Against the Grain of Legalism

Hey…you know what?  15 years ago today, we had our very first Sunday meeting under the moniker of Eastgate Christian Fellowship.  A handful of broken misfits sitting around in a converted dress shop in the Promenade Mall, which has grown into a larger gathering of broken misfits sitting around in a converted gym.  I can remember the trepidation I felt that morning…concerned that I didn’t really know what I was doing.  After 15 years, I’m still waiting for that feeling to subside.  Nevertheless, HAPPY BIRTHDAY Eastgate…I think some good things have come of this experiment, in spite of us!

This Sunday we’ll be reading Luke 6:1-11.

In this passage, Jesus is confronted about the keeping of the Sabbath in two different stories.  V 5 and V9 seem to be the bottom line to each of the encounters.  What do you take from these vignettes?  What is Jesus trying to convey to the religious leaders about the law, Himself and what it means to please God?

When we  think about the Pharisees’ application of the law, what warning can we take to ourselves in our own application of the Gospel?

It should be an interesting study, hope you can make it!

Temptation: Settling for Less

Hey, hey!  I’m finally back to somewhat normal patterns, which leads me back to Wonderwhat!   I’ll do my best to keep updating with thoughts about our upcoming studies, but I will warn you that for the next month or so, I’ve got a lot on my plate.  For the last year, Ken Raney of Clash Creative has been negotiating with Voice of the Martyrs to do a series of graphic novel adaptations of some of the stories of triumph that have come from Christians who have endured persecution in closed nations.  I was asked to participate in this project, and a few weeks ago, they finally gave the go-ahead.  Needless to say, I have a lot of work ahead of me in laying out, penciling, inking and hopefully coloring said project.  Ben Avery wrote a compelling script…which has had me in tears multiple times as I’ve tried to convey this story through pictures.  Pray for me if you think of it…I need to learn how to draw and fast….I want, with all my heart, to do this story justice.

This Sunday we’ll be looking at Luke 4:1-13.

It’s a fascinating passage about the temptation of Christ in the wilderness.  It provides us food for thought concerning our own struggles with temptation…but it also gives us an amazing insight into just what kind of Messiah Jesus intended to be (and IS).  Jesus had to break with many of the expectations concerning the messiah in His day, and we see that the break from accepted patterns wasn’t just a public thing…it was initiated in the most private of times, alone and unobserved.

Here’s something interesting: if you get the chance, read Deuteronomy 8 and then read Luke 4:1-13 right after it.  What connections do you see?  Do you think there was a point being made in the nature of the temptations recounted in Jesus’ story?  Beyond that, what do we learn about the nature of temptation in general?  If we describe it as settling for less…less than what?  What do we learn about how to resist temptation from Jesus’ story?

This should be an interesting study…hope to see you this Sunday!

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 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.  😉

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.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

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!

Emergency In Haiti

Hey all…we just received this update from Patrick and Barb Lataillade in Haiti.  Please be praying for them during this crisis…and allow your heart to be open to responding to their plea for support. 

OPERATION NEHEMIAH

Gustav Disaster

I, Barb, feel like Nehemiah when he heard of the destruction of Jerusalem, and he was in a foreign land. I am in Port au Prince, but the villages in the areas where we have churches are in dire need. What little they had, is now taken away!! (At this writing, Patrick is still stranded in the village.)

Every village where we have planted a church has been damaged by the hurricane. All the roads to these villages have been destroyed. The roads need to be rebuilt or repaired. If we get enough funds in, we can have a tractor/grater come in to fill the craters that are now in the road, and level out the roads again. We will need cement to build the “bridges” to cross over the deeper streams.

Marche Kabrit has no water. The water source has been destroyed. They had water piped from the mountain.

We need to get food (bags of rice, corn, beans) to the people. Right now they are eating the animals that have died during Hurricane, and the fruit from the fallen trees.

Homes need to be built, and we need to help farmers get their gardens replanted.

If God is speaking to your heart to help give the village people their life back, click here. You can give online gifts that are tax deductible.

Please feel free to forward this to your friends, church family or work place.

We are so grateful to each of you who are praying for this situation.
Thank you so much.

Patrick and Barb Lataillade

Our Need, His Character

For reasons I’ll explain later, I’m not going to begin a study on another full book just yet.  Instead, this Sunday, we’re going to begin a short study on what, for me, has become a focal point chapter in the book of Psalms.

Psalm 103 will be our subject for the next few weeks.  Read it here in the NKJVRead it here in The Message. (I really love The Message version…and we’ll be referencing it in our study).

This is a Psalm I love to pray…for a while I prayed it every day, but now its every few weeks, as other Scriptures and prayers have been in the forefront for me. 

Psalm 103 is a Psalm of David…a song that is believed to have been written in his old age.  I imagine that old king, scars on the arms which hold his harp, reflecting on his adventurous life with God as he hums and sings in time with his strum.  It’s such a wonderful prayer.

As you read it, do me a favor.  If you need to, print out a copy of the Message version of Psalm 103.  Now, sometime when you have a moment of quiet…somewhere when you’re all alone, and the TV isn’t screaming what you should buy, and the kids are occupied or asleep….in that time, read this out loud (a whisper will do though), and add personal pronouns in the reading…so that it is a conversation in which you personally are speaking to God. 

It will read like this:

1-2 O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I’ll bless your holy name!
   O my soul, bless God,
      don’t forget a single blessing!

 3-5 You forgive my sins—every one. 
      You heal my diseases—every one. 
      You redeem me from hell—You save my life! 
      You crown me with love and mercy—a paradise crown. 
      You wrap me in goodness—beauty eternal. 
      You renew my youth—I’m always young in Your presence.

….and on and on.  You get the idea.  Personalize the language of the Psalm…make it YOUR prayer…and pray that Psalm to God.  Think over what it means as your saying it (realizing that He hears you, no matter what you hear).  Let it soak in.

What does this Psalm say to you in the first five verses?  What do you see as the emphasis?  What is revealed, and who is it revealed about?

Do these verses evoke any thoughts you want to share, good or bad?  Questions maybe?  Testimonials?

Just wondering.  Hopefully this will be a cool study.  I really love Psalm 103.

The Deeper Magic – Mark 16:9-20

Sorry for the delay in posting this week…I have no valid reasons, only excuses.

So, we’re going to finish our study in the gospel of Mark this Sunday.  It’s always sort of bittersweet to me to finish up a book.  Its a great feeling of accomplishment, but also a sadness to leave such familiar territory.

We’re going to be reading the last part of chapter 16, verses 9-20.   For roughly the last 1,800 years there has been a controversy surrounding these verses.  Many scholars, both ancient and modern, believe they are an addition to the original text and should not be included nor taken seriously.  If you feel like reading, you can find a fair summary of the opposing views HERE.

For my part, I find compelling arguments on both sides of the issue.  To determine if I should include these verses in our study, I asked myself some questions.  1) Are the verses in question in conflict with the rest of the Scriptures of the New Testament?  My answer was no, they’re not and in fact can be correlated to other gospel and didactic passages.  2) Do the verses introduce foreign doctrines?  Again, the answer is no.  Some cessationist advocates may try to insinuate that verses 15-18 could promote wild charismania…but even there, the things Jesus lists off in the passage DID get experienced by the Christians of the book of Acts….so a person could still argue that those gifts had ceased after that (if they wanted to, and wanted to be wrong).

The fact is, every translation of the Bible today still includes these verses, and just add a footnote.  God is pretty big, that much I’m sure of.  I think He’s well able to see to it that we have the Word He wants us to have…so…I’m going to teach on those verses.  What do you think about them?

If you read  them over, you’ll notice that one reaction is pretty consistent from those who only hear about Jesus rising from the dead.  What is it?  Put yourself in their place…how do you think you would have responded?  (seriously…when you read about someone who “spotted” Elvis working at a 7-11, what is your first reaction to that kind of “news”?)  Yet in verse 14, Jesus is none too amused at their response.

How would you summarize verses 15-18?  What do those verse tell us about the world we live in now that Jesus has risen from the dead?  V 19 is the fuel for v 20…Jesus “ascended”, or was taken into the unseen realm of  heaven (which N.T. Wright describes as the control room for the events of earth, which I think is brilliant).  From that place of power and dominion He does something…what does He do, and through what agency does He do it?

Well…don’t feel pressured to respond…I know this was late in coming.  And don’t feel like you need to answer all the questions I pose…if just one thing strikes your interest, lets talk about it!

Peace…see you Sunday!

“Holy Rolling Stone!”

Roughly three and a half years ago I had surgery done on my left knee.  It was a little more complicated than it was originally thought to be, and suddenly, without warning, I found myself with a bum knee.  For two years I suffered with daily pain, and an atrophied quad muscle which, I found out later, was the major source of my pain and weakness.

Bottom line?  I could no longer surf.  I couldn’t run, and frankly, didn’t even enjoy walking that much.  I started packing on the pounds and really found myself sinking into a dull depression.

A little more than a year ago, that all began to change.  I spent some very deep, alone time with God…and came back ready to tackle this problem.  I started exercising and building up my quad muscle, as well as the muscles that surround my knee…and lo, it eliminated about 60% of the pain I felt.  With renewed hope, I looked out at that Gulf of Mexico.

When Dolly came through recently, I was out surfing on unusaully beautiful, glassy waves one Thursday morning.  I was out there with Luke B. and I ran into Dave B.  He smiled and said to me “Weren’t you unable to surf for a while?  It’s good to see you back out here.”

Man, what an understatement.  To have something taken away…to face the possibility of letting something go that felt really important to you….only to have it restored.  How do I explain the feeling of that?  Words fall short of expressing the joy and wonder and appreciation I feel.

We’re going to study Mark 15:42-16:8 this Sunday.  We’re down to the last few teachings in this gospel.

As you read this passage…think about the characters again.  What must they be going through?  What are your thoughts about Joe of Arimathea as you read about who he was?  Why do you think he does what he does?  How do you think he felt?

Think about the Marys.  What is thier concern?  What ends up being their solution?

What are your thoughts on any of this?

Too many questions?

🙂