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2 Corinthians 5 – You 2.0

Many of you might not know this, but the rumors are out and if they are to be believed, the iPhone 5 will be announced on September 12 and for sale nine days later.  I am currently the owner of an iPhone 4, but the button on the front doesn’t always work, it has a small yellow burn spot on the screen and it’s just getting kind of worn down.  I am ready for my upgrade.  I might even find myself in line at an Apple store later this month.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul is ready for his upgrade, although not for a new phone.  Paul is talking about our new bodies we will receive when we arrive in Heaven.  And here is the most important thing you need to know about your heavenly body…it will be a body.  Really.  We have no reason to believe that we will be able to fly or float.  We have no examples of people getting wings (mostly because we don’t turn into angels).  In fact, Paul here uses two metaphors to point us to this reality.

First, Paul talks about how we currently live in tents and God is preparing a permanent house for us.  What he means is that we were created to have a “housing,” or bodies for our spirits.  So as our old tents pass away, we are able to move into the more permanent houses that God has prepared.  Secondly, Paul uses the idea of being clothed versus being naked, as if to say that if our spirits were to be without a physical body that we are behaving as unnaturally as if we were to be walking around town naked.  We are designed to have physical bodies.  The bodies we have now are going to die, but the ones that wait for us are eternal.  Now that sounds like a pretty good upgrade.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Martyr’s Memorial

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This cross has particular meaning for me. It is a memorial to all of the martyrs that were executed in the colosseums. I took it in ’06 while in Rome.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in Photos, Uncategorized

 

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1 Corinthians 2 – True Wisdom

True Wisdom From God’s Spirit

Some of the claims of the first Christians made very little sense to Jews, Romans, or anybody else.  They claimed that a common religious leader from Nazareth was the Messiah.  They claimed that the Messiah was crucified by Romans, but that’s okay because he was resurrected three days later.  They claimed that this was a first of many and that others could share in this resurrection through faith in this Messiah.  This even meant Gentiles could become part of God’s people and that Jesus was more King than Caesar.  And then there were teachings about giving to the poor, forgiving endlessly, and loving enemies.

So it should come as no surprise that Paul is defending the “wisdom” of the church.  He wants the church and anybody else to know that they are mature and wise, but not by the measure and understanding of the world.  After all, if the world understood God’s wisdom and plan they wouldn’t have killed Jesus.  This special wisdom comes from God’s Spirit and is a mystery to the world.

Paul then goes on to talk about how God’s Spirit knows God better than anybody.  Just like my spirit knows me and your spirit knows you deeply, God’s Spirit knows God the best. How awesome is it then that God’s Spirit comes to dwell in each and every Christian!  Through God’s Spirit living in us, we can come to know the deeper things of God.  We have the mind of Christ.

I think that this passage tells us two things about the Spirit’s working in each of us.  Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in God’s people, we are able to better understand God and have a more accurate knowledge about who He is and what He does.  Secondly, God’s Spirit helps us to have a better and stronger relationship with the Creator of the universe.  It provides us with knowledge and understanding and relationship.  What a blessing!

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Acts 26 – Not guilty, not crazy, not free

There are a few important details in Acts 26.  First, Paul is now standing trial before a third Roman magistrate.  We’ve already been through Felix and Festus and now Paul is before Agrippa.  It appears that Paul has some background knowledge or relationship with Agrippa that causes him to think that Agrippa is well versed in the Prophets.  We don’t get to find out what it us, but Paul jumps right into a Bible study with Agrippa.  It’s so poignant that by the end of it, Agrippa actually has to ask if Paul expects to convert him.  Apparently Paul does!  After two trials, Paul isn’t just trying to get out any more, he’s just trying to convert the judges, and anybody else who will listen.  That’s pretty impressive.

Paul also focuses intently on the Resurrection and what that means to Israel, to Christians, and to all people.  God can raise the dead.  He did so in Jesus.  He now offers this to all who will follow him.  And this simple teaching is turning the world upside down.

My personal favorite line in the entire chapter is when Paul says, it is my prayer that all who are listening will become like me…”except for these chains.”  I can’t help but wonder if that is a moment of clarification or a somewhat sly and playful remark that would have let everybody in the room chuckle for a moment.  I like to think it’s the latter.

No matter how you look at it, Luke wants to make sure that we know that nobody in the Roman government thinks Paul is guilty of anything.  In fact, the only reason Paul is imprisoned is Paul (and his appeal to Caesar). Nobody in the Jewish government has any solid accusation against him either.  And Paul and Agrippa both agree that he isn’t crazy and that he is reasonable.  If you are considering becoming a Christian and find out that one of the movement’s leaders was arrested, imprisoned for years by multiple Roman rulers, punished many times, considered crazy by some and a villain by others, you might have second thoughts.  However, Acts 26 clearly dismisses any thoughts of that nature.  It gives Paul, and Christianity credibility.  It wasn’t illegal.  They weren’t criminals.  And they weren’t crazy.  Nonetheless, nobody knows what to do with them.

On to Rome.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Acts 25 – Appeal to Caesar

(While Ryan is away in Barbados and Guyana, we will have a few changes in our blogging rotation and possibly even a guest blogger. Please keep Ryan and the teens in your prayers while they are on a mission trip.)

Trial Before Festus

Paul had originally been imprisoned under Felix, but Festus has taken over Felix’s post, which means the politics of Paul’s trial have changed completely. Festus is trying to do his job well, but also wants to begin building a good relationship with the Jews. When the Jewish leaders ask to put Paul on trial in Jerusalem, Festus seems to like the idea of using this as a chance to build relationship with the Jews. Paul seems to recognize the dangerous dynamic developing here and appeals to Caesar for trial. Later Festus tells Agrippa that he would have let Paul go had he not appealed to Caesar. There seem to be three possibilities about what was really going on:

1. Festus was going to convict and sentence Paul in order to appease the Jewish leaders. Paul wisely sees a chance to escape Festus and the Jews and arrive at Rome by appealing to Caesar. Once Paul appealed to Caesar, he was fine with that as well, except that he couldn’t find a charge to place against him in the emperor’s court. He asks for Agrippa’s advice and of course, now says he would have otherwise released him because saying anything else makes him look a fool.

2. Festus really couldn’t find any real charge to place against Paul but right before Festus was able to release him Paul appeals to Caesar and Festus likes the idea of passing on this responsibility. Had Paul kept his mouth shut he would have gone free.

3. Paul knew he was about to go free but decided that with these angry Jews who had promised not to eat until Paul was dead, that he was better off traveling to Rome with a well-armed Roman guard responsible for his safe transport.

Personally, I lean strongly towards option one.  Now Festus has to find legal grounds to send Paul to Rome, but he can’t come up with anything himself so King Agrippa is called in as a legal consult.  What’s clear is that the Jewish authorities have rebelled against God and the Roman authorities can’t figure out what to do with this new Christian movement.  It’s almost that when they look at “The Way” as the early Christians were called, they felt like it was probably revolutionary and might even be illegal, but they weren’t doing anything wrong.  How do you handle a group like that?

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Acts 22 – Paul Is Brilliant

Paul Preaches to the Mob

So at the end of chapter 21, Paul survives a riot and is saved by a group of Roman soldiers who haul him out the mob mostly because it’s the only way to calm them down.  So as they lead Paul off for questioning to find out what got everybody so riled up, he asks them in Greek if he can speak to the crowd.  This shocks them enough that they agree.  Paul then immediately silences the crowd by speaking in their language, Aramaic.  Paul is so intelligent and so well rounded that he is able to connect with the soldiers and connect with the angry mob enough to get the one thing he really wants, a chance to share his testimony with God’s people in Jerusalem.  He starts with all of the things they have in common.  He might be from Tarsus, but he was raised in Jerusalem.  He was a student of Gamaliel, thoroughly trained in the law of “our ancestors” and he was zealous in his faith, even persecuting the believers of the way.  He shares he conversion story and includes Ananias’ own devout Jewish credentials.  At this point, the angry mob likes much of what Paul has shared.

Then he says the one thing that turns him from potential ally to enemy number one.  “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”

And that’s the last of his sermon as far as the crowd is concerned.  In the mind of the crowd, this is an act of treason.  He claims that he has been commissioned by God to do the unthinkable: to have table fellowship with Gentiles, to dismiss the generations of war, oppression, persecution, defilement, and simply welcome them into God’s people.  They won’t even hear it.  The guards whisk Paul away to try to calm the situation again.

But in doing so, the guards make a miscalculation all their own.  They are about to start torturing Paul to find out what he knows (and in doing so also earn the good will of the angry mob).  Then Paul drops a bomb on them, “Is this any way to treat a Roman citizen?”  Suddenly the tables have turned.  Throughout his time in Jerusalem, Paul understands how to use his language skills, his understanding of culture and his citizenship to take control of so many situations.

It’s a great reminder that God gives each one of us unique characteristics and traits that we can use to grow his Kingdom.  Have you ever thought about the ways God can use who you are, your skills or the things that have happened in your past to glorify His Kingdom and spread the Gospel?

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Acts 12 – God’s Not Fair

God’s Not Fair…By Our Standards

Earlier in the book there were two perfectly qualified men vying to fill the newly vacant role as twelfth Apostle.  They cast lots.  One was in and the other…well we don’t really know.  Can you imagine being that close to becoming one of the twelve only to lose on the toss of a dice?  To our Twenty-first Century sense of fairness, well this simply isn’t fair.  But it doesn’t seem to bother anybody in the First Century.

This comes up again here in Acts 12 where James is imprisoned and executed by Herod while Peter is simply led out of jail by an angel.  It’s so effortless he thinks he is dreaming.  If God could rescue Peter, then why not James too?  The short answer is that we don’t know, but to our democratic, all men created equal mindset this can often be troubling.  But it didn’t seem to be a problem in the first church.

It seems that this dynamic is created by the overlap of the current age with it’s griefs and sorrows and the age to come with its new life and energy.  The first Christians were comfortable accepting that God was in control of transforming the old world into the new world but that it would be a process that would rarely be smooth and as expected.  Sometimes an Apostle is executed by a cruel king looking to score a few political points.  Other times the Apostle walks out untouched and the guards are executed instead.

All we need to know is that when we pray and trust him that God will ultimately do more than we could ever imagine.  Although that might happen in ways and at times that are not of our choosing or understanding, God is doing something big and He invites us to join him in it.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

How Do You Read Your Bible?

I’ve studied a few textbooks in my day. I have dug deep into their information to understand what I need to know for tests. I have forgotten much of that information that I learned in Grade School. I remember that there are different layers of rocks but I honestly couldn’t tell you what they are even though I do find it fascinating.

I’ve soaked up a number of books by different authors. I could probably write out most of the thoughts of Mere Christianity or give you a detailed explanation of what N.T. Wright says about the world in his book, Evil and the Justice of God. I like to read these books so the information sticks with me as I pour over their pages.

While in school I was forced to read a lot of books that I remember a small bit about. I always enjoy a good “Big Brother” joke from George Orwell’s1984, or a quote from Of Mice and Men. I hated having to read these books at the time but I am glad I did. I used to read a small section during commercials on T.V. or I would cram it all in right before the test and just skim over it and try to pick up the story line.

How do you read your Bible? Is it a textbook? A good book someone recommended and you like the thoughts in it? A novel that makes you feel good? Or a book you know you’re supposed to read so you do so out of obligation? Should the Bible be read in any of these ways? Take a look at the first Psalm:

Psalm 1

Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

There are a number of different approaches that one can take to reading the Bible that help you come into a deeper relationship with God. If you want to know some different ways please let me know and I’ll talk to you about them. I used to try and read God’s Word because I felt obligated. I never got much out of it. We were always told to read our Bibles growing up with the reason that when we need to know answers we would find them in the Scriptures. I think starting with obligation is an ok place to start but we need to get past that.

We’ve been called to a life transforming relationship with our Father. When we meditate on His Words we allow them to transform our lives. We have to listen to what He is saying to us each day through His Scripture. I’ve stopped reading my Bible for the big test at the end. I want to be transformed daily by the Words that God writes on my heart through His Holy Scripture. I want to be like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding fruit each season, never withering.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Uncategorized