Communion Lesson

This is the communion lesson I gave at church this morning.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:7-10

There at the beginning of verse 9 is a curious phrase – ‘once made perfect‘.
How is it that Jesus, the Son of God, was made perfect?
Jesus was perfect before he came to Earth and he arrived here perfect, just as all babies are perfect. The Jesus we just celebrated last month, that baby in a manger, started like all other babies – pure, sinless, holy.
But human babies (as opposed to God babies) don’t stay perfect. We quickly stray from that path. We sin, at first without knowing better, but eventually we know full well what we’re doing. We all become prodigals, and so do our kids. We live our lives our way, convinced that we know what we’re doing, though we do not. And we, and our children, prove this every day.
We are in a very real sense being made imperfect.
But Jesus lived the path we could not. When faced with choices to sin, he did not. Through ‘prayers and petitions’ and ‘fervent cries and tears’, he learned the obedience we refused to master.
In the process, he was made perfect.
The perfection he had before wasn’t chosen or earned, it simply was. He had no opportunity for imperfection. So he had to come, he had to be tempted because it wasn’t enough for Him to simply be perfect; in order to become our ‘source of eternal salvation’, he needed to be made perfect.
That’s the real price of our sin – that a sacrifice that was simply perfect wasn’t quite sufficient; it had to be made that way through suffering. In a very real sense, he had to earn it in order to offer it to us.

Continue reading “Communion Lesson”

Contribution Lesson

Why do we give our contribution? We all know the reasons given over the years of why we should give. God commands us to give and give generously, the church needs money to pay salaries, rent and other bills etc. Those reasons are all true and valid, and each at times may prompt us or encourage us to give when we might not otherwise want to.
Sometimes we give out of habit. We give because we give. It’s what we do. Christians give money to the church.
But God told Samuel that he looks at a man’s heart, not what man looks at. He’s not as interested in how often you give, how much you give or how consistently you give. He want’s to know why.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:7

God says here that wants us to decide what to give and that He loves it when we give cheerfully. He wants it to be on our hearts, not to be compelled to give by someone else or by fine sounding reasons.
So what should prompt us to give? I think the answer lies in one simple, perhaps too familiar, verse:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

The reason this verse is so familiar is the powerful, awesome truth that it contains. God loves us enough to sacrifice His Son. We give to God’s church because of what God has given us – His son.
I was reminded this week of the old Hymn, How Great Thou Art. After 2 verses of talking about the majesty of God as seem in creation, verse 3 says:

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

He bled and died to take away my sin.” That’s why we give.

Midweek Lesson

Put yourself in the disciples’ shoes after the cross for a moment. You’ve lived with Jesus for years. You’ve watched the miracles. You had hoped, perhaps, he was … the one. But not the one, the messiah, we think of, rather the one to finally free Israel from the Romans. But instead, those same Romans killed him on a cross. (remember, your mindset is Earthly, physical rescue) That’s where you are mentally, you had put more and more faith in Jesus, letting yourself believe in him, only to be disappointed. Now what are you doing?

  • Wondering what you’ve spent those years on
  • Wondering how stupid you could be
  • Wondering what it all meant, surely it wasn’t for nothing?

But what of your faith? You have a deep faith in God, obviously, you didn’t follow Jesus to learn carpentry. Where’s your faith now?

  • Faithlessness
  • Doubt.
  • Confused, very confused.

The picture of the disciples after the crucifixion is one of confusion and uncertainty. They were still together, but they seemed still paralyzed by what had happened. They weren’t sure what to do next. Jesus had told them plainly that he would die, but they weren’t’ really prepared.

Luke 24:36-53
36While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The Ascension
50When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

So, Jesus had risen from the dead. He’s appeared to many of them. Yet, when he shows up here at their meeting, they still think it’s a ghost. Evidently, death is too final to overturn. So Jesus provides more proof, touch me, feel my wounds. I’m not a ghost, in fact, I’m hungry, do have any food?
A dead man they can touch, standing among them, eating. Think of someone who’s passed away. A grandparent, perhaps. What if they stood before you and you were able to give them a big hug, to talk to them, share a meal together. Wow.
They did that with Jesus. And then, if that weren’t enough, he floats away, into the sky, up to heaven as they watch. So now where’s your faith?

  • High
  • Ready to do anything
  • Renewed.

So this miracle of a resurrected Jesus and his amazing ascension inspire you, but what to you do with what you’ve seen?

  • Tell the world
  • Share it

So you go into the world and tell everyone “Guess what? I’ve seen a dead man come to life and then he flew up into the sky, floating all the way to heaven!” How will that likely go over? Who’s going to believe that?

  • Not so good
  • No one.

The miraculous appearing of Jesus over and over (He could have gone back to heaven after just one or two appearances) wasn’t as evidence that they could share to prove that he was the Christ, it was for them and their faith. He needed them convinced of who he was if they were to change the world, but the story of His appearing and ascension wasn’t how they would change it.
So then, how would they?

  • Loving God above all else
  • Loving their neighbors as Jesus had loved them
  • Loving their enemies
  • Get serious about sin
  • Caring for the downtrodden
  • Reaching out to the untouchables
  • Putting all those things they had learned from Jesus into practice.

Jesus needed their faith to express itself through love, but to do that they had to have faith. But it wasn’t their faith alone that would change the world, in fact it couldn’t. As James said, faith without deeds is dead. Instead, they considered nothing their own, they gave to anyone who had a need, even selling their houses do so, the met together daily in the temple courts, they devoted themselves to the scriptures and the teaching of the apostles, they healed and preached and taught in the streets.
The question for us, and it’s a serious one, is how is your faith being expressed in love?
What are you doing with what Jesus has taught you? Or is your faith dead?
What will you do tomorrow to express your faith to those you see?

Midweek Lesson

We’ve been studying, as a church, the greatest commandment from Mark 12:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31

In the Sunday lessons, we’ve covered many aspects of this scripture outside of the four parts of ourselves that we are to love God with. Of those, the lessons have covered two – our hearts and our minds. Lessons on our soul and strength are yet to come.
Q – Looking at the things mentioned in verse 30, which if those do you feel is most important? Why?
An argument could likely be made for each of the four:

  • Heart – Our heart is the essence of our devotion and consciousness.
  • Soul – It represents our very being. It’s what will live on in heaven for eternity.
  • Mind – Our intellect, our reasoning power. It can overcome the ups and downs of our emotional heart.
  • Strength – It is with our strength, through prayer, study, charity, etc, that we act on the convictions of our heart and reasoning of our mind.

Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. Some might be logical and find that makes it easy to give our mind to God, but hard to invest emotionally. Others find that hard work for God comes easy, but deep thinking and study is challenging.
In reality, the question was a bit of a trick. In my view, the most important thing mentioned in verse 30 is ‘all’. The point is that God wants all of us, period. No one aspect is more important than the others.
All of these aspects work together to draw us nearer to God as we practice them. Focusing on one over the others may actually not accomplish what God intended.
Q – Can you think of some ways that might that be?

  • A focus on the heart might lead to an emotional, rollercoaster faith
  • A focus on the mind may lead to a cold, legalistic faith. Bible worship instead of God worship.
  • A focus on our strength may lead to a performance based faith where our worth to the Father is determined by our deeds.
  • A focus on our soul is a little more challenging. Perhaps it may manifest itself in the ‘God created me like this, so it must be acceptable to him’ philosophy.

These aspects of our selves are intertwined and inseparable. God intended that we devote all of ourselves, every aspect of ourselves, to him. We must be careful to not let our preferences, our strengths or our weaknesses make our devotion to God one or two faceted.
Q – What areas do you find it easy and hard to give God all of? Why?
I feel as though God is teaching me this very lesson. I tend to be ruled by my thinking and reasoning and my emotions. (Perhaps a strange combination, but there you go.) I tend to give God all my heart and mind, but neglect my soul and strength. I tend to think about spiritual things quite a bit but neglect the actual spiritual work of Bible study, prayer, relationships.
Recently, I’ve felt him calling me to give all of my strength in these areas. A renewed call to study and pray – to give Him all of my strength as well. It’s a realization that the acting out of our faith is not just items on a check list, they are real spiritual activities. They work together with my emotions, mind and soul to draw me closer to God. They complete the work of my mind and heart.
In closing, I thought it would be good to turn this around and think about how God loves us.
Q – How would you describe God’s Love?
There’s a song by Matthew West called More (Windows Media clip on his website here) played on The River that just blows my mind each time I hear it. The lyrics are sung from God’s perspective:

I love you more than the sun
And the stars that I taught how to shine
You are mine and you shine for me too
I love you yesterday and today
And tomorrow I’ll say it again and again
I love you more

I don’t know of a verse that teaches that explicitly, although Jesus did say that we are worth more than many Sparrows.
But …
What mountain, star, planet, galaxy, ocean or continent was made in God’s image?
What tree, flower, vine, weed or grass was given the emotions and reason of man?
What tiger, eagle, dinosaur, chimp, dolphin or whale did God send his son to Earth to die for?
Read those lyrics again and picture God speaking them to you. In my mind, God doesn’t speak, He simply observes. Every time I hear that song, I see him singing to me and it gives me chills.
God loves us with everything. He’s only asking the same from us in return.

Midweek Lesson

An expansion on Doug Geyer’s Sunday sermon (download MP3 file or visit the CCOC sermons page) intended to spark thought and dialog at our midweek service.
Christians have a thing about blessings. On the extreme, people consider Christianity to be all about receiving material blessings. Joel Osteen tells you that with God you can have Your Best Life Now, Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuler told us over the years about the Power of Positive Thinking to change our lives, to bring us blessings. Televangelists call on us to put our hands on the TV, pray (and send in our check) and we will blessed by God.
Even more mainstream, everyday folks talk about the blessings that God has brought them. “God blessed me with a new Job.” “I’ve been blessed with good friends.” I’m blessed to have healthy kids.”
Certainly God blesses people with Earthly things. Satan accuses God of blessing Job with so much wealth & prosperity that there’s no way he’d turn his back on God. Joseph, through God, ends up the Pharaoh’s right hand man, overseeing his kingdom. And Abraham, as we saw in Sunday’s lesson, had more than enough gold, silver, livestock and family. In fact, he and his nephew lot had so much they couldn’t live together anymore.
So god gives us blessings. Let’s talk about blessings for a minute.
Q – What sort of blessings has God given you?

  • Good jobs
  • Loving spouse
  • Healthy kids
  • Friends
  • Church
  • house, car, etc.

God is good to us, he provides for our earthly needs. Yet, in spite of that, we sometimes only see what is lacking. Not enough money, old car, not married.
Genesis 15:1-5
Even Abram, who had every material blessing, and after hearing from God Himself that he was his shield, told God that more blessings didn’t matter, since he had no son. God had promised him earlier (Genesis 12:1-3) that he’d be made great, he’s have his back and the whole world would be blessed through him. In spite all that, Abram complains that he has no son to take care of his stuff. And God listens, taking him outside, clarifying the promise already made (that he’d be a great nation) and promises him a son.
Abram, surrounded by blessings, missed the blesser here, didn’t he? God says “I’m your reward.” or “I’m your blessing.” and Abram instead was thinking of the blessings he’d not received.
So, both a focus on material blessings and a missing blessing can take our eyes off of the blesser.
Q- How does that manifest itself in our lives?

  • Slaves to our possessions, or our striving for them
  • Our family becomes our God – kids activities eat up our schedule, pushing out church and relationships.
  • We only see what we do not have – If only my marriage was ____, then I’d _____. If I only had my bills paid, I’d ____.

Our blessings or our lack of blessings distract us from the blesser. God know this to be the case, and he longs for us to turn our eyes to him. What did God do for Abram in these situations? Let’s look:
Genesis 12:1-3
Genesis 22:1-2
Q- What did God do in each of these situations, one at the beginning of Abram’s walk with him, one nearer to the end?

  • He pulled him out of his comfort zone.

In Genesis 12 it was the homeland and family. get off on your own where it will be just Me and you. In Genesis 22, it was to the mountain. He couldn’t bring his silver and gold, Sarah would not be there. It was only Abraham, Isaac, God and that knife.
God called him away, into a place where he had room to work with him. Where there were no distractions crowding God out. Either the distractions of blessings received, or blessings longed for.
Q – What familiar surroundings do you think God might be calling you out of so he can work with you? What blessings or missing blessings might be keeping you from seeing Gd and following him completely?

  • Schedule – too busy, or too predictable.
  • Family – Too focused on having the perfect family, too many activities.
  • Leisure – pursuing our hobbies with fervor, leaving little room for God

The thing is, Abram was changed when he followed God out of his comfort zone, when he made room for God to work with him.
My comfort zone is in my home in front of the TV, on the computer or with a car magazine in my hand. I prefer email to the phone, because it’s easier to choose my words carefully and it just feels safer. I’m blessed to have a nice comfortable home, cable TV, high speed Internet, my own blog and a comfy recliner.
But I don’t meet God in those places as much as I do when I pick up the phone just to talk, have someone over for dinner or go out to meet family and friends. There, in the interaction between people, sharing my heart and listening to theirs, sharing victories and hurts, pain and joy – there I meet God. There I find Him working through me in ways I couldn’t have imagined sitting at home.
It’s less comfortable, less ‘safe’, more vulnerable. But just like with Abram, if I don’t step into that zone, there’s not enough room for God to work with me like He wants to.
Are you willing to push the ‘blessings’ aside to make room for the blesser?
How will you do that this week?
Who here can help you get out of the comfort zone and meet God in the open where there’s room for Him to use you?

Communion Lesson

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us …

Hebrews 12:1, ESV

Back in college and for a short time after, I worked as a hotel doorman. A big part of the job, especially weeknights, was standing on the sidewalk in the dark and in the cold. Not much happens at a downtown hotel on a late weeknight in the winter.
Part of the uniform was a long, thick wool coat. It went down past my knees and had a big poncho like rain collar on it. The wool was nearly 1/4″ thick. It was a pretty cool coat in a way and it was pretty warm too. But it was heavy; I think one of the guys weighed it at something like 8-10 pounds. It really weighed you down standing there on concrete with that coat hanging on you for several hours a night.
I think of that coat when I read this scripture. There are times, when my sin is particularly real to me, that it hangs on me like that old coat, weighing me down and bringing me to a standstill. But the writer tells us that, since we are surrounded by these great, but flawed, heroes of faith, we should throw off the sin that clings to us and run the race God has for us to run.
What a refreshing thought. I know that ant the end of the shift, when I took that coat off it was liberating. And when I decide not to be bogged down by sin it is as well. It can be really hard to do that, the sin is still with us, it will happen again, but that’s what Jesus came for, so we could be set free from the burden of carrying that sin around. That’s what he meant, I believe, when he said his burden is light. Light compared to thte burden of our own sin.
What has helped me recently to believe that it’s possible to drop the burden of my own sin are these scriptures:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Romans 8:31-34, ESV

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

1 John 2:1

I was reminded last week in our preteen lesson that God gave Jesus the authority to judge (John 5:22) but that Jesus did not exercise it on Earth. Instead, he left his word to be our ultimate judge (John 12:47-48). So, while Jesus did not judge while he was here, he, through his word, will ultimately be our judge. But Jesus is on our side, as it says in Romans 8:34 and speaks in our defense according to 1 John 2:1.
Who will condemn at judgment? Jesus’ words will. But Jesus is our advocate, he’s on our side, putting in the good word to God on our behalf. The cross is almost like a plea bargain with generous terms, offered by the prosecution, without being asked for by the defense. I’ll reduce your sentence to zero, but you must be completely devoted to me.
As we take communion this morning, think about the offer that Jesus made on our behalf.

Bible Talk Lesson – Safety

Notes from a Bible Talk originally delivered on 12/16/2005. Inspired by David Underwood’s post to New Wineskins here.
What does it mean to be ‘safe’?

    Closed, locked.

Let’s look at some spiritual concepts:

    If you want to live, you must die.
    If you want to be first, you must be last.
    If you want to be the most important, you must be the servant.
    If you want to be really rich in spirit, you must be poor in spirit.
    If you want to be strong, you must be weak.
    Instead of hating your enemies, love them!

Would it be safe to say that in the spiritual world, many things that seem obvious are the direct opposite of what we think of in the physical world?
The world view vs. the spiritual view.
God’s view vs. man’s view.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew 16:24-26

In light of this verse the Biblical concepts we mentioned earlier, what does it mean to be ‘safe’ spiritually?


The way God looks at things, even very important things like safety, life or death, is not our way.
In order to really be ‘safe’, we must fight to grasp His view, his mindset. That’s what it means to repent, metanoia, to ‘change’ our mindset to His.
We need to not be content with the obvious answers (our answers), but search of God’s answers.

Midweek Lesson – Dreams & Personal Vision

I’ve been leading our house church for a few months now. I’ve meant to post my notes on our midweek lessons each week, but have forgotten to. We have our midweek lessons in our house churches (just smaller groups, arranged mostly by geography) most weeks, meeting as a churhc once a month. These are my notes, sometimes more readable than others and usually not delivered presicely in htis format, but close.
This is from last night, I’ll post others from past weeks as time goes on.

I’m not talking about dreams you have at night like the ones interpreted by Daniel and Joseph or prophesy like visions of the future, but goals and passions. What is it that drives you? What get’s you excited, worked up, angry?
Tell me about some of your past dreams. Dreams that came true, didn’t come true or dreams that you still hope will come true.

  • Becoming a Car designer
  • Marriage
  • Owning Grampa’s Thunderbird Thunderbird

Dreaming is a habit of those who lead the way.
Men of God in the past were dreamers & visionaries. They, through God, saw needs and sought to fulfill them. Their dream propelled their ministry and their life.
Can you name some Biblical leaders and the dreams they had?

  • Noah – An ark to save his family
  • Joseph – Leading his family
  • Moses – A free nation
  • Joshua – Conquest of Canaan
  • David – A defeated Goliath
  • Nehemiah – A rebuilt temple
  • Jesus – A people reconciled to God
  • Peter – Spread the gospel
  • Paul – A unified church, particularly Jew and Gentile

For none of these men were the dreams their idea. It seems that in every case, God put the dream on their hearts. For some, like David and Nehemiah, the dream grew naturally out of the relationship with God, for others like Moses and Paul, God had to be rather persuasive, but it was God putting it on their hearts.
Just as God put a dream on their hearts, I believe that God has a dream to put on your heart.

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
” ‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:14-18

Of all the scriptures of the OT, Peter used this one to launch the NT church. Though we are not commanded to dream and plan, but God had said that we, in these ‘last days’, would be dreamers and visionaries. Are we? Patrick Mead posted this thought provoking idea the yesterday: “When you die, as we all will, you can either fill a hole or leave it. Your choice.” If we live as dreamers, persuing God’s dream for us, when we leave this world, we will leave a hole behind that will not be easily filled.
I think one of our biggest mistakes in the past was letting men instead of God put dreams on our hearts. We were told that everyone’s dream was to be to evangelize the world or the church leader would declare what dream the church members should adopt. World evangelism is an important goal, and a corporate vision in the church is a good thing for us to be united on, but those may not align with the personal passion and vision that God has created for you.
The flip side can be when we try to make our dreams God’s. One night many months ago, I was stressed over many things that were happening in the church, I felt overwhelmed with the burden of communicating with our ministerwhat should be done in all of these areas, to make sure that they were all handled correctly (as if I alone had the right answers). As I was praying about these things, I asked God, what I was supposed to do? His response was, nothing, just give yourself to my people. These issues were real issues, & I may have opinions, but they mostly weren’t my problem to handle. I wanted to create my own dream and vision and adopt for myself all these grand plans and make a big difference. God said no, I have different plans for you, a different dream.
While we participate in the dreams of our church and house church, we should also look to God and petition Him about His personal dream for us. What is it that God is waiting for you to stop and listen to Him so He can place it on your heart? Are you too busy to hear Him?
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that if a dream is from God, it must be grand, on the scale of world evangelism, eliminating hunger or a church planting. It is more likely to be much smaller, but just important – for it is what God has called you to. Maybe it’s as simple as representing God in your school or workplace, preparing your kids to live in the world and getting them to heaven or just being a light of encouragement to those around you.
Let’s spend this week in prayer that God would put his dream for us on our hearts. And as we pray, let’s be listening for His direction more than we try to find answers. Next Wednesday let’s be ready to share what we’ve learned about God’s dream for us.

Lesson to the teachers

Are you getting a lot out of reading Ed Anton’s book? I know that I am. I feel like I’ve repented on repentance. It’s been an eye opening experience, to see the true nature of repentance isn’t behavior modification, it’s mind modification.
Let’s read from 2 Corinthians 7:

Paul’s Joy
Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged.
In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.

If someone were to ask me the main point of this entire passage, I’m not sure that Worldly vs. Godly sorrow is it, although it is certainly an important point. It seems to be more about Paul trying to get the Corinthian church to see how powerful and important their relationship was. He already knew it, but they did not. Look at the opening verses, Paul is pleading to be let into their hearts. He assures them, they already occupy a special place in his, and he wants that place in theirs. I believe in you guys, I would die with you guys, so please, make room for us in your hearts.
After he talks about Godly sorrow, he explains why he wrote to them (aside from confronting their sin). He says it was so they could see how devoted to him they were. I had to read that several times. He wrote to them, and conftronted their sin, so they’d understand their own devotion to him? It sounds a little self serving, perhaps even controlling. No, I think Paul knew what kind of power there was in this close bond they had, and he knew they needed to understand this as well. What power? The power to produce a mind change, metanoia, mind metamorphosis, repentance. They didn’t get it and needed to.
We need these kind of relationships. More importantly, we need to understand, like the Corinthians did, just how powerful and important these close relationships are. They can and will change our lives, here and now and for eternity. Are we cultivating them or are we too busy or too timid? I know I can be both, and it can be hard to overcome, but we must. I’ve become convinced that a church dies as the individual relationships in it die.
I was also struck by Paul’s comments about his time in Macedonia. He was beat up there, “harassed at every turn” he says. But what encourages him? The news that the Corinthians had taken care of Titus and the news he brought back of how important Paul was to them and how they were concerned about him. It replenished his joy. OH yeah, seeing Titus was good but hearing about how you took care of him and missed me really encouraged me. I’ve felt similar thing recently as I’ve watched the church respond to James’ illness by going several hours away to sit at his side. I know seeing how concerned you were for them, filled their hearts. I know watching folks do it, filled mine as well.
As we take communion, we remember Jesus. I think that Jesus too was concerned that we have connections with people, relationships that will last (where do we think Paul got it?) He understood that it was relationships that were key. He could have preached hundreds of grand messages to thousands at a time, to be written down so that we could learn how to live. Instead, He spent his life on earth healing people one at a time and pouring his life into twelve men so that they could change the world. He taught us in Matthew 22:34-40 that the most important thig was not our Bible knowledge, but our love for God and our love for each other. Even while on the cross, he looked down and knew that his Mom needed to be cared for, and he made sure that she had the relationship that would make that happen.
So as we look at and remember Jesus at this time, let’s not just be thankful that our sins are forgiven. Let’s also remember who Jesus was and what He invested in while he was here.

Why I Love

Lesson to the Kingdom Kids teachers, July 3rd, 2005.

Luke 15:11-31 – The Parable of the Lost Son
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “

Why does God love you? If you’re like me, your answer is something like “I have no idea!” I can think of all sorts of reasons why God shouldn’t love me. I can’t think of many reasons why He should. To be able to do so would be rather arrogant, something He frowns upon! But being a father, I think I may have stumbled on why He loves me, and it gives me great hope and great peace.
My three girls are awesome. They’re cute, generally obedient (though they have their moments), smart, talented, bubbly, adorable – shall I go on? But none of those reasons are why I love them. In fact, they could not increase my love for them by becoming cuter, more obedient or more talented. They are, at times, also annoying, whiney, complainers, mean, loud and rude. But none of those things diminish my love for them.
So why do I love them? I love them for one simple reason – I am their Dad and they are my girls. I love because of who they are and who I am. It’s how I was created to be, as a father, but it has also been instilled in me by my upbringing. It’s both biological and sociological. Sure, I know that I should love them, but that knowledge cannot explain why my love for them is fairly constant despite their behavior. Their behavior can make my happy or sad, give me joy or frustration or make me proud or angry, but has little impact on my love for them. This, I think, is of God, created in me. It’s part of my make up, outside any decision of my own or teaching from others. I love because that’s how God made Dads.
My love is also a commitment, a covenant that I agreed to when I married their Mom and proceeded with the act of creating children. I committed to loving them always before they were born. I became a parent and that identity, not any attribute they may have, defines my love for them. The same sort of thing could be said of my love for my wife. But this too, though less biology than sociology, comes from my identity rather than from their worthiness. I love because I am a Dad and a husband and nothing can shake that.
The same can be said of God. He is love, and our sin cannot shake that love. It seems harder to believe, however (although sometimes it can be hard to imagine that our fathers love us.) Perhaps it’s because we are surrounded by a western religious culture that tries to measure us, to tell us how good or bad we are. Perhaps because we, as humans, fall short of living up to whom we are. I say that my love is not dependant on what my kids do, but the truth is told that’s not completely true. My anger at their ‘failures’ masks that love, sometimes making it invisible. In some families, the love is completely hidden by years of abuse. We look at the world around us and see value judgments, condescension, criticisms and tearing others down to build ourselves up and it’s hard to understand how God loves us no matter what. But He does.
When it seems impossible that God could love you – that He could delight in you – parents think of your children. Think of how you feel about them. Think about how their folly can not possibly diminish the love in your heart. How, despite the number of clothes they’ve ruined, the items they’ve broken, the silence they’ve shattered and the embarrassment they’ve caused, there is no length you will not go to protect them, to save them from harm and to see them grow. Nothing can shake your commitment to them, and realize that the same is true of God. If you don’t have children think of your spouse or your own parents. Hopefully, this will help you see yourself through God’s eyes. You are His child, His precious and special child and nothing you can do will change that.

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

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