Sunday, November 25, 2007

Becoming Mr. Clean


We've got a lot to think about! I'd like to hear your responses to today's message. Here's a short synopsis . . .

When confronted by religious-types about his disciples not following the rules, Jesus responds by pointing out the shallow nature of the religious leaders' holiness. He accused them of creating man-made rules as measurements of holiness rather than the commands of God. He accused them of finding loop holes around real holiness. He accused them of boiling holiness down to what we look like and what we do rather than who we are.

Jesus later taught his disciples an overriding principle regarding holiness: it's not what goes in, but what comes out that defiles.

We often blame our sin on external circumstances - the portions were too big, the billboard too sexy, the watercooler friends too ready with juicy gossip. Jesus said that we can't blame what's on the outside; we need to look at our hearts.

Some parts of the message demand talking through, so get your small group in on the discussion, or invite a friend to lunch and thrash it out. Here are some questions to prompt your discussion:
  • Have you thought about holiness in this way before? If not, what was different?
  • We have lots of ways that we bend holiness to make it more comfortable or easier. Where have you seen evidence of this?
  • Have you been guilty of making holiness easier? How?
  • What role does "the world" play in our sin? Can we blame the world for our sin? Is it easier to sin now than it was fifty years ago? Why or why not?
  • How do we become holy?
  • Do you agree or disagree with my statement: "It is possible to be smoke, drink, swear, and dance and be holy"?

Now, about Mark 7:16, the missing verse: the best manuscripts of the early versions of the book of Mark do not include this verse. The verse reads: "If a man has ears to hear, let him hear." Of course, Jesus said this many times. It does seem a little out of place here, but being out of place is not a good reason to remove it. The fact remains that it's just not supported in the best manuscripts, so the NIV just dropped it.

Grace to you!

Pastor Ron

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sheep Tending 101

So . . .

If you're still attending Grace Christian Fellowship after hearing that you may need to give up your handy-dandy parking space, or that you'll have to start shopping around for a new seat in the auditorium closer to the front, or that the cabinet cleaning you've been putting off for so long is now on the front burner, congratulations.

On the blog this week I want you to tell me what God is saying to you about the future of Grace Christian Fellowship. Leave a comment here and let us know what you think GCF will look like five years from now, 2012. Dream God's dream for our church.

Here is a question to think through and talk about:

Yesterday we took a look at one of the BIG DEAL miracles of Jesus, the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Men). While the miracle Jesus did was amazing, it was the lesson for his twelve close friends that may have changed the course of human history. It's one thing to feed 10,000 hungry people in the middle of nowhere. It's another thing to teach twelve guys the importance of compassion, comfort, and the provision of God.

There were, however, some blatant contradictions in the message yesterday. I hope you discovered them and have thought about them. They are nagging questions that the church has struggled with since its beginning. But it's a good struggle, and one which always bears fruit. Here's one issue:

In the Old Testament, God sets up operations in a central location within a certain people group: his Presence in his Temple in Jerusalem among the people of Israel. The direction was from outside to inside. Even the Temple architecture featured this general direction: from the outer courtyards in toward the Holy of Holies.

The New Testament brings a change in the direction of God's mission. Instead of the arrows pointing in, the arrows point out. Jesus, instead of setting up a base camp in Jerusalem, travels throughout the countryside, and he himself is homeless. When he entrusts ministry to his disciples, he does not suggest building a synagogue and inviting people in. He sends his disciples out two by two into the towns and villages. When Jesus described his mission to his disciples on the last day of his earthly ministry, his instructions did not include going back to Jerusalem and starting a ministry resource center, or throwing open the doors to a megachurch. His direction was outward bound: go (from here) into all the world and present this good news.

Here's the contradiction: we still gather into churches. In fact, most of the practical suggestions we talked about yesterday as ways to accommodate visitors implied that the most important thing for us to be doing is getting people in. Whereas Jesus tells us to be sending people out.

So, (finally!), here's something to talk about: Which is it, in or out? What does God want us to do?

Next Sunday we'll be taking a look at the teaching of Jesus about holiness in Mark 7. The message is called, Becoming Mr. Clean.

Have a thoughtful, family enriched Thanksgiving holiday.

Pastor Ron

Monday, November 12, 2007

Taking Jesus on Faith

I hope you're having a good week.

Sunday's message challenged what we think about faith. We examined the "faith-sandwich" in Mark 5, where Jairus' journey with Jesus to heal his dying daughter is interrupted by a woman who sneaks up to Jesus in order to touch his robe and be healed herself. There are some interesting contrasts between these two people:

  • Jairus boldly cries out to Jesus to come to his house...The woman sneaks to Jesus without him knowing.

  • Jairus stares down significant obstacles but still believes Jesus...The woman is scared beyond belief and embarrassed at her need.

  • Jairus is bold enough to believe that Jesus would follow him to his house...The woman is timid enough to believe that if Jesus knew she was asking for help, he would deny it.

  • Jairus knows that Jesus must touch his daughter. (Interesting that he doesn't just ask Jesus for his coat!)...The woman believes that Jesus' coat has power enough to take care of her. (Very shaky theology).

Yet, who is the one whom Jesus commends for their faith?

Remember, faith has very little to do with the one who has it; It has everything to do with where it is put.

Where is your faith?

Next Sunday: smoked salmon and whole wheat--Jesus teaches his disciples a lesson in hospitality.

Grace to you,

Pastor Ron

Monday, November 5, 2007



Our communion service yesterday focused on our thirst for God. We talked about how physical thirst mirrors spiritual thirst, and how that thirst drives us to God.

I'd like to know your story. How did your spiritual thirst drive you to Christ? How did he satisfy your thirsty soul? What helps you stay hydrated?

May you have a saturated week. Next Sunday we're back in Mark, chapter 5, thinking about faith.

Pastor Ron