Monday, August 29, 2011

Dirty Church Words - Repent

"Repent" is one of those words that makes us think about street preachers yelling at us as we walk down a busy street or people who become obsessed with Apocalyptic themes. It is not a word that we tend to hear a lot in other situations, even if we are "regular" church-goers.

The word "repent" however is actually a great word. It means to 'turn around'. As in 'turn around" and move away from those things that are taking you away from your relationship with God. Last week we talked about how sin is really anything that takes us off the path that we are on towards God. When we 'repent', we get back on the path. It is more than just asking for forgiveness. It is making a move to not only admit that you are sinning, but to take measures to move away from things that lead you to that particular sin. When we repent, we admit we are doing something that is wrong and make changes in our lives to avoid that sin again.

Many of us have 'secret sins'. Sins that we are too ashamed of to admit to others and sometimes that we are too ashamed of to confess even to God. God, already knows what things we do in our hearts or in secret. We are not hiding anything from Him. Often, those closest to us know those things that tempt us away from God as well. Trying to complete the full cycle of repentance alone - not just asking forgiveness but taking action to avoid that sin in the future - can be very difficult.

Without repentance, however, we cannot be fully healed from our sin. We need to turn around and get back on our journey with God. Finding people who you can trust to help you do this is important. We don't take the journey alone - that is why the Church is so important. We have been given companions on our journey to help us along the way. Ask for God to show you who you can trust to help you. Ask them to check in with you to help keep you accountable.

God does not want us to be so aware of our sinfulness that we are despondant. He wants us to be so aware of his grace and mercy that we are joyful in our response to Him. God wants us to let go of those things that separate us from Him on our journeys - not hang onto them and wallow.

Let them go. Turn around and face God and start walking on the path He has laid before you once again.


18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

- Micah 7:18-19


Monday, August 22, 2011

Dirty Church Words - Sin

Sin. Sinner. Words that make us feel ashamed, resentful, angry. Words that we use to accuse others. Words that describe our fallen state and position in relation to God.

We are sinners. Period. Every single one of us. We have no room to judge anyone else because we, ourselves, fall short of God's standard every day. It doesn't matter if in worldy terms one person's sin is judged to be worse than another. In the eyes of God, all of our sins are equal - from the cutting remark made to one's spouse this morning to the murders committed by someone on death row. All of us are guilty of turning away from Jesus and breaking the relationship between ourselves and God and between ourselves and those around us.

Many of us find this offensive because we believe that, overall, we are 'good' people. Well - it is okay that it is offensive. The concept of sin is supposed to be a little jarring in order for us to realize that we are not as good as we claim to be. We have to recognize that we need Jesus' help before we can ask for and accept the grace and forgiveness that is offered to us through his death on the cross.

Rather than looking at sin and forgiveness as a balance sheet, we should think about how sin affects our relationships. Sin breaks the relationship between ourselves and God. Jesus died to restore that relationship. We don't need to make a checklist everyday of the sins we've committed and the forgiveness we've asked for and received. We won't be able to keep the spreadsheet balanced. What we need to do everyday is walk with Jesus. We will step off the path, lose our way, and have to backtrack - it is inevitable - but we have to get back on the path and keep going toward Jesus. By focusing on our relationship with Christ, we will be much more likely to recognize sin when we do it and change our behavior to avoid it in the future.


Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. - Psalm 103: 1-5


Monday, August 15, 2011

Ephesians Part 4 (chapter 6:10-20)

Paul closes out his letter to the Ephesians with some last words on how to stay united as a community of Christians.

He reminds us that there is more to this world than what we see with our eyes. There are spiritual forces (good and bad) at work in the world and Paul wants us to be vigilant lest we become complacent and and allow ourselves to be led astray. Paul is not telling us to become hyper fixated on the idea of the "devil" or demonic forces, but he is telling us to be aware that they are out there. If we don't know these forces exist or if we ignore them, it is much easier for us to forget there is an enemy of God that we are standing against. Paul tells us to 'put on the full armor of God" that we may have truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, and salvation.

Even when we are in the presence of evil, when we fail, when we grieve, or when we are mistreated, God is always standing with us. The promise of the gospel is that we will never be alone. In addition to the support of God, we also have the support of our fellow Christians who stand by us. As a Church we are to stand side by side with our fellow Christians and remain connected to God and to each other through all things.

In this way, we can withstand anything that happens to us individually or corporately.

Throughout the book of Ephesians, Paul has told us ways we are to behave as individuals and as the Church in order remain unified as the body of Christ. We are to do these things not only to share the Gospel with the world but also to protect and nurture the Church and the individuals within it. The Church and its members are to not only be a light to those who do not know Jesus, but also a line of defense against the forces of evil that are at work in the world. If we do not remain unified, working together as one body and one mind, the light of Christ cannot shine as brightly in the world as it otherwise might. As you go about your life this week, pray for unity within the Church that the purposes of God might be fulfilled in this world.


And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. - Ephesians 6: 18-20


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ephesians Part 3 (Chapter 5:21-33)

The passage that tells wives to submit to their husbands is one of the most misused verses in all of scripture. It has been used to justify subordination and abuse throughout the centuries and is not at all what Paul intended when he wrote it.

At the time of Jesus, women were considered the property of their fathers and then their husbands. Unless they had very lenient fathers, women were uneducated, sequestered, and not allowed to speak in mixed groups. Jesus and Christianity changed all this. Women were encouraged to speak openly in front of men, they were given leadership positions in the church, and groups of men and women met together for worship, prayer, and communion.

This was a sudden and confusing change for many in the culture. Paul wrote these guidelines for marriage to help, not hinder, equality in the marriage and between the genders and to make marital life more peaceful.

The word 'submit' in Ephesians 5:21-24 is better translated as a 'voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”. Women are to yield the leadership of the household to their husbands; not because they are unable to lead or not equal in value to their husbands, but because someone has to yield and God has asked that it be women. No system of authority works if there are two people struggling to be on top. Even Jesus yielded his will to the will of God the Father.

Men are to love their wives as Jesus loved the church. Meaning that men are to love their wives sacrificially. If a husband thinks his wife is of less value than himself, this is impossible to do. Who is going to sacrifice for someone that is not as or more valuable than himself?

The key to Christian marriage is putting God first in your life. If both the husband and the wife stay connected to God, first, and to each other, second, then the wife will be able to yield to her husband's (wise and Godly) leadership and the husband will be able to love his wife sacrificially, which automatically rules out bullying and micromanaging.

Christian marriage is not an arrangement in which one person is pushed down so that another can be raised up. It is a covenantal promise in which both people desire the good of the other before themselves. If one person fails to do this, the marriage falls apart.

As husbands and wives we are to put the needs of the other before our own. It is the model of how Christianity is supposed to work in the world. The family unit is a model of Christ's relationship to the church and Christian's relationship to the world.


"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." -Ephesians 5:21


Monday, August 1, 2011

Ephesians Part 2 (chapter 4)

The book of Ephesians is all about Christians being united. Jesus, through his life and death united everyone who believes in him. The Church (universal) is the earthly vehicle through which all believers are united and held together.

Paul believed it was very important that Christians be united in the faith. Jesus had stated in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 12, that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”(Matthew 12:25) In order for the Church to have the full power of Jesus’ name, unity is of paramount importance. A divided church cannot help the world or even the people within its walls as effectively as a united one. Paul was adamant that Christians put aside their differences for the greater good of spreading the gospel of Jesus.

In the Fourth Chapter of Ephesians, Paul discusess how Christians stay unified in practical ways. He reminds us that Christians should live very different lives from non-Christians because we are called to new lives reflecting the holiness and righteousness of God as those who have been adopted as children of God. Because of this we are to live lives that are marked by kindness, compassion, generosity, humility, equality, and truthfulness.

Living in this way is not easy and in our culture where so much 'slides' it is easy to let our own values and standards slide, as well. Paul is adamant that we not let this happen because it is through our lives that the gospel is shared. If we live lives that are unworthy of that gift, how can we spread the love of Jesus?

Through worship, prayer, study, and fellowship with other Christians, we can continue to make progress on our spiritual journey, recognizing and repenting of those sins we commit on a regular basis. While the Church strengthens us for our mission, we are not to live our lives barricaded behind its walls. We are to go into the world as those who are different and changed by our faith, not as those who mimic secular culture. This is a distinction that is uncomfortable for most Christians. We don't mind divisions in almost any other part of our lives, but we don't want to be seen as different when it comes to the division between Christian and non-Christian. This division, however, is unavoidable if you truly want to live a Christ-centered life. It doesn't mean you cannot be friends with non-Christians, it just means that you have to realize there will most likely be differences that you cannot pretend away.

As Christians, we are called to live lives that reflect Jesus - something that requires a lot of prayer and support from the Christian community (i.e. - The Church). It is hard and it is sometimes offensive - but Jesus never said it was easy.


- For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Ephesians 5:8-13