Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Blessing

Every day, I try and spend a few minutes reading my bible study plan.  It usually is two or three Old Testament chapters, and one chapter from the New Testament.  Sometimes, I will see a thread of thought that runs through the Old and the New.  Well, it happened today.  Let me explain...

When the Israelites marched into the Promised Land, God promised them victory.  He told them that He would be with them at every turn.  They started by conquering the land of Gilead, where two Amorite kings named Sihon and Og ruled.  Israel defeated them quickly, and it made a fantastic impression on all the people who lived there.  One of the natives said their victory over the Amorites "made their hearts melt and their courage fail".

The walls of Jericho fell.
They defeated an alliance of Southern kings.
They swept through an alliance of Northern kings.
85 year old Caleb conquered a city of giants - trusting God for strength.

And God delivered.  Again, and again, and again.

Joshua 21:43-45 says, "So the Lord gave the people all the land he had promised their ancestors.  The people took the land and lived there.  The Lord gave them peace on all sides, as he had promised their ancestors.  None of their enemies defeated them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them.  He kept every promise that he had made to the Israelites; each one came true."

Look at the first part of that verse again... I think the phrasing is interesting.  I underlined it and made it bold.  God gave the land... the people took the land.  I believe that the author is saying that the Promise was only fulfilled when the people took action.  It's a sure thing, but you have to do the work.

This was the same arrangement Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden.  They were told to work the land, but that their work would always be productive.  When they sinned, they are cursed with work that doesn't always produce.  Thorns and thistles were the result of sin, but work was always part of the plan.  God will give his people victory, but they still have to move forward.

So it was with the Israelites.  God kept every promise.  If they moved forward, he would give victory.  Now, if you read through the book of Joshua, you find that the Israelites didn't always move forward.  Sometimes they refused to keep fighting.  Sometimes they were too afraid of the obstacles.  God doesn't punish them for it... other than the punishment of unfulfilled destiny.  There were blessings to be had that the Israelites never received.

That was my Old Testament reading.

Then, in the New Testament, I read about the church in Corinth.  They were fighting about their rights.  Some believed that it was morally inappropriate to buy groceries from idol temples... all the profits were subsidizing false religion.  Others believed that you should buy your groceries wherever they were cheapest.  If that money went to bad stuff, well, it couldn't be helped.

So the argument was about freedom.  Are we, in Christ, free to do whatever we want?  Here's how Paul answers...

"I have the right to do anything," you say - but not everything is beneficial.  "I have the right to do anything" - but not everything is constructive.  No one should seek their own good, but the good of others... Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God - even as I try to please everyone in every way.  For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.                                                                                            - 1 Corinthians 10:23-33

Yeah, Paul says, you have the right to do anything.  You are free.  But then he asks them to remember the bigger priorities.  There are bigger fish to fry here than saving a dime/pound on cube steaks.  Paul says that in everything we do, we want to advocate for God's glory.

It might seem too hard.  You might think that it's just not worth it.  But God's glory is where we are most blessed.  God honors those who honor Him.  As we lay our lives down, He lifts us up.  As I reach more and more people for the Lord, I am empowered with joy, peace and purpose.  He fills me up as I use myself up for Him.

I thought about the ancient Israelites.  All of the Promised blessings were there, they just had to move forward.  But they didn't.  It seemed too hard.  It seemed too scary.  They chose momentary comfort over a fully delivered Promised Land.

If I want to receive the blessing of a strong spiritual life, I might have to lose some of my comfort, time, energy, money, reputation, and influence. I will certainly have to lose some control.  I believe that the rewards will be worth it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sermon on the Mount Wrap-Up... Or Can We?

In Richard Foster's Streams of Living Water, he says, "If you seek holiness of life, I encourage you to make a friend of the Sermon on the Mount.  It is an expanded commentary on the royal law of love.  And Jesus' life is an expanded commentary on the Sermon on the Mount...  Always appropriate.  Always able.  Always giving the touch that was needed.  Always speaking the word that was needed...  We see Jesus consistently doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done."

He goes on to say that this is purity of heart, and in talking about various things related to Jesus' embodiment of the Sermon on the Mount, he touches on the utopian idea of social justice and our role in it.  Then taking a step back, Foster looks at the whole of Jesus' life and says maybe Jesus was living a utopian dream.  "Perhaps.  And yet this is exactly how Jesus himself lived...  Compassion... Cleansing... raising a child from the dead...  says Jesus, the messianic kingdom of perpetual jubilee is indeed coming, but in a way no one would have guessed."

Would anyone guess that YOU might proclaim freedom to them?  Would anyone guess that YOU would have courage in the face of adversity?  Would anyone guess that YOU would heal, or cleanse, or speak life into someone else?  That's what he's talking about, you know.  He's talking about you and me and regular folks like us proclaiming this freedom that comes from knowing He's got you covered!

So as Easter approaches, and we start looking around our community, let's think about how we might be the proclaimers of freedom for folks wrapped up so tight in the bondage of darkness they get no glimmer but YOU.  Then be light.  Have courage.  Be kind.  Love like Jesus loves!

in Christ,

p.s. there are a ton of resources on RightNow Media that deal with talking with your neighbor about the Lord, living it out.  Search on outreach, evangelism, or just look up "Perfect Blend".  Work through the videos on your own or with a friend.  Let me know how you are doing!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Get RightNow, right now!

So we have put out there a new media library partnership that MPCC has entered with RightNow Media.  They are a non-profit ministry dedicated to putting Christian content in everyone’s reach, 24/7.  To that end, they are constantly adding small group studies, training videos, and even Christian conference videos to their site.

So how do you use this thing?  I know if you’ve jumped in to look at it, it can be pretty daunting.  6,000+ videos, including kids content, so where do you begin?
First, you got to go get the thing! 

Then, get in there and play around a little - at no point will RightNow ever ask you for a credit card or any kind of payment, so jump in there.  You can do this on your computer, phone, or if you have a Roku stick or apple tv, you can watch it on your bigger screen.  If you are technically challenged, we have our own tech support folks at MPCC (translation - eager to serve teenagers) who will help you!

There is a little spy glass looking thing up in the right hand corner that will let you search on various topics, authors, or titles – and is it ever thorough!  So, for example, you like geography and history, and you want to learn more about the area of the New Testament church – you could type in a search on “geography”.  Or maybe you know that Ray VanderLaan has a lot of good geo-historical material, so you search on his name.  Or maybe you know the title of such a study.  It’s a lot like using the card catalog in a library, because, well, that’s what it is.

Maybe you need some help in a sin area like pornography, or drug or alcohol abuse, or anger, or pride – these are all topical searches you can do.  Maybe your marriage needs some help.  The system is anonymous on purpose – no one knows what anyone else is viewing or searching on (with the exception of targeted training posts that we send you).

RightNow is also an outreach – you can add anyone you want to without raising the cost to the church.  Our hope is that you use this as a missional tool with friends and family.  So maybe you are in a conversation with someone about one of the video series that has helped you.  They say they would like something like that.  You can give it to them right on the spot.  It is a pretty awesome way to engage others without feeling like you need to have all the answers.

Finally, it is our hope that our small group leaders will use this tool to pull their curriculum from.  A couple reasons – first, it is paid for in full, so there would be no additional expense in bringing new folks in.  Second, if you are in a group, you know how the time flies by, you have more questions, you’d like to view a part of the video again, etc.  By being in a group that uses RightNow Media for curriculum, you will be able to go back and review what you needed to.  And if you miss a session, you won’t have to chase dvd’s around, you can view it when you can.

If you haven’t jumped in yet, I encourage you to follow the following link, take advantage of this, and change your viewing habits.  What you put in your head is not neutral – put good stuff in, and you will bear good fruit!