NTX – Dec 21 – Jude

Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way! – Jude 2 (The Message) 

That’s the way Jude starts. I like it. I need it. Jude has some difficult things to talk about. He has a painful task ahead of him in writing this letter. He has some scary topics to discus that likely led to very difficult times in the lives of the early believers that he wrote to and about. Before he goes there he stands on love.

Relax, times may get tough, we may have a difficult road ahead, but love is on the way.

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NTX – Dec 7 – Philemon

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love.                      Philemon 8-9

At this point Paul is older, but he’s still leaning on the side of love when it comes to tough conversations and difficult situations. He holds more authority than most (at least within the church at this time) but he doesn’t demand his way. This becomes even more impressive to me when I think about all of the little issues that Paul would have been dealing with. We can see several of them in his letters but certainly we have no clear picture of every stress, every hard place, every gentle correction, every vision adjustment, every doctrinal error, every church issue, every out right sin, that Paul had to deal with. He could shake an authoritative finger in disgust but instead he appeals in love. A great example, and much of the time he does it from prison.

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NTX – 11.29 – Philippians 1-4

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure…                                                                                                       Philippians 2:14-15

 

This is seriously one of the most difficult places for me to continuously and fully submit to God. I know it is right to avoid complaining. I know it’s better not to argue. I know that the power of Christ’s love alive in my life is stronger than my desire to murmur. I want to be blameless and pure. The problem is not that I go around picking fights all the time. I don’t complain when the waitress is rude. I don’t complain when the mail runs late. Instead, I burn inwardly. Of course the frustrations of life can cause me to grumble or argue aloud (Sheri can testify to that) but the bigger danger for me happens inside my own spud-noggin. I tend to use too much energy silently and mentally complaining about one thing or another. I have excuses that make it feel biblical. We do have countless places in the Scripture that we can point to and see that those who have gone before us have grumbled and complained to God. (Check out the psalms!)

But I wonder, were those guys as drained by it as much as I sometimes allow? It’s a tricky thing. It’ll sneak up on you. Everything can be going great and then suddenly you realize you’ve spent a pile of time quietly arguing and complaining…to God? Maybe. Yikes, I don’t like this post. I’ll probably complain about it all day.

 

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NTX – Nov 22 – 1 Corinthians 15-16

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Cor 15:26

Paul spends time in chapter 15 writing about death. Apparently, we don’t need to fear death. The Apostle tells us that death will be defeated and that Christ will return. Look, I don’t know when he’s coming. I don’t care to argue about when Christ is coming. What I need confidence in is the fact that Jesus already conquered sin and death and he’s going to return.

I think that’s what Paul is saying. It’s a done deal. If you believe that then it doesn’t really matter if it’s pretrib, postrib, 3 ½ years of clay toes, head wounds, embedded 666, worldwide currency, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Has death lost its sting or not? Paul seems to think so; it allows him to stay focused on the mission of fully giving himself to God’s work. We can do the same.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.1 Cor 15:58

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NTX – Nov 18 – 1 Corinthians 1-6

 

 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:4

Paul starts his letter to the folks living in Corinth with a greeting followed immediately by these words.

In my Bible the heading reads “Thanksgiving.”

I understand Paul’s feelings. Last night I looked on as the body of Story Point fed over two hundred people. I watched as people from all walks of life served together. I saw filled stomachs, wide smiles, and hearts fueled by Christ. Today I’ll be continuously giving thanks for the grace that God has given to us in Christ Jesus.

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PS: If you prayed for the requests that I mentioned yesterday you should know that God answered every one of them.

 

 

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NTX – Nov 17 – Romans 12-16

Today as we wrap up Romans I have a request. Would you please pray for Story Point tonight? We are severing our annual week before Thanksgiving meal and we are all feeling pushed and stretched. The building is ready, the ads are placed, the stage is set but there’s lots of hard work ahead of us.

Pray that piles of people attend.

Pray that the weather dosn’t create an obstacle.

Pray that we have enough food. (I think we have 14 turkeys this year and all the fixin’s)

Pray that we reflect Christ in all that we say and do.

Ask God to be our guest of honor as we attempt to serve in his name.

Also, if you’re in town please join us. We start at 6PM. That’s all I have this morning. Grace and Peace, Dan

Oh…and keep reading.

 

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NTX – Nov 15 – Romans 6-8

Today’s reading is on the short list of “the greatest things ever written.” I can’t even write about it this morning. Just pray and go back and read all three chapters again.

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NTX – Nov 12 – Romans 1-3

So we’ve started Romans. Hold on to your seats and take your time because Romans is tricky. I was slowed up in the first few paragraphs.

Today my thinking was focused on things we know but often miss. I’ve pasted a few examples.

Obedience comes from faith.

Through him (Jesus) and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.                     Romans 1:5

Obedience comes from faith, not the other way around. We know that is true. It doesn’t seem like it should be confusing and yet within the church world we do so much that suggests that if we just get folks to obey they’ll find faith. Kids are forced to church every week in hopes that an obedience first faith later plan will work.

Those I think of as “foolish” are my responsibility.

I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.      Romans 1:14

As carriers of this good news we don’t get to declare that some folks are too foolish for it. It may well be that the ones we think of as being the most foolish are the ones that we are obligated to connect with. Sadly, I think I’ve done a lot of running away from the “foolish” ones instead of running into that obligation.

A real righteousness can be seen.

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”  Romans 1:17

Somehow this Gospel we share does more than bring about faith that leads to obedience, it’s more than a message of forgiveness to everyone. Somehow the Gospel reveals a righteousness that comes from God. What is that? Do we see that today?

Seriously what do you think that looks like?

(More Romans tomorrow at 10AM at Story Point)

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NTX – Nov 10 – Acts 24-26

I love the section near the end of the reading today. I almost decided to preach from it this week. Instead I’ll scratch that itch a little here. Paul stands before King Agrippa and basically gives us the summary of his own life. He speaks of his love for his country, his religious zeal, his conversion, and then he talks of how he took the truth of Christ to others. I love when he says this:

“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.                                                                                                                                                          Acts 26:19-20

I love that this statement seems to echo the command from Jesus back in Acts 1:8 remember this:

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I love that we get to see the command from way back in chapter one fulfilled (at least in part) in Paul’s life here near the end of Acts.

I love Paul’s commitment to preach.

I love that Paul tells us clearly that our deeds can reflect our heart condition.

I love that Paul is literally practicing what he has been preaching.

But what I really love, what I absolutely dig is that in the minds of the government leaders (Festus and Agrippa) Paul is supposed to be defending himself. He is supposed to be making his case to be released. The leaders are confused. They’re perplexed by Paul’s behavior.  Paul has been in jail for more than two years at this point. The context suggests that they would have liked to release him. Paul’s defense instead of being focused on his own freedom or his own protection is all about Jesus. He says…

That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen—  that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

  At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”                                                            Acts 26:21-24

Paul doesn’t care if you’re a sewer rat or a king. He testifies to small and great alike. He doesn’t testify to how great he is or how much he has done. He points to Jesus. He points to Christ reflected in the Hebrew Scriptures. He makes a case for Christ.

Festus is shocked and he thinks Paul is crazy. It’s not Paul outward behavior that makes them think that he is odd. Paul isn’t making a scene. Paul is not drawing attention to himself. Instead he is pointing to Jesus. Weird. People find that weird in general but when we find ourselves in positions that would normally suggest that we focus on ourselves and we instead point to Christ it causes people to take notice. Paul responds to the accusation of being crazy:

 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”                           Acts 26:25-29

Yep. That’s Paul’s desire. Is it ours? Paul spends his life walking it out. Why? Well because for Paul Christ is reasonable and true. Do we believe that? Do our actions reflect that belief? Are the people (small and great alike) that we encounter surprised at our focus?

Keep reading.

 

 

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NTX – Nov 9 – Acts 21-23

 

I’ve always struggled a bit with some of the verses from today’s reading. I find wrestling with the text valuable.  I’ve pasted the verses that I am thinking of below. Can you see the struggle? What do you make of this passage?

After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. 4 Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 6 After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.                                                                                                                               Acts 21:3-6

 

There are all sorts of fun tidbits here, especially if you read the next paragraph as well.

I’ll just offer up one question to get us thinking: Who’s following the Spirit?

 

Keep Reading.

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