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Showing posts from March, 2011

HOPE FOR DAMAGED DIVORCEES

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So, what are we to understand about Jesus’ attitude toward the divorced, remarried and those guilty of adultery? His encounters with the guilty help us understand his attitude toward us. The Samaritan woman at the well is a great example of Jesus’ message to lawbreakers.

We find the Lord in a mutually vulnerable situation. He is a Jewish man alone in a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Cultural taboos would suggest that this was inappropriate on many levels. Still, Jesus is not bound by what the neighbors think. 
The love of God reaches far beyond the protective limitations of religious people. To the pure all things are pure. Jesus was not about to take advantage of this woman.

The ensuing conversation is loaded with new thought about God’s Kingdom. Jesus is offering her something that will satisfy her at the deepest level, like a drink that has a permanent quenching effect. The offer of God’s life is appealing, but who can be good enough to earn it? Could this woman be respectab…

THE MYTH OF 'NO FAULT DIVORCE'

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Jesus challenged interpretations of the Law that victimized the vulnerable. The rich and powerful still use the Law to their benefit at the expense of the defenseless. Consider his take on divorce.

Jewish law said that a man could have more than one wife, but sharing a woman was considered adultery. Women did not have the same rights as men. A woman without a man or supportive family was without aid. Jewish men were required to give a woman a certificate of divorce when they no longer wished to have them as a wife. A man could think he was perfectly legal and therefore innocent as long as he followed correct procedure in divorcing a wife.

Jesus addresses the inequity and self-righteousness of their accepted standard.


Matthew 5:
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits …

MORAL POSTURING

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One of the early Baptist churches in America, still in existence today, is the Pennepack Church near Philadelphia. Elias Keach, who founded the church in 1688, was the son of a prominent English Baptist minister, Benjamin Keach. When Elias came to America in 1687, he was not a Christian and had a reputation for being wild. For whatever reason, he decided to fake being a preacher like his father. Dressing up as a minister, he accepted an invitation to preach at a Baptist meeting. But playing church backfired, or more correctly, the power of the gospel changed the game plan. Keach was converted hearing his own sermon! Overwhelmed by the seriousness of sin in faking the sermon, he stopped preaching and began to tremble. The congregation thought he had become sick, but he admitted his hypocrisy and asked for the church's forgiveness.[i]

Kudos to Mister Keach! It takes brave honesty to admit to hidden lies and come clean. This is what Jesus was gunning for in his crowd of listeners. Wh…

MY PASTOR GROWING UP

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(2005 - Dad playing the harmonica at his retirement service in Elora-Fergus).

For my formative years, I had one pastor. He also happened to be my dad. After he retired at 67, he resumed pastoring again after a short break.

Some of his recent sermons are online at http://www.cornerstonewindsor.org/Media.htm

Check it out.  Like father, like son?

PLACE OF THE CROSS

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"I simply urge that the Cross be raised again at the centre of the market place as well as on the steeple of the church.

I am recovering the claim that:

Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage heap;

at a crossroad so cosmopolitan they had to write his title in Hebrew, and in Latin and in Greek...

at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble.

Because that is where churchmen should be and what churchmen should be about."

George MacLeod(1895-1991)

IN THE CIRCLE OF SHAME

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It was a very serious matter when Jesus was questioned about the application of God’s Law to a relationship based on adultery.

John 8:
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
   But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
   9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned y…

POLLUTING OUR ADULTHOOD

Augustine said:
Passion is the evil in adultery. If a man has no opportunity of living with another man's wife, but if it is obvious for some reason that he would like to do so, and would do so if he could, he is no less guilty than if he was caught in the act.[i]

Country gentleman and a former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter said:
I've looked on many women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me.[ii]

Adultery is not just a sin to prudish Christians denying their natural instincts. Every people group through time has rules about cheating on your spouse. Inevitably, there are consequences to adultery.

In Native American cultures, a husband on an adulterous wife could impose severe penalties. In many instances she was made to endure a bodily mutilation that would, in the mind of the aggrieved husband, prevent her from ever being a temptation to other men again. [iii]

Chinese husbands who committed adultery against th…

STEALING HO-HOs

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John Knight is a father of three children. One of his boys Paul has no eyes. John tells this true story:

On Thursday a box of 10 Hostess Ho Hos made it into the van. Three children and one adult each had one, leaving six. The rest were being saved for ‘movie night’ on Friday. 

One child simply could not stop thinking about those Ho Hos.

While the rest of the family was distracted with dinner guests Thursday evening, that child ate four more Ho Hos. This same child also ate the last two for breakfast the next morning.

So, this child disobeyed mom, stole something that wasn’t his, considered his own desires ahead of his siblings, did not practice self-control, and allowed his eyes and his thoughts to constantly come back to what was tempting him. These are typical, childish sins, of course. But they were sins.

Paul has never been tempted to steal Ho Hos, or anything else for that matter. He is completely free from that kind of sin.

And which child do we feel sorry for?[i]


Woul…

RESURRECTION BEGINS A CONVERSATION

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Luke 7:
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—


the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
 14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
 16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. 


The first thing the resurrected man does is talk. Perhaps he is asking what is happening and how did he get here. He looks at Jesus first and starts talking.

When a miracle happens, a conversation b…

DO NOT CRY

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One day Jesus came upon a procession heading out of town to lay a dead man in a tomb.

Luke 7:
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
 14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
 16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

His closest companions and a large crowd of fans surrounded Jesus. They are heading into the town of Nain. At t…

STANDING CLOSE TO DEATH

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I have often watched people approach an open casket. In a private and deeply personal moment, the griever comes face to face with whom they have lost. It is not unusual for them to touch the dead body, caress the hair or bend down and kiss the departed.

The coffin often contains personal items including pictures, letters, a Bible or a hockey jersey. Someday, there may be people bending over your casket and touching your hair or kissing you. What will the people who are left put in your casket to commemorate your life?

Usually, there is someone at the funeral home who is especially affected by the death. It may a spouse, a sibling, child or grandchild but we have an instinctive sense of the one most affected. In reverent, hushed tones we say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” We clasp their hands or hold them in an embrace.

Tombs and graveyards are often out of town. We remove the dead from the community and put their remains in quiet gardens away from the world of our busy lives. Or in so…

SETTLING OUT OF COURT

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Within the Law of God, much attention is giving to conflict resolution and dealing with injustice. If you break the law, there are systems to deal with resolving matters. Before a matter between you and another escalates to taking legal action, Jesus gives us a new way of thinking about conflict resolution. 




Instead of basing our responses on defensiveness and retaliation, let’s look for ways to settle out of court. If we need to use the courts, let us use them appropriately without malice. 
Matthew 5:
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown int…

NO MYSTERY ABOUT MURDER

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You do not need to be a lawyer to understand the Law Jesus teaches. Up close and personal, the Christ presents a compelling case for love. God’s Law is love.

Jesus invites us into a fearless, moral inventory that will leave us facing the inevitable conclusion that we need God’s help and grace. Life in God’s Kingdom will touch every area of our inner world. The Beatitudes gave an attitudinal framework in which God’s Law could be received.

Broken, humble, empty people find a loving Father who goes into the enclosure of the snarling, frothing beast and brings back the children’s Frisbee. But, love is not always so quaint and pretty.

Jesus proceeds to add His commentary to the most familiar moral code. Life in God’s Kingdom will require a new way of looking at humanity’s self-measurement. We will not survive the future based on business-as-usual. We must be taken apart before we can be put back together. We must unlearn selfish love and self-interest before we can live in God’s Love.

MESSAGE FROM TWO MOUNTAINS

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Think about the Old and New Testament pronouncements of God’s Law.

In the Old Testament, God spoke through the man Moses. Alone, he climbed up Mount Sinai where fire and thunder prevailed. Holiness and fear prevented Moses from looking directly at God. The Law was committed to stone tablets by the finger of God. Moses brought the Law to the people as their mediator.

In the New Testament, we find God speaking through another man Jesus. He is also on a mountain, but there is no fear, fire or thunder. Instead of people waiting downhill, they sit at Jesus’ feet and the finger of God is writing the Law on the hearts of Jesus’ listeners. God is approachable and present in the person of Jesus. The full embodiment of holiness is present in Jesus and people are attracted to this teacher.

Jesus does not roll His eyes at the archaic, stone tablets of God’s Law. Instead the Chief Cornerstone of God’s Kingdom speaks heart-to-heart with everyday people; Jew and Gentile alike.

Matthew 5:
19 The…