Saturday, October 08, 2005

Hymn of the Week

hymn (pr.: ‘him)

1: a song of praise to God
2: a song of praise or joy

“There’s no such thing as Christian music. There are just Christian lyrics...”
Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life

The Slam
by Tobymac

from the CD Welcome to Diverse City

We saw Toby live last October and again in February. At the February show he said that he wrote this song in the parking lot of the cinema after watching The Passion of the Christ

The Slam

God's in this life if you like it or not
So rip the knob off the volume when you give this a shot
And raise your hands as the slam starts to thicken the plot
Openin eyes to the lies of the enemies lot
So run like the wind from the sin of your past
Keep your eyes on the prize when they put you on blast
It's the Christ on the cross, it's humanity's shot
It's a worldwide call to everything that we're not

This is the slam, this is the one
This is the slam, this is the one
This is the slam, this is the one

We gonna do it like it ain't been done before
This is the slam, this is the one
We gonna bring it like it ain't been brung
This is the slam, this is the one
We gonna do it like it ain't been done before
This is the slam this is the one
We gonna spring you like you ain't been sprung

They came from the cities and towns all around
To see the longhaired preacher from the desert get down
Waist high in water, never short on words, he said
Repent, the kingdom of heaven can be yours
But he stopped in the middle of his words and dropped
Down to his knees and said, behold the Lamb of God
He's the one, the slam, don't you people understand?
You're staring at the son, God's reaching out his hand

The father slammed it like Shaq
For Latinos and Blacks
Packin' them straps
And Caucasians hooked on
Ecstasy and the crack
Stacked the sins of this world to his body
And conquered evil and hell
Then snatched the keys of death in one breath and unlocked the cell
He rose on the third I'm tellin' you partner, its actual fact
Just like TOBYMAC and Boney Soprano up on this track
We slam dunkin and keep it jumpin like jumper cables
And keep the crowd rowdy like Jesus tossin' them temple tables

These are some photos of our youth at the Tobymac concert in February:

Friday, October 07, 2005

It's Amazing!

Our book study group is currently reading Philip Yancey's book "What's So Amazing About Grace".

This book has lead to some great and thoughtful discussion.

One quote that we keep returning to is on the back cover and repeated in the book:

"There is nothing we can do to make God love us more.
There is nothing we can do to make God love us less."

Either statement alone goes against human reason. Both statements together just boggle the mind. Just think about it.

"There is nothing we can do to make God love us more."
What about all the means of Grace.
Singing Praises.
Doing charity work.
Observing Holy Communion.

Doesn't living a life of piety bring me closer to God?

Doesn't God love the faithful Christian more than the heathen sinner?

It just doesn't seem fair, does it?

It is simple math. You cannot add more to an infinite value. That's how much God loves us. All of those pious acts are just a response to the fact that God loves me at all.

"There is nothing we can do to make God love us less."

But what about sinning?

God doesn't love sinners, does He?

He better, because He doesn't have anyone else to choose from.

So even though I sin, God still loves me infinitely?


Even if I am a thief?


A murderer?


A homosexual?

Absolutely, positively, infinitely.

The next question is:
How are you going to respond to that Grace?


There are several Walk to Emmaus weekends coming up in the next several weeks in our area. My prayer is that each and every pilgrim on each and every walk will see Jesus in every face.

Our church will have three ladies at two seperate walks on the same weekend. This will be great for them and great for our church, although it may create a slight logistics problem for those of us who would love to go and support all of them. You just can't be in two places at the same time. Oh well, we'll figure something out.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sunday School Lesson: Christians Without Borders

Lesson: Christians Without Borders

Purpose: To recognize that obstacles can be turned into opportunities for ministry and mission.

Scripture: Acts 8:4-25

Following the death of Stephen at the hands of the elders and scribes in Jerusalem, Saul went on a rampage, arresting both men and women of the believers. This persecution actually aided the spread of the Gospel. Many Christians fled Jerusalem. They ran from brutality but carried the Word with them. The very fact that some folks were willing to kill them for what they believed and that they kept on believing probably lent some credibility to their witness. Very few people would be willing to die for what they knew was a lie. With extreme bravery and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, these dispersed members of the first church took the Good News even to cities which had been enemies of the Jewish people for hundreds of years. God gives us opportunities every day to use what seems to be defeats and turn them into victories.

The city of Samaria had been the capital of Israel during the days of the divided kingdom. In 722 B.C. the Assyrians conquered Israel and relocated most of the people. Those who were left intermarried with the foreigners who were moved into their land by the king of Assyria. The "pure" Jews who remained in the Southern kingdom of Judah considered these folks "half-breeds" and "mongrels". They came to be known as Samaritans. The label "Samaritan" evolved into a derogatory racial slur, much like some that are used in the modern world.

When we hear the word Samaritan, we usually think of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. The phrase "Good Samaritan" is now used to identify any person or group who practices sacrificial charity. To the Jews of the first century there was no such thing as a "good" Samaritan.

Who would we consider the "Samaritans" in our world using the first century Jewish definition of "Samaritan"?

Jesus’ use of a Samaritan in His parable was a definitive message that loving our neighbor was not so simple as loving those we were comfortable with. Our "neighbor" includes everyone regardless of race or background, even those that our culture would have us look down upon and despise. "Loving our neighbor" means much more than feelings of affection. Loving our neighbor requires action and effort to meet their needs, regardless of how distasteful those needs may seem to us.

Who are the "Samaritans" in our world using Jesus’ definition?

Another definitive statement is made in this passage from Acts. Today’s lesson is in effect a report of the first missionary of the church. Up to this point the group of believers known as Christians was centered in Jerusalem. Beginning on Pentecost the church in Jerusalem had experienced a rapid growth. This growth had created a need in the church for the Apostles to appoint people to help with the day-to-day duties required by the type of communal worship, meals, and living arrangements that was practiced by the early church. They appointed seven men to carry out these duties which essentially amounted to distributing meals to widows. Last week we learned of Stephen, one of these seven. An amazing witness to the power of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is the fact that Stephen, essentially a table waiter, off the top of his head preached a sermon that so enraged the Jewish elders that they, in a fit of rage, carried him out of the city and stoned him to death.

In the fear that gripped the church following the death of Stephen we learn of Philip, another of the seven "table waiters". Philip flees Jerusalem, and where does he choose to go?

Samaria, of all places.

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.
(Act 8:4-8 ESV)

"Much joy"; what a perfect description of any Spirit-filled group of believers. Would you describe your church as a place of "much joy"?

I’ve already discussed some of the differences between Jews and Samaritans. These differences would have to have created obstacles to acceptance of Philip and his Gospel. How did Philip and the Samaritans overcome these obstacles? Where was their common ground?
Both Philip and the Samaritans had suffered persecution form the Jews. But.... a common enemy is not always the best foundation for a friendship.

The Samaritans knew of and believed the Old Testament prophesies of a coming Messiah. The story in John of Jesus speaking to a woman at a well at Sychar in Samaria supports this:

The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he."
(Joh 4:25-26 ESV)

The Samaritans may have remembered that visit from Jesus.

The signs, healings, and other evidence of the Holy Spirit in Philip obviously had a great impact on the Samaritans.

How many of us, after fleeing our home for fear of persecution, would immediately begin proclaiming the very Gospel that triggered the persecutions?

How many of us carry the Gospel with us and proclaim it wherever we go?

How many of us convey the Gospel through our actions wherever we go?

How many of us conceal the Gospel as soon as we exit the church on Sunday morning?

How many of us are willing to carry the Gospel into parts of our world that we may find uncomfortable?

How many of us are willing to carry the Gospel into parts of our world that may be hostile to us and our message?

Philip carried the Gospel and proclaimed it in an area hostile to all Jews and those people who under normal circumstances would have been hostile "listened eagerly" and wanted what Philip had to offer.

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the power of God that is called Great." And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
(Act 8:9-13 ESV)

Simon had for a long time amazed the people of Samaria. Their amazement with Philip apparently eclipses their long-time amazement with Simon. Do you think that modern missionaries encounter "Simons" in the areas they carry the Gospel?

Do you think the tendency of these "Simons" would be supportive of their "Philips"?

What is the difference in "magic" and "signs and miracles"?
Answer: The power of the Holy Spirit.

Why do you think signs and miracles were important in the early church?
They made people sit up and take notice.

In the absence of signs and miracles, what can we do today to ensure that the Gospel is heard and accepted?
We must live what we profess. Our lives must match the Gospel we preach.

Do you see any similarities to Simon in modern religious leaders?

What is needed to show others God’s power?

While we may not be able to perform miraculous healing, our message is one of healing. Our world is full of people in need of healing. Their needs may be physical, mental, emotional, relational, financial, or spiritual. When we meet real needs and maintain a focus on Jesus the results can seem near miraculous to everyone involved.

What is not needed to show others God’s power?

Flashy displays and empty promises may attract some attention, but what’s going to happen when a Philip comes along?

Remember that Philip was not one of the Apostles. Philip, like Stephen, was a worker in the church, taking care of some of the more mundane tasks of the congregation. The most effective leaders are not always flashy, high-profile, or charismatic.

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
(Act 8:14-17 ESV)

Beginning at Pentecost and throughout the book of Acts faith was always made apparent through gifts of the Holy Spirit. Why in this instance the Spirit did not come upon the believers until Peter and John came is not made clear. This may have been the case partly to help convince Peter and John that the Gospel was not just for the Jews. Jesus told them to take the Gospel to Samaria and to all the world, but there are several instances in Acts where Peter needs a little reminder in this area.

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, "Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." And Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me." Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
(Act 8:18-25 ESV)

Let’s go back to verse 13:

Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

What does it mean that "Simon himself beleived"?

What did Simon believe?

What was the basis of his faith?

Apparently, the basis of Simon’s faith was not the Word of God, but the miracles of Philip. Simon continued with Philip, not to hear the Word and learn more about Christ, but to witness more miracles and possibly to learn how they were done.

Was Simon’s heart right before God?

What does it mean for one’s heart to be right before God?

Do we see any evidence of people attempting to "buy" faith, or buy God’s favor?

What are some examples?

Simon is told by Peter to repent. His response indicates that he was more concerned with avoiding judgement than repenting and living in relationship with Christ.

Simon came so close. He heard the Gospel, saw miracles, even professed faith and was baptized, and yet never obtained true faith as evidenced through fruits of the Spirit. Simon attempted to short-circuit the process and buy faith.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Hymn of the Week

hymn (pr.: ‘him)
1: a song of praise to God
2: a song of praise or joy

Freely, Freely

by Carol Owens

God forgave my sin in Jesus' name,
I've been born again in Jesus' name,
And in Jesus' name I come to you
To share His love as He told me to.

He said, Freely, freely you have received;
freely, freely give.
Go in my name and because you believe,
Others will know that I live."

All power is given in Jesus' name,
In earth and heaven, in Jesus' name;
And in Jesus' name I come to you
To share His power as He told me to.


The View

This is the view from our front yard. Purty, aint it?