Friday, July 29, 2011

Face & Hands

    Please, take a moment and read 2 Timothy 3; yes, the entire chapter.

    I believe this passage is a prophecy for the very season in which we live.  The rainiest days of the world will too soon be upon us.  As Pastor Franco states in the Possessing the Promised Land with Thanksgiving and Praise  if we want to invite God to stand between us and our enemies, we had best understand Praise and Thanksgiving.

    This was the most convicting of the whole series, to date, for me.  If you haven't yet heard it, please click the link above and listen to it now.  It boils down to mighty, actionable guidance from the Holy Spirit.  It reduces to humbly seeking His Face, while never failing to appreciate the Hands that are always at work for our good (Romans 8:28).

    We at "Sow What?" quickly realized that fellowship with God in all its forms was critical to getting this right.  That is, when we spend time in relationship with Him (possible only by His love, grace, mercy, and power), we will seldom forget the wretch-to-Savior ratio of things.  We will be less likely to doubt Him, to raise our heads against His oracles, and stray from following after Him.  Our circumstances shrink to right proportion as surely as we do, and the miasma of life loses its power to derail our hearts' natural song of praise and thanksgiving.  We seek His face, and in so doing recognize the signs of His going before us and walking beside us - the work of His hands - and can rightly give thanks.  We stop believing the hype of the world and our flesh.

    That relationship-borne humility has other benefits: it gives us pause before criticizing others.  Who are we, but for Christ, anyhow?  We are freed by His love and by His word, and can pray for/convict others rather than condemn others for being in the traps from which we have just been sprung.  We seek to bless, not tear down, as we are flabbergasted still at the Lord's deep heart for us.

BLUF # 5:

* Form the habit of praise and thanksgiving with God, spouse, and family first

* Veterans of trials have something to offer others who are embattled, still in the fog of war

* Who am I anyway, apart from Christ, that I should criticize others or grumble about my life? ( Matt 7:1 , John 7:24 )

* Allow God to sanctify you through your circumstances

* Remember that Praise & Thanksgiving invites God to stand between you and your problems (and as Pastor said "have a little talk with your enemies")

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Knowing What We Know

    Talk is cheap in the modern age.

     As believers in America we typically 'know' the ropes -- the  Christianity 101 of what it means to be saved, a  witness of the Gospel, and the major stories and characters of the scriptures.  We have a measure of devotion, and hearts reasonably prepared to minister as we are called.  We have (praise God) the freedom in the U.S. to go as far up the Mountain of God as we dare to journey.

    But we don't know what we know.  Not intimately; not as thoroughly as many who have received the torch Christ first passed to His disciples.

    So What?  Well, it means that somewhere along the line, a hand-off was fumbled.  The chain, from Christ to disciples, disciples to early Church fathers, and from them to the not-so-early Church fathers, was an invaluable asset to Christendom.  It is one thing to study the pristine life of Christ in the scriptures; it is another to apply it as a fallible (albeit Spirit-filled) believer of the current age.  Absent a chain of overcomers, we have little in the way of a working knowledge of what "right looks like" outside of the pastoral staff.  Early America was replete with Godly men and women, and they 'knew what they knew' because there was an ocean of models to look to.  I will submit that in the main (we are blessed with a depth of righteousness at Cornerstone), that ocean looks a lot more like a kiddie pool in 2011.

   Sow What?  It means we have to know better, first hand, from the Word of God, what He is really trying to tell us.  We can't be satisfied by a shallow knowledge that can be easily misled and uprooted.  For example:
Q: According to the Bible, is it better to give or to receive?
A:  It is better to give than to receive.

Q: Why?
A: Uh, because it's in the Bible - and that settles it.

Q: Okay, but how does that work - what's going on spiritually?
A: God loves a cheerful giver.

Q:  But what's the value of giving vs. receiving?  Isn't salvation a gift received from God? ..

  ...and so it goes.  Absent a renewing of our minds by washing in the Word, we are lacking in the knowledge to give "every man an answer..", and will be frankly unclear of critical principles ourselves.  Even in this simple exchange, we can offer the seeking heart much more..

        Love for God and love for our fellow man are inseparably one.  So giving, rooted in love, fosters a unity in Christ, the center of all real work (Matthew 6).  Those who serve and those served draw spiritual sustenance at the same time.   This is our most powerful evangelism, as in doing the works Christ has directed us to do, in the way we have been directed to do them – filled with His love and cheer (joy) in working alongside Him; WE DRAW GOD NEAR to the object of HIS AGAPE (Charity).  Our faith then becomes something others can experience; they can taste and see that the Lord is good when our faith conquers our hearts and springs forth in true works of cheerful service and charity.  We are blessed powerfully in obedience and in proximity to Love Himself.  The lesson from Jesus Christ in giving may be witnessed in the act of the divine incarnation.  Divine love revealed itself in accepting an earthly form.  At that moment of disclosure, our Lord worked out His deepest reverence and understanding of you and me. 

    This, while an imperfect answer to be sure, is an understanding we can wield in the spiritual  warfare that is daily life. 
    Christianity - a love relationship with the Creator -  is different from the inside than it appears to the world.  We need to be equipped to explain to others the Kingdom we are inviting them to enter forever.  

   Our Berean efforts this week to better understand the message  Knowing God's Word  yielded the following bottom line understandings:

    BLUF # 4 – Knowing God’s Word
·         A true relationship with Christ comes from knowing the heart of Christ, and by extension, His word.
·         Immersion in scripture has the promise of being beneficial to our character and path in life.
·         God has placed His Word above His name.

·         Immersion in scripture with obedience to it yields tangible success/abundance as well.
·         We may not always have a Bible on hand, legally or otherwise.  It must be written on our hearts (memorized, too) to “equip” the Holy Spirit with something to bring to remembrance when needed.  The “Sword of the Spirit” is the only offensive weapon in the full armor of God.      

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Green Monkeys, Red Monkeys


    I will start this post with an apology for its belated update.  From now on, I will make best efforts to update it on Wednesday nights.

   The topic of Pat Hein's excellent, thoroughgoing message was Casting Down Temptation.  The handout/outline is available upon request either from us at  or from the church office.  Please continue to track the sermons in The Spirituality of Jesus as well.  Thx.


    Whatever you do for the next two minutes, don't think about Green Monkeys.  Keep all images of  Green Monkeys from swinging tree to tree across your mental screen.

    What happened?  Were you able to escape the vision of  verdant primates run amok?  Probably not, at least not completely. Now..

    ...for the next two minutes, don't think about Green Monkeys,  and instead envision a horde of Red Monkeys.   

    If your like most people, that went a good deal better.  Having a strong replacement for the forbidden fruit of green monkey thoughts gives us a target for our attentions.  So it is with resisting temptation.

    The enemy of our souls, true to the God's Kingdom vs. Satan's Kingdom chart from Sunday,  has a highly alluring, attention-grabbing fraud - his green monkeys - to set up against the Truth.  If we are without the 'Red Monkeys' of the Word of God - we are lost.  If the truth is a horse, the enemy doesn't much care which side we fall off of, so long as we fall off.

    It seems to us Berean types that casting down temptation boils down to the following practical practices and understandings --

BLUF # 3 – Casting Down Temptation

·         The Word of God, lodged in our hearts and memories, is the key
·         The enemy doesn’t want your love, he wants to take away your love for God
·         God’s love lies deeper than your circumstances
·         Forgive everyone (of everything) ahead of time; avoid taking offense.  Let the matter then be between them and God.
·         Remember the source, always, of all ideas and communications

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Alone with God

   As I write this, my three year old, Jeuel, is sleeping on my lap.  It's one of those humbling moments when no one else but daddy will do to comfort her, and she drifted off almost immediately once settled in.  As a husband and a father of eight (not a typo), my heart and life are invariably full.

   But it sure makes it tough sometimes to get alone with Him.  Don't get me wrong.  I happily resort to typing with one hand to have the privilege of holding my little girl. Its just that the undertow of life can seem daunting when going for it with Jesus.  At the outset,  it seems like a  sure path to burnout in the natural, whatever the spiritual benefits.

   I am here to tell you that spiritual discipline is different on the inside than it might seem from the outside. It integrates all of life, gives profound purpose, and lends His endurance and strength to our own.  And, this week's sermon on Prayer &  Solitude , is arguably the most vital among the 9 disciplines we will study this summer.

   We, like the famed Bereans in Acts 17:11, intend to know prayer from the inside, for ourselves.

BLUF # 2 – Prayer & Solitude

·         Prayer, according to Christ, is Authentic and Free
·         Prayer, in large part is the relationship
·         When He taught us about prayer it was uncomplicated, and kept the relationship in perspective
·         With prayer, skill to do comes of doing

Key scriptures: Eccl 5:1, Matt 6:5

    Admin Note:

    The textbook for the sermon series at Cornerstone this summer is The Spirituality of Jesus: Nine Disciplines Christ Modeled for Us by Leslie T. Hardin.  We hope to instill in ourselves a keen understanding of what the Holy Spirit is saying to us as a body of believers by both attending/studying the sermon, prayerfully studying the key scriptures and points of the sermon, following along in the text, and spending some time alone with the study guides provided us by the pastoral staff each week.
    Due to the compressed schedule this small group had at outset, we had to condense the first two weeks into one. As a result, our conclusions - and our BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) list for  Prayer &  Solitude will appear next week, either inserted above, or before our musings on the Resisting Temptation message. Thanks!



    In the first message of our summer series, Pastor Franco taught  about the spirituality of Jesus Christ Himself in Walking with Jesus.  These were the Key Scriptures and the Key Points of  the sermon:

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven  Ec 3:1

My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. Ps 62:5

 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."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. Mt 11:28-29

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? Mic 6:8

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and toask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruitin every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God ; 11 strengthened with all power,according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience ; joyously 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the Church ; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross ; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Colossians 1:9-20

Key Points:
1.      Most of us rest from God instead of in God.

2.      You didn’t come to Jesus so you can win, you come into Jesus because HE HAS WON

3.      Stop looking at myself…and start looking at Jesus

4.      When we walk with Jesus we walk with our salvation 
          The "Sow What?" crew first examined the value of studying the ascetic practices of Jesus, in light of who we are at salvation, and the natural course of our sanctification with whatever time we have (before our deaths or the Rapture). Briefly discussed was the difference between entering the Kingdom of God and Inheriting the Kingdom, and the benefits and rewards for overcomers.  Excellent resources on this subject are The Kingdom, Power, and Glory by Nancy Missler and How to Pray for the Release of the Holy Spirit: What the Baptism of the Holy Spirit Is & How to Pray for It  by Dennis Bennet.

      Below find our BLUF for the first sermon's material:

        BLUF # 1 – Walking with Jesus
·         Scripture implores & directs us to commune with God, not merely visit
·         Prayer is the passion of the overcomer
·         We must be intimate with scripture to recognize enemy forgeries
·         All time is God’s time
·         Do God things, not merely good things
·         God’s people need God’s power to do God’s will