship to God?
Paul also points out Jesus’ relationship to creation.  What is it?  After that, Paul points to a new order of things in vs 19-20.  What is God doing with the world through Jesus?

The question that seems to be implied in all of this is…who’s in control?  It’s a good question to pose to ourselves, considering the modern, American church’s propensity to compartmentalize our spirituality.  We seem to like the idea that we can keep church stuff to Sundays, but the rest of the week is a different story.  Do you get that impression from what Paul says here?  Based on what Paul says about Jesus, is there ANY part of life, the universe and everything that Jesus isn’t in control of? 

As we look at our own lives…is Jesus compartmentalized, or in control?  What areas do we tend to try and keep for ourselves?  Everything converges in the person of Jesus Christ.  That is where life is found…no other place.  If that’s true…then that should fundamentally change the way we view the life that we have in this world…shouldn’t it?

Stuff to ponder.  See you Sunday.


This Sunday we’ll keep looking at Paul’s introductory remarks to the church in Colosse.  We’ll read vs 9-14 in chapter one.  In this section, Paul moves from complimenting the stuff he knows about the Christians in Colosse, to the stuff he’s hoping for concerning them.

The whole movement of this section is about change.  V12-14give us the heading, and we sort of work in reverse from that point.  What’s the big, overall change that’s taken place in our lives because of Christ?

Working backwards, we see three areas of change that Paul prays for to continue happening with the Christians in Colosse…and what we want to see in ourselves.  V9 speaks of growth in our knowing something…v10 speaks of living something differently…v11 speaks of an ability to continue in these changes.  What will we grow to know?  What will change in our lifestyle?  What enables us to continue on?

Stuff to think about.  See you all Sunday!

What Does A Christ Follower Look Like?

Hey Everyone!  We’re back…and we had a great time in the UK.  I actually drove a little over there…yeesh.  It wasn’t so bad until you got to roads which were designed for almost one car, and two cars had to pass on it.  All in all though, it was a refreshing getaway for Robbie and I…and we really appreciate your prayers. 

I heard that the teachings these last two Sundays were good…but that’s all over now, because I’m back.

This Sunday we’re going to start a new series on the book of Colossians.  It comes next in line as we journey through the didactic epistles (teaching letters).  We’ll sort of introduce the book (background, purpose, author, etc…) and then read vs 1-8 of chapter one.  You can read the Message version here, which I recomend, because the run-on sentence in vs 3-8 is a little tough to navigate as is.

What words seem inportant to you as you read these verses?  What does it seem Paul is thankful about when he thinks of these Colossian Christians?  How does that apply to our lives…how does it apply to our understanding of how we should be living as followers of Christ?

Anyway…its good to be back.  We’ll see you all on Sunday!

We Are a Moment, You Are Forever

HEY…I just realized what I forgot!  This week we’ll be finishing up our short (or long, depending on your attention span) study of Psalm 103.  This week, we’ll be reading v 15-22.  As you read it, what do you learn about yourself…what does it reveal about God to you?

Has anyone ever said, or have you said to yourself “God is in control.”?  What does that mean to you?  Has that phrase ever made you feel worse instead of better? (it has for me)  What does it really mean that God is in control?  That He’s got the remote?  That He’s got an oil field?  What about when things go wrong…where does that fit in to His control?

Stuff to think about.

On another note…have you read The Shack (we carry it in the Corner bookstore)?  I have…and wow.  Just, wow.  I highly recommend this book, especially for those struggling with the question of pain and God’s will.  It’s really a good read, and I believe it will give you a refreshing sense of personalization in your relationship with God.  But that’s just my opinion.  You may hate it….I don’t know.

One more thing.  Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz, and someone I dearly appreciate) prayed at the DNC.  His prayer has really sparked a lot of conversation…and there are a lot of different opinions about the content of the prayer.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.  Not about the fact that he was praying at the DNC…that’s a no brainer.  If someone asks you to pray, in my opinion, you pray.  So I don’t want to discuss the partisan, political stuff.  What he said in the prayer….that’s what I’m pondering.  I’d like to hear your thoughts,, because I’ve heard all my own.  Below is the video

By the way….has that dude lost weight or WHAT?  I’ll be first in line at the bookstore to buy his “Blue Like Jazzercize” book.