Sunday, October 8, 2017

Deliverance: Blessed Are the Meek

In an article for Decision magazine, Samuel Kamaleson tells a Christian folk story from South India. There are several versions of it, but here it opens with a young boy who loved to play marbles. He regularly walked through his neighborhood with a pocketful of his best marbles, hoping to find opponents to play against. One marble in particular, his special blue marble, had won him many matches. During one walk he encountered a young girl who was eating a bag of chocolate candy. Though the boy's first love was marbles, he (like many of us) had a weakness for chocolate. As he stood there interacting with the young girl, his salivary glands kicked in, and the rumbling in his stomach became uncontrollable. He thought to himself “I have got to get my hands on those chocolates!”

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Deliverance: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:1–4 NRSV)
What does it mean to “mourn”? Mourning is kind of like “poor in spirit” that we talked about last week. It has a double meaning. Mourning can mean grief, the sadness that comes from losing something or someone we love. But mourning can also mean repentance. Sinners mourn for their own sins and sins of their community. They mourn because they long for the day when their sin and the sins of their community will end. They long for God to intervene.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Deliverance: Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Who are the Poor in Spirit?
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:1–3 NRSV)
These are perhaps some of the most familiar words in the entire Bible. The opening words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and the first so-called “Beatitude.” This sermon comes to us from Matthew’s gospel. But you might know that much of this sermon is recorded also in Luke. In Luke 6, Jesus said to His disciples a little bit differently: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” This brings up an interesting question, doesn’t it? What did Jesus really say? “Poor in Spirit” (as in Matthew)? Or, just “Poor” (as in Luke)? Believe it or not, I think the answer is “Both.”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Deliverance: Where Does Happiness Come From?

What is happiness and where does it come from? Television marketing experts have been trying to help us answer those questions for a long time. Did you know that the average American watches TV for nearly 30 hours per week? That's 65 days of nonstop TV watching every single year. By the time they graduate from high school, students will have viewed 360,000 commercials. The average 65-year-old will have watched two million. And each of these commercials has been created by smart people. They pack their ads with powerful images, catchy music and humor, and memorable slogans. Most of the commercials have a primary theme, this product will make you happy! Since we are studying the Sermon on the Mount, I found a “rewrite” of the Beatitudes, which introduce Jesus’ Sermon. This list of beatitudes takes into account the worldview advocated by TV commercials.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Deliverance: Finding Freedom in the Reign of God

Parush Parushev was a communist. He had a PhD in Mathematics. He taught at one of the leading universities in Europe. While teaching in Poland, he met a small group of Christ followers, and he was drawn to Jesus. Eventually, he converted and became a Christ follower himself. Several months later, he returned to his home country of Bulgaria. And soon after that, he began to receive invitations to preach in various Christian congregations in the area. So this former atheistic Communist mathematician was now preaching the good news of Jesus!

One day Parush received an urgent call from a preacher in a neighboring gypsy village. There was a woman who was dying. This preacher asked Parush to come and pray over the body and anoint her body with oil. She was dying quickly, so they asked him to hurry. As he arrived, he heard the loud wailing of the mourners. It was their custom to wail loudly at such occasions and the stench of incense was strong. Listen to how Parush describes what happened next:

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Lord In Our Midst: Parents & Children—Turning Our Hearts Toward Each Other

We have spent the last several weeks in the prophets. They have reminded us of many things. Our God is One who demands justice. This same God is a holistic God of wrath and love. We’ve been reminded that God is with His people, and that we were created for a mighty purpose. And Malachi reminded us that God cares how we spend His gifts.

We are concluding our study on the prophets, and once again, we find ourselves in the book of Malachi.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Lord in Our Midst: Honoring God With His Gifts

One epic that has always amazed me in American history is the story of the Native American. The most ironic thing about this part of our history concerns the way in which Europeans treated the land. First, they took what they wanted. And then they divided portions of what was left over and gave it as a gift to the Native Americans. Do you realize how odd that whole arrangement was? Europeans took the land that belonged to someone else. Then, they gifted some of it back to them! And what’s more, these European settlers took the best for themselves. The beautiful coastal regions of the East, the fertile soil of the southeast, the natural harbors at the base of the Mississippi River, the scenic mountainous and hilly regions of this “new” land. And they eventually gave the Native Americans Oklahoma! Now let’s just admit Oklahoma doesn’t have much to offer as far as natural resources or natural beauty. My parents lived there for a few years, and I’m sorry if you are from there, but the reality is: the land that is now Oklahoma was not the choice land of the past or the present!