Saturday, October 29, 2011

With Whose Passion?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.    John 3:16

God doesn't miss a note in orchestrating His universe, does He?

    I wondered how it might work out this past Sunday.  I mean, with a guest speaker from the Church in another nation, I sort of wondered if the lessons would continue apace with what the Holy Spirit has been teaching us for the past 16 weeks:

   What we got was Dr. Melese Wogu of Ethiopia, speaking on Biblical Compassion; the perfect message for a church being incrementally called to abandoned service in the Kingdom.  It is what's next for us.  Please click the link, and make a study of this message if you couldn't attend on Sunday.


    So What? 

    The key scriptures, most revolving about the demonstrated compassion of Christ, are as follows:

Matt 9:35-38

Matt 18:21-35

Mark 1:40-42

Luke 10:25-37 

    The essence of what the our class realized from studying these passages is that Godly Compassion has little in common with the found-less pity of the human heart.  Trying to capture every awesome thing God revealed through His word and His people last week is like trying to preserve a kiss.  You had to be there to understand the depth of this study.

    Sow What?

    Our walk-away value from this sermon is found below in our weekly B.L.U.F. - Bottom Line Up Front

    1) Compassion is "action" with God's passion; not pity

    2) That "action" must be right action; your assignment within God's plan

    3)  To walk out your assignment within God's plan requires mortifying your objections - a crisis of faith

    4) The best things in life are always preceded by this kind of anxiety; so it is with the life of faith

    5)  Abandon your comfort zone, and never return to it

     Make no mistake; this is the kind of pursuit that finds its object.  Dr. Wogu's challenge finds us on the threshold of an apostolic calling.  Will Cornerstone be a church that answers that call? Talk is cheap.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Men of Iron

   The Overt Message: True Righteousness, True Healing.

   The Covert Message: I Dare You to be a Kingdom Christian.

    St. Jerome said "the earliest members of the Christian Church lived in the way  in which monks of today try earnestly to live."  Though that may be overstating the case, the early Church was nothing if not puritan.  Its moral standards were lofty, its disciplines rigorous, and its demands total.  God preserved, and continues to preserve,a remnant of those who follow the spiritual disciplines we studied this past summer.  Those who have smuggled themselves off into monasteries and cloisters, I'll submit, are not adhering to our common charge to be in the world but not of the world.   There were some exceptions to this; mendicant (means poor on purpose) friars who lived the practices that led to intimacy with God amidst the mess that was the Middle Ages.

    One leader of these abandoned men was named Columbanus.  Living in Ireland, and so separated from some of the chaos of the Dark Ages, these men pursued God in a manner not paralleled outside of scripture.  Above all they refused to accept counterfeits for the Truth.  They would meditate and pray, give all to Kingdom service, and adhere to a stern standard of physical mortification.  When Columbanus and his fold first landed in France, they were dubbed "Men of Iron" by the followers of Franciscan monasticism.

    They were, simply, impeccable followers of Jesus Christ.  Like the Apostles, they chose to stand and deliver.

    So What?

    So when we are being called to lead similar lives (as the  past 16 sermons have unmistakably done) in a similarly dark age, we could do worse than to look to the Word of God and those who have successfully lived that committed life.

    Key  Questions & Scriptures:

   1. Do you want to have True Peace, or do you want to be comfortable?

       John 14:27, John 16:33, Isaiah 28:12

   2. Do you want True Healing, or just to be numb? 

       Isaiah 58:8, Malachi 4:2, 1 Peter 2:24

   3. Do you growth that leads to reconciliation, or do you want to get your way and stay as you are?

       Luke 9:23, Matthew 5:20-48

   4.  Do we want to be filled, or just a comfortable compromise?

    No one can get strong in Christ for you; we have individual responsibility before God.  You and I must decide the answers above for ourselves, and let our lives be our testimony.  Success in the Lord requires no explanations; failure permits no alibis.

   Our study bore the following fruit.


1. Holding True Peace requires remaining in Christ, and obediently responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit when we stray.

2. Fasting from our agendas to live God's yields True Healing; FEAR GOD

3. True surrender begins in crucifixion, and is maintained in spiritual  disciplines born of love for God 

4. We have one choice; His righteousness or our own.


    We are actually being called to this level of commitment.  Lord, help our unbelief.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Going Light on the Salt

    Nearly every traditionally savory food, from soup to salsa, has a "low sodium" label these days.  "Low Salt" has become something desirable - useful in preventing hypertension -  which can lead to a "heart attack", ironically enough. Spiritually, things are not much different in Christendom. We minister to the thirsty with the water of the Word, just a salt-free/low-salt version.  Also in common, we are more vulnerable to having "heart failure" from the addition of salt to our diet, be it physical or spiritual, because we simply don't exercise consistently ( Hebrews 5:14 ). We are a long way from the days of taking salt pills during hard labor in hot weather.

   I remember landing in Paleroma Airbase in Honduras in '87, the bay door to the C-130 opening, and the 126 degree heat pouring over us, hitting us like a  physical force.  We were each issued not only an extra two-quart canteen, but salt pills as well.  Plain water wasn't enough to keep us on our feet in that climate, with electrolytes fleeing our pores in steady streams of sweat.  Combat Operations in Hot Climates requires water and SALT. I submit that spiritually speaking, it is sweltering in America, and the church here is overwhelmed and fainting.

    Like the background to this page, I will try to combine salt and light with the water of the Word to portray a beautiful vision only God could provide.  To much light? You'll have  an obnoxious blinding glare.  To much salt? A desiccated Dead Sea.  In balance with the water of the Word of Truth? A beautiful relationship teeming with life...

    The sermon, Right Relationships: Listening To Jesus Tell Us What Righteousness Does, based on Matt 5:1-25, is straight forward.  The key points and scriptures, below,  flow simply and powerfully.  The tough part is walking in the constancy it describes - the constancy of the believer who's relationship with Christ is undeniably the preeminent feature of their existence.  The "How To" of this sermon is what we at Sow What?  went after this week.

Key Points/Scriptures:

1.  Righteousness noticeably lives in mercy, purity, and peacemaking. (Matt 5: 7-9)

2. Righteousness loves people enough to share the truth. (Matt 5:13-16)

Living the righteousness of God means we will have both a negative (salt) and a positive (light) effect/affect on every relationship we have

Salt - rejecting lies and corruption; preservative of truth; condemning sin and not people

Light - edifying and nurturing in the Truth

Read - Romans 8:3-4, Luke 3:13, Acts 3:19, John 8:10-11

Key meaning - Biblical love protects and creates eternal life in people through righteous serving.

Read - 1 John 4:8-9, John 3:16-17, Mark 10:45

3. Righteousness Shares Grace and Truth (Psalms 34:18, John 1:17, Matt 5: 17-18)

Key meaning: Grace is what God GIVES you to live in His truth and be blessed.

 Christ is our righteousness - Romans 3:21-24, 2 Cor 5:17-21

4. Righteousness Urgently seeks reconciliation when anger violates righteousness. (Matt 5: 21-26)


Bottom Line Up Front

1. Conviction comes from God; not of us but through us

2. Repentance/Forgiveness is the only sin-stopper

3. It can never be God's Agenda "plus" or "minus" anything. His ways and wisdom are all there are; all that is righteous is of Him.

4. We should not dilute God's love with false mercy - that is the comfort of the enemy.

5. We need to obtain/maintain the brokenness/humility that comes from proximity to Jesus Christ

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Giving Up


Despite a very fruitful night examining Sunday’s message What Do I Need Most From God Today?  There is a check in my spirit as I type this.  I would ask you to walk along for a bit, and bear with me. 

Sometimes there is just no hope for the eyes.  We trek through a dark, desolate landscape, and spend our time in a futile sort of mental fencing.  We stab at our woes with visions of increased wealth, health, inner peace, knowledge, skill, or self-discipline.  At best we gather ourselves, and maybe even arrive at some considerable milestone, only to again run afoul of our own fallen natures.  And so it goes. 

The heart of the problem, our shared tragic flaw, is insoluble.  For anyone reading who has genuinely and permanently solved life, I submit that this blog post is not for you.  I would very much enjoy coffee and conversation with you sometime.  For the rest of us, the promises found in this sermon amount to a Life-hack.  It contains the answers to all questions and the key to each and every situation in the game of life. 

Understand and apply the Christ-spoken, red-letter guidance found between Matt 5:1 – 6:33, and you will not only beat the game, you will dominate it.  The hack, however, is the most counter-intuitive, courageous, and difficult course of action imaginable.  Even a quick read of The Beatitudes will leave you dubious about following its wisdom.  The overview goes something like:

     1.    Give Up

Ask Jesus to save you from your sin and from yourself <John 3:16-18>.  Understand that anything you say, think, or do that doesn’t begin, remain, and end in the heart and mind of God will be (must be) utterly destroyed. <Hebrews 12:26-28>

B.L.U.F. – God’s people NEED God’s power to do God’s work.

     2.  Lose your life.

When His will is your heart’s desire, at every turn, whatever flinching your soul and body does, you are on the path.  Sufficient hunger and thirst for Him draws you further up and further in, clearing all obstacles en route.  <John 12:25>

B.L.U.F. – I must become less, He must become more. <John 3:30>

     3.  Give, Up
      Cheerfully give all you are for the Kingdom, up to your Father, pouring out all within you.  Turn to more important matters than transporting gold to your grave. Bravely face each moment as if it were your first, yet treat every life you touch as if it will end at midnight.  Be unafraid; nothing here can harm you except yourself. 

B.L.U.F. – we MUST be salt and light throughout the journey; walk (as a church & an individual) in mercy, purity, and peace.

4.  Don’t Mess with Your Mission

 God’s will for your life only comes in two flavors: His perfect will and His circumstantial will.  That is, His original, pristine mission for you before you ever once went off course and His will for you from where you are today.  They are lived in precisely the same way; with purity and abandon.  We don’t try to create our own solutions <Isaiah 50:10-11>, nor do we accept the comfort of the enemy <1 Cor 5:6>, or take the counsel of our fears <2 Timothy 1:7>.

B.L.U.F. – Work the promises and the promises will work for you

The Life-hack, straight from the mouth of Jesus Christ himself.  It’s that simple and that difficult.

Our Hope is so great.

><> d & n

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Seasonal Savvy

     Some sermons take a good 15 minute word and cram it into 45 minutes (ahem).  Still others take a tremendous 3- hour Bible study and deliver it within the confines of a single Sunday service.  Conversely, this Sunday's message, from Pastor Jones, is reminiscent of the cry of John the Baptist to "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!"  The message "repent" is straightforward, but plumbs the depths of who we are.  It takes patience to deliver such a potent message in the detail it requires. John the Baptist spent his entire life delivering it.

    This one of those sermons.  It has taken us as a Church body 5 months of spiritual preparation just to be ready to hear this message.  We would do well to really get this one, in the season we were given it.

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Key Scriptures:     

1 Chronicles 12:32 -    of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command;

Daniel 2:19-23 -  9 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.20 Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. 21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. 22 He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him. 23 "I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, And have now made known to me what we asked of You, For You have made known to us the king's demand."

John 5:30 -  I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

    Each of us is impacted by our seasonal awareness, and our ability/discipline to act upon that knowledge.  For example, whereas the background on this page may or may not remind you that Fall is nearly upon us, you may not have the time, resources, or discipline to begin preparing for it's arrival.  Does everyone have an adequate wardrobe to meet this colder season?  Has the lawn been aerated, the gutters cleaned, vehicles prepared (tires, oil changed?), and have we begun to prepare ourselves financially for the 1-2-3 punch of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years?

   So What?
  The point:  We learned first to walk with Him, and then to authentically hear, listen, and obey His voice.  Last week we heard that to become the individual or church He calls us to be, we have to be absolutely broken, in loving obedience and submissive relationship (John 14:21) to Christ.  This week, we are being told, in essence, how absolutely essential it is that we listen up, right now, because He is ready to share His plan for this Church.  Being ready is the point, purpose, and plain old "how to" of the scriptures utilized by the Holy Spirit this week.  We are being told we will need to be Seasonally Savvy  if we are going to know both what to expect and what to do.

   Sow What?
    The way we walk this out, our degree of abandon to His Will in this season, is going to be telling.  The "Sow What?"  crew wrestled with these scriptures, and with what applying them would look like in our lives.  The responses were those of a group ready to lovingly and sacrificially follow Him anywhere.

     Our  discussion/exploration led to the following B.L.U.F. statements:

1. We are not to be ignorant of the world and enemy activities; we are to live in perspective of how impotent they are against God and His truth.
2. We must seek to be invested and 'on mission' at all times; working whether well or wounded, our comfort zones a distant memory.

3. Walk out His missions, not our gifting.

4.  Unless our agenda is gone, and we are broken and listening - WE DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

5.  We need to daily answer for ourselves, our families, and our Church the question: "What on earth are we doing, for Heaven's sake?"

6.  Only God knows what we need to know. We need to remain submitted always; all hours, all matters, all decisions.  Starts to look suspiciously like praying without ceasing and daily time in God's Word.

7.  It is more important to have a compass than a clock.  Nothing is properly called progress that does not serve God's Will, no matter how outwardly fruitful or productive.
    During class a "Sow What?" member confessed that she needs to really go back and place first person pronouns in every B.L.U.F. statement - to apply these truths with a "Me", "my", or an"I".  Getting to be a City on a Hill means we all need to labor under that self-same conviction.  Lord, help us.

><> D & N