Why Christianity?

 
Recently, I took the Confirmation class on a retreat where we visited and experienced the religious places and practices of Judiasm, Islam, Hinduism and Bahá’í. 
Now, the purpose of the weekend wasn’t to try to lead the students astray. No, I still very much am trying to show the students why Christianity is the right way, the best way, the true way that leads to life. But to do that, the youth do need to engage the other beliefs out there, and for them to wrestle with what they themselves believe, and why they believe it. Why is Christianity so compelling? What makes it so awesome? 
I also wanted to show the students how Christians can interact respectfully with those who believe differently; how to learn to listen and try to understand. That way we can learn better how to talk about our own faith, and be in respectful dialogue with others.
Three main questions we were asking, were

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Music to Your Ears

 
I love music.  I listen to all kinds of music. I do my best to play music. And I love to experience live music.  Really music is nothing more than different sounds created by different instruments that come together in what we call a song.  Music theorists try to notate these sounds and capture the feel of a song on paper but it isn’t until the music is heard that it becomes effective.
 
 
I can take any song out there, boil it down to some simple chords and strum it out for anyone to hear, but this certainly only presents a very specific flavor to the music. 


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What is prayer all about?

“God will do nothing but in answer to prayer.”  -John Wesley

 

Prayer is one of those Christian blessings that I cannot fully grasp. What I do know is that in a basic sense, prayer is simply visiting with God. As Christians we have the amazing joy of an intimate, personal relationship with God. It is so personal that we can talk with God on a one-to-one basis, just as we talk with any other person. 

Yet there are parts of prayer that I find difficult to grasp. For starters, it’s hard to talk to someone who doesn’t talk back. God usually speaks to the heart rather than to the ear, and speaks through others, but I have to be careful not to let my prayer time become lectures (in which I do all the talking and God does all the listening)! Good prayer time needs to incorporate time for listening, too.

Since my kids have been little, we prayed faithfully before each meal, upon going to bed at night, and if there is a serious need (one time I overheard my daughter pray that God would “help Daddy not be so crabby”)! One time my son asked me why God never talks back. Then he asked me why he can’t see God. One time my daughter asked me what color hair God had.  (Hmmm….the pastor was stumped by a 3 year old!). I told her that when she dies, she’ll get to go to heaven and see God “face to face”


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Harvesting by Hand

A few blogs ago I ruminated on the call of Jesus to be “fishers of men”.  A sort of strange idea that initiated the call for disciples to leave it all and follow him.  After much healing and teaching, Jesus enters into the next phase of ministry (see Luke 9).  He teams up his disciples and sends them to the outlying villages to do two things: preach and heal.  In the next chapter, Jesus doubles down on his plan and sends out 72 followers in pairs to do the same thing.  All of this traveling, this homeless lifestyle, this surrender of comforts is for the sole purpose of proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is near (v. 9,11).  They healed the sick and cast out demons.  They proclaimed peace AND judgement.  They returned from their efforts with joy. 

                In this iteration of the mission, we have moved off of the water and have become harvesters in the field.  Jesus tells his disciples that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 


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Living Life to the Wholest

 

Technological progress is always on the move.  We have advanced ways of doing just about everything.  Life is easier, more convenient and we experience less hardship thanks to the wonders of technology.  Strides made in the field of medicine are among our greatest advances.  We have ways to extend life as well as increase its quality. 

No matter how far we progress or what planet we might end up living on, two factors will always remain: Death and God.

Well this is a cheery post isn’t it? 


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Happy Fishing!

I hate fishing. I’m not good at it. I don’t own the proper gear and even if I did catch something, I would not know what to do with it.  Being born and raised in Minnesota, you might think that fishing would be second nature to me as it is for many of us. There is never a lake too far away and anyone you talk to will have a great spot to recommend.  I know full well that if I were to put in some hours on the lake and learn some tips from the pros, I might learn to appreciate this pastime and maybe even become proficient at it.

                Jesus met some pro fishermen as he was talking to the crowds. At the time, they were busy on shore clean out the weeds and debris from their nets.  Jesus asked to use one of their boats.  Simon was probably quite annoyed at the request, but he agreed anyway.  They pushed out a short distance so Jesus could teach from the boat.


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Tested by Fire

 
If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved–even though only as one escaping through the flames.” – 1 Corinthians
3:15
 
I read too much in my devotions this morning. My devotional said that I was supposed to read 1 Corinthians 3:9-11. Yet I read too much. I usually try to look at the verses before and after the passage I’m reading in order to get a better understanding of the context of the passage. The fire mentioned in verse 13 caught my attention, and I couldn’t help but keep reading to figure out what the point was.
Paul, who was writing to the Christians in Corinth, Greece, in this letter, was talking about how Christians work together to do God’s work. In the first verses of this chapter, Paul says that each person does his or her own assigned task in the whole or greater ministry of God (1 Cor. 3:5). Yet it is God who brings the results, lest any of us think that it’s our good works (verse 7). Together we are,

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The Warm Blanket of God’s Love

 

It’s easy for us to think of Jesus as meek and mild, as a sort of hippie peacenik spreading love and understanding.  Surely some of these characteristics apply, but beyond anything else, Jesus’ main priority was to teach the truth.  He had a soul-saving message about a God of love who came to earth to bring the lost home.

 

Jesus was a Jew, and a message about God’s love for the Jewish community would have landed like a warm blanket on any crowd gathered in the synagogue.  People would have felt edified and accepted.  There would have been nothing but good vibes


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Stepping Out of the Frame

 
“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” -Matthew 1:23
 
During the holidays I walked passed a photography studio in a major retail store. I thought most families would already have their holiday pictures taken (and printed!). I guess sending virtual Christmas cards makes it possible to take pictures at the last minute, because the studio was overwhelmed with business. Sending family pictures is a very popular way to send Christmas greetings to friends and loved ones. They are keepsake “glimpses” of our families.
I also read a story recently, you know, one of those heart-melting ones.

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Compromise Paralysis, Part 3

 
So, how do we strive towards unity? It starts with each of us,individually!
The biblical model of grace and love is called out in Jesus’ most earnest plea for unity. On His last night with His disciples, Jesus gives them a new command. In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Think about this! This is Jesus’ final instruction for His followers. His heart is for His followers to love one another. Further, He identifies this will become their main witness to Jesus. Others will come to know Jesus when they see His followers loving each other well.
And Jesus gives this command in the context of washing the disciples’ feet and inviting them to share in the Last Supper. Jesus commanded it, but also demonstrated it. He showed what it looked like.

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