Stop Lying

pexel tape mouthIn Colossians 3:1-17 Paul is talking about putting off our old lives and putting on our new life in Christ.  He challenges us as followers of Christ to focus our lives on Christ rather than on the things of this world.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t live in this world or we don’t partake of the things this world has to offer, but we are not to look at the things of this world in the same way anymore.  Christ is to be paramount in our lives.  If we are followers of Christ, our focus should be on following him.

And so in verses 5-11 he then begins to unpack that idea by talking about things that should no longer define our lives.  Since we have been made alive in Christ, there are some things that were part of our old life that should no longer be part of this new life that we have in him.  So he is challenging us to recognize those things and get rid of them.

Christianity is not just about receiving a list of things that we are not supposed to do anymore.  Rather, I believe, God has a better life, a deeper life in store for us than whatever defined our old lives.  However, that old life is still there for us to choose, so Paul is calling us to choose to turn away from that old life and to embrace what God wants for us.

With that in mind Paul moves on to talk about the new life and what it should look like in us in verses 12-17.  This list has some similarities to the Fruit of the Spirit from his letter to the Galatians and overall it is pointing us in a direction of what new life in Christ should look like.  Hopefully we are growing in these areas.

Overall Paul’s emphasis is on putting off our old self and putting on the new self in Christ, but he makes several significant points that specifically revolve around our relationships with one another.   Right now that is where we are focusing as a church.  We want to learn and grow in this area of our relationships with each other as a church.

For instance, look at what Paul writes in verse 9: 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.  (Colossians 3:9, ESV)

Now notice that Paul doesn’t just simply say stop lying, but specifically addresses the issue of lying to one another.   Lying amongst ourselves is divisive and leads to distrust and disunity.  We are called to be one body, and lying to one another directly attacks that unity and harmony within the body.

Considering the context, this could be referring to false teachers and lies they may be spreading.  That is definitely a problem that needs to be dealt with.  We need to treat God’s Word well and there is no room for false teaching.

However, what this verse really brings to mind for me is when we put on our church faces and go to church and tell everyone that everything is fine and that we have no problems.  We lie to one another all the time to hide what is really going on inside, the sin and temptations we deal with, the struggles we face, the failures we’ve had, and the pain we feel.

We also sometimes lie to one another because we don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings.  So when we see something in their life that we know is contrary to God’s will, we are afraid to hold them accountable on it.

We need to be real and authentic with one another.  And that means being both brutally honest and completely vulnerable with one another.  That is scary, but if we work hard to build those kind of relationships with one another where that would work, then imagine how good it would be for us.  Imagine if this was the kind of place where we could stop lying and just be real with one another.  That would be refreshing wouldn’t it?

Kiss One Another

pexel kissDid you know that there are about 59 one another statements in the New Testament that specifically deal with how we are to be in relationship with each other?

Some of the verses overlap so that there are more than one verse about the same instruction.  15 of the 59 verses specifically talk about how we are to love one another.  That is the most talked about one another topic.  The next two most referenced one another instructions are tied with 4 each.  One of them is to encourage one another and the other is the instruction is to kiss one another.

In 2 Corinthians 13 we read: 11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you. 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  (2 Cor. 13:11-14 ESV)

In these verses Paul instructs the church to greet one another with a holy kiss.  That instruction is mentioned four separate times in the New Testament making it one of the top three most talked about instructions among the one another passages.  We find it mentioned in Romans 16, I Corinthians 16, and I Peter 5 as well as here.

Paul actually gives us several instructions in this passage about how we are to relate to one another.   He is probably summing up what he has said in this letter with a few perfunctory statements about how they were to live.

He tells them to rejoice, to be restored, to comfort one another, to agree with one another and to live in peace.  Overall there seems to be a common theme of unity that is to exemplify the way they treat one another.

And then he tells them to greet one another with a holy kiss.  Apparently the early church used that method to greet one another.  In the ancient world this was not uncommon and actually today in many societies it continues to be a tradition.  However, in the early church it appears that the kiss was meant to signify the special union that they had with one another in Christ as part of one family.  Notice it is a holy kiss.  It was not meant in a sexual way at all.  It is devoid of that kind of emotional desire or intent.  It is a different kind of kiss that symbolizes the unity and intimacy that they have with one another in the Lord.

So is this something we should do?  I am not suggesting that we should start this practice, but when I read this and picture the early church greeting one another the image I have is of a church that was excited and happy to see one another.  I picture a church that was so invested in one another’s lives that they were like family.  I picture a church that had gone deeper into an intimate relationship with one another than we would typically consider with the church in our society today.  I picture a church that truly loved and cared for each other.  I picture a church that had authentic, real relationships with one another.

So while I might not be that interested in beginning a tradition of kissing one another, I do like that intimate family like picture of the church.  I like the depth of intimacy I see in this passage.  And I would love to see that at The River.  That is my challenge for us as a church family.

Discerning the Body

pexel churchWhen we partake in communion at The River, I typically quote these words from I Corinthians 11: 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  (I Corinthians 11:23-26)

Just about every time we partake in communion at The River I use those verses before we partake of the bread and the cup.  But rarely do we ever look at those verses in context.  When we examine the context of the passage as a whole we find that Paul is confronting the church in Corinth about a problem with the way that they come together for communion.  In the early church coming together for communion involved a whole meal called the Agape or Love Meal.  This was probably somewhat similar to what we do with potlucks today.  The problem with the Corinthian church was that when they came together it seems like the food was being divided unequally with the rich getting plenty to eat and drink while the poor were going away hungry.  This implies that the rich were so focused on themselves that they were missing the needs of others in the church.

Considering this overall context there is a phrase that we find a couple of verses later that I believe is often overlooked and yet very important.  A friend of mine, Dr. David Fitch, first pointed this phrase out to me in a lecture at a pastor’s conference.  We find the phrase in verse 29: For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  (I Cor. 11:29, ESV)

The phrase is “discerning the body.”  Now that is a bit of a strange statement.  I think typically we tend to just lump this verse in with the two verses before it which talk about examining ourselves and not eating and drinking in an unworthy manner.  Those verses are important, but think about the context of this passage as a whole.  Paul is spending a lot of his time dealing specifically with the issue of the way that when they got together some were getting fed and some were going hungry.    And in the midst of that, we find this verse.

It is also important to note that in the both the chapter before this and the chapter following this one Paul talks about how the church is a body.  We are the body of Christ.   God has brought us together and made us a church family.  We have a role to play in one another’s lives, to encourage one another, challenge one another, carry one another’s burdens, hold one another accountable, disciple one another, and also to just make sure that we are all doing okay.

I believe that in this passage Paul is talking about how important it is for us to discern the church.  Do we know how each other is doing right now?  Are we so focused on ourselves that we are missing the needs of those around us?  Do we know the specific needs that others might have?  Do we care about those needs?  And if people are hurting or needing help, are we doing our best to come alongside one another and help out in whatever ways we can?  We may not have the resources to meet every need, but maybe we can do something.  That is what it means to be a body.  That is what it looks like to be the family God has called us to be.  That is what it means to “be the church.”  #bethechurch

 

Waiting for Eagle’s Wings

pexel eagle2One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Isaiah 40:27-31: 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;  they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

I believe that we all wrestle with the kinds of questions we see in verse 27.  We all have times in our lives where we wonder if God sees what we are going through or if he does see us we wonder why he isn’t stepping in to fix things.

Verse 28 reminds us that God is the Creator and that he is all-powerful and all-knowing.  We know that to be true, but in the midst of tough times in our lives it is hard to not have questions about why God does not seem to be saving us from the trouble we are facing.

Verses 29-30 go on to remind us that God is in the business of giving strength to the weary and that it is normal for us to be weary at times.  We are all going to face times where our strength is waning physically, spiritually and emotionally.

And all of that leads us to verse 31, which is an often used verse that gives us the image of God swooping in like an eagle to carry us away from the trouble we are facing.  At least that is what I used to think it was talking about.  However, after closer examination it seems like the point of this passage is not God saving me from the tough things in life, but rather renewing my strength and helping me to grow in the midst of my struggles.

Notice that verse 31 does not say that we will be carried away on eagle’s wings, but rather that we will mount up with wings like eagles.  It seems to indicate more along the lines of the wings being developed in us.  That also fits with the focus on the Lord renewing our strength so that we can continue to walk and to run even though we are weary.

I think one of the most important words in this passage is the word “Wait.”  I believe that waiting implies an expectation that someone is going to show up.  Like when I am waiting for a friend, I am waiting because I am expecting that friend to show up.  If I didn’t expect him to show up, I would not be waiting for him.  Waiting on the Lord implies that we are expecting him to show up.  But I think often in the midst of my troubles I don’t really have the expectation that God is going to show up.  Or if I do expect him to show up my expectation is that he is going to deliver me from the tough stuff that I am going through.  But that is not what I see in these verses.

This passage is saying that in the midst of tough times I should wait in expectation for the Lord to show up and renew my strength and to help me continue to walk through what I am facing and in the midst of it even to grow in such a way that I will be better able to handle all that I am going to face in this life.

Current Sermon Series

Context

Verses from Scripture get used all the time in ways that are out of context.  Sometimes they are used to say things that are almost the opposite of what they were intended to say.  Other times they are used to expressed good thoughts, but miss are missing the depth that comes from reading them in the midst of the verses around them.  In this series, we are taking well known verses and passages from Scripture and putting them back into their context to see what we can learn.

Unstoppable

Back in 2010 there was a movie called “Unstoppable” which featured Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.  The story was about a runaway freight train that needed to be stopped to prevent a catastrophe.   The movie built to a climax as the characters tried  to get the train to stop, but to no avail.  I don’t want to give away the ending, but as you can probably guess: the train was actually stoppable after all. The heroes just had to come up with the right plan about how to stop it.

This Sunday we are going to be reminded of the unstoppable power of God.  And unlike this movie, God literally cannot be stopped.  Right now we are in a series called “Acting Up” where we are looking at the Acts of the Apostles, and throughout this book we are reminded again and again that God cannot be stopped.  The church faced serious persecution in the book of Acts, but God was never stopped.  And two thousand years later, His Gospel continues to spread!

Come on out to The River this Sunday to hear about the unstoppable power of God as we take a look at Acts 5.

The Empty Tomb

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” (John 20:1)

On Easter Sunday we celebrate the fact that Jesus died and rose again.  The above verse from John 20 shares that when Mary arrived at the tomb on Sunday morning, she found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty.  Later on in that same chapter, we find accounts of two different occurrences when the disciples were gathered together in a locked room and Jesus all of a sudden showed up among them.

So considering that locked doors couldn’t stop Jesus, why did the stone blocking the front of the tomb have to be rolled away?  Did Jesus need the stone rolled away so that he could get out?  Obviously not.  When Lazarus was raised from the dead, they had to move the stone to let him come walking out, but this was different.  Lazarus rose from the dead, but eventually died again.  Jesus rose from the dead and then after appearing to more than 500 people over the course of about 40 days, He went to be with the Father again.  We can tell from the resurrection appearances, that Jesus’ resurrected body was different.  Locked doors couldn’t keep him out.  And He didn’t need to have the stone rolled away to get out of the tomb.

So if Jesus didn’t need to have the stone rolled away to rise again, why was it rolled away?  Good question right?  I believe that the stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out, but to let the witnesses in.  The stone was rolled away so that Mary and then Peter and John could see the proof that Jesus body was gone.  The stone was rolled away so that we could see the evidence of the resurrection.

And this Sunday on Easter we will be looking at that evidence.  Consider joining us this Sunday at The River, 2510 Chaska Blvd.  We will start with a breakfast at 8:30, followed by our worship celebration at 9:30.  Everyone is welcome!

Unity

My wife and I have been married for almost 17 years now and we are very different.  Before we were married we took a personality survey to see where the strengths and weaknesses might be in our marriage.  The person who was working with us actually asked if we were sure that we wanted to get married.  Our results were about as opposite as they could be.  We have laughed about that many times over the years.  Our differences sometimes make life difficult, but after 17 years I can honestly say that we are better together than we would be apart.  And I know my wife would say the same thing.

The key is that because we have chosen to love each other, even in the midst of our differences we come together in unity.  Of course, that doesn’t always happen the way it should, but overall it does.  And so instead of being a weakness, our differences actually have become a strength in our marriage.

Love and unity are connected.  It is only when we choose to love one another that we can really experience unity.  And that is what we will be talking about this week at The River.  We will be looking at Jesus’ prayer for His Church from John 17:20-26.  Come on out this Sunday and join us.

The Paraclete

Apparently Greek soldiers fought in pairs.  They would stand back to back so that they could protect one another’s backs as they fought off the enemy troops.  The other soldier was a trusted wingman, an advocate, a helper.  And he was called a paraclete.

What a great concept.  We all need a paraclete.  We could all use an advocate, a helper, a friend who has our back.  In this world, facing the things we face, it would be nice to have someone like that along with us to help us face the journey and fight the battles we have to fight.

In the passage we will be looking at this Sunday, Jesus is getting ready to leave His disciples, but He promises to send them a helper, an advocate, a paraclete.  He promises to send them the Holy Spirit.  Check out the passage in John 14:15-31 and come on out to The River this Sunday to find out more about the paraclete that the Lord promised.

Have You Been Hurt by Church?

Spending time working out of the local Dunn Bros. coffee shop gives me a different perspective on the church than I would have if I spent most of my time working out of a church office.  It allows me the opportunity to hear, firsthand, what unchurched people think about the church.  Unfortunately, the picture is often not very flattering.

I have had way too many conversations with people who are disillusioned with the church.  They have previously been hurt in the church or have found church people to be judgmental, hypocritical, and unloving.  Others have expressed their concerns over the fractured picture they get of the church.  It seems to them like we can’t even get along with each other, and so if we can’t get our own act together how are we supposed to help anyone else?  Good question.

Now I know that just because we follow Christ does not mean that we are perfect, but this is an area where we need to do better.  Jesus reminds us in John 14 that the world will know we are His followers by the way that we love one another.  If that is the measuring stick, then the conversations I have been hearing are not a good sign.  We need to work on this.  And at The River this Sunday, this passage from John 14 will be our focus.  It is called “Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial,” but I think it is really more about loving one another.  Check it out at John 14:31-38 or come on out to The River this Sunday to find out more.

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