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Showing posts from October, 2015

Red - Week 4: Daily Reflections Friday, October 30, 2015

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This week our daily reflections will be focused once again on one of the "hard sayings" of Jesus.  The difficult words of Jesus that we're wrestling with this week come to us from Matthew 5:22 where Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
There's this verse in the New Testament book of Colossians that I've always thought a bid odd.  The Apostle Paul was writing a letter to a group of Christians in the ancient city of Colossae and he's closing it out at the end with a bunch of "how-to's" on what it means to live as Christians.  The verse reads like this, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."  
When I was a kid I would h…

Red - Week 4: Daily Reflection Thursday, October 29, 2015

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This week our daily reflections will be focused once again on one of the "hard sayings" of Jesus.  The difficult words of Jesus that we're wrestling with this week come to us from Matthew 5:22 where Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

In Luke 6:45 Jesus teaches what it means when our outside matches our inside--when we our words reveal what we are really like on the inside.    
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.I've known a guy my whole life, the kind of guy I call a "One-Upper."  Maybe you've run into these kinds of people from time to time.  It doesn…

For All The Saints: All Saints' Day Sermon

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This week we are celebrating a very special day in the historic Church calendar--All Saints' Sunday.  All Saints Day, as it is more widely known, follows All Hallows Eve (what we refer to as Halloween) and rarely falls on a Sunday.  I know it's kind of odd to think about, considering the ways we typically celebrate Halloween in our culture, but All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day (November 2nd) have all been historic celebration or feast days throughout the history of the Church.  

Our Catholic brothers and sisters seem to celebrate these days a bit more than those of us who swim in the Protestant stream of Christianity, but in recent years many Protestant denominations have begun to rediscover some of this ancient worship celebrations and make them their own.  

As Presbyterians, we have a bit of a different understanding of All Saints' Day than many of our Catholic counterparts, who see it as a day of celebration and prayers offered to the venerated saints wh…

Red - Week 4: Daily Reflections Wednesday, October 28, 2015

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This week our daily reflections will be focused once again on one of the "hard sayings" of Jesus.  The difficult words of Jesus that we're wrestling with this week come to us from Matthew 5:22 where Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

Some of the worst moments in my life have been when I have said something hurtful to someone in the heat of an argument or disagreement, and then had to watch as my words landed on them like a body blow.  

And there's a little voice inside of you that tries to tell you not to open your mouth in those moments, but when you are angry, or hurt they come tumbling out despite the protests of that little voice.  For me, it's like I hear myself say the hurtful things that are pouring out, and …

Red - Week 4: Daily Reflections Tuesday, October 27, 2015

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This week our daily reflections will be focused once again on one of the "hard sayings" of Jesus.  The difficult words of Jesus that we're wrestling with this week come to us from Matthew 5:22 where Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

Whenever I read passages of Scripture where Jesus is exhorting his followers to forgive their enemies, or to let go of bitterness toward people who have hurt us, or to not speak angry, cruel and violent words toward those who have wronged us... I often find myself thinking things like, "I completely agree with everything you are saying here Jesus, but you don't understand what [fill in name here] has done to me! I don't think this really applies to them!"

It's true that th…

Red: Week 4 - Daily Reflections Monday, October 26, 2015

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This week our daily reflections will be focused once again on one of the "hard sayings" of Jesus.  The difficult words of Jesus that we're wrestling with this week come to us from Matthew 5:22 where Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

This phrase, which is uniquely American, has been passed down through the years as a way for parents to reframe and diminish the effects of schoolyard bullying and name-calling for their children who've experienced it.

It first appeared in a periodical produced by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1862, and apparently was already a popular saying even before it was printed there.  

It also happens to be com…

Red: Week 4 - "'You Fool' Merits Hell Fire!"

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This week we are concluding the sermon series that we've been working on for the past month--a sermon series entitled "Red: Understanding the Hard Sayings of Jesus."  Each week we've been tackling some of the challenging and confounding red letters of the Bible--the saying of Jesus that are printed in red, for those of you who find that last bit odd.  

Some of the words of Jesus that we read in the Bible seem completely out of character for him--it's hard to imagine him saying some of them, to be honest. 

Today we're going to focus on a verse from Matthew 5:22.  It's a passage that is right smack dab in the middle of the incredible Sermon on the Mount--a sermon filled with beautiful words, challenging calls to discipleship and hopeful visions of the way the world should be.  

And as you are reading through the Sermon on the Mount you hit verse 22 of chapter 5 and suddenly you realize that Jesus just said that calling someone a fool is the same as killing the…

Red: Week 3 Daily Reflection Friday, October 23, 2015

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This is the third week of daily reflections based on the sermon series, "Red: Understanding the Hard Sayings of Jesus."  This week we'll be focusing on lessons of discipleship learned from Luke 14:26, where Jesus states "Unless you hate father, mother, sister, brother, wife and children--even yourself--you cannot be my disciple." 

One aspect of this troublesome verse that we've not talked about this week is the phrase "even yourself." Jesus just had to throw that into the mix, didn't he? So what does it look like when you surrender yourself to God?  For many of us this is probably the most difficult part of the whole surrender process.  

We live in a self-obsessed society. We are constantly being told that we need to be better, that we can be better, that we must be better.  We need to have the right clothes, the right house, the right kind of car, the right diet, read the right books, go to the right gym, do all the right things in order to hav…

Red: Daily Reflections Thursday, October 22, 2015

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This is the third week of daily reflections based on the sermon series, "Red: Understanding the Hard Sayings of Jesus."  This week we'll be focusing on lessons of discipleship learned from Luke 14:26, where Jesus states "Unless you hate father, mother, sister, brother, wife and children--even yourself--you cannot be my disciple." 

Surrendering your whole life to God sometimes requires a fundamental shift in the way you view not only your family, children, spouse or yourself, but also in the way you view your accomplishments, possessions and finances.

For some of us, surrendering over to God the lure of success, the affirmation and comfort that comes from acquiring money, or even the things that we've managed to accumulate can be way too much to bear.   

"God," we might bargain, "you control all of those things over there in my life--you know my spouse and kids, my faith and the church-going side of me... but let's just let me handle the whol…

Red: Daily Reflection Wednesday, October 21, 2015

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This is the third week of daily reflections based on the sermon series, "Red: Understanding the Hard Sayings of Jesus."  This week we'll be focusing on lessons of discipleship learned from Luke 14:26, where Jesus states "Unless you hate father, mother, sister, brother, wife and children--even yourself--you cannot be my disciple." 

It's interesting that in the verse we wrestled with during this past Sunday's sermon (Luke 14:26) Jesus snuck in "self" to the list of things that you need to surrender completely if you are going to follow him.  

For some of us, the most difficult thing to surrender to God is ourselves. Because ultimately it means that we have to give up control of our thoughts, our words, actions, decisions and even the ways we define who we are. And none of those acts of surrender come easily to us.  

The other day I was listening to a podcast of a pastor and speaker who I admire, and he was doing a teaching on breaking the cycle of …

Red: Week 3 - Daily Reflections Tuesday, October 20, 2015

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This is the third week of daily reflections based on the sermon series, "Red: Understanding the Hard Sayings of Jesus."  This week we'll be focusing on lessons of discipleship learned from Luke 14:26, where Jesus states "Unless you hate father, mother, sister, brother, wife and children--even yourself--you cannot be my disciple." 

This past August, for the first time since he started college, my oldest son packed all of his belongings into his VW Jetta and drove off to school on his own to begin his junior year.  

The previous two years, Merideth and I had driven up with him, our car jammed to gills with furniture, supplies, and all kinds of things to help make his dorm room "homey."  But this time we stood in our driveway watching him leave, and filled with a new kind of sadness that we hadn't felt before.  

We're not "helicopter" parents by any means.  And by helicopter parents I mean the kinds of parents that hover over our kids, sol…

Red: Week 3 Daily Reflection Monday, October 2015

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This is the third week of daily reflections based on the sermon series, "Red: Understanding the Hard Sayings of Jesus."  This week we'll be focusing on lessons of discipleship learned from Luke 14:26, where Jesus states "Unless you hate father, mother, sister, brother, wife and children--even yourself--you cannot be my disciple." 

One of my favorite daily devotional books is a year-long devotional comprised of reflections by E. Stanley Jones.  Jones was a Presbyterian missionary, preacher and best-selling author of twenty-eight books, including ten full-year devotionals.  He is said to have preached some sixty thousand times in his life, and in 1938 was called by Time magazine, "the world's greatest missionary."

What I've always loved about Jones' writing and his advice on living the Christian life is the simplicity with which he approached it.  "This isn't rocket science," Jones basically says over a hundred times or more in m…