Adoption as a helpful way to communicate the good news

Adoption as a helpful way to communicate the good news

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:

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The Gospel of Bad Haircuts

The Gospel of Bad Haircuts

“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.

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How is your tribe holding you back from caring for the marginalized among you?

How is your tribe holding you back from caring for the marginalized among you?

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.

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The world needs a hug from the church, not a spanking.

The world needs a hug from the church, not a spanking.

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.”

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Use whatever gifts God has given you to serve others

Use whatever gifts God has given you to serve others

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!

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Can you love your enemy?

Can you love your enemy?

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.

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Peripateo = How we walk it out.

Peripateo = How we walk it out.

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." 

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Food fights, flying forks, and a most uncommon fellowship!

Food fights, flying forks, and a most uncommon fellowship!

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.

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"Health, wealth, and other promises God never made to us..."

"Health, wealth, and other promises God never made to us..."

Recently one of my good friends asked another of my good friends a mildly heated question: “Do you believe that the ‘Word of God’ is actually the ‘Word of God’?”

My mind was initially sent spinning down a hill of analytical confusion since the question was unknowingly structured in such a way that there could only be one logically acceptable answer, like asking if “4 equaled 4” or “strawberries were strawberries.”

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Going back the other way

Going back the other way

ENCOUNTER:  Read Mark 1: 14,15

"The time has come", he said.  "The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!"

As we studied this passage together on Sunday morning, I was struck by how many people were able to articulate clear definitions of the word "Repent."  It seems that we've heard it before and the idea resonates with us from our common human experience as it relates to being a Jesus-follower:  "I consistently veer off the track and need to stop, turn around, and go back the other way."

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Getting dressed for success.

Getting dressed for success.

ENCOUNTER:  Read Colossians 3:1-17

It takes a brave and mature soul to be quiet and reflect on what might have to die in order to more fully run after Jesus.  This passage of scripture helps spur us along.  There is quite a list to choose from:  Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying.  

Would you be willing to simply be quiet for a second and ask God what on this list is a little too rooted in your life, what is some habit or sin that is feeding your flesh and squelching the Holy Spirit?   

I love this passage of scripture because if you read it closely, Paul gives us a picture of how to move forward in the process of sanctification.  It is a three part process.  And it is very similar to the process you already have in place every morning.  

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Is your brokenness leading to devastation or redemption?

Is your brokenness leading to devastation or redemption?

Encounter:  Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Looking hard at the relationship between David and Absalom this last week highlights the deep dysfunction and brokenness that mark many of our lives.  It does seem that there are several ways to deal with this sort of chaos when it breaks into our lives. We can:

1)  Pretend it isn't there.  Actually, what is worse than pretending it is there is being totally oblivious to the fact that we have food all down our shirt as we go on with our normal lives.  Every one of us has been a victim of our context, by others, and by ourselves.  This has caused us to live with a limp, and to pretend it isn't there is just foolish.

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Spitting on the kryptonite.

Spitting on the kryptonite.

WHEN IN PURSUIT OF THE HEART OF GOD AND THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE IT BRINGS, THERE IS GREAT REWARED AWAITING THE PERSON WHO ENDURES – WHO PERSISTS.

And at first glance, those “rewards” seem pretty obvious when observing the life and experiences of Joseph (Genesis 37-47) – especially in 41:41-49 where Pharaoh makes Joseph second in command and chief operating officer over all of Egypt.

But a more careful reading of the story reveals even deeper and more valuable “rewards.” These aren’t the kinds of benefits that add to Joseph’s financial wealth or political clout but those that contribute to his personal character.

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Leveraging our doubt for spiritual formation

Leveraging our doubt for spiritual formation

If we are honest, most of our faith formation ended at 12.  For those who have grown up in and around the church our brains are full of bible stories, veggie tales, flannel graphs, and Noah's Ark wall paper.  We know the basic gospel and love that Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!

But the second adolescence begins, our wires get crossed and our brains get consumed with trying to figure out who we are and who we can make out with.  Developing our theology, deepening our intimacy with Jesus, and being shaped by the Holy Spirit get put on the back burner, sometimes for the rest of our lives.

Most of us have a childish faith.  Jesus does call us to have a child like faith, but that isn't what I am talking about.  I am talking about the childhood faith that is housed in the body and mind of an adult.  What stunts our growth is that by the time we reengage our faith in early adulthood, we bring significant questions and doubts that are no match to the flannel graph stories of our childhood.

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Thank God for OLD WOMEN!

Thank God for OLD WOMEN!

When I reflect on my own spiritual journey, some of the most significant markers have been by some old women.  It started with my aunt was the only spiritual influence in my life when I was a child.  She took me to camp, took me to Vacation Bible School, and prayed with me often.  Her investment opened the doors for Jesus to grab a hold of my heart and launch my walk with God.  

Over the years I have had several other women come into my life and be used by God in huge ways.  The one I would like to share with you is my dear friend Marti Burger.  She works at the denominational offices in Chicago and was the head of youth ministry for our denomination for many years.

When I think of where I am where I have come from in both my professional, and personal development, Marti Burger, single handedly, got me here.  Professionally, she saw a diamond in the rough and took a chance on me for some denominational leadership when nobody had any clue who I was.  And with every little opportunity for leadership I was given more opportunities to grow and develop.  Everything I get to do outside of our church and all the writing I have done is because of her encouragement and coaching.  

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An unusual leader, a reluctant warrior, and an unlikely hero.

An unusual leader, a reluctant warrior, and an unlikely hero.

ENCOUNTER:  Read Judges 4:1-24

I know, I know.  But I couldn’t resist this picture that a friend sent me from a “tongue-in-cheek” Lego rendition of Bible stories.  If you haven’t read the whole passage above and therefore you can’t imagine what is happening in this crazy picture, I can’t wait for you to read and reflect on this unusual passage!  And if you can’t, for the life of you, figure out why I would post this picture, then you missed an awkward laugh we had on Sunday morning as part of our study time in this PG-13 passage.

While we shared an uncomfortable chuckle over the gory details of this text,

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THE PROBLEM WITH QUESTIONS

THE PROBLEM WITH QUESTIONS

Voltaire encouraged us to “Judge people by their questions rather than their answers.” I think he was on to something. Sometimes it’s the questions people ask that stay with us and lead us into our greatest discoveries, isn’t it?  Francis Schaeffer’s great question of the late 70s was, “How should we, then, live?” The end of one of my favorite movies, “To End All Wars” concludes with the question, “At what price mercy?” And what lover of God could bundle biblical history’s most profound questions without mention of the one God askes in Isaiah 6, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

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