Friday, August 31, 2007

Choose blessing over cursing

Each and every day situations arise that test our character and fire up our emotions: jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, greed, lust, vindictiveness, revenge and hatred are but a few of those that float around in our heart. If we ruminate on those emotions we'll ultimately choose death over life; we'll choose cursing over blessing.

God asks us to follow Him and choose life and blessing instead of death. This choice is not easy- it requires an immense inner discipline.

How are you doing right now in training your discipline?

Deuteronomy 30:19
I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself, a long life settled on the soil that God, your God, promised to give your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

30 days to live

If you had only 30 days left to live, what would you do? What would you change?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This week for God @ The Movies...

What do you do when you have a boss from hell?

Colossians 3:15-17
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A group of about 15 of us gave over 600 bottles of water away at Hawrelak Park for the Blues Festival & on Whyte Ave at the Fringe on Sunday afternoon.

My favorite moment was asking Rachel & our neighbor Jenna why they were doing this & they shouted, “Because God’s grace is free!

It was a great day of sharing God's love in practical ways! Be on the look out for the opportunities that come your way daily.

"Most of the time when we think of church, we think of Sunday. But Sunday is really about Monday. If our job as Christians was simply to get together and worship God, we could do that in Heaven. But our job is more than that: that's why God has us strategically placed right where we are." John Ortberg

Monday, August 27, 2007

God @ the Movies: Evan Almighty

In a recent article of Scientific American Mind, a magazine about research on resolving bad situations, Katja Gaschler writes about psychologist James W. Pennebaker’s work with a large group of people who’d been suddenly terminated from their company with no warning. The group exuded a lot of bitterness. Pennebaker’s instructions were simple. All were to write in a diary for 20 minutes a day for five days. One-third were told to write the events of the day, one-third were asked to specifically journal their feelings about losing their jobs, and the final third were given no specific instructions. The results were significant. One-fourth of the second group found new jobs after three months, but only a small percentage of the other two groups had found new employment, a sign that they were still battling their setback.

The researchers discovered that through expressive writing people could let go of the pain they felt from a difficult situation. By focusing on their deepest feelings for at least 15 minutes, not worrying about word flow, spelling, or grammar, people experienced healing.

This practice is helpful for any painful experience or memory.

Reflective thoughts, long after an event, usually will highlight the essential and most important things that remain influential in one’s mind.

The Bible is a deeply reflective book.

John 21:25
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Paraphrase: Of the many, many things I could have written, I have carefully selected in order that you might see what I want you to see about Jesus.

John reflected on the life and ministry of Jesus as guided by the Holy Spirit to produce the gospel of John. We are to be a reflective people, too. God @ the Movies helps us to learn the discipline of reflection.

Two weeks ago at The Leadership Summit Bill Hybels interviewed Richard Curtis, the writer of "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Notting Hill," "The Girl in the Cafe," and the "Mr. Bean" television series. Curtis has used his comedy writing to rally millions of dollars to alleviate the poor.

“This was a very disturbing interview for me to do because I'm interviewing a guy who doesn't even have his faith figured out and he's doing 100 times more work than I am to alleviate the suffering in this world." Bill Hybels

Part of Curtis' inspiration to fight poverty came from the Sermon on the Mount, one of the best-known teachings of Jesus, Curtis told Hybels in the interview. But he did not indicate that faith was the driving force behind his passion to care for the poor.

"All I know is that a guy over there should not be dying when I have so much. I can only really do one thing well. I can write comedy. But I'll ruthlessly do the thing that I do to try to rectify this general injustice."

Curtis is co-founder of the Make Poverty History campaign and the United Kingdom's Red Nose Day, a comic relief campaign which last year raised $130 million in one day and has become a national day of giving for the poor. His latest effort was "Idol Gives Back" on the popular TV program "American Idol" in the United States. The American public contributed some $73 million during campaign.

"You can't just pray for people. You've got to do something now." R. Curtis

We change-agents need a simple virtue: faith, and a listening ear to what God may be asking of us.

Do you want to change the world? Or at least a small piece of it?

Are you on this planet to do something, or are you here just for something to do?

If you’re on this planet to do something, then what is it? What difference will you make?

Scene 1 Evan Almighty trailer 2

Do you want to change the world?

God has some very interesting ways of bringing about His will. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven”.

We’re all for this, but we’d prefer to do it in ways that glorify ourselves when we’re really honest.

Evan Baxter is a former news anchor that runs for Congress with a desire to change the world. I love the mantra he recites every morning, in the hopes of creating a reality that he can live: ‘I am successful, powerful, handsome and happy.’

I just don’t see Jesus saying that when he’d wake up in the morning. Maybe more along the lines of, ‘I am loved and I love others. Not my will but yours Father.’ Why not even something like, ‘Create in me a clean heart Lord.’

At the conclusion of the message on July 8 everyone had the opportunity to come to one of the crosses and select a sin of the flesh and a fruit of the spirit. The sin of the flesh I lifted from the basket was ‘selfish ambition.’ That’s the equivalent of ‘I am successful, powerful, handsome and happy!’

All of us who want to see the world changed, or more appropriately put, ‘your will on earth as it is in heaven’ face the temptations that Jesus did:

Us would-be world-changers must face the same three temptations as Jesus before we can really minister to others. The first temptation of Christ, to turn stones into bread in Matthew 4:3, is the need to be effective, successful, relevant, to make things happen. You’ve done something and people say, “Wow! Good job! You did it right. You’re OK.” When the crowds approve, it’s hard not to believe that we have done a good thing, and probably God’s will.

Jesus says, Go deeper. What’s the real question? What are you really after? What does the heart really hunger for? What do you really desire? “It’s not by bread alone that we live” (Matthew 4:4).

The second temtation is about trust- Jesus says, “again it is written- Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ In other words, trust Him and His plan- don’t do it at your whim. Mother Teresa said, “We were not created to be successful but to be obedient.”

The third human temptation, or addiction, is the need for control or power. So the devil tells Jesus to bow down before the systems of this world: “All of them you can have” (Matthew 4:8). Just buy them. Believe in them. Jesus refuses to bow down before the little kingdoms of this world, the corporations and the nation-states, the security systems. The price of this love of power is to “fall at Satan’s feet and worship him!” (Matthew 4:9). That’s a very heavy judgement on “all the kingdoms of the world.” In all these systems, self-interest has to dominate. For Kingdom people, self-interest cannot dominate.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Security is such a deep need in us…What will happen to me if I let go? Will I have enough—enough time, enough money, enough provisions for old age, enough people to care for me, enough intelligence, enough health…? And so I hold on tightly to my security banisters. They make me feel safe but they keep me stationary. They are an obstacle to grace. John Powell

Washington, DC is the epitome of these struggles, addictions, and here Evan Baxter is set to change the world. In the midst of this God appears and gives him a new task:

Scene 2 Evan Almighty - An Ark to Build

As you can imagine Evan is shocked by the appearance of God- especially a black God!

Scene 3 Evan Almighty - Carjacker

I love this little scene because it just highlights a couple of key ideas: God speaks. He still speaks today to you and I. And that he’ll use a variety of circumstances and situations to get out attention- if we’ll let Him.

As God makes His desire more clear, Evan begins to release control and his model of success, bowing before the vents that God orchestrates. In this next scene he isn’t surprised that God is clearing the way for him to make an ark. He’ll obviously need some space, some land to build it on:

Scene 4 Evan Almighty - Eight Lots

Understanding and accepting what God is saying doesn’t come easy to Evan or to us for that matter. As it becomes more apparent Evan is becoming a modern day Noah, he experiences some physical changes:

Scene 5 Evan Almighty - Mountain Man

Evan’s family is experiencing great distress while he exhibits all the strange behavior. It had been his wife’s plan that they be drawn closer together in this move to Washington, but it clearly isn’t happening. They finally get over the hump and dad puts his three boys to work helping out:

Scene 6 Evan Almighty - The Construction Project

‘That’s easy- just don’t’. The easy way out is not always God’s option for us.

There comes a time in God’s leading with us that we begin to see it as His plan. Watch as it comes together for the Baxter clan:

Scene 7 Evan Almighty - The Animals Arrive

It really is humbling to realize that we are a part of something so big as helping God bring His kingdom to earth, and yet that God is so tender in His care for us as a person.

It’s also amazing to think that while God moves on a grand plan, He does so through the most simple, small yet powerfully life-changing opportunities. In the movie we discover that building an ark actually means accepting our mission of ‘Acts of Random Kindness.’
Otherwise known as servant outreach. In building the ark Evan was able to help many people in simple and small ways, but they were nonetheless life changing.

Way too often this is what we think of when it comes to reaching out to others:

Kenny the Krusader: Evangelism Linebacker

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. Mother Teresa

We are willing to do ‘Acts of Random Kindness’ because we realize God presents the opportunities; it is God who we’re serving; it is His kingdom we’re building, and not our own; it is something we’re not in control of, and it creates relationship now and for the future; it helps us to see that we walk in love with God daily and must do so with others as well. I could go on.

We’re all a version of Bruce Almighty, of Evan Almighty, a Ruth Almighty, a Dave Almighty, a Titus Almighty, not because we are a god but because the real God loves us and empowers us to love others! We’ll do some of that today as a community and God is asking all of this week to be ark building in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our schools, wherever we travel.

The church has left the building!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Soul Graffiti

We long for integration in four areas of life, so writes Mark Scandrette in Soul Graffiti:

A place to belong.
A source of peace and rest.
A way of life that works.
A story that makes sense of all we see.

Who has helped you believe that God is real in your own life? What about that person made them a good, trustworthy or reliable messenger?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

John Ortberg has written a very inspiring book in "It All Goes Back In The Box." In combining simple insight along with great stories he leads us to the feet of Jesus.

One of my favorite sections was the reflections on four categories of regret:
1. I would have loved more deeply.
2. I would have laughed more often.
3. I would have given more generously.
4. I would have lived more boldly.

Which one might you already be grieving?

Live a life of no regrets following Christ today!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Then there was Evan - this Sunday- God @ the Movies

"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic." Dave Barry

"The turning point in our lives is when we stop seeking the God we want and start seeking the God who is." Patrick Morley

If you haven't seen it yet, meet at West Mall 8 Theatres for the 710 PM show on Thursday, August 23!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

First there was Bruce...

Come on admit it, at some point in time you've thought you could probably do a better job than God, too, right?

Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Monday, August 20, 2007

God @ the Movies: Facing the Giants

This series is not just about movies. the World Vision “One Life” experience tells poverty and AIDS through a story, complete with a little village and an MP3 player.

Tony Campolo, now 72, was in Edmonton on Tuesday to open the display at West Ed Mall spoke as a sociologist that for learning, we need to have an experience and then reflection. That catylyzes the best learning. That’s why we do “God @ the Movies.”

I’m not interested in you watching more movies, just watching anything, including your own life with more of an eye to experience and reflection, and allowing God into that reflective cycle.

Teachability can't be taught. Just because you watch lots of movies doesn’t mean you’ll learn any more from this series.

Teachability is not determined by age, but increased age means an increased chance that bad habits and character traits are more permanently ingrained. Teachability requires repeated long, hard looks in the mirror and on Gods work in our lives.

We are 'Co-laboring with God', as Paul writes in Philippians. We are to 'work out our salvation with fear and trembling.'

Sorrow is one of the biggest facts of life; it is no use saying sorrow ought not to be. Sin and sorrow and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

1 Peter 1:6-7
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Scene 1 Theatrical trailer, under ‘Special Features’.

Ever wonder what the theatrical trailer for your life to this point would look like? What’s the theme? Where are you going?

Coach Grant and his wife are discussing their difficulty in having children:

Scene 2 chapter 4 13.26- 14.37

Are you afraid of anything facing you in life right now?

Take a minute to open your heart and allow God to begin speaking to this area right now and as we move forward.

Not only is coach Grant having trouble having kids, his football team is struggling. Another highly talented player transfers to another school, and that fuels some dissension in the ranks: here we see one of Taylor’s assistants being courted by the group that wants to oust him:

Scene 3 chapter 5 18.15- 19.33

A young soccer player who has never played football joins the team to be a back-up kicker. He talks about a humiliating loss and the talk right after the game where coach Taylor tore a strip off of the team here in this scene with his dad:

Scene 4 24.12- 26.30

What limitations are you allowing in your life?

The challenges continue to amass for Coach Taylor, and in this scene he speaks with his wife right after receiving some disturbing news from the doctor and his becoming aware of the campaign to oust him:

Scene 5 chapter 8 30.00- 32.47

Why is this so hard?

Have you ever said that to God or anyone else?

What giants of fear and failure are you facing?

Betrayal and woundedness. It can be a gift. In Hebrews 5:8 we read, ‘Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.’

We cannot become Christ-like without experiencing woundedness. The crushing is not a disaster; it is an opportunity. It is an opportunity for love and forgiveness to win out.

Luke 23:34
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

Philippians 3:10
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

In the midst of the challenges Grant Taylor wanted to quit, but God sends Him a message:

Scene 6 chapter 10 38.38- 40.25

God speaks and says, ‘prepare for rain’.


Do you trust God? Is God trustable?

Let’s watch coach Taylor speak to his guys concerning life and football:

Scene 7 chapter 11 42.28- 44.41

Your attitude is the odor of your heart. Does yours give a pleasant fragrance or more like that of B.O.?

Scene 8 chapter 14 53.20- 54.10

This really has nothing to do with the story but it’s fun and reminds me of something I’d do to Anola!

It does actually show that we need to be able to laugh in the midst of life. Our troubles aren’t our real troubles; our real troubles are how we view and perceive our troubles.

Well, the season begins to get turned around, and lives are beginning to change. Transformed lives, that’s what it’s all about.

In this scene we’ll watch the conclusion of the football season with a key play in the final seconds of the championship game where the Eagles face the state powerhouse the Giants, a team that is bigger, faster, and outnumbers them nearly 3-1. Let’s watch, but turn away if you don’t want to see the end of the movie:

Scene 9 chapter 27 97.40- 101.05

When fear collides with faith, what happens? What happens in your life?

Scene 10 ‘Special features’, “Behind the Scenes” 2.15- 4.36

Matthew 19.26
"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

"No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it."

In our circumstances God keeps working until He finally gets me us He wants us. That's the way He works in all of our lives. He uses and takes the circumstances to get us "there" --- [where He wants us]. And because we don't understand that, we often then start rebelling against the circumstances. If you look at Paul's life he said in writing in prison, "I am a prisoner of Jesus Christ" —–not Nero, but of Jesus Christ. Circumstances were not where He lived life.

"I don't know how come I am in this prison! I am supposed to be a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how can I preach in this prison?"

No. He said, "I am in bonds, but the word of God is not in bonds." He perceived the circumstances as the means by which God was fulfilling what God wanted to fulfill in His life. And I think that's where God is trying to bring all of us, is to recognize whatever circumstances we are in—–or as Paul would say, "Whether I am afflicted or whether I am comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation." He doesn't live in those circumstances. He doesn't pray that the circumstances will be changed.
James Stone

Friday, August 17, 2007

Take the missional path...

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

We are the terminally imperfect

“I do buy the idea we are flawed, that there is something in us that is broken. I think it is easier to do bad things than good things. And there is something in that basic fact, some little clue to the meaning of the universe.” Donald Miller

Mark 2:17
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Jesus of Nazareth

1 Timothy 1:15
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

We will always need God's grace- let us never forget that fact.

John Bunyan interview

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Coming this Sunday...

What giants are you facing?

Does God have anything to say about them?

Facing The Giants website

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Who is the one who calls our name?

Who shows mercy new every morning?

Who is the lover of your soul?

Who will make a way when there seems to be no way?

Who hates injustice?

Who is with us when we feel nobody is listening?

Who hears our cries?

Who sits next to us when no one else understands?

Who works the night shift?

Monday, August 13, 2007

God @ the Movies: A Good Year

We do this series to see God in the ordinary and through contemporary culture--as well as the Bible and allow it to fill us with wonder & astonishment.

What are your top five all-time movies?

They are obviously very personal- they become a part of our lives, often meaning so much because of where we are in life at the particular time we see it, or because of our past experiences. A movie I love you may despise, as many do with one of my favorites, Castaway!

Holiday reflections- college & career days; mission trips, vacations with a purpose. Holidays as pilgrimages. And yes I did lose round 2 of our family mini-golf championship! I certainly went down swinging, mind you, many times over! Perhaps I tapped into this movie that features a French estate with a winery because of all the wine in the Okanogan area.

Scene 1 Movie trailer

What Matters? What really matters?

This movie opens up with a young Max, played by Russell Crowe, being taught by his uncle at the uncle’s estate in France. In this scene we’ll see Max is playing chess with his uncle, and has cheated by moving a chess piece to his own favor. His uncle knows it, but Max doesn’t know that his uncle knows it. Let’s watch:

Scene 2 chapter 1 3.10- 3.56

Aren’t we so competitive at a young age to win at all costs? Meanwhile our parents and other figures are trying to teach us what really matters.

John Ortberg and It All Goes Back in the Box.

What matters? What really matters?

Let’s see what life can look like when we haven’t figured out this important lesson:

Scene 3 chapter 2 4.26- 7.00

Watching that scene from a London exchange reminded me of when my friend Norm went to Columbia University, an Ivy League school for law. He interned at a Wall Street firm. When he was shown his office it appeared the carpet was stained behind the desk. Upon asking what that was about the secretary said, ‘Oh, that’s where the last guy slept.’

It wasn’t working to live it was living to work!

Max is now a very obviously hard driving, win at all costs, take no prisoners jerk of a man. He awakes one day to find that his uncle has died and he has inherited the old estate. He needs to take a day or two out of his busy schedule to take care of some legality in France. Trouble starts when he gets a SMART car to drive- not befitting of a man of his stature. Here we see him arriving at the place where he vacationed as a young lad. He begins to unwind and his memories speak to him:

Scene 4 chapter 5 17.35- 20.50

I love the lyrics of the song, ‘The world is changing, rearranging, always changing.’ And then he sees a doorway, a staircase, and an invitation. A real vacation beckons us to that.

In this next scene poor Max has been very rushed getting the paperwork in order to sell the estate and make some more money. He needs to take a few pictures for the real estate listing and get back to London for a special meeting with his boss. Let’s watch what happens while he’s snapping shots of the pool:

Scene 5 31.00- 31.50

What a metaphor for our spiritual lives, when God wants to speak to us, the phone ringing, and we can’t get to it because the circumstances of our life, the choices we’ve made, the habits we’ve developed keep us caged.

Has God been saying anything to you over the summer?

Since Max missed his important meeting his weekend at the estate has now turned into a full-blown vacation because he’s suspended from work. He does begin to wrestle in his spirit with life and what matters. In this scene he’s become romantically involved with a beautiful French woman, and is trying to lure her to leave her life in France and move to England with him. Watch what she says:

Scene 6 chapter 18 90.28- 91.08

This place doesn’t suit my life. No, your life doesn’t suit this place.

It all comes down to money for Max. Let’s watch as his ‘best friend’ helps him make the right decision:

Scene 7 chapter 19 91.50- 92.41

God created a system of rest for us called Sabbath. He decreed it is good to work, to accomplish things, but even better to rest on the seventh day, to savor life, to enjoy our blessings, to remember what really matters in life.

It is meant to recreate us inside. We need to slow ourselves down, slow our RPM’s so that we can tap into deep rest, to listen for God, to ask yourself what really matters.

He further instructed the ancient Israelites that they were to rest the land one in seven years from crops and animals. He even created a system that at the end of seven, seven year cycles there ought to be a year of Jubilee where all debts are forgiven and property restored to it’s rightful owner. Prisoners and slaves would be set free. That concept is in part what is motivating Bono to move for third world debt relief and forgiveness.

We all need a readjustment at times about what matters most to God and to us.

In the movie, Max meets a young woman named Christie who claims to be his uncle’s unknown daughter from an affair. As such she should be the rightful owner. In a stunning Jubilee move Max arranges to have her get the estate.

He quits his job and marries his French love. And the ‘peasant’ winery worker gets to stay on the estate and make new wine. Jubilee!

Running alongside the story is the subplot that the once great wine from the estate has now turned into crap- literally. Chicken manure is used as a fertilizer, and it is not pleasant. The vine isn’t producing what it should. The vineyard is in disarray.

Isaiah 5:1-7
The Song of the Vineyard
I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.

"Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?

Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it."

The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

When the land is out of kilter it doesn’t produce what it should. When we are out of kilter we don’t produce what we were created for.

Luke 13:6-9
"A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "

God isn’t really fond of orchards in disarray. Jesus isn’t fond of trees that produce no fruit. He is, though, always giving more chances to produce fruit that lasts.

What really matters?

John 15:1-17
The Vine and the Branches
"I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn't bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love.

"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.

"You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

"But remember the root command: Love one another.

Are you attached to the vine that is Jesus Christ? As we gather around Communion, the wine, our juice is symbolic that he gives us new life, refocuses us on what really matters. He recenters us.

As we move to celebrate together, listen to Russell Crowe and his band, The Ordinary Fear of God sing about ONE GOOD YEAR:

It’s New Years Day just like the day before
Same old skies of grey, same empty bottles on the floor
Another years gone by, and I was thinking once again
How can I take this losing hand and somehow win

Just give me One Good Year. To get my feet back on the ground
I’ve been chasing grace. Grace ain’t so easily found
One bad hand can devil a man, chase him and carry him down
I’ve got to get out of here, just give me One Good Year

I’m burning oil, engine’s running rough
I drive from job to job, but it’s never enough
I can’t find the will to just up and get away
Some kind of chain is holding me down and making me stay

It’s a bitter wind in your face every day
It’s the little sins that wear your soul away
When you start giving in, where do the promises all go
Will your darkest hour write a blank check on your soul

Writes Russell Crowe, "This song is important to me because it contains two of the great single lyric lines I have ever heard; one of which is "I've been chasing grace, grace ain't so easily found". The other is, "Will your darkest hour write a blank cheque on your soul"."

Because of Jesus Christ, we know where to find grace. And He makes it possible that our darkest hour will not soil our soul forever. Come.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Ordinary Fear of God

Testify to God's grace wherever you are and wherever you go!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Brennan Manning challenges us with the idea that if we heal our image of God we'll find our own healing.

“The tendency of many Christians is to remake Jesus of Nazareth, to concoct the kind of Jesus we can live with, to project a Christ who confirms our preferences and prejudices.” Brennan Manning

Do you like God?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Any spiritual path that isn't helping cultivate Christ in our hearts must be abandoned.

John 6:26-29
"You've come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free. Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last."

To that the disciples asked, "Well, what do we do then to get in on God's works?"

Jesus said, "Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God's works."