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Authority

In chapter 21 of Matthew's gospel, after turning over the money changers' tables, and halting the process of offering sacrifices to God, Jesus comes back to the temple and teaches. The people who work in the temple are not so happy with Jesus so they ask him "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" In other words they ask "who do you think you are? ... where did you go to school? ... what credentials do you have?" And in some regard they have the right to ask him this, after all he has turned their place of worship up-side-down, but this isn't the the first time he has been asked this. When Jesus preaches in his home town, they wonder they same thing, they say in Luke's gospel "isn't that Joseph's son?" In other words isn't that the kid from the down the street? I don't remember him going to some fancy school."

As far as we know Jesus did not graduate from the finest theol…

What is the word on the street?

Jesus asks this question to his disciples, he wants to know what people on the street are saying about him, their response in Matthew's gospel is "some say John the Baptist, but others Eljiah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Which sounds impressive, however they are all dead. So the word on the street is that Jesus is just like those other guys, those great leaders from the distant past and not so long ago past. So Jesus turns the question to the disciples and Peter says this is who I think you are Jesus, "you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." This is huge, Peter can see that Jesus is doing something new, something exciting and earth shaking. It is upon this confession of faith that Jesus builds this new community of believers, this gathering, otherwise known as the church. Reminding us that in the beginning the church was not a building (as so many come to think of it today), it is a gathering of people brought together by a c…

Worship

During my vacation time and my time spent at the General Assembly I was able to visit other churches and worship with them.In order to protect the innocent I will not name the congregations I visited, but wanted to share the different experience I had.One Sunday my family and I attended a church and found that our expectations were not met.The only person that greeted us when we were in church was the pastor.No one else took the time to say hello, let alone make eye contact with us.I think it was because of that, that worship just felt off.Rather than feeling that we were worshiping with a community of faith, I felt more like a spectator watching a community of faith worship.Another Sunday, Dan and I attended church with some friends.Now this congregation exceeded our expectations.We were warmly greeted when we entered, as we were waiting for service to begin and during the time we all get up and shake hands.We felt part of this faith community and because of that worship was so meani…

1 Corinthians 9

Paul, it seems is reminding the church in Cornith that they are to be held accountable not just to one another but also to him. He cares deeply for them and is not afraid to give them advice when they ask for it.

What is at stake is that the people in the church have become believers yet they act the same way they did before they believe. There is still in-fighting and there are still favorites. Focus is on the individual and not on what God does through the individual. Paul is stepping in because their actions now are becoming destructive in the community.

He reminds them that who ever they are around, believers or non believers they need to remain true to God's calling and presence in their lives. Paul reminds us that belief is not just something we talk about, it is something we live.

1 Corinthians 8

In the Corinthian church there were members who had exposure to idol worship or perhaps had worshiped idols before becoming Christian. So the question had come up, what are we do at a potluck dinner where meat that has been offered to an idol is present? Believers from the Jewish tradition understood that there is one God and knew that there were no idols and that the meat was just meat. However Gentile believers might be confused if they saw their brothers and sisters in Christ eating meat that had been offered to an idol. They might wonder if as followers of Jesus they could also worship idols. Paul's advice is not to trip up fellow believers and refrain from eating the meat even if you know it is just meat. Our concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ should be one of our primary focuses.

I Corithians 7

We are a new creation in Christ and Christ calls us to embrace the Spirit's presence in every area of our lives. The gift of the Holy Spirit is an amazing, powerful, mysterious gift. It builds up God's presence in us, resulting in greater humility and reliance upon God. Paul reminds us not to be focused on our achievements or the achievements of others but on God and on what God can do through us. Comparing and competition do not have a place in Kingdom work. Emptying ourselves so that we can be filled with God is what we are to do. We participate in God's mission and ministry we do not own it. We should feel blessed to be a part of it.

I Corinthians 5-6

Paul reminds us that we are not to tolerate behavior that breaks relationships, or abuses boundaries. As members of Christ's church we are to maintain communities where healing and wholeness can occur. We are also to be agents of reconciliation and forgiveness, striving each day to follow Christ more closely. We are to honor the sacredness of our own bodies and to maintain healthy boundaries and respect for others.

1 Corinthians 4

Paul reminds us that leaders, just like everyone else serve Christ. Our focus should always be on Jesus and ministry should be based on our following of Christ. I can remember learning about this in seminary, we were to remind ourselves that we are called to do God's ministry not our own. Sustainable ministry is grounded in the following of God period.

1 Corinthians 3

I think so often we can fall into the trap of thinking that we are in control of our own spiritual growth or the growth of someone else. Paul reminds us that it is God who makes us grow, God is in control. Likewise, we should surround ourselves with other Christians that are growing in Christ, but remember that they are not to be idealized. God has created each of us with our own unique gifts and talents and while it is good to be encouraged by others, our primary focus should be on God.

1 Corinthians 2

How amazing is our God! Paul reminds us that God has a purpose for us and knows us better than we know ourselves. God is constantly building us up and strengthening us for the next challenge ahead. We can only be spiritually alive if we chose to be open to God's presence in our lives. Stay plugged into God!

1 Corinthians 1

Paul begins with his central message, he is called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. After reminding the congregation that they too have been called by God and given spiritual gifts to carry out God's mission in our world, Paul gets down to the business of addressing the conflict in this church. People have begun to form allegiances with the one who baptized them. Their focus has gone from following Christ to following a particular leader and are apparently boasting over who is better or stronger as a leader in the church. Paul reminds them that this is not their purpose, they are to follow the gospel of Jesus.

1 Corinthians

I am now moving onto Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth. From the very start we can sense the conflict that exists in this budding congregation that is comprised of a vast variety of people, from various religious backgrounds.

Romans 16

The listing of believers, of sisters and brothers in Christ, remind us that Paul wrote to people he knew. This book in the Bible is first and foremost a letter written to specific people and a community of believers 2,000 years ago. Paul did not sit down to write this letter with the intent of it one day being in the New Testament, something that did not exist when he was writing it. He wrote to encourage the faith community in Rome. With that it reminds us of the importance of keeping these words and thoughts in their context.

Romans 15

As our faith increases so does our calling to be a witness and aid to those who are new to the faith.

Romans 14

Paul reminds us that living in Christ will not result in us all agreeing upon everything. In fact what we will find is a gathering of people with different opinions and life practices. The one thing we should all agree upon is following God. Opinions on diet or on the day we worship are not as important as treating each other with respect. Listening to each other and respecting each other helps us in our practice of listening to and respecting God.

Be concerned with yourself and do not set up stumbling blocks for other believers who do not agree with you. This chapter can be summed up with two words, humility & compassion.

Romans 13

This chapter has been interpreted quite literally to mean that all government authorities are ordained by God and should be respected (regardless of their acts of injustice). Yet there are numerous passages in the Bible where we find that faithful people have called out rulers that are unjust. Peter preaches about Jesus in the book of Acts and ends up in prison for it. God sends Moses to free the Hebrews who are enslaved in Egypt. After 10 plagues the Pharaoh frees the slaves but as they are leaving he changes his mind and God parts the waters of the Red Sea allowing the Hebrews to get to safety and freedom.

So I think the key to this passage is int he beginning of it. "All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it's God's order." When there is injustice God calls for change. All of the prophets of the Old Testament preached against the injustice and wrong actions of both the kings and their people.

So perhaps Paul is saying to follow t…

More on Romans 12

Rather than compartmentalize our lives in areas of sleeping, eating, going to work, going to worship, etc. as times without or without God, we are to integrate God into every moment of our day. God should always be our primary focus.

Paul reminds us of the importance of being connected to a faith community. I am constantly inspired and challenged to trust more fully in God when I am part of a church community.

In verses 11-13 we are reminded that we need time for Sabbath, for retreat. I take my Fridays off from the church pretty seriously. I find that I need to to a break in order to gain perspective, to get rest, and to trust that God is in charge.

Paul speaks about how we are all servants in Christ. In all that we do and say our lives should point to God, in our hospitality, in our moments of not returning evil for evil, in our moments of taking a break and a rest. Our lives when focused on God can be a testament to our faith in God.

Romans 12

This chapter is full of inspiring information. Paul begins by grounding us in the reality that we are all part of the family of God, everything we do, is because God has graced us with the ability to do it. In verses 12 and 13 he wrote "Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers." He then goes on to preach what he preached time and time again; that we are to be fully present with one another. Time and time again in the gospels Jesus begins his words "Listen." We can only be fully present with one another when we actually listen to one another and to God's still small voice.