Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31

I'm not sure the Apostle Paul would have found his place in children's ministry if he were alive in this era. I can hear him now, "Johnny, if you want to cry, I'll give you something to cry about..." In today's reading, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, we find him speaking with a directness that would cause may of us to find a new church the following weekend. While certainly children's ministry is a place for an abundance of love and affection, many of us are still wanting to be coddled as if we were in grade school. May I be so bold as to say that what we need are people who love us enough to speak plainly to us, to be direct, to "Apostle Paul" us when necessary.

In verse 32 he equates his reprimand to how the Lord Himself pursues us by reminding us that being corrected is in fact a loving act so that we will not be condemned with the world. Are gentleness, softness, empathy, and comfort vital aspects of love? Absolutely! But may we not be a people who leave the rest of love behind! I Corinthians 11 love that is bold, direct, challenging, corrective, and telling should be equally celebrated!

Take some time today to read Luke 5:17-26. Two of the most poignant words in the entire account of the supernatural healing of the paralytic man were "get up." Yes he needed friends, yes he needed a divine encounter, yes he needed a revelation of Jesus, yes he needed to be forgiven...but yes he needed to get up. How many of us in an emotional sense, would rather be catered to, continue to be carried around by others, remain the victim instead of heeding the words of our loving Savior, "get up!" We read this historical account of Jesus but the practice of our lives implies that we have overlaid information that is not there. We live as if Jesus said, "Hey, could someone get this man's mat for him?" or "Hey, I know he can walk now but we need some volunteers to carry this poor man home, hasn't he been through enough today?" No...he heard Jesus say, "get up!"

I am not suggesting that compassion has no place in our lives, on the contrary! I am suggesting that true compassion is both comforting and courageous. Who in your life have you invited to speak to you with directness, to tell you no, to Apostle Paul you, to 1 Corinthians 11 you, to tell you to get up? May our churches be places where hurting people can come and find a gentle voice and a loving hand but also find a community of people who love each other enough to be confronted by trusted friends who care deeply and call us to "get up!"

Pastor Fred

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 27

Psalm 121

    1 I look up to the mountains—
      does my help come from there?

    2 My help comes from the Lord,
      who made heaven and earth!

    3 He will not let you stumble;
      the one who watches over you will not slumber.

    4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel
      never slumbers or sleeps.

    5 The Lord himself watches over you!
      The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.

    6 The sun will not harm you by day,
      nor the moon at night.

    7 The Lord keeps you from all harm
      and watches over your life.

    8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
      both now and forever.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25

Psalm 119:55 says, "I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord; therefore, I obey your instructions. A revelation of who He is gives birth to a motivation to embrace what He says. When I see His sovereignty, I surrender myself.

This great chapter continues in verse 77b, "...for Your instructions are my delight." Are they? Or do we have an "oh, okay, if a I have to..." mindset when it comes to giving generously, to loving our enemies, to forgiving people who have betrayed us, to accept suffering in innocence, to feel responsible for strangers, to take up the cause of the poor, to serve my church family, this our delight?

At City Life we teach about 12 pathways: prayer, Scripture, worship, fasting, accountability, relationships, gathering, reaching, service, generosity, stewardship, and rest...let's delight in them! Let us run after them with celebration and abandonment, our joy, our life, surrendering ourselves to His ways because we have seen His sovereignty!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24

Listen to what the Expositor's Bible Commentary states in regards to a "capstone" as mentioned in Psalm 118:22, "The capstone was an important stone that held two rows of stones together in a corner (cornerstone) or stabilized the stones at the foundation or elsewhere." Jesus is referred to as the "chief cornerstone" by Paul in Ephesians 2:20. Again Paul (Romans 9:33) and also Peter (1 Peter 2:6-8) point to Isaiah 28:16 as a prophetic Messianic metaphor, referring to the coming Messiah (Jesus) as a "precious cornerstone."

In Psalm 118:22, I am intrigued by the picture of the builder having rejected a stone. The cornerstone needed to be reliable and attractive, sturdy and aesthetically pleasing. This stone needed to be strong enough to fulfill a vital purpose and also appealing enough for a place of prominence in construction. The builder has a trained eye. "Builders" as referred to in Psalm 118 carried with them generations of training, handed down from parent to child. Our geological science today was not present then. They held a stone and in their hands, in their eyes, centuries of knowledge created a well honed intuition. They were expert craftsmen...and they were wrong.

Each of us is building a life. Our lives, our values, our sense of right and wrong have been passed down to us through centuries of culture. The wisdom of this Psalm is to confront us that our judgments are flawed. Our trained humanity, our natural intuition is incapable of choosing the right "cornerstone" for our lives. Everything about Jesus is contradictory to our natural self.

If you are sharing Jesus with people around you and they seem to be disinterested, suspicious, even contentious... be patient. They are the master craftsmen of Psalm 118. Can you imagine walking onto an job site in ancient times, going to the rubble pile and picking up a stone buried there and taking it to the head craftsman and convincing him and that this stone is supposed to not only serve as a cornerstone but the chief cornerstone of the entire structure! You might be thrown back into the rubble pile with the stone!

Nick Hokkanen on Saturday night preached about Reaching, and during his sermon he said that we cannot do the Holy Spirit's job, brilliant. We find this in 1 Corinthians 12:3. Appreciate the magnitude of the offer that you present to people in sharing Jesus. We are not trying to encourage them to live out what they already believe, although sometimes that is the case, but rather completely abandon their personal value system, cultural norms that for them have worked their way into their lives through generations of influence. There is a vast difference between being intentional and being hurried. Don't be hurried in sharing Jesus. The Holy Spirit has been working on that person's heart from the foundations of the earth! We have a part to play, most certainly (Luke 10:2), but the Holy Spirit is the only One who can administrate the supernatural work of a cornerstone replacement project!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August 23

In todays reading through, we find an interesting start to the sixth chapter of Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth. He writes, "When one of you has a dispute with another believer..." His instruction is not that they should never have disputes. His counsel is that there will be disputes, in fact, disputes that will be serious enough to necessitate formal proceedings.

How do we reconcile that with Jesus' declaration in John 13 that the world will know we are His disciples by our love for one another and again in John 17, His prayer, that we would be one as He and the Father are one? I would submit to you that oneness and unity are not contradictory to conflict. In fact, Christianity expects us to pursue relationships to a degree of vulnerability that if we have never been disappointed, if we have never been hurt, if we have never been emotionally violated, then we have not loved deep enough! Jesus does not expect us to be naive; He tells us in Matthew 10:16 that we are to be as wise as serpents yet innocent as doves. He is not demanding that we make ourselves emotionally and materially vulnerable to others impulsively, without considering a person's character or a person's reputation. We are simply being taught a principle of relationship, the bond of friendship, brotherhood, sisterhood, is not held until we cross the threshold of vulnerability. In addition, vulnerability has degrees. The wisdom of Proverbs speaks volumes to this idea of being measured in our vulnerability to others; however, we cannot be measured if we have not even begun to trust!

I Corinthians 6 is a treasure to the church. Our witness is not in an absence of conflict but rather the presence of reconciliation. When the Church begins to, among ourselves, reconcile relationships that the world itself deems irreconcilable, there will not be enough chairs and pews in an entire city to contain those who will come. We all know that we are broken, we are looking for a place that heals and unfortunately, for most people, the Church has been just another place of perpetual relational fracturing.

We are talking about Relationships this weekend at the Newport News campus of City Life, specifically Matthew 18...if you cannot be with us, checkout the podcast! We are working diligently to be a church where the ministry of reconciliation is held in high esteem!

Pastor Fred