Let’s do a bit of a different “encounter” exercise this week. You’ll need to open your search engine first. Once that’s done, go here and browse through the different renditions and studies of the return of the prodigal son until you land on the two that most stir your heart (you might also simply search by artist. In addition to Rembrandt’s classic work, some of my favorites are by Batomi, Murillo, and Barbieri). Now print copies of those two or bring them up on your computer screen and leave them open there.Read More
At MCC we have a plan for our spiritual formation. It's based on the observation that the type of Christ-follower that we're describing in our vision statement is usually involved regularly and simultaneously in four “experiences":
1) Encounter: These are the moments when we brush up against the presence of God, most often in places like worship and Bible Study, or silence and prayer. We put out our weekly devotionals (below) so you can encounter God throughout the week.
2) Be Reflective: We want to think about and reflect on what God has for us, what pricked us in our spirit, or warmed our heart and ask some questions about that.
3) Be a Blessing: Our faith and what we are learning is not a solo activity. God has called us to take who He is making us to be and to leverage our gifts and abilities to bless others. So how is God forming you and how can you use that to bless others?
4) Be Together: We cannot do this journey of faith alone. We need each other for encouragement and correction. We spur each other on toward love and good deeds.
ENCOUNTER: Read Romans 8:23-39
v. 37 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us...”
History is full of epic stories of victory being realized, even after great cost and injury, often arriving when hope had all but evaporated. The battles we experience in our personal stories, while not necessarily world wide events, can nonetheless be so earth-shattering and disorienting as to block our view to any hope of overcoming them. So promises of the victory of God through his love and cared touch us in the deepest places.Read More
This last week's message was a challenging one. If you are in the middle of the dark night of the soul and walking through the valley of the shadow of darkness, there are no trite words or even wise and insightful words that will comfort in this season. Suffering and heartbreak are devastating and groaning is really all we can do.
But for those who are not currently in that season, we have been invited into a high calling, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and run towards the suffering. We are called to selflessly give more and more of our heart, time, resources to those who are struggling and suffering and even to those who may be the cause of some of our suffering. (Remeber Jesus even washed Judas' feet.)
As our world seems to be experiencing more and more suffering, the church has an incredible opportunity. Not to stand on the sidelines and point our finger at those who do wrong, but to roll up our sleeves and walk towards those who suffer and bear with them.Read More
ENCOUNTER: Read Romans 8:14-17
v. 15 “And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”
As tragic as the stories can be in our broken world, there still exists in each of our hearts a beautiful longing for an intimate relationship with our fathers.Read More
This passage of scripture might be one of the least memorized passages of scripture for all time. I mean, who really wants to come to terms with the depth of their sin, dysfunction, and brokenness. Who wants to own that their own choices and rebellion have crushed and ruined things, people, and our intimacy with God. Who is willing to grieve, mourn and wail their own depravity?
Do you want to know who? You do!
Because the larger story of the gospel is that because of the work that Jesus has done on the cross, the punishment for our sin has been paid for and according to Romans 8:1 there is now no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. THIS IS GOOD NEWS!Read More
ENCOUNTER: Read Philippians 4:6-9
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus...”
As you read this text, can you feel your heart quickening in hope that there is a peace from God (Shalom!) that can cover you to such a degree that all your fears, anxieties, and worries fade away? Is it really possible?Read More
Remember when you were fun? That was the question I opened my sermon up with. And the more I have been thinking about it, I think fun, and more specifically joy is a good barometer of what is going on in our souls.
Joy comes when we have found internal peace with who we are, what we are and how we are. And when we are at peace and content, joy naturally follows. Think of the times when you experienced the most joy, chances are it was a time when everything seemed to be coming together.
What is challenging is whether or not something is "coming together" or not is really an internal state of being. And the biggest hindrance of not being content so you can experience joy usually has to do with some hidden and not so hidden brokenness between you and someone else, and even between you and God. Once sin and brokenness enters the equation, all bets are off.Read More
This week's devotional is from Pastor Jeff.
ENCOUNTER: Read John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
It is incredibly generous and loving that Jesus promises us that once we are in a relationship with him we will never be left in darkness. This is what Christmas is all about; that Jesus has come into the world to rescue us and invite us into his family. But the gift doesn’t stop there. He promises that he will walk the journey with us and will lead us into life at its fullest; life as it was designed to be.Read More
17th century chaplain, William Rawley used to say, “hope is a good breakfast, but a terrible supper.” In other words, as long as there is plenty of time to see it come to fruition, the positive nature of hope is a welcome ally. But when the sun is setting and the odds of a hope becoming a reality are diminishing, one would do well to make certain that hope is not the only resource available. For so often, as time winds down, the promising flame of hope tends to burn out …Read More
This week's devotional is from Pastor Jeff.
ENCOUNTER: Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19
"...but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment..."
Oprah's example of generosity (You get a car, and you get a car, and you get a car...) makes us laugh because it was just SO over the top. What a great moment in our pop culture history. But for the more cynical among us, we think to ourselves, "Yeah, well, of course she and a major US automaker can be generous... They have SO much money."Read More
I find it interesting that Jesus' first words to people were not a fierce call out compelling people to repent of the kingdom of God is near. John the Baptist had that ministry and it was pretty successful until he got his head cut off. When you read through the Gospels, Jesus does have some stern words for the self-righteous but does seem to have an entirely different approach to the alienated and disenfranchised.
I would argue that people in our context have much more in common with the alienated than with the rebellious sinners or self-righteous. And if that is true, we can look and see how Jesus engages people, and when he does, it is rarely with confronting language, or finger-pointing, or even rebuke. Rather, Jesus simply invites:Read More
“Every year. We need at least one week together every year.” It was my brother, Lenny on the phone several years ago and he was expressing his desire for us to be together for an extended annual event. He didn’t care if it was a hunting trip, a golf week, or even digging ditches together In the Sacramento hardpan, but brothers needed to find a way to be face to face.Read More
“To my dad, me learning and growing was more important than him looking good.”
That’s what I recall thinking the first time my dad (a master barber) came into Moler Barber College on Market Street in San Jose back in 1970 and sat in my chair for a haircut. My father had a conviction that every man should have a trade to “fall back on in an emergency,” thus, shortly after beginning my sophomore year of high school, I was enrolled in a skid-row barber school, attending every day from 4-7 after I finished my high school classes. Thrusting this Suburban kid (who, at 16, was just barely old enough to drive) into such a radically urban environment was scary, but seeing my dad walk in and ask me to cut his hair for the first time certainly topped it. Apparently, he wasn’t satisfied to just HAVE a conviction, he was actually going to PARTICIPATE in it. And I thought he was making a terrible mistake.Read More
As our political discourse gets more and more dysfunctional, the chances for the poorest, weakest, and most marginalized have less and less a chance of protection. Think of how many issues have become politicized, and done so in the most toxic way. What is so sad is that most good-hearted people are in agreement that there needs to be change and that people need help. But the fact that the solutions so deeply divide us is not helpful.
This is where the church might be able to step in.
Unfortunately, in the past, the religious right has gotten too close to the Republican party giving away all of their moral authority to fight for the justice issues that mattered to them. In the same way, the religious left is currently giving all of their moral authority away by linking arms so closely with the Democratic Party as they fight for the justice issues that matter to them. And in the end, the weak and poor are not protected, and the church's moral authority gets destroyed.Read More
Argue that a primary piece of the “good news” of Jesus is the fact that he came to bring peace on earth (as was announced – or at least presumed – by Isaiah in chapter 9 and the angel of Luke 2), and someone will, quite justifiably, point to the words of Jesus himself as recorded in Matthew 10 (drawing upon Micah 7, by the way): “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”Read More
I could not be more excited about this new series. For the next few weeks, we are going to be leaning into our true calling, taking on the mantle of Jesus, and figuring out how to be good news to a world that is in desperate need of it!
The basic idea is simple; Jesus came to bring good news. And we, by being followers of Jesus, by being adopted into the family of God, part of the body of Christ, a masterpiece created for good works, it is time to live more fully into our calling!
As followers of Jesus, we don't simply use our time, efforts, and resources to deepen our faith and intimacy with Jesus. That spiritual work is done so we are fully equipped to do the incredible things that God has called us to do! To be good news!Read More
Two words that point to moments of decision that could have changed my life are also key to the force of one of the readings in our #SummerInTheScriptures reading list for last week. Those words: “But If…”Read More
Encounter: Read Luke 7:1-10
One of the things I love that young adults are bringing to the table is their compassion, mercy and justice bent. Almost everything is seen through that lens, and their heart is to stand with the oppressed and leverage their power against the oppressor. This is always framed through Jesus teaching on the Kingdom of God and using Jesus righteous anger against the religious leaders, specifically in the 7 woes passage and Jesus turning over tables, as examples of this righteous anger.
I love this perspective and I love the way this pushes many of us older Christians past our comfort zones. Thank you for that!
As I was studying and preparing for Sunday's sermon, I couldn't escape the cultural and political chaos that is ever present on the news and on social media. We are living in a time where hatred is proving to be more and more ugly. And I am afraid that we are sliding towards a world view that makes hatred towards those who hate acceptable.Read More
ENCOUNTER: Read Eph 5:15-17
" Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. "
We had some good laughs on Sunday as I taught our congregation the Greek word used here for "live": peripateo. Most people remembered it because is sounded like "pair of potatoes."Read More
In reading Luke 15 (and perhaps listening to the sermon I brought on that text last Sunday) Christ’s passion for inclusion really can’t be missed. Even though the parablolic genre he used to offer a response to the stiff-lipped complaints about “rabble” being invited to dine with him seems to soften the blow a bit, the content of those stories hints at an obvious repulsion on Christ’s part.Read More