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Move Coming

This blog is in the process of merging with our Website and moving from blog.wbwc.us to wbwc.us.  I apologize for any confusion this may cause you.

— Chuck H

Keeping the Great Commandment

I’ve been thinking . . .

Moses gave the children of Israel ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)1.  Later, the prophet Micah simplified the list, giving only three requirements (Micah 6:8)2.  The Lord Jesus Christ, simplified the commandments by listing two.  This is reported in the Gospel of Matthew this way:

Matt 22:36-40  One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (NLT)

Sometimes, we find ourselves making lists of requirements for a person to be “a Christian.”  It seems to be built into our human nature to do things like that.  Do you remember the ditty that goes:

“We don’t smoke, cuss, drink or chew,
and we don’t go with the boys [girls] that do.”

What do you think Jesus would have to say about your list?  Excuse me, I’m going to go burn mine.

When Paul went to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and church fathers over the question of requirements for gentile Christians. Some were saying that the gentiles must be circumcised and become observant followers of Judaism. Paul and Barnabas did not agree. So the question before church leaders was what these new converts must do. The council told them what they must do to not offend the Jews. James summed it up this way in Acts 15:19, 20

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (NIV)

Those are all things that would have deeply offended Jews.  Why do you think that these are the only requirements that were given?

Jesus had called people to Himself saying, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” It is not difficult to be a Christian, or is it?  Jesus also said,

Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

What do you think?  Is it enough to love God and others?

 

Endnotes:

1Exodus 20:1-17 Then God gave the people all these instructions: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
“You must not have any other god but me.
“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.
“You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
“You must not murder.
“You must not commit adultery.
“You must not steal.
“You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (NLT)

2 Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (NASB)

A Christmas Message

Sunday, December 23, Pastor Mark’s message was delivered in an unconventional manner.  Pastor slid off his suit jacket and donned a carpenter’s apron as he delivered an interesting sermon.

Pastor Mark Lipscomb carves as he preaches. (Patti Hall photo)

As he carved on a block of wood, Pastor talked about the work that God is doing in our lives and what he was doing in sending His son Jesus to live with us.  He explained that God is trying to remove anything–and everything–that stand between us.  Of course, he went into more detail and explained more fully, but that is the essence of the message body.  As Pastor finished, he shared the reason for God working to remove blocks and obstacles, which is so that we might have His heart.  Pastor Mark then showed us what he had been doing during the sermon.

The final product of the carving. (Patti Hall photo)

I’m sorry if you missed it.  I’m glad I didn’t.

A Child is Born

Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:5-7 (NIV)

Thought For Today

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” — Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT)

Thoughts on Pruning

The Toonstra family was with us for our annual missions convention over the weekend.  They are a delightful family, and based on your generosity, must have touched your heart with their personal experience of giving up a comfortable life and life-style to plant a church in Macedonia.

During the Sunday School hour, Joel shared with us from John, Chapter 15.  As you may recall this chapter begins with Jesus saying, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Joel illustrated that with a rose, but my thoughts immediately went to grapes.  I have some experience with those and know what a difference proper pruning makes.  This is how it should be done:

It seems to be radical.  Wouldn’t you get more grapes if you left the vines long?  Perhaps it might seem that way, and in fact you will get more grapes, but they won’t be the plump juicy grapes that you want to enjoy.  Let me share a story.

A family member had a grape vine.  I had urged him to prune it back severely so that the roots only had to nourish shorter vines.  “No,” came the reply.  “I need all the grapes I can get.”  I didn’t push.  A few years later, and that person found it necessary to cut back the vines.  The results were spectacular.  Instead of little-finger-nail size grapes, they  were large, the grapes were very good and there were more grapes in each cluster.

That’s what God the father does to his fruitful followers.  He removes part of the vine so that what remains will be stronger, healthier and more fruitful than ever.

What excess are you supporting on your “vine?”  Is your life so full of activities and commitments that you are stretched, overloaded and not able to do your best?  What needs to be pruned?

What Is Your World View?

Ponderings

Pastor Mark was on vacation this past Sunday.  Caroline brought the message.  Caroline is a commissioned home missionary.  She has been deeply involved in children’s ministry for years, and is now widening her horizons.

Caroline’s message was about a Biblical Worldview.  After explaining that a worldview is the way that one sees or interprets the world around them.  In keeping with the theme, she said that while everyone had their own unique world view, there are three general categories of world views.  She then explained that they were like three different kinds of eyeglasses.  It got me to thinking about color filters and how they alter one’s perception of a scene.

You may have noticed how that works with shaded lenses.  A gray lens will merely lower the brightness, but a yellow lens will enhance contrast.  Other shades have their own effect, which may or may not be useful.

The three main worldview categories are: Naturalism, Transcendentalism and Theism.  In the Naturalism world view this world is the product of chance and time.  You are the result of millions of years of evolution.  There is no god.  Life has no special meaning.

Transcendentalism says there may be a god and if there is you are part of god.  Your purpose in life is to understand your own divinity.  You may have to go through several cycles of life and reincarnation to reach that complete understanding.

Theism says God exists and life is a test.  Judgement follows at the end of life.  As Christians we are, broadly speaking, theists.  However, so are adherents to some other religions.  What makes us different?  The difference is that we view (understand and relate to) the world through a Biblical perspective.  What the Bible says is what we believe.

Back to the eyeglasses, the tint of the lens is like the general worldview.  Following on that analogy, the Biblical perspective would be considered our prescription.

At the end we recited the Nicene Creed, which was projected on the screen along with Biblical references for each element of each phrase and sentence of that creed.

It certainly made me think about the philosophical side of our belief system.  It also got me thinking about ways to keep our Biblical perspective in sharp focus.

It seems to me that we need to keep in close contact with our Bibles.  We need to know and understand what it has to say.  Since we believe it is God’s inspired word to us, we should want to be reading it regularly.  All of it.  Then we need to process (think about) what we read.

How do you keep your Biblical perspective in sharp focus?

What advice would you give a new Christian?

How does a mature Christian do that?

Circles of Support

Pondering

It was 1909 and J Wilbur Chapman had written the words to the hymn One Day.  The first verse ends with these words, “Dwelt among men, my example is He!”  Chapman was, of course referring to Jesus Christ.

As I’ve thought about Jesus as my example and how I should my pattern my life after His, I found myself thinking along some new lines.  Ray Stevens sang a song some years back that was titled, “Would Jesus wear a Rolex on his television show?” 😕   How would you answer that question?  If Jesus were living among us today, how many followers would he have on Twitter?  How many Facebook friends?  What would be the name of his blog?  Who would do his Website?  Is this beginning to appear silly?  I hope so–at least a little bit.

We shouldn’t be trying to pattern Jesus’ life after ours.  If we do, we have it backwards.  Lets consider what he did with respect to friends and followers.  In Luke 10 we read about Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples in groups of two.  (Some versions say seventy.)  These groups of two went to cities where Jesus “was about to go.”  They were the advance teams to prepare people for the arrival of our Lord.

Perhaps you are more familiar with the twelve.  We read quite a bit about them in the New Testament.  They were with Jesus throughout his public ministry.  From this group, Peter, James and John were particularly close.

There is a pattern in the seventy-two, the twelve and the three.  Let’s think of it in terms of intimacy or closeness.  The smaller the group, the closer the connection and the more open the lines of communication.  You probably see this in your own life.  Right?

In addition to his human companions, Jesus spent time alone with God in prayer.  This was part of His daily life.

Application

Our church has commissioned Caroline Dibaba as a home missionary.  She heads up ministries like Branch Adventures Camp and Seeds of Hope (a mentoring program for school children).  She also has a heavy involvement in local church ministry.  As Caroline has observed, “Leadership is lonely.”  Support is needed.  Especially for those in leadership positions.

Her support plan comprises three circles, just as Jesus had.  An inner group of three with which to communicate anything and everything.  Three that are faithful, reliable and that will pray each day.  Very close contact is maintained within this group.

The second circle has about 12 people who will pray at least once a week.  Sharing with this group usually takes place once or twice a week and more frequently when needed.

She wants to have 70 or more in the third circle.  These will promise to pray regularly.  The goal is to communicate at least once a month with members of this group.

Just as Jesus went to be alone with God in prayer each day, Caroline has built that into her life.  Personal prayer and that connection with God is essential to spiritual growth and success.  It as essential to spiritual health as breathing is to physical health.

There is one more element that Jesus didn’t need but we do.  If you are involved in ministry you need a mentor.  Someone who has gone before and has the experience and maturity to help you find your way when you are in need.  Like Caroline, you’ll want to have this person in your inner circle.

For you and me

Do you have an inner circle? I suspect we all do–even if we don’t realize it.  Last week, Chuck wrote about accountability groups.  These are good and a great way for any of us to grow in our faith and in our walk with Christ.  Have you considered becoming part of a group like that?

Will you spend some time thinking about the support you need and then seeking it?  Will you consider how you can support and encourage another person?