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Love Above All

1 Peter 4:8

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

You know what breaks my heart? There are so many people out there who are not willing to even give Christianity or church a try because they’re afraid of being judged. They think they have to get their lives in order before jumping on the J-Train. And why do they think that? Because of us.

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Light the Way

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

What is the Bible? If we’re honest, the Holy Bible can be a very intimidating book. Have you ever tried reading through it? If you got past Leviticus, congratulations! Keep going, it gets better.

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Holy Spirit Cheat Sheet

John 14:26

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

A physics professor was giving a grueling final exam to his undergrad students. He told them they could bring one standard size sheet of paper to the exam. Whatever they could fit on the paper could be used to help them. Some students spent hours cramming as much information as possible in minuscule writing on the front and back of their piece of paper. On the day of the exam all the students frantically filed in and took their seats with their pencils, calculators, and cheat sheets. There was one student garnering strange looks because his paper was completely blank. Just before the exam began, he placed the paper on the floor next to his desk, and in walked another person – a graduate student working on her PhD in physics. She stood on the sheet of paper and helped the young man answer every question on the exam.

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Pruning Season

John 15:2

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesa so that it will be even more fruitful.

One of my favorite times of the year is early spring when I get to tend to my flower beds after a long, dormant winter. It’s always exciting to see plants which look dead burst into color with new life. But inevitably there will be some plants that need to be cut back or trimmed up in order to promote new, healthy growth.

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Guilt vs. Shame

2 Corinthians 7:10

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Guilt and shame. There’s a huge difference. Guilt is the feeling we get when we’ve done something wrong and we know it. Shame is a feeling that we are fundamentally broken and unworthy. Guilt says I did something bad. Shame says I am bad. Guilt and shame can both lead to changed behavior, but not with the same results.

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The Ten Broken Commandments, pt 2

In the previous post we looked at ways in which we American Christians have broken the first four of the Ten Commandments that we claim to live by. Granted, we don’t exactly live under the Jewish Torah and Covenant. But Jesus actually holds us to a higher standard, not a lower one. He summarized all the Law and the Prophets into these Two Commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. The first four of the Ten Commandments regard the first and greatest command. The last six guide our relationships with others. Love God. Love others.

But how good of a job have we done with even those two commands? Not very well when the words non-Christians use to describe us include judgmental, arrogant, too political, hateful, homophobic, hypocritical, and so on. Jesus said people will know we are his disciples by our love. Not by our slogans or open letters or bumper stickers or political affiliation.

If we want to make a difference, if we want to make a change, then we have to get back to the basics. We have to relearn what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves. We have to be real and honest about the ways we’ve gotten it wrong. And we have to repent – not just saying “I’m sorry,” but truly changing our actions and attitudes.

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The Ten Broken Commandments, part 1

There’s a story in the gospels about a young man who came up to Jesus and asked the question most of us want to know at some point: “What must I do to be saved?” I don’t want to get into the different things we could mean by “saved,” but most of us want to know the answer. Jesus tells him, basically, keep the commandments – specifically the all too familiar 10 Commandments. The man’s response? “All these I have kept since my youth.”

Jesus goes on to challenge this self-righteous notion of perfect adherence to the Law by telling him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor. He can’t do it because he was very wealthy. In that one response, Jesus exposes our misunderstanding of what the 10 Commandments are really there for.

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!ADVENT: For the Love

This is the fourth and final week of Advent 2020. Can you feel it? Christmas is right around the corner. It’s probably going to look different for many of us than we are used to. But that’s ok. Because Christmas isn’t ultimately about getting what we want. It’s a celebration of the love God showed for us by coming down to be with us, to be one of us. As the song says, “Fullness of God in helpless babe.”

Throughout the centuries mankind has been trying to get to be where God is through various forms of religious rituals, practices, and beliefs. There are those who say, “All paths lead to God.” But the incarnation, the Christmas story, shows us that we have sorely missed the point. God doesn’t demand that we find a path that leads us to him. He has already come to be with us! That’s what Immanuel means – God with us.

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