Thursday, February 26, 2015

By their fruit...

Week 8:

Matthew 7:16-20 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Luke 6:43-45 43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 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.

One of the amazing characteristics of Jesus was his ability to teach common concepts.  What Jesus said made sense.  No matter what people may think about Christians, it is hard to not see how wise Jesus was.  I believe that was some of the reason he had such a large following. 

The two passages above are a great example of something just making sense.  I heard a speaker just the other day make a quick reference to “…by their fruit you will recognize them.”  So many times, when I hear things as simple as that phrase, the wheels in my head begin to spin.  This phrase made me realize two things:

·         I tend to judge people by their fruits.  It is a matter of simple integrity.  Don’t tell me, show me.  Human Communication is my training and background.  I am tuned in to body language and action.  I can spot quickly when someone’s words do not line up with their actions.  The fruit, is the action or behavior based on what the person values and believes.  A person may tell me something, but I believe it when it happens.
·         The fruit does not lie.  In this world, the measure of a person’s character is his/her action.  The truth of the words spoken, will show in action and behavior. 

Unfortunately, many Christians use this passage to create separation.  Instead of helping someone to work on his/her inside to match the outside, many take the initial judgment and “write off” the person as one to be “thrown into the fire”.  These Christians become elitists and begin to isolate themselves from the world they are charged to help bring to Jesus (I referred to this somewhat in my blog Going to the Country Club, or is that the Church…?).  However, in most cases, those who have written people off actually practice the same inconsistency between what is said and what is done.  (Remember the passage about the speck of sawdust and the plank?) Sadly, I have been one of those myself, and will likely fall into that trap sometime again. 

Before this begins to go too far down a path of judging poor Church behavior, I do want to note that the Matthew reference is in context of watching for false teachers.  Not only is this passage something common for us to notice about life, it is a way of discerning truth in the kingdom. 

The main point I wanted to make this week was how Jesus would point out common things we already do and point toward the value of that practice.  God wired in us simple truths, abilities, and discernments to help us in our daily walk.  Jesus comes along and redirects some of the misguided uses of those abilities.  I continue to be amazed as I study and encounter Jesus and his teachings.


1.      What came up for you as you read these two passages?
2.      Have you been guilty of judging fruits to the point of separation?  Give an example.
3.      After reading this, do you notice how you are tuned in to the “fruit” of others?  What do you notice?
4.      What are some other common things that Jesus pointed out and clarified?
5.      Pay attention this week to how you notice people’s fruit in their lives.  Pay particular attention to your reaction.  Allow God to reveal to you what that reaction may be about.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why fight God...?

Week 7:

This week, spend time in meditation over this passage.  Follow the instructions below the passage as your guide.
Psalm 2
Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,

    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

You will be reading this passage three times following the guidelines below:

1.  First reading.  Read the passage through, one time, slowly.  Pause between each clause.  After you finish this first reading, be silent for a minute or two.

2.  Second reading.  Read the text slowly once again, pausing between phrases.  But this time pause even longer and be aware if any of the words or phrases that catch your attention, or seem to stand out in some way.  Make a mental note of those.  After you finish the second reading, write down those special words or phrases.

3.  Third reading.  Reread the passage up to the word or phrase that touched you in some way.  When you reach that word or phrase, stop and repeat it a few times.

4.  Pondering.  Reflect for a while on the phrase that moved you.  Repeat it a few more times.  Let the words interact with your thoughts, your memories or any other Bible passages that come to mind.  Let it touch your heart, desires and fears.  Begin to wonder, “What might God want to say to me specifically”?

5.  Prayer.  Turn that last question into a prayer, asking God, “What is the word you have for me in this passage, God?  Is there anything you want to say to me today?”  Listen.  Write down anything you sense God might be saying to you.

6.  Rest.  Be still and silent for a while.  Enjoy being in the presence of God.  In this step you move from doing to being.  Simply be for a while.

7.  Response.  Ask yourself and God, “What am I being called to do as a result of the word I have been given?”  Perhaps you are feeling challenged to love God more, or to accept some aspect of who you are, or to serve someone you know or to begin changing some aspect of your character.  Whatever it is, write it out.  “Today God is calling me to be a more ______ person.  Be with me God and teach me how.”   Thank God for the word and the calling you have been given.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Plans to prosper you...

Week 6:

Matthew 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

It is so easy for me to take the Jeremiah passage and try to apply it to my life in a material way.  Yet, when I pursue life that way, I realize that God may not have that material plan for me.  I also become focused on what I do not have and become miserable.

Somewhere recently it was pointed out to me how the Matthew passage relates to the Jeremiah passage as a prospering of the soul.  God’s plans for me may very well take me places where I am to serve.  His plans make very well allow me some pleasure here on earth.  His plan may allow me to not really want for anything material.  But, God has more in store for me than what I can do, who I can become, what I can gather, and what I can accomplish.

The soul is the place where my life is aligned with God.  Even in the midst of turmoil, my soul can be at rest.  Why?  Because God knows me…He has a plan for me.  His prospering is for my soul.  Harm may come to my physical body, but when aligned with God, the promise is rest for my soul. 

Have you ever noticed how somewhere deep inside that there is more to life than what is seen, heard, and felt?  Have you had that notion that there truly is an eternity?  Many authors point to the fact that we are eternal beings living in mortal bodies in the here and now.  The soul is the eternal part where God resides.  Some of the hope and future that Jeremiah references could very well be rest for the soul that Jesus promises in Matthew.

How do I get through the toil and turmoil of this daily life?  By pay attention to passages like these and tapping into the strength of the soul where God’s spirit speaks to mine.  That place is restful, hopeful, and prosperous and the future I long for.  That prosperity never fades and is so much more satisfying than any material prosperity.


1.      How would you define “prosper”?
2.      How would you define “prosper” in a spiritual context?
3.      Is there a difference between #1 and #2?  Why?
4.      Describe in your own words the “soul”.
5.      What would rest for your soul look and feel like for you?
6.      Pay attention this week to what God is doing in your soul.  Journal about what comes up for you.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Going to the Country Club, or is that the Church...?

Week 5:

James 2:1-4 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

At our Church we have begun a series on the “Church has left the building”.  Basically, it is a push to reach outside of the walls of our Church to our community.  Prior to this series (the series has just allowed this to bubble back up) I have had conviction and discontent with how for the most part American Churches as a whole seem to act more like Country Clubs.  By the way, I am “guilty as charged” in joining this mentality.

Let’s list some “Churchy” answers that define Church:

·         It’s a fellowship of believers
·         It’s a place to equip believers for outreach and service
·         It’s the people, not the building
·         It’s where we worship God
·         It’s where we sharpen each other
·         It’s a place of prayer

There is more, but I think you get the theme here.  All of these things are good and true.  But somewhere along the way, we have lost out intention and have become an exclusive club.  We as a Church act as if we have the answer and those outside do not.  We act as if we have the answers, have it all together, and our salvation is intact.  In our efforts to insulate ourselves from the world, I think we have, in large part, isolated ourselves from the world. 

Jesus did not isolate himself from the world.  He was different than both the “sinner” and the religious leaders.  He was among the world, yet His standards we solid.  I think about how Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery.  He accepted her in her most vulnerable state.  She was caught in sin and totally exposed.  And, He told her to go and sin no more.  He was with her, not isolated from her and was not influenced to change His truth.  Most of Jesus criticism came when He was around the non-“Country Club” members. 

It is natural for me, and I suspect others, to seek company of those like me.  There is nothing wrong with that desire and action.  When I make that exclusive for me however, I am no longer being the hands and feet of Jesus.  And when I isolate myself long enough, I begin to turn away those who need Jesus.

This also tells me something about my faith that I really do not want to face.  When I judge and avoid those not like me…”the sinner”, deep inside I fear that they may drag me into their world.  That somehow my faith will not be strong enough to keep me holy and sanctified.  Or, sometimes I fear their judgment of the “goody two-shoes Christian” I personify for them.  Do I believe in God and the power of the Holy Spirit enough to walk outside the Country Club and be okay?

What must I do?  A start is to go back to a model that I mentioned in a blog article last year titled: Grace and Truth…  It is the idea of progressing through the steps of belong, believe and behave.  In our “Country Club” we call those outside to behave, and then believe, and then they can belong.  This is actually pushing people away.  When we look at Jesus, he helped them feel a sense of belonging, then they believed, and out of that belief, they began to behave differently.  This goes against a “Country Club” mentality and can be quite uncomfortable.  Yet, this is how Jesus reached the “sinner”.  This is where I need to begin.  As time passes, I will see where God leads me next.

There is a blog where one can get a feel for how outsiders see the Church as a whole.  The blog is simply titled:  Holy SoupAlthough I do not always agree with some of what is written or some of the comments, the blog is a great place to stretch and grow and look at Church through other’s eyes.


1.      What comes up for you when you hear the Church being compared to a Country Club?
2.      Where is that analogy true?
3.      Where is that analogy lacking?
4.      What makes you uncomfortable with those outside the Church?
5.      There was a list of definitions for Church.  What would you add to the list?
6.      What is God calling you to do after reading this article?
7.      My challenge this week is for you to start a discussion through comment to this blog.

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