Every Person

I remember one of the biggest forms of evangelism in America was when we handed out tracts. I’m not sure why we thought that was so good and I’m sure it helped lead some people to Christ, but I was always uncomfortable with them. They seemed to be more about scaring people out of hell than inviting them into heaven.

But some missionaries in Taiwan are taking an approach that has some similarity to the old evangelism tracts with a major and in my opinion positive change. It is scripture, not a story or a discourse on spiritual laws, but just the scripture that helps the people who are overwhelmed by the large amount of scripture of the Bible. They don’t know where to go or where to begin. They don’t know how to make head nor heals of it, but the method that New Tribes Mission has employed seems to be effective in Asian cultures.

Take time to click the link and read the article.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/may/32.45.html?start=1

This is more than the tract-like publications New Tribes developed. This is about cultural evangelism – reaching people where they are at.

One of the New Tribes training centers is close to where I live in Camdenton, Missouri. We have several New Tribers (as we affectionately call them) attend our congregation.

http://www.ntm.org/

What might we learn for our culture from this method?  That might be a question we should investigate.

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No Reason to Sing

He stood up in front of the group and shared a very intimate and personal testimony.  He is a somewhat guarded man.  He doesn’t open his heart to very many people very easily.  But today there was a burning desire within him to open up to our church.

Here is what he shared.  He listens to Christian radio all the time (91.7, Spirit FM http://www.lifechangingradio.org/home.php).  But two months ago he turned the radio off because he didn’t feel there was any reason to sing anymore.  That’s hard. He is into music big time.  He plays piano and loves to organize music for the church to worship with.

The reason for this is that his wife in her early 40s has been diagnosed with cancer. . .  again.  5 years ago she suffered from breast cancer.  She had surgery and went a series of treatments which included chemo-therapy.  The doctors believed that she was cancer free.  She had exams every 3 to 6 months to watch for any possibility that the cancer has returned.

Than a couple of months ago, they found cancer in her liver.  After some run around with the doctors (doubt and unsure diagnosis) it was determined that it was the breast cancer that masticized to her liver and they found it in her lungs and lymph nodes as well.  And the cancer was already at stage four.

He shared his despair and that is what took away the desire to sing.

But a couple of weeks ago, his wife turned the radio on and a song came on (I’m sorry I don’t know the song or the artist at this moment) that pierced his heart and opened him to allowing God to reach and heal his hurt.

He has regained his joy and even if he loses his wife (who we praying for and supporting with love and hope) his joy has not been lost, but restored and now he can sing with all his heart and soul.

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What does it mean to be “In Christ?”

If all of life has purpose, the single most important purpose is to know Jesus Christ.  And the burning question may be why?  Why do I need to know Jesus Christ?

Jesus is the single way to know and experience God.  It figures since God sent him for that purpose and that he is the “Son of God” (meaning ordained/chosen by God not a physical son).

Romans 6 and 8 talk about being in Christ (6:11, 23; 8:1, 39).  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us what it means to be in Christ, “Whoever is in Christ is now a new creation.

In Christ we are made new.  Whatever we were, sinful sinners, the person we were, has been made new.  The character of our human nature has changed in Christ, therefore we are new.

So Romans 6:11; we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.  Sin doesn’t rule in our lives anymore.  It has no power over us.  It cannot make us its prisoner if we are in Christ.

Romans 6:23; the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In Christ, we experience eternal life.  That’s the forever moment with God.  Given to us now, in Christ, with future promises.

Romans 8:1; there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  That old self was set for destruction, meaning, eternal punishment, but the new self (new creation) is no longer condemned.

Romans 8:39; (nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  In Christ, we are never separated from and nothing can remove us from God’s love, in Christ.

Even Romans 12:5; in Christ we who are many form one body.  It’s interesting that so many different backgrounds (socially, ethnically, economically, educationally, etc) all come together into one body, one union of faith and belief and hope.

We are made new.  We become what God intended for us in the first place, in Christ.

In fact, in Christ, God says, “I know who you are.”  Before, when we were outside of Christ, God didn’t know us.  He couldn’t, he doesn’t have anything to do with sin.  As sinners, he wouldn’t.  But, in Christ he can.  Christ is without sin.  Christ’s sacrifice paid for our sin.  Our faith joins us with Christ and through our union with Christ, God forgives our sin, and makes us his heirs with Christ and that’s when he knows us.

God chooses to forget your sin, but he knows who you are and what you are tempted too and strengthens you and empowers you and with that you will stand.

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Why a Bucket List?

I have a question.  Where does the term bucket list come from and why does it refer to things I want to or need to do before I die?

There is one thing every person must do before they die and that is to become a faithful, believing, obedient disciple of Jesus Christ.  Without that, nothing matters and the horrifying result of failing to accept Jesus and become his disciple is an everlasting, eternal separation from God.

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Comparing the Beatitudes and the Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23

The fruit of the Spirit is really a beautiful thing when it is found in the lives of the followers of Jesus Christ. It makes Jesus’ disciples a picture of Christ in this world still.

Jesus painted a picture of the life of his followers many years before Paul shared the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Christians in Galatia.

Before Paul wrote these two verses on the fruit of the Spirit, he notes the character and activity of sin, of living in the ways of the world.  This is not how a follower of Christ, a Christian lives, but, when he contains the fruit of the Spirit, these characteristics are how a Christian lives.

Jesus starts with the characteristics of his followers, those who belong to the kingdom of heaven.  The Beatitudes begin a long sermon showing these realities.  And both Jesus and Paul are showing us the truth and reality about the Law as well.

In our last post on May 13th, we suggested that there is a connection between the Beatitudes that Jesus gave in Matthew 5 and the fruit of

Matthew 5:3-12

the Spirit that Paul wrote about in Galatians 5.

Let’s see if we can see the connection between the Beatitudes and the fruit of the Spirit.

Those who are poor in spirit that will inherit the kingdom of heaven have the fruit of love.

Those who mourn and will be comforted have kindness.

Those who are meek and inherit the earth are gentle.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled have  faith.

Those who are merciful will receive mercy and have patience.

Those who are pure in heart will see God and have goodness.

Those who are peacemakers will be called sons of God and have peace.

Those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness have self-control.

Those who are persecuted for the sake of Christ have joy.

There is obvious overlap, but consider these comparisons and connections for now.

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The Beatitudes & the Fruit of the Spirit

Matthew 5:3-12

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most significant sermons ever given.  While Jesus addresses a person’s relationship to the law

Scripture Quotations are from the New International Version of the Bible

He gives the character of his disciples.  Jesus’ disciples will live in the ways he describes in Matthew 5, 6 & 7.

The first part of the sermon is called the “beatitudes.”  I used to believe that word meant, these sweet little quips in Matthew 5:3-12. Looking in a dictionary I learned that the word means “supreme blessedness, exalted happiness.”  The dictionary adds, “any of the declarations of blessedness pronounced by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/beatitude).

A beatitude is a declaration of blessedness.  That’s cool.  “Blessed are…” is the beginning of each of Jesus declarations.  It has been translated as “happy are,” “joyful are” and I’m sure in a number of different ways. These are good things.

There are 9 beatitudes.  The first 4 have to do with one’s relationship to God and the next 4 have to do with one’s relationship with people and #9 expounds on #8.

But have you ever considered that there 9 aspects to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

22″But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23

Surely this in no coincidence.  9 beatitudes and 9 parts to the fruit of the Spirit.

We will in future posts note the exact connections.  For now, note that this is about the righteousness that God attributes into the life of the Christian.

The character of Jesus’ followers is righteousness.  They are made righteous by God according to their faith in Christ.  They are to live in the ways of righteousness.  To do that, we need to know how.  Jesus is giving us the how and encouraging us to live in the way that God now views us in Christ Jesus.

Compare the 9 beatitudes to the 9 parts of the fruit of the Spirit and we’ll compare notes here real soon.

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My Identity

Who Am I?

From the moment we’re born we go through changes.  Our environment changes.  We were safe and comfortable in our mother’s womb and then, the climate changes, there is light, the sounds are new, and we begin to experience life on the outside.  Each moment is new and our bodies change.  The changes are more frequent the younger we are but we continue to change (hair color, the amount of hair, weight, sagging parts of our body, etc.  Smile, it happens).

We also try to find our place in this world.  In one way or another, we struggle with who we are and who we want to and who we will become.  We struggle with the why’s and our chances and choices have the greatest effect on what happens in our lives.

Usually what we choose in any given situation is based on what we have through experience found to work.  Like one child whose mom was a drug addict.  She would get high and be out of it for a couple of days or more.  Her child, a toddler, would be left to himself and cry because he was hungry and his diaper needed changed.  She would only do something about it when she was coming down and only to stop his crying.  It was annoying, but her little boy needed nurturing and care.

He eventually learned to fend for himself and when he was removed from his mother, he was given to an aunt who wasn’t much better.  She did similar things and didn’t care for him a whole lot better.  Since he had to learn to fend for himself so much, as a teen,

Who Am I?

whenever issues arose, he would go into his protective mode and try to do things physically and emotionally which prevented him from having healthy relationships with anyone.

We are always trying to find our place in life.  Since life is constant change, we are still trying to find where we belong.  And for some of us, it is hard.

The Harry Potter series of movies is interesting in that it is the prolonged and compelling story of a boy who is trying to find his place in this world.  His world is toppled barely before he gets started in this world.  Losing his parents he is thrown in with an uncaring, unfair, and unkind aunt and uncle.  When he finds out that he possesses magical abilities and attends a school of magic, his first choices are his friends and into which house he will be with.  He is constantly pursued by the bad guy and Harry’s has to make choices based on what he knows and understands and it affects the whole world around him.  His world and his friends world as well.

Harry Potter is about figuring out where he fits in the world.

God has a place in this world for each of us.  But our identity is bound to Christ.  Because our identity is ultimately about where will be in the end.  There are only two choices, heaven or hell.  Moving in with God or being thrown in the prison made for the devil.

If I am in Christ, I am identified by Christ.  I am identified by his blood and by his character and my place in this world and in the world to come is a part of God’s kingdom.

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